How to live longer: ‘Modified’ Mediterranean diet linked to longer lifespan
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Life is full of risk but the good thing about risk is that it can be modified. Eating a healthy diet is one of the most important interventions you can make. Your overall dietary approach is what counts and research has consistently singled out the Mediterranean diet for its longevity benefits.
As the name suggests, a Mediterranean diet incorporates the traditional healthy living habits of people from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.
But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
Numerous studies have linked a Mediterranean diet to improved survival outcomes.
One particular study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) explored the longevity benefits of eating a modified Mediterranean diet.
The study authors characterised a modified Mediterranean diet as one in which unsaturated fats were substituted for monounsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins – so they’re an important part of your diet, explains the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
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Examples include avocados, olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios are also a rich source of monounsaturated fat.
The study in the BMJ sought to examine whether adherence to this modified Mediterranean diet is associated with longer life expectancy among elderly Europeans.
Researchers pooled and analysed data from 74,607 men and women, aged 60 or more, without coronary heart disease, stroke, or cancer at enrolment and with complete information about dietary intake and potentially confounding variables.
The participants spanned nine European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom).
The researchers found that the Mediterranean diet, modified so as to apply across Europe, was associated with increased survival among older people.
Other key tips to boost longevity
In addition to eating healthy, you should engage in regular exercise to boost longevity.
According to the NHS, exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50 percent and lower your risk of early death by up to 30 percent.
“It’s free, easy to take, has an immediate effect and you don’t need a GP to get some,” notes the health body.
So, what should you do?
To stay healthy, UK public health guidelines recommend adults try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.
“For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer,” says the NHS.
This level of effort is called moderate intensity activity.
An activity where you have to work even harder is called vigorous intensity activity.
There is “substantial” evidence that vigorous activity can bring health benefits over and above that of moderate activity, reports the NHS.
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