Tips for living younger, longer by preventing disease

Dec 16, 2022 | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara | Comments (10)

While we know that health affects longevity and quality of life, it can be difficult to change bad habits. People often try to make sweeping New Year's resolutions, only to fail.

In fact, Jan. 17 is the date that the average America breaks their New Year's resolution.

Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic preventive cardiologist, says a better approach is to focus on small steps that add up over time.

"The answer, I think, is to make small, sustainable steps that you can live with," says Dr. Kopecky "And when I say small steps, like for diet, I tell patients one bite, one bite of something healthy. Take some processed meat or foods off your plate, and put on something like a legume or a bean. After a couple of years, that one-bite difference will lower your risk of having a heart attack."

In his book, "Live Younger Longer: 6 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's and More,"  Dr. Kopecky shares strategies for making changes, including thinking of a compass of habits:

  • N — Nutrition
  • E — Exercise
  • W — Weight
  • S — Sleep, stress, smoking and spirits (alcohol)

Healthy eating

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients that help the immune system fight infections. Dr. Kopecky recommends fruits, vegetables and healthy fats from olive oil and nuts, all found in the Mediterranean diet.

Exercising

Regular moderate exercise increases the activity of virus-killing immune cells.

“Exercise has been shown to give the immune system a boost by maximizing the body's ability to take in and efficiently use oxygen, among other things,” says Dr. Kopecky. “Moderate exercise, where you can talk but not sing while exercising, is enough to increase the activity of virus-killing cells both in the short term and long term. Even 20 minutes daily can help quell inflammation and boost immunity, and exercise can be divided up during the day. The best part about exercise is that it can be done anywhere. Leg lunges, sit-ups, squats and stair-climbing are all easy exercises you can do at home."

Managing stress

Calming activities and supportive relationships minimize stress, reduce cortisol production and enhance the immune system's function. "Concern about the health of our loved ones, our jobs, children's schooling and other stressors will cause an increased production of the hormone cortisol in the body, which in turn can suppress the immune system," says Dr. Kopecky. "Practicing mindfulness and stepping away from what's causing anxiety can help us stay grounded. Exercises that have calming or meditative qualities, such as qi gong and yoga, also are beneficial."

Getting enough sleep

Adequate sleep boosts the number of immune cells circulating in the body and improves infection outcomes. The interaction between the immune system and sleep is a two-way street. "When your immune system response kicks in, it changes your sleep,” explains Dr. Kopecky. “You may find yourself sleeping longer, for example, as your immune system stages an attack against a virus. When you're not sleeping well, you may notice that you get sick more easily. Getting adequate sleep can help support the way your immune system functions by increasing the number of immune cells circulating in your body."

Making positive changes in these areas can help improve health and longevity.

"We cannot prevent aging. We can slow aging," says Dr. Kopecky. "But we can prevent disease. It's certainly possible to do. And if you adopt a certain healthy lifestyle, you can affect that."

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed. 

Read the full transcript. 

For more information, go to the  Mayo Clinic News Network  and  mayoclinic.org. 

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I am 88 years old even though I do not feel like it. I have just gone through the most horrible period in my life. My husband of 59 years died and I had to have a full hip replacement. I am in therapy. Yet I go on. I attribute some of my longevity to the fact that I was a race walker for many many years. I never smoked and drank very little. I hardly eat sweets or even fruits because I find that sugar doesn't fit well with my digestion. Also for many years I have taken an aloe gel pill every day. I don't drink milk so I have grains for breakfast. I like bulgar, barley, farro, etc. A bowl of hot grains in the morning is very satisfying. I gave up coffee many years ago. The acid gave me stomach aches. I am now a tea drinker. Real tea. My son told me he thinks I will live forever.

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@thisismarilynb

I am 88 years old even though I do not feel like it. I have just gone through the most horrible period in my life. My husband of 59 years died and I had to have a full hip replacement. I am in therapy. Yet I go on. I attribute some of my longevity to the fact that I was a race walker for many many years. I never smoked and drank very little. I hardly eat sweets or even fruits because I find that sugar doesn't fit well with my digestion. Also for many years I have taken an aloe gel pill every day. I don't drink milk so I have grains for breakfast. I like bulgar, barley, farro, etc. A bowl of hot grains in the morning is very satisfying. I gave up coffee many years ago. The acid gave me stomach aches. I am now a tea drinker. Real tea. My son told me he thinks I will live forever.

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Brilliant and balanced approach to life + fairly good genetics in my view. My mom is 94 all her teeth are intact, full head of hair no glasses.. ( in my view she will make the 100 mark) .. I am a kidney transplant recipient … (most probably this got passed down from my father's side as his mother (my grandmother had a kidney failure).. I do my best in diet/activities..let's see how far I can make it.
Best Wishes

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Mom lived until 94; dad 82. He always had cardiac issues and wasn't expected to live through the night when he had his first heart attack at age 59. But my parents always ate healthy and fresh, even before it was fashionable to do so. You can say they followed the Mediterranean Diet before anyone packaged it! My dad was a laborer and my mom never sat still. They always walked and tried not to stress out on anything! I'm 70 and hoping I can be as healthy and active as they were as they aged!

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Olive oil isnt healthy and damages the lining of hour arteries.

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@rochelle369

Olive oil isnt healthy and damages the lining of hour arteries.

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May I ask do you have access to any scientific data/ reference to share on olive oil / arterial damage…Many Thanks

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From Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Avoid oils. They injure the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. All oil is also empty calories.
NO OIL! Not even olive oil, which goes against a lot of other advice out there about so-called good fats. The reality is that oils are extremely low in terms of nutritive value. They contain no fiber, no minerals and are 100% fat calories. Both the mono unsaturated and saturated fat contained in oils is harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid ALL oil.
Olive Oil: Is it Really Healthy? | Dr. Neal Barnard & Dr. Josh Cullimore on the Exam room
Olive oil is loaded with fat and calories, but should that stop you from including a healthy dose of it in your diet? New research suggests it is not just good for your heart, but can also lower your risk of dying from cancer and other diseases. Dr. Neal Barnard joins "The Weight Loss Champion" Chuck Carroll to examine the data to discover whether you should forget about the fat and feel good about fueling up on olive oil.

Video from Dr. Michael Greger: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/olive-oil-and-artery-function/
• RA Vogel, MC Corretti, GD Plotnick. Changes in flow-mediated brachial artery vasoactivity with lowering of desirable cholesterol levels in healthy middle-aged men. Am J Cardiol. 1996 Jan 1;77(1):37-40.
• RA Vogel, MC Corretti, GD Plotnick. The postprandial effect of components of the Mediterranean diet on endothelial function. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000 Nov 1;36(5):1455-60.
• CF Rueda-Clausen, FA Silva, MA Lindarte, C Villa-Roel, E Gomez, R Gutierrez, C Cure-Cure, P López-Jaramillo. Olive, soybean and palm oils intake have a similar acute detrimental effect over the endothelial function in healthy young subjects. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007 Jan;17(1):50-7.
• K Esposito, R Marfella, M Ciotola, C Di Palo, F Giugliano, G Giugliano, M D'Armiento, F D'Andrea, D Giugliano. Effect of a mediterranean-style diet on endothelial dysfunction and markers of vascular inflammation in the metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2004 Sep 22;292(12):1440-6.
• RA Vogel. Brachial artery ultrasound: a noninvasive tool in the assessment of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins. Clin Cardiol. 1999 Jun;22(6 Suppl):II34-9.
• F Fuentes, J López-Miranda, P Pérez-Martínez, Y Jiménez, C Marín, P Gómez, JM Fernández, J Caballero, J Delgado-Lista, F Pérez-Jiménez. Chronic effects of a high-fat diet enriched with virgin olive oil and a low-fat diet enriched with alpha-linolenic acid on postprandial endothelial function in healthy men. Br J Nutr. 2008 Jul;100(1):159-65.
• N Tentolouris, C Arapostathi, D Perrea, D Kyriaki, C Revenas, N Katsilambros. Differential effects of two isoenergetic meals rich in saturated or monounsaturated fat on endothelial function in subjects with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2008 Dec;31(12):2276-8.
• M Ryan, D McInerney, D Owens, P Collins, A Johnson, GH Tomkin. Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet: a beneficial effect of oleic acid on insulin sensitivity, adipocyte glucose transport and endothelium-dependent vasoreactivity. QJM. 2000 Feb;93(2):85-91.
• EA Miles, P Zoubouli, PC Calder. Differential anti-inflammatory effects of phenolic compounds from extra virgin olive oil identified in human whole blood cultures. Nutrition. 2005 Mar;21(3):389-94.
• F Fuentes, J López-Miranda, E Sánchez, F Sánchez, J Paez, E Paz-Rojas, C Marín, P Gómez, J Jimenez-Perepérez, JM Ordovás, F Pérez-Jiménez. Mediterranean and low-fat diets improve endothelial function in hypercholesterolemic men. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Jun 19;134(12):1115-9.
• P Bogani, C Galli, M Villa, F Visioli. Postprandial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of extra virgin olive oil. Atherosclerosis. 2007 Jan;190(1):181-6.
• R Moreno-Luna, R Muñoz-Hernandez, ML Miranda, AF Costa, L Jimenez-Jimenez, AJ Vallejo-Vaz, FJ Muriana, J Villar, P Stiefel. Olive oil polyphenols decrease blood pressure and improve endothelial function in young women with mild hypertension. Am J Hypertens. 2012 Dec;25(12):1299-304.
• K Esposito, F Nappo, F Giugliano, G Giugliano, R Marfella, D Giugliano. Effect of dietary antioxidants on postprandial endothelial dysfunction induced by a high-fat meal in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):139-43.
• T Gori. Olive oil and ischemic reactive hyperemia in hypercholesterolemic patients. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Jul 18;48(2):414; author reply 414-5.
• J Ruano, J Lopez-Miranda, F Fuentes, JA Moreno, C Bellido, P Perez-Martinez, A Lozano, P Gómez, Y Jiménez, F Pérez Jiménez. Phenolic content of virgin olive oil improves ischemic reactive hyperemia in hypercholesterolemic patients. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2005 Nov 15;46(10):1864-8.
• G Buckland, N Travier, A Barricarte, E Ardanaz, et al. Olive oil intake and CHD in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Spanish cohort. Br J Nutr. 2012 Dec 14;108(11):2075-82.

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@l0lag0lag0b3

Interesting:

Having read the "Blue Zone" lifestyle habits couple of more references from Harvard & NEJM such as:
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa1200303
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/olive-oil-can-it-lower-your-risk-of-dying-early-202203012695
There are daily new developments….we all get into a mode:- go figure ?

Thanks for sharing.

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The blue zones eat primarily plant based diet.

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They have community- get lots of exercise- lifestyle changes as well-

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