Q. What are your best recommendations for achieving a long life?
The American Geriatrics Society's Foundation for Health in Aging offers a top-ten list for longevity that can't be beat. I present a briefer, edited version of the list here. The cliches are mine.
1. GO OVER THE RAINBOW. You need fewer calories when you get older, so choose nutrient-rich foods like brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Eat a range of colors. The more varied the colors, the wider the range of nutrients you’re likely to get.
2. TAKE A HIKE. Walking as little as 30 minutes, three times a week can help you stay physically fit and mentally sharp, strengthen your bones, lift your spirits and lower your risk of falls.
3. BOTTOMS UP. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may lower your risks of heart disease and some other illnesses. But what’s “moderate” changes with age. It means just one drink per day for older men and a half drink daily for older women. A “drink” is an ounce of hard liquor, six ounces of wine, or twelve ounces of beer.
4. GET IN THE SACK. Contrary to popular belief, older people don’t need less sleep than younger adults. Most need at least seven or eight hours of shuteye a night. If you’re getting that much and are still sleepy during the day, see a healthcare professional.
5. TWIST YOUR BRAIN. Sharpen your mind by playing computers games, doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and engaging in social give-and-take with other people.
6. WEAR A LOVE GLOVE. Older adults are having sex more often and enjoying it more, research finds. Unfortunately, more older people are also being diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases. To protect yourself, use a condom.
7. REVIEW YOUR DRUGS. When you visit your healthcare professional, bring either all of the prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs and supplements you take, or a complete list that notes the names of each, the doses you take, and how often you take them. Ask your healthcare provider to review everything you brought or put on your list. He or she should make sure they’re safe for you to take, and that they don’t interact in harmful ways. The older you are, and the more medicines you take, the more likely you are to experience medication side effects, even from drugs bought over-the-counter.
8. SPEAK UP WHEN YOU FEEL DOWN. About one in five older adults suffers from depression or anxiety. Lingering sadness, tiredness, loss of appetite or pleasure from things you once enjoyed, difficultly sleeping, worry, irritability, and wanting to be alone much of the time can all be signs that you need help. Tell your healthcare professional right away. There are many good treatments for these problems.
9. GET YOUR VACCINATIONS. Must-have vaccines for seniors include those that protect against pneumonia, tetanus/diphtheria, shingles, and the flu, which kills thousands of older adults in the US every year.
10. SEE YOUR DOCTOR. See your healthcare professional regularly and bring a written list of questions with you so you don't forget to get all the answers you need.