A lot of it – in fact, most of it – has to do with lifestyle choices and how willing we are to live with real intention, instead of just drifting.
On average, I get eight or nine hours of sleep every night and, frankly, I don’t do well on less. But as you get older, your sleep lightens progressively.
In a way, I discovered the feisty, strong girl I had always been.
Never having smoked or stopping at a relatively young age is another major predictor of healthy ageing.
According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, ‘If a man stopped smoking by about age 45, the effects of smoking (more than a pack a day for 20 years) could at 70 or 80 no longer be discerned.’ Maintaining a healthy weight, a strong heart and strong bones through regular physical activity is a major ingredient in the recipe for successful ageing.
Never having abused alcohol is considered by some experts to be the single highest predictor of successful ageing.
In his book Aging Well, Dr George Vaillant defines alcohol abuse as ‘the evidence of multiple alcohol-related problems (with spouse, family, employer, law or health) and/or evidence of alcohol-related dependence’.
Never has the phrase ‘You are what you eat’ been truer than in the Third Act.
As individuals and as a nation we must pay more attention to reducing the amount of sugar and fats we eat, and to increasing our consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. But I have chosen to use the word ‘learning’ rather than ‘mental activity’ because what brain science tells us today is that to maintain healthy cognitive function, we need to do things we aren’t accustomed to doing – things that make new demands on our minds, force us to make decisions or choices.
Having friends, loving partners and strong social supports have long been demonstrated to have a direct positive effect on health, better cognitive functioning and longevity.
Almost all the people I have met who are in their 90s or even older seem to have one thing in common: positivity.
Many older people say they spend more time in bed but sleep less; when they do sleep, it’s what is called ‘dream sleep’, as opposed to deep sleep.
Deep sleep is important throughout life, but it is essential when we are older, when our tissues need replenishing, yet our human growth hormone and testosterone levels are diminished.
One of the smartest things I ever did – and I can say this unequivocally – was a life review.