An abundance of research has shown that the human life span has increased substantially in the past century, the product of better medical management and a slowing of biological aging. Deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke have declined. However, this positive increase in life span is offset by a potential increase in other diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. We do not just seek longevity as a goal but we want to maximise our years of healthy living (our “health span” or ”healthy longevity”).
There are several fundamental lifestyle habits that we can adopt which are scientifically proven to slow cell aging. Being physically active, getting good quality sleep and eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables (which also lowers inflammation). Fifteen population-based studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet can lower anxiety, depression and stress. A recent study by Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre found that a Mediterranean diet could relieve symptoms of depression.
We also know that relationships influence healthy longevity and predict our stress response. Positive relationships can counter the natural anxiety that we are wired to have.
Evidence suggests that being engaged in and accepting the present moment is associated with greater wellbeing. However, engaging with the present moment experience and ignoring unwanted thoughts is difficult, given the nature of our minds and the competing demands for our attention. This may be especially true when experiencing psychological stress. Results of a recent study provide evidence that positive social connection enhances presence in the moment and helps to counter psychological stress.
This is significant for bariatric patients who are trying to maintain healthy lifestyle habits. The immediate family members living with them, the extended family and friends with whom they socialise, and colleagues at work can all impact on the patient’s experience. Positive relationships can provide a valuable buffer in stressful times and serve to enhance their resilience.
Numerous studies have found that socially connected people live longer. It has also been identified as the most important predictor of overall happiness. The social support that we feel when we age is associated with our wellbeing. We should consider the depth and quality of our relationships because, if we make this a priority, then it will have a significant impact on our happiness and “healthy longevity”.
by Melanie Greenfeld, BPsych MPsych MAPS