His age defying longevity habits for a long life
Until last year, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth was the picture of healthy longevity – she not only enjoyed an extremely long and active life, but reached the age of 96 unaffected by cancer, dementia or other health problems that can accompany aging.
“Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived,” King Charles III said in an address to the nation after his mother died on September 8.
Decades of privilege obviously helped – the Queen had servants and personal chefs to tend to her every need; access to the best health care and beautiful residences to relax in when she needed it.
Genes also played a role: the queen’s mother lived to be 101, although her father died aged 56.
But genes are only part of the picture, said Andrew Steele, British scientist and author of “Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old.”
“For most of us, our lifespan probably depends less than 20% on our genetics, which means the other 80% depends on lifestyle and luck,” Steele told TODAY. .
“Lucky, there’s obviously not much we can do, but there’s a lot of lifestyle advice that can add years to our lives, and Queen Elizabeth’s habits likely contributed to her record-breaking stint on the throne.”
Here are some of the late monarch’s healthy longevity habits:
The Queen walked with her dogs, rode horses, hiked around the grounds of her estates, and remained active throughout her life and into her old age.
“Probably the best thing most of us can do for our health is to exercise regularly. Many studies show that older people who are more active live longer and healthier lives,” Steele said.
“We could all follow the Queen’s lead, as she was known to walk her corgis regularly until her senior year.”
He pointed to a recent study that found that walking 10,000 steps a day could halve the risk of dementia.
A meaning to life
Queen Elizabeth’s life centered on duty and service to her nation. She was still performing official engagements well into her 90s, “which may well have contributed to her lifespan,” Steele said, “but it’s harder to quantify those things precisely.”
A growing body of research suggests that having a strong sense of purpose in life improves physical and mental health and improves overall quality of life, wrote the authors of a 2019 study published in JAMA.
When they followed 7,000 adults, they found that those who scored highest on a questionnaire designed to measure life purpose were less likely to die during the study period. Volunteering was a way for people to improve their purpose in life, the study notes.
This is related to the habit above. The queen never retired, but continued to work in her old age. She “loved her job,” author Tina Brown wrote in The New York Times.
So much so that just two days before her death, the monarch met and named Liz Truss as Britain’s new prime minister, beaming in photos even as she looked frail and crippled.
The sentiment of ‘never retiring’ was echoed by Dr Howard Tucker, the world’s oldest practicing doctor who turned 100 this summer.
“I consider retirement the enemy of longevity,” the Cleveland neurologist told TODAY. “I think in retirement you can face a risk of shrivel up and end up in a nursing home.”
Residents of Okinawa, Japan – one of the world’s “blue zones” where people live extraordinarily long lives – have no word for retirement. They use “ikigai” instead – which translates to “the reason you get out of bed in the morning”. Work often satisfies that for us, experts told TODAY.
The Queen loved her corgis, her furry four-legged canine companions. She owned dozens of dogs in her lifetime and four survived her. The monarch also adored horses.
Interacting with animals can decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and lower blood pressure, the National Institutes of Health noted. Studies have also shown animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support and improve mood, the agency added.
Time spent in nature
The Queen loved Balmoral, the 50,000-acre country estate in the Scottish Highlands where she spent most summers and died on September 8. The woods, streams, hills and valleys allowed him to hike, ride horses and picnic with his family. .
Spending at least two hours a week outdoors in a natural setting is linked to good health and well-being, according to a study published in 2019.
Living near “higher levels of greenery” was linked to lower rates of premature death from all causes, suggesting that green vegetation has a protective effect, according to another study.
Turning to “forest bathing” — a type of therapy that involves walking in the woods, using your senses to connect with nature, and staying in the present moment — can help relieve stress and improve mental health.
Strong social ties
Queen Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip for 73 years. She maintained a close relationship with her four children and their families. His daily life included encounters with councillors, politicians, visiting dignitaries, cultural icons and ordinary citizens.
His days were filled with people and social interaction until his death. That’s important because loneliness is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, a review of studies has warned. Chronic loneliness impacts human biology, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told MSNBC.
“It puts us in a state of chronic stress, which increases inflammation in our bodies and increases our risk of cardiovascular disease and other illnesses,” he said.
But being connected and having strong social connections lowers the risk of premature death, according to a meta-analysis.
Tea, dark chocolate and alcohol in moderation
Queen Elizabeth always started her morning with a cup of Earl Gray tea and also had afternoon tea every day.
Tea, especially green tea, is a rich source of flavonoids, bioactive compounds that may reduce oxidative stress, ease inflammation and provide other health benefits, the researchers noted.
Regular tea drinkers were less likely to develop atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or die prematurely from any cause than others, they found.
The Queen also loved dark chocolate, said one of her former chefs. The not-too-sweet treat is packed with powerful antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and support heart health.
The late monarch’s routine also included alcohol – she enjoyed a Dubonnet cocktail every night for around half a century, British historian Andrew Roberts told TODAY. Last fall, doctors advised her to give up that part of her evening.
Although there are many studies on the harmful effects of alcohol on health, moderate drinking has also been linked to longevity, researchers have found.
A final note on genes:
The influence of genetics becomes more important when it comes to lifespan in the 90s and especially the 100s, Steele said. The queen’s son therefore seems to be in a good position.
“King Charles, whose mother arrived at 96 and father died last year at 99, can look forward to a decent reign despite only starting at 73,” Steele noted.