In 1920, the average lifespan of a Canadian was 60 years. Today, our life expectancy is about 81 years. What's more, we've learned that genes account for only about a third of the problems associated with aging. The other two-thirds? Our lifestyles -- including our eating and exercise habits and how we handle stress.
• Laugh. Laughing increases your intake of oxygen, thereby replenishing and invigorating body cells, says Dr. Julia Alleyne, a sports medicine physician in Toronto. It also increases the pain threshold, boosts immunity and relieves stress.
• Crunch. You can avoid a high percentage of lower-back problems if you build your abdominal muscles.
• Talk on two feet. Rather than sitting to talk on the phone, stand. You'll stretch your muscles and breathe more deeply, forcing oxygen-rich blood to your brain.
• Don't exercise your face muscles. Despite advice to the contrary, Edmonton dermatologist Dr. Janice Liao cautions that it will cause your wrinkles to become more prominent.
• Sleep with a towel. For lower-back pain at night, David Peterson, a chiropractor from Calgary, suggests rolling a small bath towel around a bathrobe sash and tying it around your waist.
• Drink lots of milk, especially when you use sunscreen. Sunscreen, says Susan I. Barr, professor of nutrition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, blocks vitamin D synthesis in the skin, a necessary process for bone health. Milk is an excellent calcium source and contains vitamin D.
On the job
• Adjust your computer screen. Chiropractor Douglas Pooley says people can avoid "computer neck" by adjusting their monitors so they're looking at them straight, and by realigning the keyboards so their elbows are slightly bent and their shoulders are relaxed.
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• Take a tablespoon of ground flax daily. Buy it at the bulk-food store, grind it at home (since our bodies can't digest whole flax) and add it to your cereal. Keep refrigerated. Flax is high in fibre and contains the kind of fat that may reduce certain cancer risks.
• Look on the bright side. Optimists live longer and have healthier lives than pessimists.
• Replace your smoke detector. Up to 25 per cent of households have nonfunctioning smoke detectors, says Dr. Richard Stanwick regional medical health officer, Victoria.
• Hold hands. Touch, says Dr. Julia Alleyne, has been shown to increase premature babies' weight gain, to heal the immune system and to reduce heart disease.
Teeth and gums
• Pay attention to your teeth and visit your dentist regularly. Unbalanced occlusion, or the way your teeth meet and function (or don't), can cause headaches, earaches and neck pain, says Dr. James R. Brookfield, a dental surgeon in Kirkland Lake, Ont.
• Keep your toothbrush clean. Prevent recurring infections, cold and gingivitis by changing your toothbrush at least every three months.
• Do aerobic activities longer before doing them harder to benefit most from activity, says Dr. Cordell Neudorf, medical health officer, Saskatoon District Health.
• Move a little more each day. If you're sedentary, start accumulating a total of at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. If you're moderately active, increase your activity level. The more exercise you do, the greater the benefits.
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