Mon | Jun 5, 2023

Health factors for longevity

Published:Wednesday | March 29, 2023 | 12:29 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

THE LEVEL of health an individual enjoys is especially dependent upon simple health practices followed from day to day. That is what we all want. We want to look and feel young for as long as possible.

Dr Nedra Belloc and Dr Lester Breslow were among the first to research the effects of lifestyle on longevity. In their landmark study that involved 7,000 participants from Alameda County, California, they found seven lifestyle factors that influence how long people lived.

According to Dr Jermaine Nicholas, board certified doctor of naturopathy and director at Nutriverse Natural Wellness Centre, maintaining these healthy habits – sleeping seven to eight hours, no eating between meals, eating breakfast regularly, maintaining proper weight, regular exercise and moderate to no use of alcohol during adulthood – may add more than a decade to life expectancy.


Various studies indicate that women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82 per cent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 per cent less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.

Dr Nicholas said studies have shown that it is possible to get too little and too much sleep, but in general, six to nine hours of sleep tend to be ideal for most people. “Make sure to get natural light during the day and avoid night-time light exposure, such as light from television and phone screens. This has been shown to boost melatonin production,” he said.

“Eat foods with natural melatonin, like oats, corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, and barley. Sleep as early as possible. In general, the closer your bedtime is to sundown, the better for restful sleep,” Dr Nicholas added.

In order to turn off your hunger hormones, you need to eat a nutrient-dense meal (protein, good fats and vegetables) that will keep you feeling full and satiated for up to five-six hours. Little snacks spread throughout the day such as a latte and a muffin, or carrots sticks, a handful of nuts, a low-calorie rice cake, a tablespoon of peanut butter do not offer the same benefits as a meal that is satiating.


The benefits of taking a five-to-six-hour break between meals allows time for effective digestion, allows time for effective metabolism, enables you to reach and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, assists with turning off your hunger hormones and feel satiated for longer.

“Time for digestion is important. It is how you assimilate, absorb and digest nutrients. The digestion process, which takes a lot of energy, usually lasts around six hours. Your body has to break down the food into nutrients that can be absorbed and used by the body,” Dr Nicholas said.

“If you snack between meals, you are adding more of a burden to your digestive process. Your body is unable to repair, restore or even heal as you have disrupted this process of digestion that began the last time you ate,” Dr Nicholas added.

When your body cannot utilise and digest the food, it leads to weight gain, bloating, gas, IBS, blood sugar deregulation and even rapid ageing.

This is why he said breakfast is such an important meal of the day. The body uses a lot of energy stored for growth and repair through the night and eating a balanced breakfast helps to up our energy, as well as protein and calcium used throughout the night.

“Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. As the name suggests, breakfast breaks the overnight fasting period. It replenishes your supply of glucose to boost your energy levels and alertness, while also providing other essential nutrients required for good health,” Dr Nicholas said.


“Many studies have shown the health benefits of eating breakfast. It improves your energy levels and ability to concentrate in the short term, and can help with better weight management, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the long term,” he added.

Dr Nicholas said eating healthy and maintaining proper weight, getting regular exercise and limiting the intake of alcohol is very important. “Losing weight is never easy but it is definitely worth it. Maintaining a healthy weight helps your body to function better, limiting the chance of future disease and discomfort,” Dr Nicholas said.

“Regular physical activity burns calories and builds muscle both of which help you look and feel good and can help keep weight off. Doing things that increase your daily level of activity can make a difference. If you want to burn more calories, increase the intensity of your workout and add some strength exercises to build muscle,” he added.

Overall, adapting consistent and healthy eating habits and moderate physical activity relative to a person’s needs and existing lifestyle can help to ward off chronic diseases and lower the chances of significant health events as one ages, including heart attacks, high blood pressure and even dementia.