(BlackDoctor.org) — While it’s been estimated that the number of African Americans seeing riper, older ages will increase by 102 percent by 2020, the black community still continues to have a lower life expectancy rate than the overall population.
According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, African American life expectancy is 70.2 years, compared to an average of 76.5 years for all other population groups. The difference in life expectancy is even more striking among African American men, who have a life expectancy of only 66.1 years, compared to the national average of 73.6 years for all other men. So, we still have some work to do!
Advances in health, education and disease prevention and treatments are the main reasons for these improvements in our life expectancy rates, and there are many little everyday (translation: easy) things you can do that will further improve longevity.
Try these six today:
1. Add Raspberries To Your Oatmeal
Most Americans eat 14 to 17 g of fiber per day; add just 10 grams more and reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 17%, according to several studies. Dietary fiber helps reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and boost weight loss.
One easy fix: Top your oatmeal (1/2 cup dry has 4 g fiber) with 1 cup of raspberries (8 g) and you get 12 g of fiber in just one meal. Other potent fiber-rich foods: 1/2 cup of 100% bran cereal (8.8 g), 1/2 cup of cooked lentils (7.8 g), 1/2 cup of cooked black beans (7.5 g), one medium sweet potato (4.8 g), one small pear (4.3 g).
2. Drink Green or Black Tea
Both green and black teas contain a concentrated dose of catechins, substances that help blood vessels relax and protect your heart. In a study of more than 40,500 Japanese men and women, those who drank 5 or more cups of green tea every day had the lowest risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. Other studies involving black tea showed similar results. You really need only 1 or 2 cups of tea daily to start doing your heart some good – just make sure it’s a fresh brew. Ready-to-drink teas (the kind you find in the supermarket beverage section) don’t offer the same health benefits. “Once water is added to tea leaves, their catechins degrade within a few days,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University. Also, some studies show that adding milk may eliminate tea’s protective effects on the cardiovascular system, so stick to just lemon or honey.
3. Swap Seltzer For Soda
Scientists in Boston found that drinking one or more regular or diet colas every day doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels and excess fat around the waist (which, in turn, increases your chances of heart disease and diabetes). Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, preventing diabetes and not smoking can add 6 to 9 1/2 healthy years to your life.
One culprit could be the additive that gives cola its caramel color, which upped the risk of metabolic syndrome in animal studies. Scientists also speculate that soda drinkers regularly expose their tastebuds to natural or artificial sweeteners, conditioning themselves to prefer and crave sweeter foods, which may lead to weight gain.
Better choices: Switch to tea if you need a caffeine hit. If it’s fizz you’re after, try sparkling water with a splash of juice.
4. Eat Purple Food
Concord grapes, blueberries, red wine: They all get that deep, rich color from polyphenols, which are compounds that reduce heart disease risk and may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to research. Polyphenols help keep blood vessels and arteries flexible and healthy. “What’s good for your coronary arteries is also good for your brain’s blood vessels,” says Robert Krikorian, PhD, director of the Cognitive Disorders Center at the University of Cincinnati. Preliminary animal studies suggest that adding dark grapes to your diet may improve brain function. What’s more, in a recent human study, researchers found that eating 1 or more cups of blueberries every day may improve communication between brain cells, enhancing your memory.
5. Walk Instead of Drive
“Fit” people (defined as those who walk for about 30 minutes a day) are more likely to live longer than those who walk less, regardless of how much body fat they have, according to a recent study of 2,603 men and women. Similarly, recent research has proven that overweight women can improve their heart health by adding just 10 minutes of activity to their daily routine. So take a walk on your lunch hour, do laps around the field while your kid is at soccer practice – just try to find different ways to move a little more, each and every day.
6. Say Yes To Your Next Invite
Outgoing people are 50% less likely to develop dementia, according to a recent study of more than 500 men and women ages 78 and older from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Participants also described themselves as not easily stressed. Researchers speculate that their more resilient brains may be due to lower levels of cortisol – studies show that oversecretion of this “stress hormone” can inhibit brain cells’ communication.