Scandi lifestyle: The Nordic guide to living longer

In a new book, Swedish doctor Bertil Marklund explores 10 key themes that could lead to a longer, happier, more fulfilled life, writes

Margaret Jennings

Scandi lifestyle: The Nordic guide to living longer

In a new book, Swedish doctor Bertil Marklund explores 10 key themes that could lead to a longer, happier, more fulfilled life, writes Margaret Jennings

IF you were offered the chance to live 10 years longer, would you say no? Very unlikely! But while our genes dictate 25% of longevity and there’s nothing we can do about that, a whopping 75% is up to us — due to what kind of lifestyle we choose.

And we are not just talking about living long, but having a healthy extra stretch as well, argues Swedish medical doctor and researcher, Dr Bertil Marklund.

While the market is saturated with self-help books about getting healthier, there is “a big gap between words and action”, he argues. By the time readers get to the end, they are overwhelmed with information and may not actually but any learning into practice.

That is why he has written

The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Tips To Live A Healthier, Happier Life

, with each chapter succinct enough, while backed by relevant research.

As a doctor with over 20 years’ experience in primary care and a researcher in family medicine and public health, he decided to write the book because he wanted to focus on how to boost health, as we age, “rather than focusing on disease and death”, he says. “The book is built around two different perspectives. It provides suggestions on health promotion activities that you can do to feel good and stay feeling good — proven measures that lead to a healthy life. At the same time, it also explains how these measures will help you to stave off ill health and disease.”

Aside from his career as a medic, Marklund was responding to this topic from a personal perspective as well: “Both of my parents had multiple risk factors and unfortunately I lost them far too early. That shook me up. So I decided to get to the bottom of what I needed to do, to enjoy as long and healthy a life as possible.”

Here is a brief look at the themes of those 10 tips which he elaborates on — devoting a full chapter to each — while pointing out that they are interdependent since no one factor leads to health and longevity.

Movement rejuvenates the body

We are designed to move and some form of physical activity can cut the risk of around 30 to 40 diseases, including several types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Research shows that a person who exercises for at least three hours a week is biologically 10 years younger than someone who doesn’t exercise.

Time for recovery

Learn how to recognise and manage stress. One of the strategies suggested here is to learn to forgive yourself and others, to reduce anxiety and tension.

Sleep fortifies

Good sleep extends our life. Research shows that sleep, for instance, supports a strong immune system, which reduces the risk of issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Sun – but not too much

Vitamin D deficiency can shorten life and is linked to many diseases. Use a supplement from September to May. Expose yourself for 20 minutes without sunscreen daily, during the summer. After that more sun means wrinkles or skin cancer risk; it doesn’t mean more vitamin D as the skin shuts down production once levels have been topped up.

Eat yourself healthy

Absolutely tons of research has been published about how important diet is to a healthy longevity. To sum it up, he says: Eat plenty of the healthy stuff and you’ll be Ok with the rest.

Choose the right drink

The recommended quantity of fluid we should drink daily is 1.5 litres and water, of course, is best. Being dehydrated gives rise to an unhealthy environment for our body. Research has shown that coffee, tea and alcohol all have benefits, including health-promoting substances called antioxidants, but moderation is key.

Keep your weight in check

Fewer kilos may well translate into more years of life. Being overweight is linked to increased inflammation which causes many conditions that speed up the body’s ageing process. Set a healthy target and invest in a scales so you can quickly break any upward trend.

Oral health gives general health

Research has shown people with tooth decay and gum disease have a mortality rate 20-50% higher — largely linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke — than those who haven’t. Get regular dental checks.

Be an optimist

Watch out for your negative attitude and resultant behaviour and surround yourself with motivated people. Optimists live longer than pessimists, with studies showing a difference of up to seven years.

We need each other

We are pack animals and social intercourse may well have been one of the key strategies for the survival of the human race. Self-imposed solitude is not associated with any health risk. The problem is with involuntary loneliness and several studies have shown higher mortality among individuals who are lonely. Try to understand why you’re lonely, if that is your case and take that first step to reach out for help.

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