New Year’s resolutions: Ten things you can do to live longer

By Wright Communications

Fidelity Life Chief Executive Milton Jennings says January is the perfect time to break bad habits and start leading a healthy life, which goes a long way to ensure you can be around for a bit longer.

According to the Ministry of Development's 2010 Social Report, the life expectancy in New Zealand for males is 78.4 years and females 82.4 years, but many of us are cutting this short by not looking after our health.

"As a life insurance company, we know first-hand what Kiwi families are faced with when they lose a loved one, or a family member becomes ill and can no longer work," says Mr Jennings.

"Illness, or the death of a family member, is a hugely emotional time; people are often left with the additional stress of dealing with issues such as mounting debts to cover medical costs, the forced sale of the family home, and having to use diminishing savings to cover living expenses."

Cancer accounted for the majority of death and terminal illness claims for Fidelity Life customers in the 12 months ended 30 June 2010, at 39 per cent.  This was followed by heart disease (30 per cent), illness (20 per cent), accident (6 per cent) and suicide (5 per cent).  The average age of claimant's was 56, well below New Zealand's life expectancy for both genders.

Milton runs every day, rain, hail or shine and encourages Fidelity Life staff to pursue a healthy work-life balance; many of the insurer's employees can be spotted running in the nearby Auckland Domain in their lunch hours. Four long term smokers at Fidelity Life gave up smoking in 2010.

"There are a number of little things we can all be doing more of each day to help reduce the risk of getting sick to ensure we can be around for our family for as long as possible," says Mr Jennings. "The New Year is a great opportunity to start a healthy lifestyle and routine."

10 things you can do to live longer:

1.       Don't smoke: smoking is a major contributor to lung and related cancers.  The Cancer Society estimates that 23 per cent of all New Zealand cancer deaths annually are due to smoking (

2.       Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all: excessive alcohol consumption can cause a host of health problems and does not help the waist line. There are 160-180 calories in a pint of lager and at least 100 in a glass of sweet wine ( ). According to a Ministry of Health 2007/2008 Survey, six in 10 people who drank alcohol in the past year had consumed enough alcohol to feel drunk at least once, while one in ten had done so on a weekly basis ($File/alcohol-use-in-nz-0708-survey.pdf).

3.       Drink water: drinking water has many overall health benefits and also assists our digestion, concentration and complexion.  Water is a better alternative to sugar-filled sodas, caffeine and alcohol. Your body is 50-60 per cent water. Drinking 6-8 glasses a day helps your body function properly. (

4.       Exercise: this is essential for heart health and body strength and is also a great stress relief. Sport & Recreation New Zealand recommends adults exercise at least thirty minutes a day (

5.       Sleep: between 7-9 hours of sleep a night is generally recommended (  Lack of decent sleep can be related to health problems such as obesity, day time sleepiness and high blood pressure (

6.       Relax and laugh: laughing is a great stress relief.  Stress can cause all sorts of health problems, so find ways to keep it to a minimum and dedicate time each day to chilling out whether it's meditation, exercise, watching a funny movie or catching up with friends.

7.       Get regular check ups: early detection is the key for so many illnesses. In addition to regular check ups at your GP, keep an eye on your body; if you notice anything unusual, get it checked out.

8.       Teeth: brush and floss your teeth daily to avoid gum disease which can place risks on your overall health.  Recent studies suggest gum disease may contribute or be warning signs of potentially life threatening conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. (

9.       Eat more fruit and vege: make the most of New Zealand's fresh produce and make sure you have your five plus a day. Fruit and vegetables are a great source of fibre and antioxidants. (

10.   Socialise: research shows people with strong social networks and who spend quality time with family and friends are more likely to live longer than people who are lonely. (

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