Living Longer

Reporter: Laticia Gibson

More than 4 million Australians will be over 65 by 2020. So what's the answer to not just living longer but looking younger? Well throw in a little science, some nature and a lesson or two from lands afar that might just have the answer.

"Bad diet, being overweight, excessive drinking, smoking - all of these things can cause DNA damage. So there are factors we can control and there's factors we can't control" says Dr Tim Edwards.

Our DNA is like a genetic blueprint. So delicate, that lifestyle choice can directly damage our cells. Now after 15 years of research, the CSIRO has figured out a way to gauge just how extensive this damage is so we can attempt to repair it. Dr Tim Edwards from REACH 100 medical clinic explains how the blood test works.

"What this test does is looks at the damage the fragmentation errors that have occurred in your DNA over time and matches them to your peers.. your age and sex group" says Dr Edwards. If we were to be compared to the people of Okanawa we might have something to worry about... With around 800 centenarians living on the Japanese island, they are renowned for their long and healthy life. The occurrence of heart disease is only one fifth that of American levels. Their active boating lifestyle an obvious contributing factor. But according to Nutritionist, Joanna McMillan-Price, the real secret is in what they eat.

"One of the most popular aspects with the Japanese diet is of course the fish and the sushi - is that what helps kick along their diet? Definitely that's key aspect of the Japanese diet is that they have fish and seafood pretty much everyday. And fish in seafood are the only foods that contain the very long chain omega 3 fats that we know are very beneficial for our health" says Joanna McMillan-Price. "Another key factor is that their diet is that they eat small meals more often. So they eat six meals in the day."

It's not only the Okanawans who know how to eat.Twice the amount of people on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy, live to see their 100th birthday compared to Western Countries. While genetics and their work ethic play a part in their long life span, their diet is rich in produce, dairy and that famous olive oil.

While many of us might associate the aromatic mixes of the Mediterranean with high levels of fat - Joanna says we could learn a lot from Sardinians. "We've been bombarded with this kind of low fat message for so long that a lot of people are scared of eating fat." "If you have fat with something like carrots and some of these brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, that helps you absorb many of the antioxidants and other vital nutrients that are in there."

The advantages of eating less and healthier may be obvious in reducing heart disease, cancer and type two diabetes, we can also save a few dollars on anti-ageing products."Some of the things that happen in our body like your skin losing elasticity and some of those other factors which happen with ageing are caused by free radical damage." Joanna says one of the best ways to combat that sagging skin is eating lots of colourful fruit and vegetable which guard against cell damage.

Before you get to thinking that it's all diet and no play - exercise plays an important part in life's longevity process. But feel free pop the cork on a bottle of red wine also, it contains reseratrol which has been proven to have similar anti-ageing qualities as a low-calorie diet."Rather than focusing on the negative of what can't I eat. Focus on what you should be eating" recommends Joanne.