How to live longer: Marry a person who helps you sleep well

Follow a low-salt high-olive-oil diet and enjoy some dark chocolate

“Maybe I just want to fly, I want to live I don’t want to die, Maybe I just want to breathe, maybe I just don’t believe, Maybe you’re the same as me, we see things they’ll never see, you and I we’re gonna live forever”

Whatever about Noel Gallagher's lyrics in the 1994 Oasis song Live Forever , most of us would certainly like to live longer. So how could I resist a session titled "Living Longer: Tips and Tricks" at the recent European Cardiology Society congress in Barcelona?

Bearing in mind the obvious caveat that the speakers were focused on the prevention of heart disease and not other life-limiting illness such as cancer, here are their tips for a longer life.

1 Dark chocolate

First up, some good news for us chocaholics: eating dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to cardiologists from the University of Pisa, Italy. In an admittedly small study, they measured blood levels of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) – which are critical to the repair of damaged blood vessels – before and after a diet of dark chocolate enriched with 10 per cent extra virgin olive oil. They tested the effects on 26 volunteers who had at least three risk factors for heart disease (they were smokers, had high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure)


After 28 days the researchers found that the chocolate enriched with olive oil was associated with significantly increased EPC levels compared to baseline. Olive oil-enriched chocolate was also associated with significantly increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreased blood pressure. Lead author Dr Rosella Di Stefano said “our study suggests that extra virgin olive oil might be a good food additive to help preserve our ‘repairing cells’, the EPC.”

2 Watch the salt

Meanwhile Finnish researchers added to the known risks of a high-salt diet when they announced the results of a 12-year study involving more than 4,000 people: they found high salt intake is associated with a doubled risk of heart failure. Diagnosed when the pumping action of the heart begins to wane, heart failure is a separate disease to coronary heart disease and stroke, both of which we know are caused by a high salt consumption.

Prof Pekka Jousilahti, research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, said: “People who consumed more than 13.7g of salt daily had a two times higher risk of heart failure compared to those consuming less than 6.8g. The optimal daily salt intake is probably even lower than 6.8g.”

3 Get hitched

Had a heart attack or carry a number of risk factors for coronary heart disease? Get married is the advice from researchers at Aston Medical School in Birmingham. Based on a large database of over 900,000 people, the study found that, of those who had a heart attack, married patients were 14 per cent more likely than single patients to survive after the event. Marriage was also protective in patients with three major risk factors for heart disease: those with high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure and who were married were more likely to be alive at the end of the study. In a nod to the quality of a married relationship, researchers noted lower survival rates among divorced patients.

4 Sleep well

And when picking a partner for life, the results of Japanese research suggests you choose someone who helps you sleep better. They found a link between coronary artery disease and patients who slept less and had a pattern of brief waking throughout the night.

So here’s a recipe for a longer life: Get married to someone who helps you sleep better and live happily together on a low-salt, dark chocolate with extra virgin olive oil, diet.


**Readers may be interested in the International Stillbirth Alliance conference at University College Cork from September 22-24 . See  @muirishouston