The series that’ll help you keep healthy, full of vigour and young

How to be a super-ager: A major series that’ll help you keep healthy, full of vigour and young

  • Hormone specialist Dr Erika Schwartz, has been prescribing HRT for 25 years
  • She believes HRT has more benefits than improving libido, sleep and beauty
  • Studies claim HRT can prevent serious illnesses and reduce risk of heart disease
  • Blanca Brillembourg, 63, claims HRT has kept her from menopausal symptoms
  • Thea Jourdan revealed which hormones control ageing and how to beat them
  • She also shared tests that can be used to monitor how well you’re ageing
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It’s not just your love life HRT  boosts your bones and brain,too

by Dr Erika Schwartz

Who doesn’t want to be a super-ager, enjoying a long, happy and fulfilled life until the end?

The good news is that more of us now are living longer, with one in eight Britons today likely to make it to 100.

Unfortunately, though, it’s predicted that 80 per cent will be disabled by ill health by the age of 90.

So how can you make those final decades the best they can possibly be? That’s what the Mail set out to discover, speaking to top experts and looking at the latest research to produce this unique guide to age-proofing your life.

On Saturday we published an age-defying brain diet. Today, we focus on how to rejuvenate hormones that govern everything from sex to memory . . .

Hormone specialist Dr Erika Schwartz, claims hormone therapy can transform libido, energy levels and improve brain functions. She revealed the scientifically proven hormones that can help you become a ‘super-ager’ (file image)


Whether you’re male or female, declining hormones as we age are a biological fact of life — but a treatable one. For more than 25 years as a hormone specialist I’ve been prescribing women, and more recently men, hormones. There is no doubt in my mind — and a growing body of scientific evidence backs this up — that they have a transformative effect on libido and sexual function, energy levels, mood, brain function, sleep, hot flushes, body weight, skin and hair.

It might not quite be the elixir of youth, but hormone therapy is the closest we have so far.

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While improved libido and sleep, great hair and skin are the more obvious and immediate benefits, there are others which are less visible yet can play a key role in a longer, healthier life.

As we age, we have heart problems and strokes, we’re beset by chronic illnesses, suffer thinning bones, and our eyesight fails — as does our memory.

Hormone therapy can help change that. Here, I’ll explain the science of how it can protect your heart, bones and brain, to help you become a ‘super-ager’.

Erika claims oestrogen and testosterone can protect against conditions including dementia and heart disease (file image)


There are hundreds of hormones controlling our body’s functions, but one group reigns supreme: the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone — all used in types of hormone therapy.

There is no doubt hormone therapy is good for women’s bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis (a leading cause of frailty in old age).

Indeed no less an authority than the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) — the UK body that issues official guidance on medical care — says women’s risk of fractures is reduced while taking hormones.

Oestrogen and testosterone are good for bones, but perhaps more significantly, they may also help protect against the disease we fear most — dementia.

Many people may not know there are oestrogen and testosterone receptors in the brain as well as the body. They’ve been identified in the areas that regulate functions such as sleep and temperature, and is why the drop in hormones that comes with the menopause can lead to broken sleep, hot flushes, and brain ‘fog’.

Is ‘natural’ HRT better?

I prescribe my patients natural, or ‘bio-identical’, hormones — oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone — derived from soy and yam oils.

Bio-identical hormones have the same chemical structure as our own hormones and are gentler than synthetic ones.

There are two types of bio-identical products: those with a set (or ‘standardised’) dose made by the drug companies — and which can be prescribed by an NHS doctor — and those made up to your specific requirements by so-called ‘compounding’ pharmacies. These compounded replacement hormones are available only through a private doctor or clinic.

That’s why hormone therapy can help with brain-related symptoms (oestrogen plays a role in the way the brain uses glucose, its source of fuel).

But the idea that it could protect against dementia may be surprising for anyone who recalls the storm caused by two studies in the early 2000s linking HRT to a raised risk of serious illness, including dementia. Those studies have since been reanalysed, and the increased risks were found to be confined to older women, i.e. those who’d been through the menopause ten years before and had pre-existing conditions, such as obesity.

Meanwhile, the evidence keeps mounting that hormone therapy is actually protective.

Take the findings of a major analysis published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry in 2015, which examined 323 studies on risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

The international team of researchers identified nine risk factors responsible for most cases, and that we could change ourselves. Guess what they found: ‘grade 1-level evidence’ pointing to oestrogen therapy having a protective effect.

Hormone therapy is also good for women’s hearts. Women who had taken HRT long term (for ten years) from soon after the menopause — defined as a year after your last period — had a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, according to a study published in 2012 in the British Medical Journal.

But what about the risks? This study, carried out in Denmark, found there was no higher risk of cancer or stroke, and NICE guidelines state the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes is not raised.

Erika says smoking and being overweight are greater threats to a woman’s health than taking any type of hormone therapy (file image)

NICE says there is a heightened risk of stroke or breast cancer while taking HRT, but only while you’re on it (and the risk is small compared to the benefits).

And the fact remains: being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol are greater threats to a woman’s health than any type of hormone therapy.

I believe testosterone is a useful addition to the hormone mix for women because it keeps energy levels up and improves libido. It also boosts muscle and bone production (important if you want to be a super-ager!)

A small study in 2011 suggests it may also help with post-menopausal women’s verbal learning and memory.

Many of my female patients want to try testosterone, but are afraid of growing whiskers or becoming baritones. However, I assure them the doses women require are far smaller than those needed to turn them into men.

In the UK, testosterone is not licensed for women, so your GP or private doctor would have to agree to prescribe it to you specially.


Just like women, when men start ageing their hormone levels, specifically testosterone, decline.

Admittedly some of my fellow medical professionals are not convinced about the male ‘menopause’ and the need to treat dropping levels of testosterone.

They argue only a tiny percentage of men experience the low levels that require hormone therapy.

Researchers claim men aged 80 or older are at greater risk of dementia if they have low testosterone levels (file image)

But in my experience — having prescribed testosterone to men for more than two decades, from the age of 50 to 80 — and based on medical research, it’s clear men need help with hormones just as much as women.

Sure, there is much to be gained from adopting a healthy diet — including weight loss, which may trigger a rise in testosterone. And getting enough sleep is important, as sleep deprivation can cause testosterone levels to drop. Reducing stress and exercising are also key.

But I firmly believe the role of hormone treatment cannot be understated. Not just in terms of libido, mood, muscle mass and waistline, but for men’s hearts, brains and bones.

A study published in 2014 in the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association found that men aged 80 or older with low testosterone levels were at greater risk of dementia.

Other studies have suggested men with higher testosterone levels in middle age have better preserved brain tissue and do better in cognitive tests.

And even though many think of osteoporosis — crumbly bones — as a women’s problem linked to oestrogen decline, men too are at risk. Age-related testosterone deficiency is the most important factor in bone loss in elderly men, according to a study published recently in the journal Clinical Interventions In Ageing.

Men with low levels of testosterone are proven to be at greater risk of heart disease (file image)

Men’s hearts also need testosterone. There is evidence to suggest men with low levels of the hormone are at greater risk of heart disease — and that testosterone therapy is good for their hearts.

What about the risks? In the U. S., testosterone products carry a health warning about the ‘possible increased risk of heart attacks and stroke’. However, European guidelines say there is ‘no consistent evidence of an increased risk of heart problems with testosterone medication’.

And the risk may be higher for men with existing heart problems, which is why testosterone should only be taken on a doctor’s advice.

It’s also been suggested that testosterone treatment can raise the risk of prostate cancer. But an authoritative review in 2007 of all the studies on the subject failed to find any link.

Furthermore, a more recent study linked aggressive prostate cancer to low testosterone levels.

What age should you stop taking HRT?

When should you stop taking hormones? The oldest woman I am treating is 88, the oldest man is 86, writes New York-based Dr Erika Schwartz.

Like other specialists in natural hormones, I am convinced by the benefits and safety of bio-identical hormones. I am very happy for my patients to keep taking them indefinitely.

Their quality of life is better than their peers. It’s also helping to prevent the deterioration caused by ageing and illness.

Follow-ups are key, as are eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and dealing with stress. I have patients who have been taking natural hormones for 30 years, and I am prepared to use them myself for 50!

The official position in the UK used to be that women on any type of HRT should try coming off it after five years, but the NHS now says there’s no limit.

A study published last year showed that women who’d taken HRT for 18 years were at no higher risk of dying early.

British Menopause Society advice is that older women on HRT long term ‘should be reviewed annually’. But I believe staying on it is life-saving, and that taking women off it at any age is more risky than keeping them on it, particularly with bio-identicals — ‘natural’ hormones derived from plants.

In my practice, I advise taking a break of three to four days (a hormone holiday) every three to four months.


HRT has let me sail happily into my 60s

by Alison Roberts  

Blanca Brillembourg (pictured), 63, has been taking HRT for 13 years and claims it’s given her good skin and lots of energy 

Blanca Brillembourg, 63, is something of a pioneer. Under Dr Schwartz, she’s been taking HRT for 13 years — far longer than conventional medical wisdom has dictated.

Blanca, above, is a devotee of bio-identical HRT.

‘I’ve always been super-well since I started taking it,’ says Blanca, ‘which is why I don’t want to stop. My skin is good and I have lots of energy — more than I did 20 years ago. Friends who are younger than me don’t feel as well, and I try to convince them to start!’

The socialite, who jets between Switzerland, New York, London and Athens, started bio-identicals before getting menopausal symptoms. She says: ‘I’d seen too many friends suffering hot flushes and mood swings and weight gain not act. I’ve sailed through the past decade without any of those horrid symptoms.’

How to beat the wrinkle hormone and bolster the ones that help your memory and mean you get a blissful night’s sleep

by Thea Jourdan

Our bodies produce 50 different hormones, and while we tend to think of ageing in terms of declining sex hormones, such as testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone, many others play a role in how and when we age.

As Saffron Whitehead, professor of endocrine physiology at St George’s, University of London, explains: ‘As we age, decreasing levels of some key hormones produced by different glands in the body contribute to age-related bone and energy loss, physical and cognitive decline and visible signs of ageing in the skin.’

So which are the key hormones that help control the ageing process and what can you do to make sure they’re at optimum levels for a long, healthy life?

Thea Jourdan revealed the pineal gland that produces melatonin drops with age and can cause age-related insomnia (file image) 


Melatonin helps us sleep — its levels increase at night, making us feel sleepy, and drop in the morning. But from around our mid-40s, the pineal gland that produces the hormone gets ‘tired’ so levels drop.

This is one reason why older people struggle to sleep — age-related insomnia affects over half of those aged 65-plus. But super-agers in an ongoing U.S. study, were found to get at least eight hours a night.

Sleep is when our body repairs itself, which is why sleep-promoting melatonin is seen as the anti-ageing ‘wonder’ drug. Our levels of this human growth hormone peak during sleep — it helps repair tissue and build muscle (muscle wasting is a part of ageing).

It’s not just sleep — melatonin may also help to strengthen old bones. That’s because the more sleep we get, osteoclast cells — which break down our bones when we’re awake at night — are less active.

‘As we age, we sleep less well, which means that the osteoclasts are more active,’ says Faleh Tamimi, a professor at Canada’s McGill University’s faculty of dentistry, who has looked at how melatonin supplements could slow the process of bone breakdown.

Thea advises eating a diet consisting of fish to boost the production of melatonin (file image)


GIVE UP SMOKING: While melatonin levels naturally decline, cigarette smoking has been linked to lower levels of the hormone because chemicals in the smoke make your liver break it down more quickly.

EAT FISH: The production of melatonin depends on tryptophan, an amino acid we get from fish and shellfish, oats and bananas.

CHOOSE FOODS RICH IN FOLIC ACID, ZINC AND MAGNESIUM: Folic acid, found in leafy greens, liver and lentils, and zinc and magnesium, in shellfish, poultry, nuts and soy products, are all components of melatonin.

LIMIT COFFEE/ENERGY DRINKS LATE AT NIGHT: Caffeine blocks melatonin so it can’t do its job, a 2012 study found. Levels can also drop if you’re exposed to ‘blue’ light from screens at night, which mimics natural daylight and prevents the pineal gland from starting its night-time production of melatonin. For that reason, limit screen use late at night.

MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS: Melatonin levels in supplements vary widely, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The supplements, available readily online, are classed as dietary supplements so aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny as medicines. It’s important to ask your doctor’s advice as side-effects can include depression, dizziness and stomach cramps.

Thea revealed skin and body weight are affected by the hormone insulin which increases with age (file image)


One of the reasons we put on weight with age is down to changes in the hormone insulin. This is produced in the pancreas in response to eating sugar and carbohydrates, allowing them to be taken up by cells where they are converted into energy. As we age, our cells become more resistant to insulin and our bodies need to produce more to do the same job — a process hastened by poor diet or stress. This forces the cells to switch from repair, to finding energy from other sources, forcing them to take fat from the blood — causing weight gain.

Increased insulin levels, that occur with age, also slow down the metabolism, which as well as contributing to weight gain, has other effects such as higher blood pressure, raised ‘bad’ cholesterol and inflammation in the arteries.

Increased insulin prematurely ages skin and tissue, too. Scientists at the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School in the U.S. have found that reducing insulin levels boosts the protein, SKN-1, which helps mop up damaging molecules that cause premature ageing. Worms genetically altered to have low insulin levels lived 25-30 per cent longer.

Other research found that fruit flies lived significantly longer if their insulin levels were reduced.

‘There is a link between longevity and reduced insulin levels,’ explains David Russell-Jones, a professor of endocrinology and consultant physician at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford. He points to the fact that patients with type 2 diabetes have a fivefold risk of malignant cancer.

‘One theory is that this happens because of their higher levels of insulin,’ he says. High insulin levels are also linked to obesity and heart disease.

Thea recommends sticking to a low sugar diet to slow premature signs of ageing including wrinkles (file image) 


STICK TO A DIET LOW IN SUGAR: This advice, which includes avoiding refined carbohydrates, is familiar, but may help slow premature ageing and wrinkles.

PRACTISE INTERMITTENT FASTING: Lowering blood sugar and insulin through short-term fasting seems to ‘reset’ the metabolism to a more youthful version, says Karen Chapman, a professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Edinburgh. ‘There is a lot of interest in how metabolism relates to inflammation, the immune system, and ageing, and it seems that short periods of fasting for 24 to 36 hours can “reset” our metabolism, in a manner more typical of a young person’ — fasting effectively throws the switch from burning only glucose for energy to using fat, too, so that it’s not stored as body fat.

EXERCISE: ‘Exercise, especially high-intensity exercise — short bursts of cardiovascular workouts followed by less intensive recovery periods — may do a similar sort of thing as fasting in resetting your metabolism,’ says Professor Chapman.

Professor Russell-Jones adds: ‘If you slightly underfeed an animal, it often lives much longer than an animal given adequate nutrition. This is thought to be related to the slightly underfed animal being more active because of the “foraging effect” to find more food.’

He points out that aerobic exercise such as jogging and cycling has been shown to make people more insulin sensitive so the body needs less insulin to produce the same effect — and this may be important in preventing cardiovascular disease.

‘Exercise has an almost magical effect which we can’t really explain by calories used up or the training effect of putting on muscle and losing fat,’ he adds.

Professor Russell-Jones claims aerobic exercises can make people more insulin sensitive which could be important for preventing cardiovascular disease (file image)


As BEFITS its name, human growth hormone (HGH) plays a key role in stimulating the growth and repair of tissue, like muscle. But that’s not all.

It’s released by the pituitary gland in the brain during sleep, and then binds to specific receptors throughout the body, including brain cells connected with memory and fat cells, where it triggers them to release some of their energy.

It also stimulates the liver to produce a powerful hormone, called insulin-like growth factor, which promotes the growth of cartilage and muscle.

Our levels of HGH surge during childhood and the early teenage years, but thereafter drop by 14 per cent per decade during adult life, explains Stephen Shalet, emeritus professor of endocrinology at Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

So by the time you’re 40, you are producing about half as much as you did at 20 which naturally leads to a reduction in muscle mass and vigour. This has led some researchers and anti-ageing doctors in America to speculate that artificially boosting levels of HGH with supplements can delay the ageing process.

How do you lift your ‘joy’ hormone?

Endorphins are powerful anti-ageing hormones, which act on receptors in our brain to reduce stress, fear or pain. They also boost pleasure from eating or sex and regulate appetite, preventing obesity.

There are at least 20 kinds of endorphin, but beta- endorphins are known particularly as anti-ageing hormones. They activate chemicals that reduce inflammation and combat the effects of diabetes and ward off cognitive decline.

As our brains age, we don’t produce the same amount.

Studies on animals reveal low endorphin levels are linked to anxiety and higher amounts of another hormone associated with ageing, cortisol. Low endorphins can contribute to obesity and physical decline.


EXERCISE: More endorphins. are produced during and just after exercise, leading to a ‘feel-good’ factor.

LAUGH: Laughter increases endorphin production in areas of the brain controlling arousal and emotions, according to a study last year in The Journal of Neuroscience.

However, there’s no evidence yet it can hold back the years.

‘In fact, there is good reason to believe that the opposite may be the case,’ says Professor Shalet, who points out that people with a rare congenital deficiency of HGH are smaller, with less muscle mass than their healthy peers but have the same average lifespan.

Researchers at the University of Southern California in 2013 found no evidence that the supplements improved muscle strength or performance in older men.


AVOID SUGARY FOODS LATER IN THE DAY: Your body produces HGH in sleep but sugary food and refined carbohydrates may sabotage this, as it causes an insulin spike and high insulin is linked to lower levels of HGH.

STEER CLEAR OF HGH INJECTIONS: This is usually only approved as a treatment for people who have an extreme deficiency, typically as a result of an inherited condition. However, these jabs can be bought online (competitive body builders do use them to build muscle mass).

‘It really isn’t a good idea to self-prescribe HGH to improve your muscle tone or boost vitality,’ says Professor Shalet.

Side-effects include swelling of the arms and legs, joint pain and increased insulin resistance, which can herald type 2 diabetes.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is regarded by some as the fountain of youth hormone because of its supposed benefits for memory, bone health — and libido.

The hormone is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit alongside the kidneys, as well as by the liver. In men, it is also secreted by the testes. The body converts it into androstenedione, a precursor to the sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Levels of DHEA decline significantly as we age — by up to 80 per cent from the age of 32 to 83 in men, according to one major study. Low DHEA in the elderly has been linked to Alzheimer’s and depression, while studies suggest the hormone improves energy levels and plays an important role in helping to maintain bone density.

A study in the U.S. in 2000 discovered that women aged between 60 and 79 given 50mg DHEA daily for year had better bone density and significantly higher libidos than those on a placebo. Their skin was also denser and less dry.

DHEA supplements have been proven to mildly increase the libido in some older women (file image)


CONSIDER TAKING DHEA SUPPLEMENTS: This may be useful for some older women who want to increase their libido, but the effects are usually mild, says Ashley Grossman, a professor of endocrinology at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism.

He says most studies are inconclusive: ‘It’s not going to cause harm but it might not do much good either.’

DHEA can also be applied to the skin as an ointment to reduce wrinkles. It can also improve thickness and elasticity of the vaginal wall.

DHEA supplements can be made of wild yam or soy and are classed as dietary supplements. This means there is limited information about the products’ quality and effectiveness. Some supplements have been found to have no DHEA at all.

ALCOHOL: Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to higher levels of DHEA in a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research in 2004, leading to a potential beneficial effect for heart health (it protects against the furring up of the arteries). However, this does not mean drinking more is even better for DHEA and against this must be weighed other health risks associated with alcohol.

Does the stress hormone age your heart?

While we tend to associate age with declining hormone levels, some hormones rise. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is one of these. Levels may go up because as we age, our bodies suffer greater inflammation and tissue damage, signalling ‘stress’ to the body — and cortisol is the body’s way of protecting us in emergencies by boosting metabolism, raising blood-sugar levels and suppressing the immune system ready for fight or flight. 

Karen Chapman, professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Edinburgh, says: ‘Raised cortisol levels may contribute to muscle wasting and decline in brain and nerve function in older people.’ 

Too much cortisol can damage the immune system and lead to premature ageing of the vascular system and skin, and reduce life expectancy — it also seems to play a role in osteoporosis, adds Ashley Grossman, professor of endocrinology at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism.


AVOID STRESS: It seems obvious, but it reallycan be helpful, says endocrinologist Professor Grossman. ‘Mindfulness training or meditation has also been shown to reduce anxiety and cortisol levels,’ he adds. Simply laughing out loud can also reduce levels of stress hormones.

EXERCISE: Physical exercise recreates the‘fight or flight’ response, resulting in excess cortisol being taken out of the bloodstream.

The chair test and other simple checks that show how well you’re ageing

No fancy equipment, no cost, no waiting to see the GP — these simple tests, which you can do in the comfort of your own home, are surprisingly revealing about the state of your health.

Each takes only a minute or so to complete . . .


DO THIS: Look at a large window frame from across a room, first with your right eye only (cover your left with your palm for 30 seconds), then your left eye only.

WHAT IT MEANS: If the frame edges seem wavy, broken or distorted, it may indicate age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can lead to blindness.

Robin Hamilton, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, confirms the above symptoms can be an early sign of the eye condition, along with missing areas of vision. But you might not notice it day-to-day as the eyes compensate for defective vision.

Thea’s chair test can be used to measure of strength and agility in older age. A score of 13-20 seconds means your balance could be impaired (file image)

There are two forms of AMD — wet and dry. With the wet form, which is more aggressive, tiny blood vessels grow under the retina — the light-sensitive patch at the back of the eye, damaging central vision. It’s important it’s spotted early, as this is when treatment — with injections or light therapy — is most successful. There is no treatment for dry AMD, but this progresses much more slowly.

If you are concerned after doing this test, see your GP or optician urgently.


DO THIS: Lie on a bed and raise both legs to a 45-degree angle on cushions. Hold them there for one minute then quickly hang your legs over the side of the bed at 90 degrees.

WHAT IT MEANS: If one or both feet become very pale when elevated but take minutes to return to a normal pink colour, or become very red when dangling, you might have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), where arteries to the legs fur up, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In healthy people, the normal pink colour should return within 10-30 seconds, according to Michael Gaunt, a consultant vascular surgeon in Cambridge.

‘But for people with severely blocked arteries it can take minutes, and the feet may go very bright red in the second part of the test,’ he says. The redness occurs as tiny blood vessels expand to counteract poor blood flow. But this test can give a false positive — it could be sign of poor circulation linked to Raynaud’s disease, for example, where vessels contract in the cold.

Other signs of PAD are cramping, pain and tiredness in the legs while walking or climbing stairs.


DO THIS: Draw a clock by hand on a piece of paper, add the numbers and make the hands point to 3.40.

WHAT IT MEANS: Any difficulty drawing the clock (if the numbers aren’t in the correct order, for instance) may be a sign of mild cognitive impairment or early dementia.

Score one point for a closed circle, one for properly placed numbers, one for including all 12 numbers and one for properly placed hands.

Four points indicates good cognitive health; anything less could be a cause for concern.

This test taps into a range of cognitive abilities including memory and problem solving. Studies have shown it’s a good predictor of cognitive health. If you are concerned after carrying out this test then contact your GP.


DO THIS: Stand in front of a mirror and lower yourself into a cross-legged sitting position on the floor without using your hands for support or kneeling, then return to standing.

(Do not attempt this if you have arthritic knees or hips.)

WHAT IT MEANS: Starting at ten, subtract one point each time you have had to use a hand or knee for support, and half a point every time you wobble in any way — you should aim to score eight or above. This is a test of muscle strength, balance, flexibility and agility.

In a study published last year in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers found that adults over 50 who could do this without wobbling or using their hand for support lived longer.

Those who scored less than eight were twice as likely to die within the next six years, from any cause, as people with perfect scores.

You have to be fit and flexible to carry out the test, and this may reflect having healthy, flexible cardiac arteries.


DO THIS: Measure a 3m/10ft distance in one of the rooms in your home and place a dining chair at one end.

Now, ask a friend to stand at the other end with a stopwatch to time you. Sit on the chair, start the time, get up, walk the distance, turn around, walk back to the chair and sit down.

Stop the clock the moment that your bottom hits the chair.

WHAT IT MEANS: This is a widely used measure of strength and agility in older age.

A score of ten seconds or less indicates normal mobility, 13-20 seconds means your balance could be impaired and you could be at risk of falls, while 20 seconds-plus may indicate more serious mobility problems.

You should be able to improve your score by practising at every opportunity — get up every time the adverts are on while watching TV for example, says physio-therapist Vicky Johnston.

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