Is it possible to live up to 130 years? That was the speculation last week, following reports that Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and billionaire, is behind a new anti-ageing company, Altos Labs, that’s going to ‘reprogramme’ cells to extend life.

The company has a host of illustrious scientists on its board and one of the first things it’s said to be looking at is to turn adult cells into embryonic stem cells. They can be used to repair or regenerate diseased tissue.

For this isn’t just about helping us live longer, but ensuring that those extra years are healthier.

We are all too busy to wait for Jeff Bezos’ solution. 

The good news is scientists already understand a lot about why and how we age, including the role of telomeres, the ‘caps’ at the ends of our strings of chromosomes that protect the genes when our cells replicate — these can shorten faster as a result of factors such as pollution, poor diet and lack of exercise.

And there are things we can all do now that have been shown to improve our ‘healthspan’ — the number of years of good health we enjoy.

We spoke to some of the UK’s leading anti-ageing experts as well as specialists in fields ranging from cardiology to dermatology, for the latest thinking on how to live longer, look younger and stay healthy.

From your brain to your bones, gut and sex life, this unique Good Health series, starting today and running for the next few weeks, will show you the simple steps that could transform your future years — starting with how to rejuvenate your heart to help you to live a long, healthy life. 

Prioritise exercise over dieiting 

To age healthily it’s better to be a little overweight and physically fit, rather than thin and unfit, says Stephen Harridge, a professor of human and applied physiology at King’s College London. 

‘Exercise tends to get relegated in importance for health because of a large focus on diet. People don’t want to hear about what else they might have to do in addition to eating a healthy diet because it involves more effort and potentially more discomfort.’

As we age, it is vital to keep our muscles working properly.

‘The hormone insulin directs the muscle to take in glucose and when the muscle is active that glucose is utilised,’ says Professor Harridge. ‘In this situation, the fatty acids in muscle do not produce by-products that can negatively interfere with the action of insulin.’

An article in the journal iScience published last year concluded that exercise is more important than diet to help people live longer. ‘Many obesity-related conditions are more likely attributable to low physical activity and cardio-respiratory fitness than obesity per se,’ U.S. researchers said. It’s not just about your heart — exercise also gives our blood vessels a workout, which is vital to help stop age-related stiffening.

‘Exercise flexes our blood vessels and keeps them fit, and the more flexible they are the better your blood pressure is likely to be, and muscles can grow more capillaries which better deliver oxygenated blood,’ says Professor Harridge.

‘Our bodies are designed to receive blood flow at a higher rate than they do when we are at rest.’

Exercise — pumping blood at a higher rate — also helps prevent deposits (‘plaques’) on the walls of our arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis, the furring of the arteries and cardiovascular disease. 

Get in shape to be a breathalyzer 

The best way of knowing whether an exercise is improving your cardiovascular fitness is whether it leaves you feeling out of breath — i.e. ‘aerobic’ exercise, meaning exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder. These activities include swimming, tennis, and jogging.

‘Aerobic exercise seems to do something magical,’ says David Russell-Jones, a professor of diabetes and endocrinology at the University of Surrey. This makes you more insulin-sensitive. It lowers blood pressure and helps to control blood sugar.

It also increases levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and reduces ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, says Professor Russell-Jones — ‘all these effects protect against heart disease’.

How much do you need to do? Just 15 minutes a day could double your life expectancy. For intensity, ‘walking is a good exercise’, says Professor Harridge. ‘But walking along the flat at a low pace, not getting out of breath, will not be as beneficial as a brisk walk up and down a hill.’ 

The best way of knowing whether an exercise is improving your cardiovascular fitness is whether it leaves you feeling out of breath

If you feel out of breath, it is a good indicator that an exercise has improved your cardiovascular health.

Take your blood pressure  every three months

Many people have high blood pressure that has not been detected in the UK. This could result in a stroke or heart attack for millions.

People aged between 40 and 74 years should be invited to the NHS Health Check by their local council or GP every five-years. 

‘it’s important that people do check their blood pressure more often’, advises Chris Gale, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Leeds University. From your mid-50s, he recommends doing it every three- to six months.

Millions of people in the UK have undetected high blood pressure, which, left untreated, could lead to a heart attack or stroke

The UK has millions of undiagnosed high blood pressure. This could leave people vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes.

. . . Every week, your pulse

Atrial fibrillation can cause irregular heartbeats, according to Dr Glyn Tom, a Bristol Heart Institute consultant cardiologist. It is common and can lead to irregular heartbeats, which increases stroke risk by as much as five-fold.

‘It is easy to miss the signs as the changes can come and go, which is why it’s helpful to take your own pulse,’ says Dr Thomas. ‘I take my pulse, at least once a week, just to check it is ticking along nicely.’

To do this, Dr Thomas suggests putting the two fingers of your dominant hand on your Adam’s apple and sliding to the side of the strap-like muscle beneath it where you’ll find your carotid artery. The pulse here is strong because it is in an artery that is relatively large, is close to the skin’s surface and is also relatively close to the heart.

‘Remember you’re checking heart rhythm, not heart rate — that is, not the number of beats, but how they beat,’ says Dr Thomas. ‘It should tick steadily like a metronome.’ If it’s irregular, see a GP. 

Coffee break, for coffee 

People think that coffee is bad for your heart as it’s linked with marginally raised blood pressure. According to Dr Thomas, this can be offset by the positive effect of caffeine on cholesterol when consumed in small quantities.

Research from 2020 at Semmelweis University Budapest in Hungary shows that drinking up to three cups of espresso per day may be linked to a lower chance of heart attack and stroke. The theory is that the caffeine positively changes cardiac function, although it’s not clear exactly how.

Dr Thomas adds: ‘I have two to three cups a day — timing my drinks with a break which also helps relieve stress.’ 

People think that coffee is bad for your heart as it¿s linked with marginally raised blood pressure

People think that coffee is bad for your heart as it’s linked with marginally raised blood pressure

Your partner deserves a cuddle, a kiss and some affection. 

Find the time to cuddle or even hold hands with your partner every day if you have one — this simple contact can help reduce blood pressure, research shows. This is likely due to oxytocin (a brain chemical that encourages bonding and also widens the blood vessels), experts believe.

‘Just about every positive social interaction we have studied causes the release of oxytocin,’ says Professor Paul Zak, a specialist in neuroeconomics at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied oxytocin extensively. ‘This includes touch, kisses and massages.’

People who feel a strong connection to their partner enjoy better health in numerous ways but it’s particularly beneficial for the heart: a 2017 study from Bristol University found that men in happy marriages have lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease — and a 2016 study by Michigan State University found that regular sex reduced the risk of cardiovascular events (e.g. Heart attacks in men and women.

The benefits go further: ‘If your heart is healthy, there’s a greater chance that your sex life will remain so, too,’ says Dr Jeff Foster, a GP in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

‘Poor cardiovascular health affects blood flow to the genitals which impacts on sexual arousal in women, and erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. We estimate that erectile dysfunction (ED) is closely connected to your heart health. It takes an average three years for a cardiac event to occur from the onset. 

Find the time to cuddle or even hold hands with your partner every day if you have one ¿ this simple contact can help reduce blood pressure, research shows

Find the time to cuddle or even hold hands with your partner every day if you have one — this simple contact can help reduce blood pressure, research shows

There’s no need to give up on meat 

Saturated fats in red meat have been associated with heart disease for a long time. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it up, not least as it is a rich source of amino acids, important for tissue repair, and nutrients such as iron.

According to Professor Charles Knight (a London-based consultant cardiologist at Barts Health NHS Trust), the picture is more complex. ‘It’s much better to make dietary changes that are sustainable, such as following a Mediterranean-style diet: eating less meat, more fish and plant-based protein, such as lentils, nuts and seeds, and plenty of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

‘I have around three meat-free days a week then fill the ‘hole’ in the plate with something that will mimic meat. Portobello mushrooms can be substituted for steak.

‘And we eat a lot of bean stews, which are as filling as a meat stew and contain protein and fibre.’

Sarah Schenker, dietitian and nutritionist says to be cautious about imitations of meat like sausages made without meat. ‘These products can have all the disadvantages of processed food — such as high levels of added sugar, sodium and fat, as well as other preservatives. These foods are also known as ultra-processed food, and are associated with obesity and heart disease.

‘I use healthy foods with a similar texture instead. For example, lentils are an excellent swap for mince, and they’re rich in fibre, folate and potassium [helpful for managing blood pressure].’ 

Stand up desks are a great option 

Standing desks are often viewed as good for posture. ‘But I use one because they have cardiovascular benefits,’ says Dr Thomas. It’s thought that it makes the heart work harder ‘since it is working against gravity to push blood to the brain, which doesn’t happen when we are sitting down’.

A 2015 review in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that even if you exercise, sitting for long periods was associated with worse health outcomes including heart disease — indeed so bad is prolonged sitting for health that some have suggested its effect is akin to smoking. 

We tend to think of standing desks as beneficial for posture. ¿But I use one because they have cardiovascular benefits,¿ says Dr Thomas

Standing desks are often viewed as being good for posture. ‘But I use one because they have cardiovascular benefits,’ says Dr Thomas

Use your timer for every hour of movement 

Although exercise is essential for heart health, most people do not focus enough on it. ‘What’s also important is to keep moving at regular intervals throughout the day,’ says Sanjay Prasad, a professor of cardiomyopathy at Imperial College London.

Regular exercise boosts metabolism and stops the heart muscles from stiffening up — so the blood pumps efficiently around the body, he explains. In 2019, research by University of California found that sitting down for an hour per day reduced the chance of developing heart disease. ‘I set my Fitbit with a reminder to move every hour, at which point I do 250 steps — walking around or on the spot,’ adds Professor Prasad.

Take a warm bath every day

Jerome Ment (a consultant cardiologist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust) explains that high temperatures dilate blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure. 

‘A comfortably hot bath is an excellent way to lower stress — even if the benefit is small to the heart it can only help, so I do this.’

Researchers tracked more than 33,000 Japanese citizens aged between 40 and 59 for 20 years, according to Heart 2020. 

A 26 percent lower stroke risk was found in those who had bathed more than two times a week.

The added advantage is the fact that a warm bath causes a decrease in your body temperature. This helps signal to the body that it’s time for bed and so will aid sleep.

Set yourself up in a cool bed. Dr Ment explains that poor sleep causes high blood pressure. It affects the autonomic neuro system, which regulates bloodpressure.

‘One thing which interferes with our sleep is a warm bedroom — which in turn makes the bed warm, too. Before I get to sleep, I lower the thermostat. When temperatures are cool, this facilitates a decent night’s sleep.’

It is due to a decrease in the body’s core temperature that causes melatonin levels to increase and help us fall asleep.

According to a study published in The European Heart Journal, people who sleep less than six hours a night were 48% more likely to die or develop coronary heart disease. 

According to a study in the journal Heart in 2020, researchers tracked the bathing habits and health records of more than 30,000 people aged 40 to 59 in Japan for more than 20 years

A study published in Heart 2020 in 2020 reports that researchers have tracked bathing patterns and other health information for over 30,000 Japanese people between 40-59 years old.

Five foods for healthy hearts

Anti-ageing foods don’t just delay wrinkles and sagging skin. ‘They’ll make you feel, look and act younger because of their action on every part of the body, from your joints to your brain, and deep in the cells, where they reduce the inflammation that causes chronic conditions such as heart disease,’ says dietitian Jane Clarke, from

Enjoy a Handful of Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in antioxidants and contain essential fatty acid, such as omega-3s. These essential fatty acids protect cells and decrease inflammation, which could contribute to heart disease, cancer and dementia.

According to the Journal of American Cardiology (the longest published study on walnut health), a mere three to five tablespoons of nuts per week can lead to significant inflammation reduction and improved cardiovascular health.

It is best to eat fresh walnuts. Nuts can go rancid if they’re kept for too long or in a warm place, due to their high fat content. It is harmful to our gut and immune system, as well as for our hearts, so keep them cool.


The antioxidant-rich and FIBRE-RICH kale has a reputation for its beneficial impact on the gut and inflammation. This is associated with lower rates of cancer and type 2 diabetes.


Tea in all its forms — black, white and green — contains numerous anti-ageing and inflammation-fighting compounds, including catechin and theanine, which have been associated with better heart health, reduced cholesterol and lower blood pressure. But white tea (available from health food shops), which contains the highest number of these antioxidants, is gentler on the gut than green tea, so it’s easy to sip throughout the day.

Make a Pesto from Watercress

Pungent, peppery watercress doesn’t just add a flavour punch to salads — there’s a lot of anti-ageing power inside those small, dark green leaves. In fact, based on its nutrient density, watercress tops the list of ‘powerhouse fruits and vegetables’ (PFVs) compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli and kale. It contains antioxidants and anti-cancer compounds known as isothiocyanates.

Watercress is a strong flavor and can make it difficult to eat. I make pesto by adding some of the stems and leaves to olive oil, basil, pine nuts and Parmesan. It’s delicious drizzled over roasted vegetables.


The active ingredient in turmeric — curcumin — is a powerful antioxidant that studies show can slow down the onset of age-associated diseases such as cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease and metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Combining the spice and black pepper will give you the best results. You can add these spices to smoothies or stir the spice into eggs, vegetable curry or scrambled eggs.