Friends, make you live longer (the real good kind, that is)

Make two friends and call me in the morning.” The next time you ask us how to get healthy and live longer, that may be our answer.

No, don’t go crazy signing up new friends on Facebook. It’s about quality, not quantity; about having the kinds of friends you can hang with for hours, call with big news, share a Popsicle with or give a kidney to. If you’ve got friends like this (like we’ve got each other), you have a 50 per cent better chance of living longer than people who don’t, says a startling new analysis of 300,000 people and their pals.

Put another way: Having friends is as powerful as quitting smoking (and way more fun). Not having them is even more life-threatening than becoming obese or so inactive that just getting off the couch involves grunting.

So put making new friends and keeping the old near the top of your healthy to-do list. If your posse is small, or you just don’t see each other much anymore, try this:

  Get physical. Take yoga classes together, help shovel each other’s sidewalks, do early-morning laps around the mall. You’ll catch up and work out.

  Go out and give. Need a bigger social circle? Volunteer for a community centre, hospital or park cleanup. You’ll connect with people who care about the same things you do.

  Organize a reunion. Don’t wait for a funeral to get together; have a happy gathering. Family pals are some of the closest friends you’ll ever have.

Keep these important relationships alive. They’ll do the same for you.

D-3 CURBS CHILD CHUBBINESS

What fruit comes to mind when you look at your child’s body — a banana or an apple? If you said an apple, your child is gaining unhealthy belly weight. But you may be able to reverse that faster than you can say “Chiquita banana.”

Start with vitamin D-3. Kids who don’t get enough of it tend to put on pounds, especially around the middle, says a new study. Not only do chubby kids face the same health risks as pudgy adults do — especially diabetes — but this nutrient is vital for building young bones and keeping little arteries healthy. That apple-body belly fat ups the risk of heart disease. Yes, even in children.

Next step: Make like your mom and yell, “Go outside and play!” Like you, kids get this vitamin naturally whenever they get 15 to 20 minutes of sunshine. It turns on the skin’s amazing D-3-making factory.

But because children don’t play outdoors as much as they used to, and because we’re more vigilant about using sunscreen year-round, D-3 deficiency is rising. Not coincidentally, it appears, so is childhood obesity. And D-rich foods like egg yolks, salmon and D-fortified milk or orange juice may not supply enough. So like 75 per cent of adults, many kids need a supplement: Up to 400 international units a day for most children, up to 600 IU for picky eaters, at least 1,000 IU for you (1,200 after 60). Bypass plain D for vitamin D-3, the form skin makes naturally. It also helps fight viral infections in school-age children, so your whole family could stay healthier in cold-and-flu season.

YOUR HEART LOVES SILENCE

Do you spend your weekends playing with loud toys like snowmobiles and power saws? Invest a few dollars in a box of disposable foam earplugs. Work in a factory, engine-repair shop or airport where ear-protecting headsets are practically part of the dress code? Wear them. Not only will it save your hearing, it could save your heart.

High-decibel noise more than doubles your odds for ticker troubles. People who live near airports get blood-pressure spikes whenever a plane flies overhead at night. Roaring traffic has a similar effect. On the job, constant noise boosts stress hormones and makes your arteries tighten, increasing your risk for chest pains, heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure, according to a recent study. You’re especially vulnerable if you’re under 50, male or a smoker.

High-rated foam plugs work just as well as protective headsets if you’re only dealing with occasional bursts of noise, and you won’t look like a bush pilot bringing in your snow blower for a landing. Buy foam plugs with a noise reduction rating of 33; they’ll block out about 15 decibels of noise, on par with headsets.

How about a cranked-up MP3 player? While nobody’s studied how these gizmos affect your heart, an MP3 player can pump out tunes at 105 decibels or more. That’s on par with a jackhammer. So turn it down, never louder than 70 per cent if you listen for up to six hours a day. You can still rock out to Katy Perry at non-runway volumes. So can the kids.



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