According to a new Harvard-led study, the secret to extending your life could be as simple as eating a bowl of porridge for breakfast every morning. Researchers found that every one-ounce serving of whole grains, such as oats, reduced a person's overall risk of early death by 5pc. But porridge isn't the only way to extend your lifespan.
When it comes to longevity, keeping mentally active is as important as staying in good shape physically. One Australian study found that mental stimulation cuts your risk of developing dementia almost in half. Easy ways to stay sharp include typing phone numbers from memory instead of using a 'Contacts' option and totting up the cost of your groceries while you shop.
Lower levels of depression and a generally happier outlook are both linked to volunteering. But that's not the best part. One US study also found that people who volunteer enjoy a 22pc reduction in early mortality, thought to be linked to the emotional benefits of giving back.
It's not unusual for residents of the remote Japanese island of Okinawa to live to see their 100th birthdays - and beyond. Their secret? "Hara hachi bu" - eating until you're 80pc full. In a 2008 study, researchers at St Louis University in the US confirmed that cutting back on calories is linked to lowered production of T3, a hormone that speeds up the ageing process.
The health benefits of regular sex are numerous: it reduces stress levels, helps you sleep better, offers pain relief and stimulates the immune system too. A 1997 Welsh study even found that people who had sex less than once a month had double the risk of dying prematurely than those who did it twice a week.
Who knew a curry could actually be good for you? Capsaicin, a chemical found in hot peppers and chillies, has been proven to combat high blood pressure and depression; it's even used topically to reduce pain. Combined with turmeric, a spice found in many curries and spicy sauces, you have a dish that could lead to lower rates of stroke, heart attack and cancer.
Sitting for long periods may well be taking years off your life. People who sit all day are more likely to be overweight than their more active counterparts. Scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana found that people who sit for most of the day are 54pc more likely to die from heart attacks than those who don't.
Results from a study by researchers in Brigham Young University, Utah, found that having good friends is as beneficial to increasing your lifespan as giving up smoking. As well as encouraging healthy behaviours, like socialising, good friendships (as opposed to relationships with family members and children) provide support, ward off depression and boost self-esteem.
Having a sunny outlook won't just keep you happy in the short term; it's been proven to help you live longer. Research by students at Yale University found that just feeling positive about getting older can add as much as seven years to your life. Negative emotions, like bitterness and hostility, are connected to poor health overall, specifically for the heart.
Men, here's an incentive to get up the aisle. Researchers for a book called The Longevity Project found that males who got married, and stayed married, were likely to live past the age of 70. Less than one third of divorced men made it to that age. For women, the incentive is less enticing: married women live about four years longer than unmarried women.
Not only does singing produce endorphins and nix stress, it can keep you healthier. One US study found that singers in a choir felt physically happier, visited the doctor less and were less depressed than a control group. The physical benefit of banging out a tune, including exercising the heart, lungs, abs and back muscles, is thought to be the reason.
The busiest month for treatment centres is January, as the season of goodwill blows new crises down the chimney, and not just for alcoholics. Drug users, gamblers and over-eaters create their own havoc, too. And of course their families end up being dragged along for the ride.
When Emma Dunne's eldest daughter came home from school in tears after playground bullies teased her for having a 'fat mum', her heart ached. At just 29, the part-time waitress and single mum-of-three weighed 24 stone and struggled to squeeze into a size 28.