The search for the secrets to healthy longevity and the fountain of youth are likely to never end. We see the desire to live long and healthy lives playing out in the weird and wonderful diets people follow, in the (sometimes obsessive) exercise programs they follow, and the questionable ‘health practices’ they follow. The desire to live long and strong seems to be undeniably present in each of us. But why it is that some seem to find enjoying health longevity much easier than others? And how do we cut through all the confusing health advice?
Japan, for instance, has the longest life expectancy the world over with Switzerland not too far behind. The latest figures from the World Health Organization show that the average Japanese is likely to spend 83.7 years on earth – males: 80.5 years and females: 86.8 years. In fact Okinawa in Japan is one of the ‘blue zones’ - geographical areas where a large percentage of people live to over 100. And you may think their secrets to healthy longevity lie in their genes….but while they may have played a role, scientists now know that that role is way smaller than what we previously may have believed. Ever since the Human Genome project succeeded in mapping the entire human genome, scientists have come to realize that genes, determine our health and longevity outcomes somewhere between only about 15-25% of the time. For instance identical twins seldom die from the same disease or at the same time.
If healthy longevity is less about genes, then what other factors come into play?
To fully get the picture of what encourages health longevity, we chatted up a few Americans who have been broken the 90 years barrier. Below is a roundup of some of the best and most common “secrets to healthy longevity” at play:
Everyone has a passion. For some it’s sports, for others it’s their job, for others it might be volunteering. Doing what you love not only keeps passion alive, but it also breeds an inner calm that encourages healthy longevity, it also helps keep you busy. Sure, as you age you might choose to slow down a bit, but keeping at it helps you live.
A person who is perpetually frustrated, angry or resentful shortens their life span. In contrast, one who lives a peaceful life and doesn’t get so worked up about the little difficulties in life, elongate their life span. Less stress means less anxiety. Want to live long? Chill a bit more, keep stress at bay and draw happiness closer.
One way to stress at bay to keep your body active. Run, walk, practice yoga and do things that keep you moving. Keep doing things that keep your body strong and flexible. And set yourself small challenges along the way. Keeping active, and feeling like you’re accomplishing things go a long way to keeping you both happy and healthy.
Studies have recently begun considering the possible effects of meditation on aging. While still preliminary, it has been found that positive states like those induced in meditation are stress-buffering because increasing positive states whilst decreasing stressful thoughts may in slow the rate of cellular aging As researchers say: "Given the pattern of associations revealed so far, we propose that some forms of meditation may have salutary effects on telomere length by reducing cognitive stress and stress arousal and increasing positive states of mind and hormonal factors that may promote telomere maintenance." (Telomeres are like those plastic tips on our shoelaces - they keep our DNA from unravelling and the longer our telomeres, the more often they can divide. The more telomeres are able to divide the longer you will live)
Gertrude Weaver who lived up to 116 years credited her longevity to one easily ignored secret: “Be nice.” This has been echoed by a number of seniors over the years. Treat people as nicely as you’d want them to treat you. Live an honorable life and do what you say you will.
Gertrude Weaver mentioned earlier noted that she managed to avoid chronic health problems as she aged. This she credited to getting plenty sleep, and not drinking or smoking. That may have worked for Gertrude, but remember that one of the secrets to healthy longevity is that there is no one recipe that works for everyone. In the 90+ study, Dr. Claudia Kawas found that alcohol in moderation helped longevity and Dr. Mario Martinez added what I believe is the secret key…he says that in the 500+ centenarians he’s interviewed, having a ‘ritual’ around the drinking of their favorite brandy (or whatever) or smoking that cigar was longevity promoting.
Some have credited their partners with aiding their longevity. Others feel that leaving their partners have helped them do just that - like 117 year old Emma Morano. Simply put individuals that you have positive relationships with are worth having around. They help you improve your health, reduce stress and improve your immunity. Still others might not be best to have around if your relationship is conflicted. Do away with toxic company, nurture and keep good friends and good relationships.
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