As far as longevity secrets are concerned, the usual things that appear in our mind will be:
- Let’s do everything we can to put it off!
- Is longevity just pure good luck?
- Are there any controllable factors to prevent the damaging effects of aging?
- Which one is loading the gun, genetics or the environment?
Take my friend, Steven, as an example. He was 32 and single. Was a high flyer in every sense of the word we can describe. He was also a director in a large corporation and had been enjoying good life before he collapsed during an outing and could not be resuscitated. Looking at him, he was thin and did not like to watch his diet. He like to smoke cigarettes, a heavy drinker and can often be seen at chic places around town with a different gorgeous woman.
Why did Steven die so early? Yet there are many people in his age group where this behaviour is the norm but still manage to survive. The true reason for Steven’s premature exit (or short life expectancy) was due to his poor (bad) genetics.
Steven case is a typical example that there are people who are born with the genetics short straw. However, there are also people, never bother about the unhealthy activities they indulge in, who will still survive into their eighties and beyond. They just don’t care about saturated fat, cigarette smoke, alcohol, refined sugars and other Western poisons that harm their health.
These people (including Steven), are few in number and are at the extreme end of the longevity spectrum. You and I are lucky, because we are like most people fit into the category where the genetics and the environment play equal roles in the generation of illnesses and our eventual demise due to the effect of aging.
I believe you have heard that there are people over the age of 100 still riding horseback, swimming in cold streams and making love without relying on Viagra. Do you think these people have a magic to longevity or perhaps they know of a wondrous formula to prevent the damaging effects of aging?
The answer to these questions is “YES”!
So what are the secrets to longevity or eternal youth?
Based on studies, the property of being long-lived can be summed up to having achieve a balance in all aspects of your life. Those who live above eighty and ninety display the following characteristics among them:
- Have good genetics
- Eat a low saturated fat diet
- Do not smoke
- Keep active every day
- Have a positive outlook
Have good genetics
It is an excellent starting point for a long life but you cannot be 100 percent rely on it.
Having longevity in your family should make you be more intent on living the right lifestyle. If your dad is smoking and he is still alive in his eighty, would you want to keep smoking because you think since you have good genes and you will be alright?
A research from the University of Gothenburg that was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine has concluded that:
“Low levels of cardiovascular risk factors, high socio-economic status and good functional capacity, irrespective of parents’ survival, characterize men destined to reach the age of 90.”
In short, how long your parents lived does not affect how long you will live. The secret to how old you will get is greatly influenced by how you live your life in addition to you have good genetics.
Eat a low saturated fat diet
Fat is necessary in your diet and for reason of good health to longevity you will need to watch out for the quantities you take and choose the right kind of fat.
You can easily identify saturated fats as they are found mainly in animal-based foods and are seldom found in plants (except palm oil and coconut oil). Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and it is found in meat, butter, cheese, and lard. If your diet is rich in saturated fat, you will risk increasing chances of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. Saturated fat is the most dangerous types of fat because they can raise your blood pressure levels and inhibit your liver’s ability to clear out low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
Eating more saturated fats raises risk of early death, and every 5% increase in saturated fat consumption compared to carbohydrates raised the mortality rate by 8%, says a large study from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the United States.
Do Not Smoke
There is no getting away from it as far as longevity is concerned. Smoking is dangerous for the damaging effects it has on aging.
Tobacco contains more than 3,000 chemicals and everything in tobacco smoke can be absorbed and spread rapidly to every cell in your body.
The serious harm it has to your health included:
- Direct lung damage
- Lung cancer
- Interference with lung’s defences
- Causing or predisposing cancer elsewhere
- Damage to your heart
- Damage to the arteries
- Dental disease
- Reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood
- Eye disease
- Leave your medications less effective
- Reduce your ability to stay active
- Indirectly worsen damage to your other organs thus hasten death from other causes
That is why we often hear that giving up smoking is one of the most important ways of avoiding heart disease and damaged to our blood vessels.
Although a small number of people are lucky to live unscathed throughout their life, it would be unwise to assume you are one of them.
Generally, out of 20 smokers, about 10 will die from smoking with the other 10 suffer a great deal (e.g. unable to walk, constantly out of breath, incapacitating and distress, become blind).
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.
Keep active every day
Based on statistics, the average human life expectancy is mid-to-late seventies for men and early eighties for women, although that depends on which race of people you are surveying.
What we could learn from studies is that developing countries are still have much lower life expectancies. In fact, developing countries are plagued by many and varied infectious diseases. Cancer in its many forms are more common in developed countries — lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer are the big killers. Generally, those who live a Mediterranean lifestyle of diet, such as the residents of Crete have been reported to have a low rates of heart disease. Low rates of heart diseases have also been noted on those who are on a naturally low saturated fat diet such as in Japan or in rural China whereas Eastern Europeans have the highest heart disease rates in the world.
To keep a long and healthy life, we all need a little physical activity. Sitting a lot is probably the worst thing you can do. Study has shown that long periods sat watching TV will put people at risk for shorter lifespans and other health risks.
A 2011 Harvard study found that prolonged TV viewing was associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
A little physical activity is better than none, this is to say that even a little more walking can make quite a difference as the benefits will start to increase even the activities seem to be low levels. What is important here is to keep your periods of inactivity to a minimum during your waking hours.
It is noted that physically active in later life can bring protection against disease and results in a longer life whereas activity in early and middle life pays dividends in old age such as in reducing the risk of dementia.
Have a positive outlook
Another important secret to long-lived is that you need to believe you are a ‘no limit’ person. What this means is that you should not have a crowd mentality to accept the common view of life, because once you believe you have limits, you will go along with the crowd and you are part of the mediocrities.
If you don’t find crowd mentality appealing, you will view life differently and you will not retire when you are expected to. If you believe you have limits, guess what? You will have your major life illness at the appropriate time and then die on cue around your three score years and ten, possibly even before.
Is longevity just pure good luck?
I hope by now you will have an idea of what are the controllable factors that get us surviving well past the biblical concept of three score and ten!
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich