and Live Longer


I recently heard a man complain about some of his friends who had taken up jogging. They were constantly bugging him to jog with them. He finally gave in and said he would jog with them, but only for 1/4 mile. He would later exclaim, “It was the worst three hours of my life.”

I thought it was a funny line. On the serious side of getting in shape, perhaps you have heard about the Frenchman Robert Marchand. Mr. Marchand recently set a record riding a bike for 15 miles on an indoor track in one hour. Robert is 100 years old.

A new report estimates that more than one-third of babies born this year will live to be over 100 years old. Good for them, but what about us old timers? Well, the current average life expectancy in the U. S. for both men and women is between 78 and 79 years. Overall, women usually live two to four years longer, but men are catching up quickly. 

So what are the factors that allow someone to live to be 100 or more? A recent study, The New England Longevity Study, concludes there are four major factors that would allow a person to live to 100. Not surprisingly they are: genetics, environment, lifestyle, and luck. Most of us would probably guess genetics would be the most significant factor. That’s correct. But the study also found genetics is only a 25-30% factor, much less than previously thought. The good news is, if we are somewhat lucky (i.e., don’t get clobbered by a bus or suffer some other accidental disaster) can control our environment and live an appropriate lifestyle, our chances of living to be 100 aren’t that bad.

In their recently published book, The Longevity Project, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, determined six personality traits of people who live to be 100. They are:

Conscientiousness

A conscientious person is someone who tends to all matters including their own personal health.

Healthy Habits

Simply put, the research tells us there are very few smokers who live to be 100, and no obese people.

Working Long and Hard

Mental stimulation is the key. Even stressful work provides the mental stimulation found in those who live to be 100. Remember our Frenchman friend Robert Marchand? He worked until he was 89.

Active Life

As my wife Trisha and I pointed out in our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, it’s not as much aging as it is inactivity that causes a person to lose strength and stamina. In addition, there are now numerous studies that indicate maintaining muscle strength plays a role in staving off cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer’s.

Stong Social Network

In their book, Friedman and Martin conclude a strong social network is the “strongest predictor of long life,” and the New England study describes this predictor as “extraversion,” calling it the key trait.

Good Health

While this is an obvious predictor of a long life, the New England study found a high percentage of people who have already lived to be 100 had encountered a serious health problem at some point in their lives. These “survivors” were able to overcome their health problem and live on to their ripe old age.

My reading and research on this subject concures with all of the above. I would, however, make a couple of additions or distinctions. A positive attitude, probably an aspect of every one of the previously stated factors cannot be denied as having a strong influence on longevity. The other longevity factor that more and more research has discovered is adequate sleep. Both stroke and heart disease have recently been correlated to inadequate sleep.

As I look over all of these factors and traits, I can’t help but think of my wife Trisha. She personifies almost everyone of them. She doesn’t drink, smoke, is incredibly concientious, hard-working, has healthy habits, and is so active one would get dizzy following her on a daily basis. She is also extraordinarily extraverted and sleeps very soundly. She is 63, but I’m not sure anyone would ever guess her that old. I’d better start working out more because she is probably going to be around for a very long time. I hope so.

 

Until next time . . . . . . .

TheBestofOurLives.com

 

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Free Radicals

No, this isn’t a call to release a group of protesters, it’s about good health. In previous posts I’ve talked about various foods and beverages that are beneficial in maintaining our health during retired life. I thought it might be useful to explain why foods high in antioxidants are so vital.

While you may have heard or seen the term “antioxidants” before, do you know why it’s so important we get large quantities in our diet? It all has to do with the oxidation process. Have you ever cut open an apple and noticed how it starts to discolor in the open air. This is the oxidation process in which the cells become damaged and die. Cells within our bodies are constantly dying and being replaced. Sometimes due to things like toxins from cigarette smoke, air pollution, poor diet, etc., cells become damaged. At this point they have become free radicals and  begin to attack other cells in an attempt to repair themselves. Once this chain of free radicals has begun it becomes the seed for disease.   

It’s much the same as the oxidation process that takes place in our automobiles.  Oxidation can damage the fuel system and gum up the works. At that point there are additives we can put  into the fuel that will repair the system. Foods and beverages high in antioxidants are the additives for our body. They can actually repair the free radicals making them healthy cells again.

If anyone should doubt the power of antioxidants, let me share this brief story. On a recent trip a friend of mine accidentally hit his head and suffered a severe gash above his eye. An ambulance was called as the blood flowed. He insisted he would be fine and didn’t even get any stitches. He said his abundant antioxidant diet would heal his wound in short order. He was right. It was like something out of a science fiction movie. His severe gash quickly became a small cut and in just a few days had virtually disappeared. Antioxidants, along with exercise are the keys to good health at any stage of life. 

Here is a list of the top twenty antioxidant foods:

 You may have also heard that chocolate, tea, and red wine have antioxidants. They do, but be careful. Only dark chocolate with very little sugar is good for you. Tea is great but you need to be careful with wine. Recent studies have shown that large amounts of alcohol can trigger free radical production. Probably not a good trade-off.

Media Update

Yesterday, February 26, my wife Trisha and I were guest speakers for the Oakmont Sunday Symposium. It was lots of fun and we certainly enjoyed meeting all the good folks who live in that beautiful wine country paradise. Our presentation was streamed live on the internet and I’ve provided this link for anyone who might be interested in viewing it:      Trisha and John Parker

Photo Credit: Dick Green

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Personal Choice

Many seniors may believe their longevity is a matter of genetics or simple luck. The fact is, a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry indicates the determining factor in one’s longevity is a person’s personal choice.

The study, which tracked mental and physical health, was conducted over a period of sixty years with nearly 1,000 subjects from various socio-economic backgrounds. Only the factor of clinical depression was deemed to be outside the control of subjects in regard to their longevity.

The study identified the following factors, all of which were considered to be personal choices, as being the most important in determining an individual’s longevity. They were:

Exercise – Experts recommend 30 minutes of regular exercise.

No Smoking – The list of smoking-related health problems is too long to list. If you smoke, quit.

Appropriate Weight – Obesity can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems.

Positive Coping Mechanisms – Learning how to deal with stress and control anger is essential.

Stable Marriage – Research shows happily married people have less illness and longer lives.

Moderate Alcohol Intake – The key term is moderate. Excessive alcohol intake can cause liver problems and possible harmful drug interactions.

Depressive Illness – While this is the one factor found to be outside an individual’s ability to make a choice, it is strongly recommended a person seek treatment when feeling depressed.

So, there you have it. It’s the personal choices we make with regard to these factors that are the most important in our longevity. Of course, there are many other factors such as acquired disease and accidents that can play a role. But, for the majority of individuals, it is the choices we make.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sometimes things just work out for the best. Having just returned from some travels recently, my wife and I had not made plans for Thanksgiving. Last week the phone started ringing and we now have at least a dozen or so family members spending much of the Thanksgiving holiday with us. We are very blessed. I wish all of you who read this blog a very happy holiday.  

 www.TheBestofOurLives.com

In the past, I’ve often commented on scientific studies that provided information about the foods seniors should eat in order to promote health and longevity. While it’s long been thought drinking alcohol in moderation may be good for us, more recent studies suggest I should have been writing a blog on wine. 

In a very recent study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, researchers reviewed 143 studies comprising more than 365,000 participants from 19 countries. Moderate drinkers were found to be 23% less likely to develop signs of memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease. The study could not determine exactly why this is the case, but it’s believed the alcohol plays a role in lessening the inflammation that causes dementia, and is also implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Michael Collins, Ph.D., one of the researchers, has been quoted as saying, “This study is not the final word, but it does provide the most complete picture out there. Low levels of alcohol may have anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system, heart, and brain.” The study also showed that wine drinking was more effective than drinking beer.

Of course, the key to these findings is in the word “moderation.” All alcohol contains calories which can add to weight gain, a considerable health factor, and too much alcohol can lead to many other problems and possible addiction. The study defined moderation as one drink daily for women and two for men. One drink was defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

While I personally only have an occasional beer with pizza or Mexican food, and don’t recommend alcohol consumption, I do find this study worthwhile for seniors. Besides, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

New Product

Due to her age and a recent stroke, my mother now requires a wheel chair when we take her places. While I’m always happy to push her chair for her, given my height (6′ 4″), the angle at which I have to bend is exactly the angle that causes muscle cramping in my back. I went to the chair manufacturer and retailer looking for a solution, but apparently I’m the only person in the world who has to bend down to push a wheelchair. No solution could be found. At this point, I  went to a local metalwork and welding company. They tried to come up with an answer, but no luck. My next stop was the local hardware store where I was on a mission. You know the feeling of inspiration when you need to construct something, but have no idea of how you are going to do it. Well, long story short, my new invention is complete and works like a champ. My mother and wife have heaped praise on me and the word “genius” has been uttered a time or two. The fact is, it was pretty simple. A little time, some PVC pipe, and a can of liquid rubber was all it took.