I want to live to be a healthy elderly lady who can dance and do yoga at 90. I think most of us want to live to be a healthy older person. Until there are new medical or scientific breakthroughs our life span in the US is approximately 78 years for men and 80 years for women. However we have all seen people older than 80 living a fulfilling active life. What are the secrets to it? I believe that we need to look at our body, mind and spirit together to know what keeps us living longer and healthy. Take a look at what some studies have shown us about living a longer and healthy life.
1. I call this point the 3 Ps. The P stands for positive thinking, purpose and passion. Almost every study done on centurions shows us that people who have a purpose or passion is life fare better than someone who does not. This does not mean that if you were an engineer and retired you cannot have a purpose any longer. Maybe the retired engineer gets into teaching or writing. If you lose your job and are down about the economy you could volunteer at a homeless shelter. Do you see what I am saying? Everyone's purpose in life is different and can change at different times in your life. The point is it makes you feel fulfilled and anxious to start the day.
As well, almost every research study shows that people who practice optimism live a longer life. Possibly negativity has direct biological effects on our bodies, causing changes in our immune system.
As a side note it also appears as if people who are conscientious tend to have better life-spans and healthier lives. There has been some generalizations that these types of people promote a good and healthy lifestyle based on their personality type.
2. The next point to tell you about is action. There have been numerous studies showing that people who are active cut their risk for age related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and muscular problems. A study that compared over 9,000 sets of twins found that the active twin lived better lives than the sedentary twin and that there were some changes in the cellular level of the twin that was sedentary. Furthermore, if adults in their 50s and 60s are regularly active they are 35% less likely to die in the next 8 years than sedentary people. For those with underlying risk factors for heart disease they had a 45% reduction is health problems. Activity can be walking, gardening, dancing or a formal program. The activity though, should be regular and often.
3. Obesity is at an epidemic level in our country. If you are overweight you run an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes type 2, cancers, hypertension, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and mobility problems. Losing weight is a hot topic. It is too long to go into for this article but you should be knowledgeable about your food intake, calories, and nutrients. Anti-oxidants should be part of your diet as they kill the free-radicals in our body (which we get from the environment) which increase our aging process.
4. Managing our stress has become very important in our lives today. It is a fact that if you suffer from chronic stress your levels of Cortisol (a hormone) in your body increase which can weaken your immune system. When your immune system is weakened you are more prone to getting diseases that could compromise your health. Many corporate employers and wellness programs have stress management classes seeing the need for stress reduction.
Meditation is one way to relieve your stress. If you meditate for 15 minutes per day it has shown to be more effective than 1 hour of sleep.
Other relaxation techniques may be yoga, imagery, music or biofeedback.
Laughter also reduces stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. Laughter also works as a natural pain killer.
If you have a pet you have a natural stress reducer at your feet. Pets trigger a relaxation response which decrease your levels of Cortisol. Patients who are recovering from a major illness are 6 times likely to heal faster and better if they have a pet.
5. Sex is good for us. It gives us a feeling of connection, being appreciated and loved as well as reducing our stress and making us feel relaxed.
5. Learn and practice going with the flow of life's ups and downs. We all have them and are tested many times in our lives. People who have some sense of spirituality or a belief in something higher, or outside of life forces in this universe sometimes handle this point a little better. But if you have a good support system that can make a big difference as well.
I think it is not as important as to what you have been given in life, as much as what you do with it. We have resources to help us live to a ripe healthy old age. Medical technology has made remarkable progress in the last 100 years and maybe the best is coming. As you can see, I am an optimist.
Kat is a health coach, life design advisor, author, speaker and RN. With over 20 years in her field she is an expert in teaching wellness and fitness incorporating non-traditional health theories with traditional or Western medicine. She is an advocate for patients and ioffers wellness programs which can be modified for each person and their specific needs. She believes in incorporating the mind, body and spirit in her teaching.