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Never Too Late to Start Leading a Healthier Life
Dr. David Lipschitz
many of my patients in their early 70s and 80s scoff when I tell
them it is not too late to start reforming and living a healthy lifestyle.
However, research just published in the journal BMJ showed quite
conclusively that developing a healthy lifestyle in adults 75 and
older led to a significant prolongation in life.
The research, conducted in Sweden, followed 1,810 individuals over age 75 for
18 years. By the study’s end, more than 90 percent had died. The research
examined not only the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including exercising,
eating right and not smoking, but also the impact of social networks and leisure
In this study, individuals were defined as having healthy lifestyles if they
participated in one or more leisure activities and had a strong social network.
Those who had unhealthy lifestyles did not participate in any leisure activity,
spent a great deal of time alone and had few friends. In this older population,
those who had a healthy lifestyle lived 5.4 years longer than those who did not.
Exercising more, eating right, having a great social life and not smoking adds
an average of six years to a man’s life and five years to a woman’s.
Even at age 85, and despite having numerous chronic medical conditions, those
identified as having a healthy lifestyle lived four years longer than those who
did not. And former smokers lived as long as those who never smoked.
The message to everyone out there is that the key to longevity is embracing life
to the fullest, living healthfully and living well. And if the benefits are obvious
at age 75, imagine the value for those who have committed to health throughout
their lives. I believe strongly that to live long and live well, you need to
embrace life to the fullest. In my book, “Dr. David’s First Health
Book of More (Not Less),” I summarize the 10 steps of more that lead to
a longer, better, healthier and more independent life. Here they are:
First and foremost is more passion. Embrace life to the fullest and tackle every
activity with passion and enthusiasm. Second is more peace. Stress is a major
predictor of ill health, and learning how to cope with stress and live a peaceful
life is an essential element of staying healthy. Third is more love. This includes
love of family, friends and community. A love-filled life surrounded by people
is the essence of a strong social network and the absence of loneliness, a major
predictor of ill health.
Fourth is more self-love. We have to have high self-esteem, be comfortable in
our skin and know that we are valued to be happy and healthy. Fifth is more laughter.
The happier you are, the more amused you are by your weaknesses and the more
you laugh, the longer you live. Sixth is more faith.
Those who believe in a higher power live longer than those who do not. But it
is not which faith or denomination you belong to that is important, but spirituality
that includes hope, love, faith, charity, and, most importantly, the capacity
to forgive and be forgiven.
Seventh is more food — but more of the right and less of the wrong food.
This includes the right fats (olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids), the right protein
(lean meats and fatty fish), avoiding too much starch, and eating all the fruits
and vegetables you want. Eighth is more movement. Clearly exercise is the longevity
pill. The more active you are, the longer you live. Exercise your heart and lungs,
build your muscles by weight training, stretch and do balance exercises. Nine
is more health education. The more you understand what it takes to stay healthy
and how to navigate the health system, should you become ill, the more likely
you will receive the best medical care and live longer.
And finally, No. 10 is more freedom. Feeling free and able to participate in
every aspect of life is a powerful element promoting longevity. If it can work
at 75, it can surely be better if you start earlier.
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