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Living Healthier Longer
Photo: Loretta Humble
Throughout the centuries people such as the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon have searched for the fountain of youth. A positive mental attitude, a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, and a social support system are major lifestyle factors that add years to one’s life.

Dietary calorie restriction is well known to slow down aging, and maintain health and vitality into old age. Research with experimental animals has found that reducing caloric intake by one-third, reduced disease and signs of aging in the animals, and increased their lifespan by 50 percent. While it would be difficult to get humans to voluntarily restrict their food intake by 30-40 percent, a lifestyle that maintains an ideal body weight is associated with greater longevity.

Extending life wouldn’t mean a whole lot if it simply meant living extra years with more disease, increased disabilities, and without much quality to life. What we actually find is that the same lifestyle changes that add years to your life, can also add life to your years. Studies reveal that those with few health risks (such as stroke and heart disease) have only one-fourth the disability of those who have more risks, and the onset of disability is postponed from 7 to 12 years. Research has shown that volunteers who changed their bad lifestyle habits can add years to their lives, and the earlier in life they make the changes the greater the benefit.

Encouraging Study

A number of recent Asian studies demonstrate that older people can achieve longevity with minimal sickness, provided they remain physically and mentally active. When 800 persons, aged 50 to 72, were followed for eight years, researchers found that those who didn’t exercise developed three and a half times more disabling ailments than those who maintained a regular exercise program. Those who exercise and maintain a positive mental attitude also have significantly less stress, anxiety, and depression, common complaints among the elderly.

Good health habits don’t guarantee a long life, they just increase the likelihood of living longer and better.

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By Winston J. Craig, R.D. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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