Category Archives: Healthy Life – Live Longer

How To Live to be 100!

Sleep and sushi’ were the world’s oldest woman’s secret of longevity. But surely more factors contribute to the increasing number of centenarians, especially in US and Japan?

Sau saal jiyo‘ May you live a 100 years’ is the traditional Indian blessing. Sto lat, sing the Polish. Cent’anni, say Italians. Greeks wish each other na ta ekatostisis, while Swedes sing Må han / hon lever i hundraår…

Who wouldn’t want their loved ones to hit a century, and beyond? The world’s oldest living woman, 117-year-old Japanese Misao Okawa died on April 1, passing on the title to 116-year-old Gertrude Weaver, an American. Misao said on her birthday last month that 117 years didn’t seem such a long time really! Really?! And this is a woman who lived across 3 centuries, four Japanese emperors, six British monarchs and 20 US Presidents!!

Misao’s secret of longevity? Eight hours of sleep a night and eating sushi, she stated. Gertrude Weaver, now the oldest, is passionate about manicures, Bible studying and wheelchair dancing. She shared her longevity secret with Time magazine –“Kindness. Treat people right…”She also credited an unwavering faith in God for her long years. In sharp contrast, Jeralean Talley, 116, now the world’s second oldest living person, leads a fun life! She bowled, played the slot machines in casinos and even mowed her lawn till she was 105! She still goes on fishing trips and caught 7 catfish at 114!

From three hearty meals a day to sparse eating, from being super active to confined to a wheel chair; from playing casino slot machines to following God; eating raw eggs to sushi to bacon – the world’s oldest people have credited many things with contributing to their long innings. Desperately seeking the elixir of life, the rest of us lap up their words as gospel. But is there a strategy that can help you actually live to 100?

Interestingly the 10 oldest people living at present are all women, ranging from the ages of 116-114. Then come two men in the over-110 category at 112 years of age. The 10 oldest people ever to have lived are also ALL women. Of 56 oldest living people since 1955, 50 were women! Studies quote deferred heart conditions as compared to men, better ability to deal with stress, lesser alcohol and tobacco culture, and lesser iron as some reasons for women’s longer lives.

As nationalities go, the US boasts the largest number of the world’s oldest living, followed by Japan. Of the 12 oldest living, six are from the US, while four are Japanese. What could be the possible common denominator between these two nations that helps nurture long years?

Lessons from Nagano in Japan, which is the longest-living place on earth, with maximum centenarians, suggest that a healthy diet, regular physical activity and extended work years help their inhabitants live longer. Just about 35 years ago, Nagano had Japan’s maximum heart stroke rate, which is when the government intervened, aggressively promoting healthy eating and exercise habits along with preventive healthcare. Most Japanese people are encouraged to postpone retirement or begin second careers. People live in a caring community that looks after its old. Low stress lifestyles and spirituality also help one live longer and better. Importantly, the goal is not just to live longer, but to stay healthy as long as possible in those years, points a Japanese doctor!

John W Santrock in his book, ‘Life-Span Development’ identifies five factors important to longevity — Heredity and family history; Health, (weight, diet, smoker/non-smoker, amount of exercise); Education level; Personality, and Lifestyle. The author also notes that the biggest group of centenarians has been of women who never married . People who have been through traumatic events may also live longer as they learn to cope better with stress and poverty.

Countries with better healthcare facilities and a better ratio of doctors and population report longer life expectancy. Japan has the highest life expectancy of 86.2, ranking first for males and second for females (WHO 2012). US at 79.8, ranks 32nd for men and 35th for women. Andorra ranks first in female life expectancy. India with a life expectancy of 60, ranks 64th for men and an embarrassing 150th for women!

When will we live to be 100?

(Gertrude Weaver, barely reigned six days as the world’s oldest living person and died on April 6, 2015. Now the world’s oldest living person is Jeralean Talley, 116, also an American.)


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Eat Less, Live Longer?

John Apollos is losing weight the old-fashioned way — by eating less. A whole lot less. As a volunteer in the two-year Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) study at Tufts University in Boston, Apollos has lowered his daily caloric intake 25% over the past eight months. The fat, not surprisingly, has melted away; the 52-year-old physical trainer has lost more than 25 lb. (11 kg) since the study began and is down to his high school weight.
But that’s not the real reason Apollos and the other participants in the program are eating only three-quarters of what they used to. The researchers running the multicenter CALERIE study are trying to determine whether restricting food intake can slow the aging process and extend our life span. “I feel better and lighter and healthier,” says Apollos. “But if it could help you live longer, that would be pretty amazing.”

The idea is counterintuitive: If we eat to live, how can starving ourselves add years to our lives? Yet decades of calorie-restriction studies involving organisms ranging from microscopic yeast to rats have shown just that, extending the life spans of the semistarved as much as 50%. Last July a long-term study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin nudged the implications of this a bit closer to our species, finding that calorie restriction seemed to extend the lives of humanlike rhesus monkeys as well. The hungry primates fell victim to diabetes, heart and brain disease and cancer much less frequently than their well-fed counterparts did
But there may be more than just the absence of disease operating here. Anytime you go on a diet, after all, you stand a good chance of lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol level and risk of diabetes and other health woes. All that can translate into extra years. With calorie restriction — usually defined as a diet with 25% to 30% fewer calories than normal but still containing essential nutrients — something else appears to be at work to extend longevity.

Finding out what that something is — and determining if it works in people — is what CALERIE is all about. By putting people on a carefully reduced diet for two years, investigators hope to home in on the biological mechanism that links eating less to living longer. They will also explore whether such a strict diet is even feasible in the overweight U.S. “We want to see if the same metabolic adaptations occurring in calorie-restricted rats and monkeys occur in humans,” says Dr. Luigi Fontana, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., who is helping lead the CALERIE study. “But we also want to know if people will really stick with this.”
Scientists have suspected that calorie restriction could extend the life span of animals since at least 1935, when researchers at Cornell University noticed that severely food-restricted lab rats lived twice as long as normal ones and were healthier. Other investigators began exploring the idea and learned that the secret is not merely a matter of body weight: lab mice that ate normally but became skinny by exercising a lot showed no longevity improvements. Only the ones that didn’t get many calories to begin with benefited.

One theory is that a state of slight hunger acts as a mild but constant stressor that makes an organism stronger and more resistant to the ills of aging. (The effect could be an evolutionary adaptation, increasing the odds that animals would survive periods of scarcity.) Taking in fewer calories also slows metabolism, and some data indicate that humans with a slower metabolism live longer. But even if these theories are correct, simply defining the mechanism is not the same as identifying the molecular pathways behind it. If researchers could determine those pathways, they might be able to pharmacologically mimic the effect of calorie restriction. That could be the ultimate benefit of the CALERIE study. “Calorie restriction is pretty much the only thing out there that we know will not just prevent disease but also extend maximal life span,” says Dr. Marc Hellerstein, a nutritionist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the biological effects of fasting.


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Living Long and Living Well

When explorer and longevity investigator Dan Buettner guided me into the Costa Rican rain forest last year in preparation for an Oprah show on longevity, each of the centenarians I met there greeted me with the customary “Pura vida” — variously translated as “Pure life,” “Full of life” or even “This is living!” Those are all fair ways of describing these remarkably vibrant people, who are indeed living the pure life. We’d all do well to learn their secrets.
While we’re certainly born with genes that help determine everything from our height to our eye color to our risk of heart disease, we’re making a monumental mistake if we assume we can’t influence those genes — especially when it comes to aging. Science is rapidly uncovering miraculous biological processes that control how and why we age the way we do, piling up evidence that even our unwanted genes can work in our favor — or at least do us less harm.

Indeed, there’s no reason we can’t live to 100 — and do so with energy and good health. Here’s why: longevity is not really about preventing disease. After all, getting rid of heart disease and cancer gains us, on average, less than a decade of life. And if we lived those extra years still struggling with the frailty that can make a long life less desirable, what would we have gained? No, the real goal isn’t to avoid inevitable illness or breakdown. The goal is to recover from them faster and better.
Identifying optimal solutions will require decades, in part because it takes 30 years of research to determine whether taking a pill for 20 years will add a decade of life. So here are some reasonable steps I’ve offered my own family, culled from what I’ve learned studying long-living populations around the world and cutting-edge scientific research.

Daily rigorous physical activity not only helps strengthen bones and the heart, but it also teaches balance, critical in preventing the falls that have become a leading cause of death as we age. For all the medical tests we have in our modern arsenal, the ability to exercise remains the single most powerful predictor of longevity. If you can’t walk a quarter-mile in 5 minutes, your chance of dying within three years is 30% greater than that of faster walkers.
Humans are designed to be physically active throughout their lives, so don’t take it easy on yourself. Shoot for at least three 30-minute workouts weekly — and break a sweat. You should also add a half hour per week of weight lifting and another half hour of stretching. I complete a simple daily 7-minute morning routine that I recommend. You can find it at

Get 15 minutes of sun every day (or take 1,000 IU of vitamin D), and take 1,000 mg of calcium. Supplement the calcium with 500 mg of magnesium to avoid constipation. All of this will help promote bone strength as you exercise. Costa Ricans get these benefits naturally: they’re exposed to lots of sun between bursts of rain, which keeps their vitamin D levels high, and they drink hard, mineral-rich water and eat a traditional diet with dairy and legumes that is rich in calcium.
In the U.S. we’re not so lucky. Insufficient vitamin D is our most important vitamin deficiency and is possibly a factor in our high levels of cancer, autoimmune ailments and heart disease. If you live north of a line between Atlanta and Los Angeles, the winter sun is probably too weak to give you the dose of light you require, so you’ll need supplements. And while hard water occurs naturally in some parts of the country, it’s by no means found in all of them.

Choose foods that look the same when you eat them as when they come out of the ground. The powerful phytochemicals and micronutrients in whole foods (ones without food labels) support the natural rejuvenating processes of the body.
Obese people, in whom such processes become compromised, tend to die younger in part because of systemic inflammation that occurs as a result of their weight. That leads to elevated blood sugar, lousy LDL-cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. These damage the thin lining of our arteries. The fat also wreaks metabolic disarray that increases cancer rates and leads to joint pain that limits physical activity. Automate your meal choices to create routines that make it easy to eat the right foods. Snacking on healthy foods every few hours helps you avoid hunger and the associated overeating.

Sleep more than seven hours a day. Sleep increases your levels of growth hormone, a critical vitality booster. Half of mature Americans have difficulty sleeping, and all of them may pay a longevity penalty. Try some simple sleep hygiene like dimming the lights 15 minutes before bedtime to stimulate melatonin.

Finally, have a purpose — your family, your work, your community. There may be no better longevity booster than simply wanting to be here. You have one life; it makes sense to love living it.

Mehmet Oz is the vice chairman and a professor of surgery at Columbia University, a best-selling author and the host of the nationally syndicated television talk show The Dr. Oz Show


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