Strategies for living life to the fullest
11/5/2015 3:51 PM
Would you like to sip from the fountain of youth? Well, you can fill up your cup with great strategies for living a long and vital life. The science behind longevity continues to build, but here’s what we know now.
Genetics play a role, for sure. The way your cells behave and some inherited diseases might work against old age by failing to regulate body functions.
Your diet is a big factor, too. Many people who live to 100 are from the Mediterranean region and have diets high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil. These foods have been linked to a healthier older age, lower risk for heart disease, and even better memory.
Dr. Nicole Riojas, primary care physician with Live Oak Health Partners, adds, “Primary care medicine isn’t just about treating illness; it’s also about preventing illness. Your doctor is trained to find disease early and potentially prevent it altogether. Keep up with your annual exams to identify early signs and risk factors for disease, even before you have symptoms.”
Education is linked to a longer life. A Centers for Disease Control report found that people with a bachelor’s degree or higher live about nine years longer than people who don’t graduate high school. A RAND Corporation study shows that educated people are more likely to land better jobs, plan for their future and make healthier lifestyle choices.
Worried about working too hard? The Leiden Longevity Study found that plenty of hard workers lived long lives. “Skeptics may wonder if hard workers really are enjoying life,” the authors write. “We found that productive, hardworking people (even in old age) are not stressed and miserable, but tend to be happier, healthier, and more socially connected than their less productive peers.”
Being social is an important key. Having a strong social group is associated with a longer life. Women tend to have stronger social networks, and that may be part of the reason women tend to live longer than men. People often turn to friends and family for support and some research even suggests that immune function is improved when people are around friends.
Don’t sit still. The British Medical Journal reports that low-intensity physical activity every day leads to less disability in old age and a longer, healthier life. Sitting too much will take a toll. A 2011 study found that each hour people spent sitting down and watching TV after age 25 links to a loss of 22 minutes from overall life expectancy.
Your personality could influence the length and vitality of your life. A Stanford University study showed that ‘conscientious’ personalities tend to live the longest. A well-organized person who is somewhat obsessive and not ‘carefree’ tends to make healthier choices, including who they marry, where they work, and the likelihood they’ll smoke, drive too fast or follow doctors’ orders.
Having the skills for a healthy emotional life will impact the happiness and vitality of your life. San Marcos Counselor Kathie Cleveland, MA, LPC, LMFT shares that, “Good emotional health is the wind beneath the wings of a rich mental vitality. Life will hand out situations that challenge our emotional state, but you can overcome them with good coping skills, good communication skills and good conflict resolution skills. And when you also have a compassionate, forgiving heart, you can maintain a good emotional state.” The good news is if you don’t have those skills now, you can still learn them.
Meet Dave and Lex
Dave and Lex Burgen were raised in San Marcos where their dad was a professor at Southwest Texas State University. Each pursued careers in science.
Dave, 78, credits his vitality to having a real interest in his career and hobbies. He worked as a neurologist in Houston and raised two daughters with his wife, Joy. After a recent blood vessel occlusion, he has adjusted his diet and activity level to protect his heart.
He shares, “My family, religious beliefs, passion for studying and playing sports like tennis got me through the challenges in life. I stay active now by walking the treadmill at the San Marcos Activity Center.”
Lex, 76, studied molecular biology and served in the Navy before making his molecular genetics research career in San Antonio. His avid love for science and learning keeps his mind engaged, and he enjoys walking the mile-long CTMC walking trail with Dave to keep his arthritic knee in motion. “You’ve got to keep your mind challenged and stay active physically.”
Dave and Lex serve their nutrition needs by meeting up for lunch at the CTMC Daily Bread Cafe on weekdays. Aside from being very affordable, there’s plenty of variety and heart-healthy fare for Dave. You’ll find them discussing everything from philosophy to science discoveries over their meal. Brothers, friends and partners in health.