So 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 published in the British Medical Journal showed quite conclusively that developing a healthy lifestyle in adults aged 75 and older led to a significant prolongation in life. The research conducted in Sweden followed 1810 individuals over age 75 for 18 years, and by the study end, over 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 activities.
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 aged 85 and despite having numerous chronic medical conditions, those identified as having a healthy lifestyle lived four years longer than those that 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 healthy and living well. And if the benefits are obvious at age 75, imagine the value for those who have been 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. To be happy and healthy, we have to have high self-esteem, be comfortable in our skin and know that we are valued.
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 what faith or denominations 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. But remember: Exercise your heart and lungs, build your muscles by weight training, stretch and do balance exercises.
Ninth 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, tenth is more freedom. Feeling free, able to anything we want and able to participate in every aspect of life is a powerful element guaranteeing longevity. If it can work at age 75, it can surely work better if you start earlier.
Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book “Breaking the Rules of Aging.” To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz, visit www.drdavidhealth.com