- Aging & Longevity
Can we live more than hundred years healthy and sane?
In today’s world, people live relatively healthier and much longer. This may be due to improved medical facilities and living conditions throughout the world. The population of the aged in most countries show upward trends. However, it is very uncommon to see people living healthy beyond hundred years of age.
Successful aging or longevity is rare. Longevity is a measure of health, how long one live. With age, most people raise all sorts of complains and face various difficulties and problems. Their strengths and capabilities are fast diminishing. How to be healthy even with age?
To live longer and healthier, we need to be proactive and follow several concrete steps. The aim is to let minimal losses occur across a number of functions of the body over time. The measures include:
1. Healthy eating and regular exercises,
2. Managing stress effectively,
3. Improving certain aspects of personality,
3. Lifestyle change to avoid health-impairing habits.
Healthy Eating and Regular Exercises
What you eat may extend or shorten your life. Eat healthy foods. Everyone should strive for a healthy diet. Healthy foods implies balance diet which is high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains but low in cholesterol promoting foods such as animal fat. Vegetables food is safe and invigorating. A balanced diet gives more energy, improve circulation and strengthen the immune system. Eating healthy food gives the require nutrition.
Proper balanced diet / healthy eating enable one to lead a healthy, active and productive life, but lack of nutrition has adverse impacts on health and life expectancy.
While healthy eating reduces the risk of disease, poor diet contributes to disease. Poor diet increases the risk of developing chronic diseases like cancers of colon and rectum, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Low fat and low cholesterol diet reduces the incidence of cardiac disease
In spite of existence of awareness of clear link between dietary practices and good health, it is difficult to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Eat healthy, balanced foods. People who have a healthy diet often have stronger immune system, which can help slow the effects of aging.
Exercise is one of the most popular and widely accepted measures of life style change for improving health and longevity. It promotes positive health. To maintain weight, reduce stress and keep oneself physically and mentally fit, exercise should be moderate and regular.
Health benefits can be derived from moderate forms of exercise, such as walking, if it is performed consistently.
Three kinds of exercises are important for good health and longevity:
1. Aerobic / cardiovascular exercise, which make the heart work harder and increase the arousal level of the body, such as jogging, walking, running, swimming etc. Doing such exercises three times a week for twenty minutes proves beneficial.
2. Callisthenics. Etymologically speaking, it means beauty (kallos) and strength (thenos). It is a form of exercise with the object of increasing body strength and flexibility with movements. Such exercises are bending, jumping, swinging, twisting or kicking, using only one's body weight for resistance. Five minutes of vigorous callisthenics can prevent stiffness.
3. Weight training. This training requires the use of bars, dumbbells, weight stacks etc. Doing such exercise twice a week will increase and develop your physical strength.
Which of the following would be the best means to attain 100+ years?
Managing Stress Effectively
It is not possible to live in a stress-free world. But it can be reduced. Stress undermines the immune system and weakens our bodies in various ways. It is, therefore, important that stress is reduced in order to live a healthier and longer life.
People differ in the manner in which they cope. Different people use different techniques for coping with stress and being healthy. The techniques that can be use to lessen its potentially harmful effects include:
1. Regular and vigorous exercise helps to deal stressful events / situations more confidently and effectively.
2. Progressive relaxation.
It help reduces the symptoms of stress and decreases the incidence of illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Usually relaxation begins from the lower part of the body and progresses up to the facial muscles in such a way that the whole body is completely relaxed. It involves relaxing and tensing / flexing the various muscle groups alternately.
Controlled breathing is another technique in which deep long breaths are used. Taking a long deep breathes and exhaling it slowly is easy but beneficial.
3. Time management
How you spend your time determines the quality of your life - health and happiness. The guiding principle of time management is to engage in things that are valuable to us or activities that will help us achieve our desired goals. Knowing what you want to do and organising your life to achieve it is the essence of effective time management. Important steps of time management include prioritising things to do, plan scheduling but flexibility, leisure hours etc.
4. Positive Thinking
It is one effective way of coping stress.
Optimism is the inclination to expect good outcomes. Optimists tend to assume that adversity can be handled successfully but pessimists anticipate poor outcomes. In contrast to pessimists, optimists use more problem focused coping strategies, suppress competing activities and seek social support. Hence, people who are positive manage stress and live longer.
5. Social Support
It is the existence and availability of people who care us, value us and love us. The quality of social support is positively linked to health and wellbeing. It acts as protection against stress. When people with high levels of social support from family and friends face stressful situations, they are more likely to experience less stress and cope with it more successfully.
Social support reduces distress such as depression or anxiety and thereby enhances health and lengthens life. Social support gives health benefits to both the giver and the receiver.
6. Rational thinking
Many stress-related problems may be attributed to distorted thinking. The way we think, is closely related with, the way we feel. When we are stressed, we have greater tendency to think negatively, which adversely affect our perception of the present as well as the future.
Rational thinking means challenging one’s distorted thinking patterns and irrational beliefs and replacing potentially negative thoughts with positive statements.
7. Use of humours
Humorous materials induce pleasant feelings, which act as stress buffer.
The benefits of faith cannot be ignored. People who hold religious beliefs tend to cope better with stress and hence live longer and happier. This may be due to the fact that these beliefs lead them to adopt healthier life styles, provide them with social support, offer hope and a sense of meaning and purpose. However, it seems to be irrelevant what faith or religion one choose.
By managing stressful events / situations effectively, people become happier and healthier and consequently live longer.
Improving Certain Aspects of Personality
It is important to cultivate certain aspects of our personality for healthier and longer life. Personality seems to be associated with longevity in some important ways.
Conscientiousness, which is characterised by orderliness, dutifulness and dependability, is found to influence longevity.
In a longitudinal study by Friedman et al (1995, 2010) it was concluded that the participants with high traits on conscientiousness such as orderliness, carefulness and dependability were fully 30% less likely die in any given year that persons low in these traits.
The personality trait of conscientiousness thus predicted longevity for both men and women. The more conscientious a person is, the longer s/he seems to live.
People higher in conscientiousness tend to be more self-controlled and dutiful. Conscientious children, for instance, do their homework in time and keep their rooms clean. They set goals and fulfil them and usually do not take many risks.
Conscientious people tend to follow standards of healthy living more than any others. They exercise more, eat more healthily and readily complies doctor’s advice.
Whatever may be the underlying factors, it is clear that conscientiousness can contribute to living a long and healthy life.
Emotional stability and conscientiousness make a healthy personality. Personality trait of conscientiousness can be gradually developed and improved and developing this trait may be an important means for lengthening one’s life.
Lifestyle Change to Avoid Health-impairing Habits
Do not smoke or abuse alcohol and other drugs in order to live long and stay healthy.
Smoking, drinking and drug abuse are health impairing habits. Such habit develops gradually and subsequently evokes pleasant experiences and ultimately it will be too late to quit.
Such habits risk health not only because of the habits per se but also they are prone to other habits injurious to health. They often exercise less and eat more. They tend to ignore the risk that lie ahead and also underestimate the risk.
The best thing is to say an emphatic “NO” to such health-impairing habits as tobacco, drugs and alcohol in order to live healthier and longer.
It is a good practice to avoid prolonged exposure to loud noise. Noise can speed up the decline in hearing that occurs as a function of age. You may love loud music, but is has a serious damaging consequence where hearing is concerned.
Avoid exposure to blazing sun (11am to 4 pm) without protection / fully covering your whole body. Wrinkling of skin is the most visible outward sign of aging. It cannot be prevented but it can be delayed by minimising direct exposure to sun. It is not only for fair-skinned people, it is equally important for all shades of skin.
To live longer, happier and healthier, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly in moderate, manage stress, avoid unhealthy life styles and improves your personality.