St. Charles Herald-Guide

Fountain of Youth

By Derek Clontz - January 24, 2007

Researchers believe the first person who will live to celebrate his or her 150th birthday has already been born.

In fact, within the next 50 years, advances in medicine and wellness will make living that long the norm, not the exception, the experts say.

“Life expectancy has more than doubled over the past 200 years and recent research suggests it has yet to reach a peak,” Dr. Charlotte Morehouse, an aging expert in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told the Herald-Guide.

“I won’t live to be 150. But my five-year-old daughter might.

“Barring an accident or health condition, most children born today can expect life spans running up to or surpassing 100 years.”

As Morehouse notes, adults living today aren’t likely to reach 150.

But there are things you can do that will increase your life expectancy, at least a little, and also the quality of your life at any age.

Here, from the expert, are 10 strategies that can help you live longer:

1. Exercise regularly.

Keeping fit is the secret of youth. Even 30 minutes of regular gentle exercise three times per week, such as walking or swimming, can add years to your life expectancy.

An intriguing British study found that for an over-50 man or woman who has never taken part in physical activity a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week can "basically reverse your physiological age by about 10 years." Not exercising can knock off five years.

2. Live dangerously.

Mild sunburn, a glass of wine and some low-level radiation sounds like a recipe for disaster, but many researchers believe that small doses of " stressors" can reverse the aging process.

It seems that mild exposure to certain harmful agents can trigger the body's natural repair mechanisms.

Sometimes the mechanisms overcompensate, treating unrelated damage - "rejuvenating" as well as repairing it.

Hormeosis could stretch the average healthy life span to 90.

3. Take a class.

A study found that adding only one extra year in education could increase your life expectancy by a year and a half.

4. Eat the right foods.

Certain foods retard aging and may increase life expectancy.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are rich in antioxidants and beta-carotene.

Diets high in fruit, vegetables, fiber and Omega-3 oils, and low in fat may prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

Eating cooked tomatoes daily can slash your risk of heart disease by 30 per cent, found research at Harvard.

5. Challenge yourself.

An active mind is as important as an active body.

Studies show that you can boost your immune system and delay the onset of conditions from depression to dementia by keeping your brain engaged and stimulated.

The University of California, Berkeley, found in a study that rats given problems to solve and toys to play with lived 50 per cent longer than bored rats.

6. Take time to enjoy your life.

Good relationships are the key to longevity. Social contact staves off depression, stress and boosts the development of the brain and immune system.

Most research shows that people with family, friends, partners or pets, live longer than those who don't.

Also, marriage is a good idea if you want to live a long time. It adds an average of seven years to the life of a man, and two to a woman.

7. Indulge yourself.

Chocolate acts as a natural antidepressant, wine contains anti-oxidants, and laughing is good for your immunity. 
 
8. Find God - and friends.

It's official: religion pays off - and not just in the after-life.

Hundreds of studies have indicated that people who are religious are healthier than their faithless counterparts - and live an average of seven years longer.

9. Reduce your calories.

By reducing your calorie intake between 10 and 60 percent you can extend life expectancy by lowering your metabolism and the production of harmful free radicals.

One study reported that participants who ate 25 per cent less for three months had lower levels of insulin in their blood, a reduced body temperature and less DNA damage.

10. Get your health checked.

Stay ahead of life-threatening illnesses with regular checkups, which are relatively inexpensive and sometimes even free if you watch for health fairs and clinic promotions.

Questions? Comments? Email Derek Clontz at derekc@heraldguide.com or call him at 985-758-2795.