Friday, August 22, 2014

Anti-Aging Tips

     I saw an article in a newspaper called healthy referral that I picked up for free at a health-food store. The piece offered lots of advice about how to stay healthy as we get older, and seemed to be very informative -- as it should be, since the author, Joseph C. Maroon, MD, is a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and has also been a neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for over 25 years.

     The doctor himself has competed in several Ironman triathlons, so it should come as no surprise that exercise is key to his approach to staying young. But he has also written two books, one offering fish oil as a antidote to chronic inflammation in the body, and another The Longevity Factor, which shows how red wine, dark chocolate, and green tea are good for us.

     He offers lots of other advice centered around exercise and nutrition, and if you want to read the whole article you can find it at Anti-Aging Tips.

     But what struck me is that Dr. Maroon seems to want us to micromanage our nutrition and exercise so much that we hardly have time to do anything else. It's definitely for the Type A personality.

     Yet Dr. Maroon also cites Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, a book published in 2012 which examines the lifestyles of people who live a long time. And Buettner's studies show that the people who live the longest don't micromanage anything. They seem to be Type B personalities who enjoy life -- but do it in a healthy way that emphasizes good food, a positive attitude and a vibrant social life.

     I did a blog post on Blue Zones when the New York Times published an article on the book. and so now, since it's becoming a bit of a touchstone in this area of study, I thought I'd reprise some of the information here.

     Dan Buettner is a longevity expert who travels the world looking for regions where people live long and happy lives -- including Okinawa where the world's longest-lived women are found, and a place in Sardinia with the highest concentration of male centenarians on Earth. Buettner's regions are termed "blue zones" simply because he circled the areas on his map in blue ink.

     Buettner found his latest blue zone in Ikaria, Greece, an island in the Aegean Sea, where men are four times more likely than American men to reach the age of 90.  People in Ikaria also live noticeably longer than their neighbors in Samos, a more developed island just ten miles away.

     The people on Ikaria eat a diet low in the saturated fats that come from meats and diary, and they consume almost no refined sugar. Instead, they drink goat's milk and consume lots of olive oil and wild or unprocessed greens. By eating greens from their gardens and the fields, they ingest fewer pesticides and more nutrients. They drink wine almost every day, but in moderation, and they also drink two or three cups of coffee a day (coffee is associated with lower rates of diabetes, cancer and Parkinson's). And by the way, they don't obsess over the pros and cons of either wine or coffee. They drink, and enjoy, both in moderation.

     The Ikarians also get plenty of sleep, and never hesitate to take a midday nap. Also, about three-quarters of the senior citizens have sex on a regular basis.

     These islanders prize their social lives. They rarely dine alone, for example, but always make a meal into a social occasion with family and friends. Buettner surmises that being engaged in the community not only gives people a sense of connection and security, but the lack of privacy may act as a check against self-destructive behavior, including crime. Ikaria has a low crime rate not because of good policing, but because everyone knows everyone else, and it's hard to get away with anything.

     The Ikarians wake up late, and take a relaxed approach to work. But they're not lazy. Many hold more than one job, and the concept of "retirement" with a gold watch and a 401K plan is completely foreign to them. They take pride in being self-sufficient. No one is rich, but everyone has enough food and a roof over their heads. They also get a fair amount of exercise -- not by sweating at the gym or training for marathons, but by walking almost everywhere they go, and never worrying too much if they're late.

     One lesson Buettner draws from his blue zones is that the long-lived lifestyle works best as a community-based project. It's easy to stay on a good diet if everyone in the neighborhood has a kitchen garden; it's hard if there are fast-food joints and racks of chips and candy everywhere you go.

     The lesson I draw is this: Some people will make the Maroon approach work for them. But for most of us, a more relaxed approach may work better.

     So invite your friends and family over for dinner. Serve fish and vegetables and wine; no dessert, just coffee or tea. Then your guests should leave early so you can perhaps engage in some light exercise known to occur in the bedroom. And then get a good night's sleep.

22 comments:

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

I believe it takes a lifetime of healthy living to affect your health in old age. I also think based on my own study, work, WTD. That diet and nutrition are four times more important than exercise.

Frankly, I find people who compete in triathlons annoying. My water aerobics instructor swims in the Chesapeake Bay swim every year and still managed to contract two forms of cancer. Her husband, who was an avid exercise guy and retired Naval officer died last year from brain cancer.

Does that mean I think one should do nothing but enjoy life? Don't know the answer, but I have a 97year old Aunt, and all her sisters lived into their 90s too. Doc says I have great 'numbers' when I have my physical every year.

Mostly, we are all living longer, but frankly, the thought of being 97is not that appealing to me. Maybe when I am 96 I will feel differently.

I think smoking does most folks in early. My Dad was a lifelong smoker and died at 78, thus his sisters lived much longer. Sex is also a major factor...not having sex, but being the right sex.

Genetics will prove to be the major factor for most of us, and that includes the XY chromosome.

Weight too is a major factor. There is NothinG that can not be improved by losing a little weight. That's where diet matters....

gigihawaii said...

Heredity and good genes mean most when it comes to longevity.

Meryl Baer said...

I and definitely a B with large doses of dark chocolate thrown in…Exercise is important, but not necessarily the sweat in the gym kind. Walking or riding a bike around the neighborhood, to local stores, the library etc. is fun, good for the body, energy efficient, and you get to meet and greet your neighbors.

Stephen Hayes said...

I don't follow any rules when it comes to health but I do treat my body like a temple---a desecrated temple. Happy Weekend.

DJan said...

I enjoy the social aspects of taking an aerobics class with twenty or so people three times a week. We sweat lightly, but I like to watch as we bounce and smile and visit with one another. And my hiking group, that's another social gathering. Yesterday was a hard one, and twelve of us are hurting today, but in a good way. I am trying not to be too rigid, but to really enjoy life, for as long as I'm able. Good post, Tom. :-)

the healthy kikay said...

nice! you may want to try out on a health assessment like i did :) cheers!

Beverley Baird said...

Hadn't heard of the book Blue Zones but had heard of the communities. Well worth it to live in moderation and enjoy life.

Dick Klade said...

Moderation in all things . . .

Anonymous said...

You baby boomers are the most selfish generation to ever exist. You destroyed your own children's and grandchildren's future with your short-sighted selfishness and immaturity. And then you expect them to pay for your retirement????

Can you baby boomers just hurry up and drop dead, please?

Terra said...

I like the relaxed approach best, and exercise and eat in moderation.

Tom Sightings said...

Whoa, Anon. chill. I've heard your theory before, and while I sympathize with your point of view (I assume you're a Gen Xer or Millennial) I don't necessarily subscribe to it. But the topic does suggest a blog post. Stay tuned, I will address the issue.

Anonymous said...

You baby boomers are the most selfish generation to ever exist. You destroyed your own children's and grandchildren's future with your short-sighted selfishness and immaturity. And then you expect them to pay for your retirement????

Can you baby boomers just hurry up and drop dead, please?

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