beautiful older ladiesEveryone is concerned with aging. We would all love to live to a ripe old age and enjoy our grandchildren. But we would not enjoy a long life if it included all sorts of health conditions and physical suffering. So the two topics here are: living longer, and living healthier.

From extensive research on aging, (because even researchers want to live longer!), there are two factors that stand out. The first is stress. The sympathetic nerve reaction known as the ‘flight or fight response’ includes multiple physiologic changes intended to help you get through the emergency situation. The problem is that many people feel a fair amount of stress every day, enough to trigger at least some of the ‘fight or flight response.’ This daily sympathetic overload can cause hypertension, spasms in the neck, low back and jaw, exhausted adrenal glands and headaches, but also seemingly unrelated conditions such as high cholesterol, obesity and even cancer. From the research, it appears that stress makes just about everything worse in our bodies. So any predispositions toward diseases your parents and grandparents had will be encouraged to manifest if stress is a factor.

The second factor that stands out is diet. Through the China Study, where huge population samples were analyzed for the effect of diet, and other important studies, it has been definitely shown that diet makes a huge difference in both life extension and disease avoidance. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is key, but why? One reason is fiber. Keeping a clean colon is very important for health. Another reason is that vegetables and fruits keep us more alkaline, a state that helps resist the onset of disease. A third and extremely important reason is ‘antioxidants’. Antioxidants are the reason everyone is eating blueberries. There are many types of antioxidants, including vitamin C, selenium and the herb tumeric, as well as powerful ones you may not have heard of like glutathione and N-acetyl-L-Cysteine. But they all have one thing in common: They all destroy ‘free radicals’. Free radicals are atoms and molecules with free electrons that damage cell membranes and DNA through oxidation. Some are produced naturally by our bodies but they are greatly increased from fatty diets, pollution, cigarette smoke, herbicides and stress. It is extremely important that we get a rich supply of antioxidants from our food, fruits and vegetables having the richest supply by far. In addition, they are the source of most of our vitamins and minerals that are essential to health and healing. Two other dietary recommendations for life extension and disease prevention are reducing sugar and animal products, both meats and dairy. Both are acidifying and animal fats contain arachadonic acid which increases inflammatory prostaglandins. Inflammation, like free radicals, will lead to tissue breakdown and aging.

We all know that genetics play a role in our life span as well. And we’ve all heard the stories of people smoking and drinking and living well into their nineties. But it’s all about playing the odds. By the manner in which we live our lives, and by the daily choices we make, we can either encourage or discourage those bad genes from manifesting. George Burns, the beloved entertainer, continued performing until he passed away at the age of 100. On stage in his nineties he would often make the comedic remark, “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” I think he did just fine. Maybe he had no stress, good genes and a reasonably good diet. Many people are not so fortunate. Don’t chance it. Take better care of yourself.

Another unexpected finding from sociology was that the longest lived people had, fairly consistently, some type of belief in a greater power. This gave them a sense of peace and calm, as though they were being looked after and that everything was basically O.K.

My recommendations are to practice stress management techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing, eat more fruits and vegetables, less sugar and animal products, and in your own way, connect with your God or spiritual self regularly. Live long and prosper.