As we age, we tend to question our mortality and how much longer we have left to live. Not that we can do much about this in order to extend our lives by this time, but if we question our health earlier, we may be able to affect positive change in order to have a longer and more productive quality of life. Dan Buettner (National Public Radio [NPR], 2008; TED, 2009) discusses how difficult it can be to control the effects of aging, but he also offers some options based on his observations of what are termed blue zones. Blue zones are geographic and cultural areas of the where people tend to live longer and healthier lives.
Buettner (NPR, 2008; TED, 2009) describes simple measures that can contribute to increasing a productive life. More importantly, he has uncovered what they do not do. The people who live in these blue zones, according to Buettner, do not tend to take daily supplements, pills, or extracts. Instead, continuous and simple movement for exercise coupled with a sensible cultural diet seems to have the biggest impact.
One of the observations that I have made over the years is that as physical movement declines, physical and emotional strength wane. For example, an otherwise healthy 70 year old woman who accidentally falls and breaks her hip decreases her life expectancy drastically unless physical rehabilitation is utilized to regain her activity level (Keene, Parker, & Pryor, 1993; Lyons, 1997). It is vitally important to maintain a healthy level of activity throughout life.
Diet is very important. Buettner (NPR, 2008; TED, 2009) credits adding nuts to the diet for an average increase of three years of life. The way in which our bodies use energy is very important, and we must supply it with a fuel that is efficient. A wholesome diet, I believe, is the best diet, especially if divided by five or more meals a day.
We cannot have a conversation about improving overall health without addressing some of the unhealthy vices that we tend to indulge in. Instead of outlining each and every thing that is detrimental to our health, I will say that moderation should be the way to combat the effects of vices. We need to enjoy life, and I feel that the mere enjoyment leads to a longer and healthier life; therefore, to strictly limit indulgences would seem to be counter-productive. Moderation should certainly be the way in which to address these issues.
We all want to live longer and healthier lives, but genetics does play a role. There are some aspects of our lifestyle that we are finding that we can change for the better, and the alternatives are not that bad. So long as we live healthy lives, we can enjoy life more completely.
Keene, G. S., Parker, M. J., & Pryor, G. A. (1993). Mortality and morbidity after hip fractures. British Medical Journal, 307, 1248-1250. doi:10.1136/bmj.307.6914.1248
Lyons, A. R. (1997). Clinical outcomes and treatment of hip fractures. American Journal of Medicine, 103(2), S51-S64. doi:10.1016/S0002-9343(97)90027-9
National Public Radio (Producer). (2008, June 8). Can ‘blue zones’ help turn back the biological clock? [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91285403&from=mobile
TED (Producer). (2009, September). Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+ [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100.html