By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
September 20, 2021
There was recently a CBS news report that I found fascinating. They identified a dozen doctors still practicing medicine here in the U.S. who are at least 100 years old!
One of the physicians, a World War II Navy veteran said, “Well, I never wanted to quit, that’s my problem.”
It probably wasn’t even a week later when I heard about a 101-year-old Maine lobster woman. She still gets up at 4:45 in the morning three times each week. The she heads out in the boat to work with the lobsters collected from her 200 lobster pots.
When she was asked when she thinks she’ll retire her lobster pots, she quickly answered, “When I die.”
These stories are just amazing. They define youthful aging. Because let’s face it. Who doesn’t want to be active, sharp-minded and doing what they love for as long as they can?
It sure beats sitting around in a wheelchair taking a handful of medications every day!
But you have to wonder… Is there a secret to staying “young” into your 80’s, 90’s and 100’s?
Life is Movement, and Movement is Life
There is a lot of data showing that working longer, staying active and retaining a sense of purpose in life are all linked with a better chance of living a longer life without disease. In fact, in countries where people live the longest – and in the best health – there isn’t even a word for retirement!
But here’s a truth: If you don’t keep moving as you age, they’ll dig you a hole and put you in it.
Movement keeps your blood flowing. Movement strengthens your heart muscle and stimulates brain connectivity. The more active and engaged you remain as you age, the better chances you have of maintaining mobility and cognitive function.
Specifically, regular physical activity helps your body make more mitochondria, the energy factories that keep your body powered up and youthful. It also increases the efficiency of your mitochondria, providing more energy to your cells.
When your mitochondria are damaged or dysfunctional, they actually contribute to the aging process and age-related diseases. Plus, your brain is almost entirely dependent on mitochondrial energy production.
So you want to keep those energy factories as healthy as you can for as long as you can. The best way to do that is by staying active.
Physical activity can also change the way your genes work. It can have a positive influence on the expression of genes that protect against metabolic disorders, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s like gene therapy for your body.
There’s one more thing staying active does for you.
It helps your body produce something called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). People with higher BDNF levels are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. Physical movement is, by far, the best way to boost your BDNF levels.
And here’s some great news. Even if you’re an older adult and haven’t been physically active lately, you can still gain the benefits and extend your lifespan. At minimum, I recommend walking for 30 minutes each morning and evening with several bursts of added intensity.
Stay Engaged in Life
People who live longer aren’t only more physically active. They are also much more engaged in life. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Develop a true sense of purpose. Purpose is why you get up in the morning, and it can be different things to different people. It could be meaningful work, strong relationships and community, religious beliefs or any other combination of factors. You can get an idea of whether you have a strong sense of purpose by taking the “Purpose Checkup” on the Blue Zones website. If you find your score on the low end, they offer a link to help guide you toward unlocking your true purpose.
Put family and friends first. Becoming isolated is a common problem for aging adults here in the U.S. Socializing, caring for family, taking time to laugh, and enjoying the beauty of life are all part of what keeps long-living seniors healthy and happy well into their 90s and right into their 100s.
Let go of technology every now and then. Streaming video, smartphones and other devices eat up huge chunks of time for a lot of people. Instead of engaging with your electronics, why not spend that time visiting friends and family, working in your backyard garden, taking a relaxing stroll in the neighborhood park, or simply watching the sunset.
Give yourself an attitude adjustment. People who view their age from a positive perspective tend to live longer and healthier than those who view it negatively. In other words, the more optimistic you are about aging, the longer you’ll live.
And here’s something you might finds surprising. People who live into their 100’s are much healthier in the six years prior to death than those who die in their 80’s.
So just think of 100 as the new 80.
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