Sunday, May 25, 2008

Totally Unscientific Centenarian Tips

Here is a totally uncredible, unscientific article from some blogger on yahoo. The first line proves he's a real asshole, too. But, enjoy!

Centenarian Tips for a Long Life
Posted Tue, Apr 29, 2008, 4:38 pm PDT

Everyone would love to live to a ripe old age, but not if it means looking and feeling like an over-ripe old vegetable. We need to understand that though getting older is inevitable, getting decrepit is not.

Being bent in half and wheeling around an oxygen tank should not be what we picture when we hear the phrase "the golden years." I have seen centenarians around the world who defy our stereotypes of the aging experience.

In fact, 20 years ago, while in Shanghai, I took note of the thousands of seniors - a great many of them centenarians - meeting up in parks each morning to practice tai chi. I was truly amazed by their agility, sharp minds, and overall state of health.

Intrigued by this discovery, I began studying the lifestyle of centenarians around the world and anti-aging therapies. I combined these discoveries and uncovered the secrets to longevity. Here are a few secrets that will have you looking forward to your 100th birthday!

Tai Chi: An Exercise in Anti-aging

Tai chi, the choreographed meditative exercises that have been a healing art in China for thousands of years, is practiced by over 100 million people worldwide and owes its popularity to a simple fact - it's enjoyable and it makes you stronger.

Recent studies confirm that when practiced regularly - 30 minutes, three times a week - it has numerous health benefits including: increased energy, decreased stress, an immunity boost against viruses, lowered blood pressure, better cognitive functioning, increased joint mobility, an improved cholesterol profile, relief from fibromyalgia symptoms, and even a better night's sleep.

It also increases leg muscle strength and provides better balance and posture. Perhaps the best part is that tai chi is a gentle exercise that can be performed by anyone at any age. Click here to find out more about tai chi.

Centenarians I have met also take advantage of other rejuvenation techniques the Chinese have known for thousands of years - like acupuncture, acupressure, and energy healing - that increase energy, promote health, and balance the body and the mind.

Diet: The Cornerstone of Longevity

It is no surprise that diet is an essential factor to health and longevity. So what should you be eating? In my studies, I found that the centenarians of two reputed "longevity capitals" - Okinawa, Japan, and Rugao County, a rural community four hours north of Shanghai - shared a nearly identical diet.

These long-lifers eat mostly fish, vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, corn, and buckwheat - and virtually no meat. Scientists have confirmed the health benefits of a diet high in fish and vegetables and low in animal products. These centenarians are living examples, as they suffer from very little heart and liver disease and have negligible rates of cancer and degenerative diseases.


When it comes to longevity, environment is half of the equation. From the verdant valleys of Ecuador to the rugged mountains of Armenia to the pristine foothills of the Himalayas, centenarians live in environments that exhibit the same characteristics: clean air, good water, low stress, close communities, and unspoiled nature.

Take a tip from these centenarians and drink only clean, filtered water. Connect with your community in a positive way. Find every way you can to bring nature into your life, from planting more trees in your area to more plants in your home.

Avoid the environmental factors that are damaging to our wellbeing and know what to look out for. Just a few things to avoid include xenoestrogens, which are present just about everywhere, pesticides used on vegetables, hormones injected into meats and poultry, phthalates leaching from plastic bottles, and dioxins from bleached paper products. You can avoid these chemical compounds if you buy organic foods and use glass containers and unbleached paper products.

Keep it Simple!

Centenarians' lifestyles are simple. The centenarians I have known lead active lives and get plenty of rest. They are dedicated lifelong learners and avid travelers. Enjoy your years and you will have many more years to enjoy!

I hope these suggestions further your longevity goals! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

-Dr. Mao

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Here are some comments on this article:

3. Posted by ricecakecoaster on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, 9:29 am PDT

i have a relative that's almost 99 years old. i think the secret to his longevity is garlic. he ate it regulary raw or cooked.

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16. Posted by Miyen on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:21 am PDT

Dr. Mao, you also have to take genetics into consideration. My maternal grandmother ate steak most of the time, hardly ate vegetables, and enjoyed her cigar every day. She lived to be 96 years old.

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20. Posted by mibrown9932 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:22 am PDT

I just read the other month of a man who turned 100+ who smoked and drinked almost every day of his life and didn't exercise very often. I don't think you can pin point why people live as long as they do. Just enjoy your time while your here, only live once.

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34. Posted by fereal c on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:34 am PDT

My grandfather died at 101. His life was not easy and lived all his life in the city.

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45. Posted by Robert K on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:42 am PDT

This article was interesting and I agree with most of it. Since moving to Thailand 20 years ago aged 44, I look younger now than I did when I got here. I also feel pretty good. I put this down to a healthier diet, Thai traditional massage, warm climate and facing new challenges. But most of all I've benefitted by remaining as active as possible and learning to understand myself.

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53. Posted by grannyg54 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:47 am PDT

My dad was 89, 92 or 94 when he died - (could not read his birth certificate) the last digit of his birth year was: 1903, 05 or 08 - he went with 1905. He drank bourbon every day. Smoked from age 4-54. He exercised moderately but I think his secret was his definite idea of right and wrong. His integrity was impeccable.

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57. Posted by busybee1953 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 6:50 am PDT

My Father just turned 87 a few days ago and he is as sharp as ever. He contributes his excellent mental faculties to his daily ritual of completing five search and find puzzles. He strives to complete each puzzle in ten minutes or less. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and his powers of observation exceed my own of 56 years. He is also extremely active outdoors and looks forward to doing yard and gardening work. He still drives his own car and even chops wood. I find it amazing that he still has his strength and stamina after all of these years. He recently drove from upstate NE NY to Fredricksburg, VA to help his sister of 70 years to pack up and move her belongings back to NE NY. My Dad left at 5am on a Monday and was back home by midnight on Wed. of the same week. There is no way that I would have attempted that feat, but he did it and I am amazed at what he can still accomplish.

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71. Posted by Merm on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:01 am PDT

I lived on Okinawa for six years. I saw some of the centenarians you mention, still productive, still farming. I would see one or two regularly. One rode a bike (and had no problem going uphill). The other would carry a large bundle of some kind of grass, to feed his ox I think. But, the thing I noticed about Okinawa, is that the people seem to eat a lot of pork. In just about every restaurant, it's an ingredient in many main dishes. Maybe it's just a food habit that's developed post-war.

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72. Posted by ldenomme6 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:02 am PDT

I see you have commented that these diets (of centurians) are "meat-free", although they do have high protein. You have neglected to note that the diets also seem to lack sugar and wheat products - but buckwheat instead. Don't you think this might be significant? IE: fast food, donuts, cookies, soda pop.

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74. Posted by Gypsy H on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:04 am PDT

Great advice. My British grandmother lived to be 92 even though she drank wine or sherry...every day, smoked English cigarettes...BUT she ate fish, veggies, walked a lot, daily, loved to go out dancing, sense of humor, ENJOYED life. She was widowed, but had a boyfriend, 70, admitted she was still actively sexual, up to when she died at 92 of pneumonia from a cold winter in England. I am 63, ppl say I look 40. I work out at a fit center, I belly dance, meditate, go to beach, travel, garden, read, write...a lot. Very social. I still work part time, my own cleaning business and wash down RV's, mobile homes...good exercise. Keeping an OPEN MIND also is age reducing benefits. As a Pagan, very deeply involved in nature, cycles of seasons, moon cycles, study all religions, cultures, do a lot of meditation work. I plan to happily live to be 100. I am also in a 4th marriage, much HAPPIER than previous high stress marriages. Sometimes, divorce can HELP a person de-stress, have some freedom, some time to KNOW THEMSELVES. We're also Harley bikers! I appreciate this article. Thanks, Gypsy in Florida

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85. Posted by marvl5 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:16 am PDT

. . . My dad lived into his 90s ... even though he smoked occasionally. He walked about 2 miles a day into his 80s but found after taking a few months off from walking regularly, could only walk a few blocks without becoming winded. Moral of the story : keep exercising regularly and don't take long breaks!

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95. Posted by trueliesjlc on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:25 am PDT

I notice one consistent thing about these long lived people. No fruits and no refined carbs, once again showing that our concentration on fruits and breads isn't helping us.

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118. Posted by SweetThing on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:37 am PDT

Grandma secrete was not to worry. She lived to be 109 yrs old, and she died in her sleep. I know it has something to do with genes, because I am in good health and aging slower. But, my nutrition has been different than grandma natural nutrition from the colonial and victorian times. I have been expose to canned spaghetti, fast food, and pollution from the environment. Still, looks like I will live a long time...

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122. Posted by runt on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:38 am PDT

I am glad for them. I have a lady friend who is almost 96 years old and is sweet as a button. She also is driving which I do not think is safe,but who I am I to say.. She never drank tea or coffee. Only cold drinks. She eats alot of chicken.. She has a great appetite..She denies that she needs help from anyone.. I pray for her and her safety everyday..

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130. Posted by Felix on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:46 am PDT

I agree with the article. My grandfather is 102 years old. He lives near the sierra mountains of Mexico and in a remote little town in Villa Hidalgo. He always eats fresh food with his main diet being corn, chicken, fish, rice and beans. There are no fast food restraunts and the water is not polluted. He gets up at about 530am and walks around town. Stress is not part of his life. I am always humbled and reminded by his life that money is not always everything in this world. Family is the most important above all.

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140. Posted by cclark1798 on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:50 am PDT

My grandmother turns 100 next week. She still lives alone and drives her car. She ran a hot dog stand for 40 years and ate hot dogs and pie. We will be serving hot dogs and pie at her birthday party. Cheers

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152. Posted by Rixey H on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:55 am PDT

I have family members who have lived into their late 90s and the thing they had in common was working on their farms into their very late years and eating food without pesticides. They grew up eating vegetables, fruits, grains, and now and then fish or meat. They went to bed early when the sun went down and arose early with sun-up. They clean air and water. They seemed stronger then the older people of today.

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154. Posted by Kazi on Sun, May 04, 2008, 7:56 am PDT

my grandmother will be 97 in June and all things considering, looks 20 years younger. She has no walking aids, lives independently, wears heels, short dresses, gets her hair done weekly, always dressed up when going out, inclined to have a beer or two (grin), and she volunteers weekly at the local St Vincent de Paul. One time I was at a family barbeque and grizzling about how overdone and burnt everything was (adding in how the charcoal wasn't good for you), my grandmother just said "agh stop worrying about everything and just eat it" lol.

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172. Posted by hari shanker d on Sun, May 04, 2008, 8:05 am PDT

Long life is dependent upon many factors, the most important is freedom from disease. In the Art of Living, we are taught that most diseases begin in the mind. So keeping the mind free is also as important as eating the right foods and exercise.

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219. Posted by D on Sun, May 04, 2008, 8:35 am PDT

Living in Okinawa for 18 years, I know moderation is their key to health. Fried pork, goat, and chicken has been a mainstay of the diet here for hundreds of years. Moderation of these foods is their key to health. The slower island lifestyle, smaller body types, and low stress levels play a major factor to their longevity.

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235. Posted by de on Sun, May 04, 2008, 8:56 am PDT

I really enjoyed the article. I feel that the secret is to never stop doing for yourself. When my grandmother moved to a place where she could no longer just walk to the store, post office, or just to get a bite to eat, she died. She moved to a "better apartment for seniors". The day she moved in she started dying. She lived there for one year before she was unable to do anything for herself. My point is NEVER STOP MOVING OR YOU WILL DIE.

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247. Posted by Poppet on Sun, May 04, 2008, 9:35 am PDT

People need to live their lives...there is a difference between existing and living, and I would have to say that "looking forward" to an old age instead of enjoying the here and now is asinine. Some seem to think that only if you live past, let's say, 80, you then have lived a full life. It is not the years of life that matter, it is the quality and the fulfilling of your life here and now. There is no magical formula of where you don't do this, and you do this instead...we all die when we are supposed to. Enjoy your life, and if you enjoy your life and the people you share it with, then it doesn't matter when you go; you will have lived. I think some people who are trying to find the means to live so long are afraid of death, or hoping that if they live long enough, then there will be some cure to all ills and we can then all live forever. Vain fantasies... Death is only the beginning; and there is nothing to fear in it.

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266. Posted by Myrna C on Sun, May 04, 2008, 10:07 am PDT

The best comment I have read re: being 100+ was from a lady when asked, "to what do you attribute your long life"? answered "when I work, I work hard, when I sit, I sit loose."

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279. Posted by papaya on Sun, May 04, 2008, 11:08 am PDT

My grandma will be 106 years old this November. She lives in a highly polluted big city. However, she is still in great health and looks like in her 80s. Her tricks: open minded, good balanced nutrition and the most important ones she told me: being very generous and kind to others, no ambition on money or power.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Secret To Long Life May Not Be In The Genes

ScienceDaily (May 6, 2008) — A research on the bone health of one of the oldest persons in the world, who recently died at the age of 114, reveals that there were no genetic modifications which could have contributed to this longevity. The research team, directed by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona professor Adolfo Díez Pérez, pointed out a healthy lifestyle, a Mediterranean diet, a temperate climate and regular physical activity as the reasons for his excellent health.

The research team studied the bone mass and analysed the genetics of a man with enviable health who at the time of the study was 113 years old. The research was carried out with four other members of his family: a 101-year-old brother, two daughters aged 81 and 77, and a nephew aged 85, all of them born and still living in a small town of the island of Menorca. The research findings were recently published in the Journal of Gerontology and reported that the man's bones were in excellent conditions: his bone mass was normal, there were no anomalous curvatures and he had never sustained a fracture.

With regard to the genetical analyses, researchers were unsuccessful in finding any mutations in the KLOTHO gene, which is generally related to a good level of mineral density and therefore healthy bones. Neither did they find any mutations in the LRP5 gene, which is associated with longevity. None of the members of the family who participated in the study presented any mutations in this gene.

The results of the research do not rule out the possibility that other genetic mutations could positively influence longevity. However, researchers do point out the fact that the excellent health of this family, and of the 113-year-old man in particular, is probably due to a Mediterranean diet, the temperate climate of the island, a lack of stress and regular physical activity. The article underlines the fact that until the age of 102, the man cycled every day and looked after the family orchard.

This research was directed by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona professor Adolfo Díez Pérez, researcher at the Municipal Institute of Medical Research (IMIM) and doctor at Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, with the participation of IMIM researchers Leonardo Mellibovsky, Pau Lluch and Xavier Nogués, and researchers from the Department of Genetics at the University of Barcelona Mariona Bustamante, Susana Balcells and Daniel Grinberg.

Adapted from materials provided by Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Diet and Mortality Patterns in Japan

(Circulation. 2007;116:II_789.)
© 2007 American Heart Association, Inc.

Population-Based Risks for CHD and Mortality
Abstract 3485: A Japanese Diet and 19-Year Mortality: NIPPON DATA80.
Yasuyuki Nakamura1; Hirotsugu Ueshima2; Takehito Hayakawa3; Yoshikuni Kita4; Robert D Abbott5; Akira Okayama6

1 Kyoto Womens Univ, Kyoto, Japan
2 Tomonori Okamura, Takashi Kadowaki, Shiga Univ of Med Science, Otsu, Japan
3 Fukushima Med Univ, Fukushima, Japan
4 Shiga Univ of Med Science, Otsu, Japan
5 Shiga Univ of Med Science &Univ of Virginia Sch of Medicine, Kyoto, Japan
6 National Cardiovascular Cntr, Suita, Japan


Although dietary patterns are associated with death from several causes, few studies have examined the association between Japanese diet and mortality outcomes.


We analyzed the relationship between a healthy Japanese diet and all-cause and cause-specific mortality using the database from NIPPON DATA80. At baseline in 1980, data on history, physical examinations, and blood biochemical measurements were collected on study participants aged 30 years and over from randomly selected areas in Japan. A nutritional survey was conducted using food-frequency methods. We defined a measure of a healthy Japanese diet based on 7 components. They included egg intake ≤ 2 eggs/week, fish intake ≥ once in 2 days, meat intake ≤ 2 times/week, tsukemono (preserved roots or leaves of seasonal vegetables) intake ≥ once per day, infrequent intake of soup with noodles, use of low salt soy sauce, and occasional drinking. If a dietary component was part of a typical daily diet, it was scored as one and zero otherwise. Thus, the total Japanese diet score ranged from 0 to 7, with 0 being least healthy and 7 being most healthy. Participants were divided into approximate tertiles of dietary scores (0 –2, 3 and 4 –7 scores). After excluding participants with co-morbidities, we followed 9,086 participants (44% men) for 19 years.


There were 1823 all-cause and 654 cardiovascular deaths during the follow-up. With the dietary score group 0 –2 serving as a reference, the Cox multivariate adjusted hazard ratios for groups with score 3 and scores 4 –7 for all-cause mortality were 0.92 (95% confidence intervals: 0.83–1.04) and 0.78 (0.70 – 0.88) (trend P < 0.0001). For cardiovascular mortality they were 0.91 (0.75–1.10) and 0.80 (0.66 – 0.97) (trend P = 0.022).


Adherence to a healthy Japanese diet was associated with an approximate 20% lower rate of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. While Japanese are exceptionally long-lived, placing greater emphasis on the intake of foods that are low in salt could increase longevity in Japan further.

Friday, May 9, 2008

103-Year Old Englishman Lived a Healthy Lifestyle

Cupar's oldest man is 103

Published Date:
08 May 2008
By Liz Rougvie
JAMES Thomson is living proof that a healthy lifestyle is the key to longevity!

For on Sunday he celebrated his 103rd birthday — a milestone he attributes to not smoking or drinking, as well as going out for regular walks.

Sprightly James can still be seen out and about in Cupar on a regular basis enjoying a stroll or sitting in the sun watching the world go by — always smartly dressed with a shirt and tie.

This week he's been busier than usual, with a party at Bathgate Court sheltered housing complex, where he lives, and another at the Age Concern Centre, where he goes for his lunch three days a week.

"That's it for another year," said James afterwards, by now accustomed to the celebrity status that goes with being Cupar's oldest man.

Born in Dirleton, near North Berwick, James moved to Cupar as a young boy and went to Kirkgate and Castlehill schools before leaving to get a job delivering papers for J&G Innes.

He spent a year working with Fishers Laundry before returning to work full-time in the paper shop, where he stayed until 1939.

During the Second World War he joined the Royal Engineers as a truck driver, ferrying prisoners to and from the POW camp at Annsmuir, near Ladybank.

When the war ended, he returned to a job in Cupar repairing buses.

James has remained a bachelor all his life, although he says he 'had his chances'.

He's lived at Bathgate Court for over 11 years, and until very recently was often seen doing his own shopping in the Co-op next door.

Having just acquired an impressive new flat screen TV, he enjoys nothing more than watching football, but goes out most days for a walk.

However he's less than impressed with the world outside, which he says has changed considerably over the years.

He recalled: "My car was my hobby; I used to drive all over Scotland, England and Wales — often hundreds of miles a week.

"But at that time petrol was only 1s/5d a gallon, so you could afford to. Also, the roads weren't nearly so congested and drivers were much more polite!"

James also remembers his youth as being safer than today.

He said: "It was a different world altogether.

"There was drunkenness, but no knives or violence.

"You could leave your door unlocked and go to your bed without any worries."

As far as James is concerned, there's no great mystery to living a long life.

He says: "I have a clean body. I drank beer and smoked when I was young, but gave it up many years ago. I've had a good life."

The full article contains 451 words and appears in n/a newspaper.Page 1 of 1

Last Updated: 08 May 2008 4:32 PM
Source: n/a
Location: Fife

Monday, May 5, 2008

'How to Live to 100'

Copy of this 11-year old article found here:

How to Live to 100
Decrepitude isn't inevitable. New research shows we all have the tools to live longer lives and die faster deaths.
June 30, 1997

By Geoffrey Cowley

At 104, Angeline Strandal doesn't place much stock in doctors. "If they start poking around you," she says, "they'll only make you sick." The Massachusetts centenarian does go in for a physical once in a while, but she hasn't been seriously ill since the time she came down with appendicitis--in 1925. "People ask me what I eat," she says. "I'm a vegetarian, more or less. I never smoked. I don't drink either. That's one of my good qualities. And I keep my bedroom window open 365 days a year." Strandal has outlived 11 siblings and a husband, who died back in 1931, but she still cooks every day except Sunday for her 67-year-old daughter and her 69-year-old son. She also catches a daily mass on TV, roots faithfully for the Boston Red Sox and loves nothing more than a good heavyweight fight. "Every day I ask God to give me one more day," she muses. "And believe it or not, he does."

We baby boomers may soon find ourselves emulating Angeline Strandal, or someone like her, as devoutly as we once did Jim Morrison. We've watched our parents or grandparents die in their 70s--often sick, lonely and helpless--and we're beginning to sense that life should be longer and richer than that. "When the boomers started turning 50, it was like the start of the Oklahoma land rush," says Dan Perry, director of the Washington-based Alliance for Aging Research. Surveys by Perry's organization suggest that today's 50-year-olds are suddenly serious about living to 100, and keen to get there in reasonably good health.

"They don't want to spend any time at all in a nursing home," he says. "The fear of losing independence and the ability to fend for oneself is overwhelming."

Well, it turns out we may have a say in the matter. A growing body of research suggests that chronic illness is not an inevitable consequence of aging, as we've long believed, but more often the result of lifestyle choices that we're perfectly free to reject. "People used to say, 'Who would want to be 100?' " says Dr. Thomas Perls, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and director of the New England Centenarian Study. "Now they're realizing it's an opportunity." So are booksellers and magazine publishers. "Live long, die fast," the dust jackets urge us. "Dare to be 100." Many of us will fall short of that number simply through bad genes or bad luck. And high-tech medicine isn't likely to change the outlook dramatically; drugs and surgery can do only so much to sustain a body once it starts to fail. But there is no question we can lengthen our lives while shortening our deaths. The tools already exist, and they're within virtually everyone's reach.

Life expectancy in the United States has nearly doubled since Angeline Strandal was a kid--from 47 years to 76 years. And though centenarians are still rare, they now constitute the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Their ranks have increased 16-fold over the past six decades--from 3,700 in 1940 to roughly 61,000 today. And the explosion is just getting started. The Census Bureau projects that one in nine baby boomers (9 million of the 80 million people born between 1946 and 1964) will survive into their late 90s, and that one in 26 (or 3 million) will reach 100. "A century ago, the odds of living that long were about one in 500," says Lynn Adler, founder of the National Centenarian Awareness Project and the author of "Centenarians: The Bonus Years." "That's how far we've come." If decrepitude were an inevitable part of aging, these burgeoning numbers would spell trouble. But the evidence suggests that Americans are living better, as well as longer. The disability rate among people older than 65 has fallen steadily since the early 1980s, according to Duke University demographer Kenneth Manton, and a shrinking percentage of seniors are plagued by hypertension, arteriosclerosis and dementia. Moreover, researchers have found that the oldest of the old often enjoy better health than people in their 70s. The 79 centenarians in Perls's New England study have all lived independently through their early 90s, taking an average of just one medication. And when the time comes for these hearty souls to die, they don't linger. In a 1995 study, James Lubitz of the Health Care Financing Administration calculated that medical expenditures for the last two years of life--statistically the most expensive--average $22,600 for people who die at 70, but just $8,300 for those who make it past 100.

These insights have spawned a revolution in the science of aging. "Until recently, there was so much preoccupation with disease that little work was done on the characteristics that permit people to do well," says Dr. John Rowe, the New York geriatrician who heads the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Successful Aging. Over the past decade, Rowe's group and others have published hundreds of studies elucidating the factors that help people glide through their later years with clear minds and strong bodies. The research confirms the old saw that it pays to choose your parents well. But the way we age depends less on who we are than on how we live--what we eat, how much we exercise and how we employ our minds.

The Magic of Exercise

Suppose there was a potion that could keep you strong and trim as you aged, while protecting your heart and bones; improving your mood, sleep and memory; warding off breast and colon cancer, and reducing your overall risk of dying prematurely.

Respectable studies have shown that exercise can have all those benefits--even for people who take it up late in life. Experts now agree that most of the physical decline that older people suffer stems not from age but from simple disuse. When we sit all day, year after year, our bones, muscles and organ systems atrophy. But exercise can preserve and even revive them.

When Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger started tracking the health of 19,000 Harvard and University of Pennsylvania alumni back in the early 1960s, many experts thought vigorous exercise was downright dangerous for people over 50. But by monitoring the volunteers' activity levels and health status over the years, the Stanford epidemiologist turned that wisdom on its head. In a landmark 1986 study, Paffenbarger showed that the participants' death rates fell in direct proportion to the number of calories they burned each week. Those burning 2,000 a week (roughly the number it takes to walk 20 miles) suffered only half the annual mortality of the couch potatoes, thanks mainly to a lower rate of heart disease.

The alumni study wasn't set up to gauge the benefits of any particular exercise regimen, but subsequent studies have shown that different activities bring different rewards. Everyone now agrees that aerobic exercise preserves the heart, lungs and brain. And researchers at Tufts University have recently shown that weight lifting can do as much for the frail elderly as it does for high-school jocks. When Dr. Maria Fiatarone got 10 chronically ill nursing-home residents to lift weights three times a week for two months, the participants' average walking speed nearly tripled, and their balance improved by half. Two had the audacity to throw away their canes.

Miriam Nelson, another Tufts researcher, has since shown how a series of simple strength-training exercises could help keep women from resorting to canes in the first place. She recruited 40 volunteers--all past menopause, none taking estrogen--and split them into two groups. Half continued life as usual, while the other half went to Tufts twice a week to pump iron. Over the course of a year, the women in the control group suffered a predictable loss of bone density, but the weight lifters enjoyed slight increases. They didn't lose weight (that wasn't the goal), but they lost fat, and many ended up measurably stronger than their daughters, who were 30 to 40 years younger. Dorothy Barron, who was 64 when she joined Nelson's experiment, says the experience not only remodeled her body but gave her more energy and confidence than she had had since her youth. Five years later, she still lifts weights--and she has added power walking, horseback riding and white-water rafting to her hobbies. When people ask why she pushes herself so hard, she replies, "I'm too old not to."

Eating to Nourish Long Life

We all know that living on fat, salt and empty calories can have a range of nasty consequences, from obesity and impotence to hypertension and heart disease. Yet we seem to forget that there are other ways to eat, and that people who adopt them stay younger longer. George and Gaynel Couron will never forget that lesson. The Sacramento, Calif., couple gave up eating meat back in the early 1920s, when they became Seventh-day Adventists. They eventually strayed from the church and its dietary edicts, but they returned to both in 1943, when George suffered a heart attack. Today he's 100 years old, and Gaynel is 98. They've been married for 81 years and have 14 kids ranging in age from 58 to 80. They have slowed down a bit (they're not planning any more children), but George still takes great delight in growing and eating his own tomatoes, melons, beets, squash and black-eyed peas. As he puts it, "We're still perking along." No one can say exactly what role food has played in the Courons' good fortune, but the age-reversing effects of a plant-based diet are not in question. In controlled studies, San Francisco cardiologist Dean Ornish has shown that a diet based on low-fat, nutrient-rich foods not only prevents heart disease--the Western world's leading cause of early death--but can help reverse it. And other studies suggest that dietary changes could virtually eliminate the high blood pressure that places 50 million older Americans at high risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.

"Hypertension is not an inevitable part of aging," says Dr. Boyd Eaton, an Atlanta-based radiologist who has written extensively on nutrition and chronic illness. "It's a disease of civilization." You wouldn't know that from watching people age in this country. Hypertension afflicts a third of all Americans in their 50s, half of those in their 60s and more than two thirds of those over 70. But preindustrial people don't follow that pattern. Whether they happen to live in China or Africa, Alaska or the Amazon, people in primitive settings experience no change in blood pressure as they age, and the reason is fairly simple: they don't eat processed foods. Dr. Paul Whelton of Tulane University's School of Public Health has spent the past decade tracking 15,000 indigenous Yi people in southwestern China. As long as they eat a traditional diet--rice, a little meat and a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables--these rural farmers virtually never develop hypertension. But when they migrate to nearby towns, their blood pressure starts to rise with age. "Their genes don't change when they move," Whelton says. "Their diet does."

What makes processed food so harmful? Salt is one key suspect. When you subsist mainly on fresh plant foods--as our ancestors did for roughly 7 million years--you get 10 times more potassium than sodium. That 10-to-one ratio is, by Eaton's reasoning, the one our bodies are designed for. But salt is now showered on foods at every stage of processing and preparation (a 4-ounce tomato contains 9 mg of sodium, 4 ounces of bottled tomato sauce nearly 700 mg), while potassium leaches out. As a result, most of us now consume more salt than potassium. "Modern humans are the only mammals that do that," says Eaton, "and we're the only ones that develop hypertension." Correcting that imbalance takes some effort, but it doesn't require moving to the bush. In fact a recent clinical study suggests that dietary changes can reduce blood pressure as markedly as drug treatment, and can produce results in as little as two months. In the study (known as DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), researchers at several institutions placed volunteers on one of three diets. Those on a low-fat menu that included 10 daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus two servings of calcium-rich dairy products, reduced their systolic and diastolic readings by 5.5 mm and 3.0 mm, respectively. And those suffering from hypertension got reductions of twice that magnitude. "We suspected this was possible," says nutritionist Eva Obarzanek of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the federal agency that sponsored the study. "Now we know the size of the effect."

Researchers have since shown that a simple potassium supplement can bring similar if less dramatic benefits. That's worth knowing, but keep in mind that potassium is just one of countless age fighters found in real food. The antioxidant vitamins in a tomato or a green leaf can help boost immunity and slow the corrosion of aging cell membranes, and the B vitamins may help protect your heart. By eating plants, you also bathe yourself in cancer-fighting phytochemicals, bone-saving calcium and the fiber needed to maintain the colon and modulate blood sugar. Best of all, you can down them by the bushel without getting fat.

Staying Connected and Engaged

Exercise and good food may help keep you going, but successful aging is also a psychological feat. Loneliness, for example, can speed your demise no matter how conscientiously you care for your body. "We go through life surrounded by protective convoys of others," says Robert Kahn, a University of Michigan psychologist who has studied the health effects of companionship. "People who manage to maintain a network of social support do best." One study of elderly heart-attack patients found that those with two or more close associates enjoyed twice the one-year survival rate of those who were completely alone.

Companionship aside, healthy oldsters seem to share a knack for managing stress, a poison that contributes measurably to heart disease, cancer and accidents. Researchers have also linked successful aging to mental stimulation. An idle brain will deteriorate just as surely as an unused leg, notes Dr. Gene Cohen, head of the gerontology center at George Washington University. And just as exercise can prevent muscle atrophy, mental challenges seem to preserve both the mind and the immune system. But what most impresses researchers who study the oldest old is their simple drive and resilience. "People who reach 100 are not quitters," says Adler of the National Centenarian Awareness Project. "They share a remarkable ability to renegotiate life at every turn, to accept the inevitable losses and move on." Merle McEathron knows all about accepting losses. She's 102 today, but she was just 7 when she found her mother dead on the floor at her childhood home in Vincennes, Ind., felled by a heart attack. As the oldest girl in the family, Merle had to raise her baby sister and take over cooking and cleaning for her father and two older brothers ("I stood on a box to reach the range," she recalls). She married at 15, but her man left her at 25, so she started a general store and worked there long enough to put both of her sons through college. The boys were grown by the time World War II came along, but she found other ways to stay busy. She worked as a house mother at the Cadet Club, a military social center, where young airmen took her flying in small warplanes after hours. And when the war ended, she got in her Buick and headed for Arizona.

She was 51 years old by the time she hit Phoenix, but the move brought many adventures, including three more husbands. After dumping one (a dance-hall sax player with a roving eye) and outliving the others, she moved herself into the Eastern Star retirement center to avoid getting lonely. A doctor assured her she would never walk again when she broke her leg four years ago, but she got herself a walker, made her way down to the exercise room and worked the injured limb until she could get around on a cane. Then she threw away the cane. She now walks a mile and a quarter each day, and every September she travels to Indiana for a reunion at the Cadet Club. When she gets there, she climbs over the wing of a restored World War II training plane, crawls into the cockpit behind the pilot and rides that baby into the sky.

With Anne Underwood and Mary Hager
Newsweek 6/30/97 Lifestyle/How to Live to 100

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I emphasized the entire last section because I read this article a long time ago, but I still think about that woman regularly. Screw what the doctor tells you! Such quacks.

Friday, May 2, 2008

LSD Discoverer Dies at 102

Albert Hofmann not only invented LSD, but invented and took a daily dose of Hydergine, a dementia preventative that may reduce mitochondrial damage to cells in the brain.

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about Hofmann a few days ago when I was biking through my beautiful neighborhood, taking in the glory of all the floral colors and every shade of green. I laughed to myself that it was like I was celebrating centenarian Hofmann -- who was still living the last I had read -- by reenacting Bicycle Day. I made a mental note to follow up on him later, though I forgot. As it turns out, that happened to be the day he died.