Researchers all over the world are
trying to identify the causes of aging.
While numerous factors have been identified to be related to
aging - from telomeres to diet, from oxidants to hormones and from social life styles to psychological dispositions -
no consistent, undisputed theory has emerged that would explain the process
in its totality. Some research seems to indicate that low
levels of the enzyme telomerase are associated with progressive
erosion of telomeres, which may then contribute to tissue
degeneration and functional decline. There might be progress in
the future with therapies that restore levels of telomerase to
pre-aging levels - without causing caner (which apparently also
use telomerase to keep alive).
But aging is a multi-faceted process: it involves
all parts of the body, the brain and the mind. People can age in
good physical health, but suffer from depression or become
suborn and cranky. Others may be physically frail, but
strong-willed, alert and determined to live each day of their
life with utmost intensity. Aging, obviously, is a social,
biological, and mental process. Below are fourteen suggestions that may help you to live a longer, healthier life.
More people die prematurely from smoking than from any
other cause of death. But even if smoking would not shorten your life span, it will degrade your health and lower the quality of your
life. If you don't believe this I cannot help
Reduce your weight, if you have a
body-mass index above 24. Especially, reduce the fat around your
waist. Recent research indicates that a smaller waist may be more
important than a lower body-mass index. Obesity is a primary cause of heart
disease. If you want to get a stroke or heart attack just keep
on munching those cheeseburgers. Heart disease and cancer, the
first and second leading cause of death among males and females
in the USA have a strong relation to bad diet and overweight (as
well as lack of exercise).
Stop taking (hard) drugs or
drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. In some countries,
alcohol is the number one killer. Life expectancy in
Russia, for instance, is many years lower for men than for
women, primarily because of drinking. Taking drugs, such as
cocaine and heroin, can make you reckless and get you into
high-risk sexual behavior: A growing proportion of people with
HIV/AIDS are IV drug users.
USA, 2006: 10 leading
causes of death in males
USA, 2006: 10 leading
causes of death in females
Source: Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011
Exercise. Use every opportunity
to exercise your body in daily life. Get out of your car
whenever you can. Rent an apartment in a house without
elevator. Forget about excessive sports! Hiking vigorously around the block on a regular basis is better than running marathons. You
can also join a dancing club or gymnastics group. This also increases your social contacts.
Eat healthy. Eat fruits,
vegetables, roots and tubers, beans, lentils, fish and nuts and reduce the consumption of (red) meat. Forget those
stupid vitamin "supplements". If you don't have a serious health
problem, you don't need all those pills. Just eat a diverse,
An old man from
Tajikistan. 25 September 2006
Steve Evans from India and US
Old woman feeding
birds in Kazimierz, the old Jewish district in
Krakow, Poland. 30 April 2007
Christopher Walker from Krakow, Poland
Get married and have children.
Humans are social primates. We need contact to
other human beings. Keeping someone isolated for a long time
from other human beings is a form of torture. Widowers and
singles usually have a higher mortality than married men and
women. By the way - in 2006, suicide was the seventh leading cause of death
among men in the United States.
Work hard -but don't
overdo it. Working hard and loving what you do for a job is good for your health! It is nonsense
that you could live longer by just hanging around on a
beach. Nothing is more devastating to mental and physical health than
idle boredom and inactivity. However, what might kill you
prematurely is permanent stress or constant 14-hour work days. The US is one of those countries with protestant work ethics where
people believe they would be more productive if they spend long hours in the office and have just 1 week annual vacation. This is
nothing but stupid self-exploitation, which is the hallmark of America's "stone-age capitalism"! It's much better
to work just 8 hours highly concentrated, than 12 hours almost
falling asleep due to exhaustion. Many European countries have much shorter daily working
hours and much, much longer vacations - yet these countries
have the same or even higher labor productivity and a higher quality of life (and, by the way, often higher life expectancy).
Believe in something (god,
your family, science, helping others, creating art, making money). People who have a purpose in life live longer.
high-risk hobbies. If you are an adrenaline junky chances are
high that you will get yourself badly hurt or killed earlier in
life. In 2006, unintentional injuries (car accidents, etc.) have
been the third leading cause of death among males in the USA and
the sixth leading cause of death among females.
Learn how to drivedefensively and smartly.
You can shorten your life significantly by reckless driving. I am
not talking about car racing! Just the everyday commute can be
more or less dangerous depending on how you drive your car. Insurance companies are
acutely aware of those clients who are in car accidents again
and again while others are driving on a daily basis for forty or more years
and never have a single accident. Always wear a seat belt! Driving without a seatbelt is
not cool but stupid.
parents and your sex - just kidding! There can be no doubt that longevity is
at least partly genetically determined. If both of your
parents have died before age 50 you should probably increase the
frequency of check-ups with your physician. There is also no question that (in the developed world) women on average (still) live
significantly longer than men.
Have fun. Your body needs to recharge. Frequent
laughing ventilates your lungs and produces all kinds of
beneficial hormones. There is research that links optimism and positive thinking to longevity. A recent longitudinal study in England
apparently found evidence that positive feelings increase life expectancy.
One of the most surprising findings in recent years is that time spent with friends has a huge impact on ageing well. Apparently, the
immune systems of people with lots of friends simply works better. Social interaction also keeps your brain alert.
No one can escape the process of ageing. But there are huge differences among older people. Some
remain alert, optimistic, friendly, active and happy till the day of their death. Others descent into depression, chronic disease, or
aggressive grouchiness. While some of these differences may be result of processes we cannot change, others are clearly the result of
life-style choices. We can do a lot ourselves to age healthier and happier.