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How to Live Longer

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Man has pondered and pined on about the subject of aging for Millennia.  It’s not always pleasant to think about dying but we will all grow older.  Where I grew up in North Alabama, there is a picturesque state park called DeSoto State Park, with waterfalls and nice hiking trails.  Hernando de Soto, the park’s Spanish conquistador namesake was also famous for searching for a reputed fountain of youth in the southern US during his time there in the 1500s.  Though he never found a fountain to cure his inevitable physical decline, as little as 500 years ago when DeSoto and his men were adventuring through the woods of Alabama, most of European civilization still thought such a thing actually existed.
 
Methuselah was the Hebrew man purported by the Bible to have lived for 969 years, though Jewish Biblical apologists explain this to be an incorrect interpretation and say this famous aged one only lived to be 78.  In Hinduism, Bhishma is commonly thought to have lived to an advanced age and is a metaphor for immortality.  Many in the Roman Empire records purportedly lived to be over 100.  Maybe even in the ancient Roman Empire, the slow atmosphere, warm sun, Mediterranean diet, and relaxing evenings sipping the wine of Italy eased the stresses of aging and allowed the Italians to live a bit longer, as they still do now. 
 
Most of us want to live longer.  This is pretty commonly safe to assume unless someone is suffering greatly, which happens, and which I have personally witnessed and is heartbreaking.  I personally would like to live to be 90-95 if I’m relatively healthy and can still be active in my 80s.  Who knows when my time will come to leave this world, but that would be a long life and a great gift.   I have no urge to live forever but 90-95 would be a reasonable goal.
 
A friend recently gave me quite an impressive book called “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger.  It is an impressively cited and exhaustive work on a whole host of health issues which cause problems such as heart disease, cancer, neurological disease, and mental illnesses.  As I read through this 559 page tome, it reminded me how interrelated and causal our small decisions are to our longevity.  Physical fitness and nutrition affect mental health and organ health and the immune system and vice versa.  Small decisions over a lifetime make a HUGE difference.  Dr. Greger is a strong advocate for eating less animal products, and as unpopular as this might be to my readers, I mostly agree.  A plant-based diet has been proven time and time again to result in fewer diseases.
 
That being said, I personally am not planning on not eating meat, but that doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t eat less.
 
Here are some simple suggestions, based on my years of scientific research on the topic, on how to live longer in a scientifically proven way:

  • Eat less.  The strongest way to increase longevity is to actually exist in a slight state of mild starvation throughout your life.  This doesn’t mean you need to feel bad, but it is ok to not stuff yourself.  Train yourself to go without and your stomach will shrink.  Fast to build your self-discipline.  Fasting seems also to “mop-up” problematic cellular damage.

  • Eat a plant-based diet.  This means that you should base you diet around vegetables, fruits, rice, grains, nuts, seeds, and non-animal products.  Long term research has shown this to be the healthiest way to eat and you will have less disease.

  • Limit intake of meat and dairy.  I like meat and dairy as much as the next person, but a palm-size serving a day is really plenty for most people. If you use a protein supplement, opt for a vegetable – based one, although Soy may not be your best option because of its estrogen effects.  You might decide to go vegetarian, which I can respect.

  • Live in community.  I write about this quite a bit, so this should come as no shock.  The places in the world where people live the longest are also the places where people are closest in community.  We, on the other hand in America live in a type of negative community, by where we purposely create walls from each other and reduce all relationships to economic transactions.  There is no longer a sense of communion, driving the individual out of himself, making the inner serviceable to the outer.  Membership has few obligations, only “rights” by which we demand the government and other people do things for us.   A good community asks something of us and demands character.   This is real community. 

  • Seek out the transcendent.   Think about and act on what you will leave behind for your family and community. Meditate and pray and contemplate.

  • Avoid the biggest stressors. Negative, destructive relationships, debt, long commutes, consumerism and status obsession, media, and social isolation. Situations where you have a lot of responsibility but no control, or authority to act are some of the worst.  (See modern day policing or public school teaching or many other types of bureaucratic jobs).

  • Exercise.  30 Minutes per day. Keep it simple.  Stretch. Lift. Walk. Play. Repeat. 

  • Health care.  Have a good doctor, get second opinions, and make sure you get your Vitamin D checked and a flu shot if you are older.

 
If you do these things, there is a good chance you will live a long time.
You can repay me by taking me out for Chinese! Steamed stir fry of course.
 
Sources: How Not To Die, by Michael Gerger, M.D., The Art of Aging, Integrative Medicine by Dr. Andrew Weil
 
Read Next: If You Only Do One Exercise

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