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Longevity: How to affect it

The secret to longevity lies in activity − whether it is physical activity, mental activity or spiritual activity. Centenarian lifestyles have been studied and are shown to be simple with plenty of activity and rest. The studies have revealed that they are often avid lifelong learners, travelers and have developed good habits for health. The habits have to be cultivated and then form beneficial patterns for health and longevity. The following list is from studies that have been assimilated on centenarians in Asia, Europe and North America:

  • Long walks − Studies have shown that walking at least thirty minutes daily will reduce risk of stroke, heart disease and raise levels of good cholesterol.
  • Time to exercise − Studies are revealing that daily habits can be altered to increase your activity level, helping your health. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, park the car at the far end of the parking lot and walk, cut the lawn, etc.
  • Pace your exercise and activities − Starting a new exercise program and doing it too long or too strenuously is not healthy. Whenever you start, pace yourself and if you feel strain or pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or extreme tiredness − stop! Learn to pace by picking a pace or level that works and build up gradually.
  • Make your activity fun − Find a type of activity that is enjoyable. Whether it is dancing, rollerblading, golfing or riding your bike. When you like what you do, you are more likely to continue doing it.
  • Bicycling − Bicycling for 60 minutes, three times a week, over a 10 week period, showed a drop in blood pressure, a drop in incidence of stroke, heart disease and kidney problems.
  • Undo your indulgences − Studies have shown that activity for a period of an hour can undo the bad effects of an ice cream sundae. So next time you want to indulge, plan activities after the indulgence to counteract it.
  • Protect the joints − Water exercise has been shown to protect the joints from further damage. Swimming, water exercise and aqua jogging are commonly used means to help with joint damage especially to the hips and knees. Water cushions the joint and provides resistance for cardiovascular workout.
  • Gardening increases life span − Studies of centenarians have consistently shown that gardening is a common hobby among them. Gardening strengthens the muscles, cultivates patience and brings happiness and joy to the individual. A recent study revealed a decrease incidence of heart disease and osteoporosis in gardeners versus non−gardeners.
  • Relaxation − Find a type of relaxation that is enjoyable and beneficial. A recent study of tai chi practitioners revealed lower blood pressure, delayed development of osteoporosis, decreased anxiety, improved sleep, increased mobility and balance, and better circulation.
  • Massage − Although massage is often looked at as a luxury, it has healing benefits. Studies have shown a boost in immunity, increased relaxation response, improved circulation of both blood and lymph, and improved sleep.
  • Acupressure − The practice of applying firm, steady finger pressure against points on the body that correspond to precise areas of the body. It has been shown to improve immune function and prevent colds, flu and infections. A recent study in Australia showed that when it is practiced regularly, the individuals had decrease incidence of cancer, infections and degenerative illnesses.
  • Music − In recent years, studies have shown that slow, soothing music has enhanced memory, concentration and reasoning skills, boosted the immune system, lowered blood pressure, relaxed muscle tension, elevated mood and regulated stress hormones.
  • Sleep − Studies from all over the world have shown that eight hours of sleep are vital for health and longevity. Lack of adequate sleep has hastened memory loss, increased incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Eight hours of sleep have been shown as the ideal sleep time for maintaining good health and long life.
  • Use your brain − Dwindling memory, concentration and slow response time is a result of decreased blood flow to the brain leading to loss of brain cells. Use proper nutrition, exercise and mental stimulation to prevent decline of cognitive factors. Read and continue to learn, find new hobbies or cultivate the hobbies you already have, do brain stimulating puzzles, but keep the brain functioning.

  • Dr. Aulds completed his medical education at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA and his Internship and Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans, LA.

    Dr. Aulds has been an active member of the Huntsville Hospital Medical Staff since 1980.