Today life expectancy in the Western World is greater than it has ever been. It has not been by accident, and there are numerous reasons this has taken place. Some of these are obvious, some not so much. There are, of course, no guarantees. We can find individuals who have abused their bodies and yet live to a ripe old age. Others who do all the “right” things succumb at a relatively early age.
In this article, we won’t touch on the subject of diet. That is a topic for another day. However, if we consider certain simple strategies for the majority of the population, these can enhance longevity:
We know that exercise is important but what we have discovered today is that it is even more critical than previously thought. One can even neutralize a less than ideal diet and weight gain by exercising in our senior years.
A 14-year study reported in the June 2015 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who didn’t exercise had the highest risk of early death. The optimal amount of exercise was found to be 150 minutes a week that included intervals of strenuous activity that elevated the heart rate. This group had a 30% less chance of dying during the study period than the people who don’t exercise.
Other studies have demonstrated that excessive exercise such as marathon running shortens life. So it appears that there is an ideal when it comes to exercise––not too much, not too little.
2. Sexual Orgasm
If you want to be healthier, have more orgasms, especially if you are a man. Numerous studies show this.
In a Welsh study of 1000 men over ten years, it was found that having two or more orgasms a week resulted in half the death rate of men who only had one orgasm a month. In a Swedish study by Dr. Roizen, men who had regular sex were more likely to reach age 70 than those who had infrequent sex.
A 1997 Australian study found that regular sex into our later years decreases the death rate among men by 50% compared to those who had a low sexual frequency.
Sex has a protective effect on the prostate, the cardiovascular system, it reduces stress hormones and has positive psychological effects.
3. Identify A Life Purpose
Numerous studies have demonstrated that life purpose is a critical factor in longevity. The University of Rochester Medical Center followed individuals over a period of 14 years and found that those who identified with a strong life purpose lived on average 12% longer. A Japanese study into Ikigai (a term used to describe a strong life purpose) of 43,000 adults found a similar increase in longevity.
It appears that seeking out a purpose and setting goals is a distinct human instinct; it’s in our DNA. Our ability to define and act on a purpose has resulted in the great achievements that make humans distinct.
After an average of 7.6 years (up to a maximum of almost 19 years), the subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation were 23% less likely to die of any cause during that period, and 30% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease during the same period. Subjects were 49% less likely to die of cancer during the follow-up period.
5. Dental Health
The Journal of Aging Research looked at 5000 individuals over the age of 50. People who brushed their teeth three times daily had a much greater life expectancy than those who only brushed at night. Researchers found that there was a reduction in life expectancy for those who didn’t brush or floss at night.
Other studies have shown that chronic gum disease is linked to increased mortality because the gums may harbor many bugs that affect other areas of the body including the heart. In conjunction with this, tooth loss can shorten life.
It’s important to stay away from drugs as much as possible. Drug use is at epidemic proportions. Never mind the illegal drugs, the legal ones are causing a rise in mortality rates in middle age. Drug overdosage took 43,982 in 2013. Deaths from anti-inflammatory medications alone are 15,000 a year. Just as a comparison, the USA has 20,000 gun deaths a year, while traffic takes 32,000 lives a year.
Unless you need drugs to sustain your life, try and stay away. Look for alternative ways to deal with pain and health conditions that don’t compromise your health.
7. Strong Relationships
Studies at two universities, Brigham Young, and Cincinnati have found that strong relationships whether marital or social connection enhance longevity. The risk of premature death was slightly higher for people cohabiting, and single individuals had an overall higher death rate.
What is interesting is that for seniors who have a pet, there is a dramatic influence on life expectancy. It appears that most of us need love and connection in some form to sustain us in our lives. We cannot underestimate the effect that love has on our psychological and physical health.
Editor’s Note: Dr Adele Thomas, semi-retired medical doctor, and Dr Ely Lazar, retired chiropractor, are on a new mission as the Passionate Retirees. They are dedicated to inspiring the over 50s to live fulfilling and adventurous lives, so that “the twilight years will be the highlight years”. Their book, “Travel Secrets For Seniors” was released in early 2014. With more than 80 years combined of professional experience, their articles, books and workshops cover a range of topics from travel, health, relationships, sexuality and finances for seniors.
“Adele and Ely have always impressed me with their exceptional knowledge, professionalism and positive attitude. Mention their name and the one word that always comes up is respect.” – John Ross, Master Networker