We tend to treat aging and disease as if they are an inescapable fact of life. While it is true that aging is inevitable, the pace at which we age – and the way we experience life as we age – are heavily influenced by our habits and lifestyle. By changing our daily reality, we can improve the quality of our lives significantly. And since a better life generally means a longer life, the two go to together like lyrics and music.
Eating for Life
We are all familiar with the cliché that reminds us that we are what we eat. But if you think about it, how could we be anything else? Our cells are built, maintained and replaced from the raw materials we provide for them, and if we consume things that are high in additives and low in nutrients, among other bad effects, our process of aging will be rapidly accelerated.
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are nature’s perfect sources of vitamins and minerals. These foods should be the staples of our diets, making up 70-80% of the calories we eat each and every day. In addition to having everything we need for healthy cell functioning, these food items are loaded with antioxidants. These powerful nutrients sweep the body clean of free radicals, which are pernicious agents of destruction that cause our cells to become damaged through the process of oxidation. Without antioxidants, free radicals that enter the body as a result of poor diet and pollution are free to wreak havoc, causing cells to age prematurely and lowering the body’s resistance to disease.
While adding more good foods to our diet is critically important, eliminating the bad ones is just as vital to good health and longevity. Processed foods make up a disturbingly high percentage of the average modern diet, and what people gain in convenience they lose in nutritional value when they choose to consume these items. Processed foods are low in nutrients, fiber and water, and are high in sugars and salts that stimulate the brain and cause us to overeat. Our cells do not get what they need to thrive and survive from processed foods, which have been stripped of everything that makes food nutritious and healthy.
It is true that moderate exercise – like walking thirty minutes a day – can go a long way towards keeping you healthy. But do not underestimate the value of more strenuous forms of exercise. If there is a sport or physical activity that you really enjoy, dedicating yourself to that sport or activity and getting yourself into top shape can have a lot of benefits that are mental as well as physical. When you have a true passion for something, it really gives you a lot to live for and be excited about. Forms of exercise that can also double as treasured hobbies promote health in a very powerful way.
The mind and the body are inextricably intertwined, and when we are under stress, it has a deleterious effect on our physical health. Reducing stress is a key secret of longevity, and there are a number of ways to do this, including:
- Walking in nature
- Self-hypnosis and meditation
- Listening to soothing music
- Keeping a journal to express thoughts and feelings
- Getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night
- Simplifying your life and not trying to do too much
You Are in Control
In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control released a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine about the connection between lifestyle choices and disease. Using data from a European study of 23,000 Germans, this report looked at the influence on health of four factors: healthy diet, obesity, exercise and smoking. What this study revealed is that those who had positive habits in all four of these areas had an 80% reduced risk of developing a serious, long-term disease in comparison to those who had negative habits in all four. This clearly shows the role our personal choices play in the overall state of our health.
Secrets of longevity are all based on one important principle: The health of our bodies is directly related to the way we to live. When we choose healthy habits over unhealthy ones, we are choosing longevity over its alternative. In the end, we are in control. A long, healthy life can be ours, if we want it bad enough.