By Dr. Harold Gunatillake, - FRCS Cosmetic Surgeon
Some may ask why we want to add more years to our lives by following certain man made guidelines. Eddie Jayamanne, the famous comedian of yester year, said it all in a song: “It is better to die tomorrow and make yourself jolly today.”
Some may argue: why live longer and cause suffering to yourself and bring misery to your loved ones? Others would ask: why sacrifice your lifestyle for longevity, when one could be run over by a vehicle accidentally, whilst crossing the road? In spite of all this brave talk, when the time comes to depart, the desire to live a day longer and be with your loved ones, would be the last hope. This article suggests ways and means of changing lifestyles to live longer healthily, if that would be a preferred priority.
In China there is one village where over 100 people are over 100 years old in one town. The Weird Asia News magazine 2006-2007, states that six years ago there were only 83 of such longevity. By the end of last year, 164. Of that number, 140 were women, with the oldest one, surnamed Zhang, 108.
The survey found most of them were in good health, having fought off the ravages of old age by living a simple life, remaining optimistic, having a low fat diet, doing regular exercise and living with their family members in harmony.
These centenarians, besides their ability to resist – perhaps due to good genes – have good health habits. Leonard W. Poon, PhD, Director of the Georgia Centenarians Study at the University of Georgia in Athens, says his centre’s studies show centenarians remained active throughout their lives but smoked, drank, and ate less than other people. Most of these centenarians come from long-lived families whose genes could be an important factor.
After studying more than one hundred centenarians, interviewing them in their homes, scrutinising their family trees, and assessing their physical and mental health, Harvard scientist Thomas Peris, M.D. and Margery Hutter Silva, Ed.D, Director and Associate Director of the New England Centenarian Study, tell us what it’s like to live to 100 or more and what we can learn from people who have done it. These researchers uncovered a new pattern of aging never recognised before, a pattern that may give those surveyed reason to think anew. Contrary to popular perception and until recently the expectation of most geriatricians (people over 100) – currently there are about 60,000 in the U.S. – are a surprisingly active group.
The researchers have observed that age and disease do not go hand in hand. Older does not necessarily mean sicker and feebler. In fact these specialists have noted that most centenarians are able to delay illness to a short period at the very end of life. It is observed that most of the chronic recurrent illnesses and decline are found in those who live up to middle age, whilst most centenarians seem to have found a way to maximise the healthy portion of their very long lives.
In the Japanese island of Okinawa, people lived up to a ripe active age of over ninety, and women seem to outnumber males. The people in Okinawa today seem to have changed from the traditional longevity diet to a more Western-style model. The invasion of fast food- food franchises unfortunately has started to pack the pounds onto the younger generation, so there is now a difference between the life spans of the older people and the young. Traditional Okinawa diet, the main carbohydrate is a healthy sweet potato, whereas white rice now is becoming the dominant carbohydrate, which has more untoward effect on blood sugar and insulin secretion. Processed foods tend to increase the calorie density.
The world’s oldest man, who is celebrating his 112th birthday in southwestern Japan, has said he wants to live ‘indefinitely’. Tomoji Tanabe, who was born in 1895, says avoiding alcohol is the secret of his longevity.
He drinks milk, does not smoke, keeps a diary and reads the newspapers daily.
Guinness World Records declared him the oldest man in January after the death of Emiiano Mercado Del Toro, of Puerto Rico, at 115. Japan is said to have the largest population of centenarians in the world, with some 30,000 citizens aged 100 and over.
Throughout most of the world, women on average, live longer than men. Some researchers say it is estrogen that gives women the longevity edge. This can be questioned because after menopause, the hormonal levels get depleted. Others theorise that menstruation and systems related to childbirth, better equip to rid their bodies of free radicals and toxins.Harvard Health Publication (March/April 2002) states, yet the men who reach their 100th birthday are on the whole, healthier than the women. They are far less like to have dementia or other serious medical problems. Thomas Peris, head of the New England Centenarian Study, calls these men “aging superstars”.
It is now an accepted fact among researchers on longevity, that calorie restriction by eating fewer calories and maintaining adequate nutrition is one way of extending life spans. Since the 1930’s extensive scientific research has shown that calorie restricted diets improve health and extend life spans of nearly every species tested, including worms, spiders, rodents, dogs, cows and monkeys. It is believed that people who carefully adopt a calorie-restricted diet will see similar results, and some researchers believe that would be the only proven life extension method known to modern science.
Genes have been discovered that specifically links Calorie Restriction to longevity. Calorie restriction increases muscle mitochondria in humans. Live, fast, die oldis quite an expression that is being freely used. It is a known observation that restriction of calorie intake slows down heart aging (research done by Luigi Fontana, 17/1/2006).
Lord Buddha 2500 years ago, restricted the calorie intake of priests by restricting night meal to fluids only for health reasons, and to have a clear mind for meditation.
To be continued next week…