for the Secret to Longevity
by Josh Day
fast. Die Young. Leave a good looking corpse.
all heard variants of that famous phrase. The idea and mentality
of "living fast" -- damn the torpedos, damn moderation,
you only live once -- and dying at the pinnacle of your life before
you even take the first step downhill was popularized by the European
romantic poets of the late seventeenth century.
was one of the literary whiplashes to the enlightenment, turning
its back on sterile reason and embracing nature, beauty, and the
ethereal. Like the reactionary and degenerate Beat generation two
hundred years later, the romantic poets lived a "fast"
lifestyle which they had no qualms about flaunting to the world.
The Green Fairy, or absinthe, the hallucinogenic alcoholic beverage
made from wormwood which remains banned in the United States to
this day, was popularized by the romantic poets. As you can imagine,
living life in the fast lane involved a lot of drugs, a lot of sex,
and a whole lot of rock and roll.
life without any boundaries clearly has one glaring side effect:
a premature death. If you do it right and go fully unhindered, you're
not going to live to see gray hair in the mirror. To the romantics,
this was a good thing, a passionate thing, even a noble thing. Why
live to a boring old age when you can go out young, be remembered
as a youth, and "leave a good looking corpse?"
or bad, this outlook is still prevalent today, especially among
many celebrities. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison were
good examples from the self-indulgent 60's. Unlike their contemporaries
(many of whom still live today), the three J's died at the zenith
of their musical careers. They never saw their popularity dwindle
and they never lost hold of their talents simply because they died
before the pendulum began to swing back on them, as it inevitably
does to us all.
it's foolish or noble, getting snuffed out in your late twenties
or thirties isn't the most pragmatic thing you can do with your
life. When Captain Picard and Commander Riker stood on the destroyed
bridge of the crashed Enterprise D, they shared the following interchange:
once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our
lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with
us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because
it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important
as how we've lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal."
for yourself, sir. I plan to live forever."
we don't yet have the capacity to live indefinitely, relative longevity
is something many of us will enjoy. While many of us will surpass
the average world lifespan of 66, a very tiny few will perhaps stick
around for as long as 110 years.
to (or over) 100 was not a tenet of the romantic poets, nor is it
of modern rock and roll artists, unless your name is Mick Jagger.
longevity is something most of us strive for. And who hasn't wondered
if there's a secret to living past a century? Many have sought a
motif, a pattern of diet or attitude, in a centenarian's lifestyle
that may provide a clue as to why they live so long.
examine some famous supercentenarians.
Louise Calment was the longest living person in recorded history,
having died at the age of 122 years and 164 days. Wikipedia states
Calment's remarkable health presaged her later record. At age
85, she took up fencing. At 100, she was still riding a bicycle.
Jeanne lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday,
when her cooking caused an accidental fire in her apartment and
it was decided that she needed to be moved to a nursing home.
However, Jeanne was still in good shape, and was able to walk
until a fall at age 114 years and 11 months.
survived a hip operation in January 1990 to become the oldest
verified surgery patient. Although she needed to use a wheelchair
afterward, Jeanne remained talkative and received frequent visitors
until her 122nd birthday, at which time it was finally decided
that her health status had declined and warranted privacy. Indeed,
it was said by Jean-Marie Robine that this 'allowed her to die,'
because the attention had kept her going. Jeanne Calment died
five months later.
also had a brother who reached 97, a father who reached 93, and
a mother who reached 86.
DeRemer Knauss lived to 117 and died in 1999, nearly one day
away from the millennial turn into 2000. Wikipedia reports:
1995, when asked if she enjoyed her long life, Knauss said matter-of-factly:
"I enjoy it because I have my health and I can do things."
Her passions were said to be watching golf on television, doing
needlepoint, and nibbling on milk chocolate turtles, cashews,
and potato chips.
was an elegant lady and worthy of all the honor and adulation
she had received," said Joseph Hess, an Administrator of
the Phoebe-Devitt Homes Foundation facility where Knauss died
quietly in her room. Officials said that, to their knowledge,
she had not been ill.
enough, the woman who held the record for the oldest person alive
before her was a life-long vegetarian.
Winnefred Bertrand died at 115. She never married, and upon
her death her nephew described her as "tough, feisty and self-sufficient."
Mortensen was known as the world's oldest man for a time at
the age of 115. Professor John R. Wilmoth, a longevity researcher,
things I remember most about Chris are his love of cigars, his
steady and practical approach to life, his strong singing voice
even in his final years, his bitter memories of a wife whose name
he had almost forgotten, and above all, his sense of humor.
knew he was the oldest man in the world, and he was proud of that
fact. When Jeanne Calment died at the age of 122 during August
of last year, less than two weeks before Chris 115 birthday,
it appeared for a few days that Chris might be crowned the oldest
person in the world. In any case, he wanted that distinction.
When they told him, just two days before his birthday, that there
was a woman in Canada who was (verifiably) about 2 years older
than him, he said, "They did that just to ruin my party!"
have been asked many times about the secret to Chris long
life. There is no easy answer. In many ways, Chris broke the mold.
We know that smoking tobacco reduces ones chance of living
long, but Chris loved cigars and probably smoked a few per week
from the time he was 20 years old until his death.
single men arent supposed to live as long as married men,
but Chris was single for almost all of his life (he was probably
married for less than 10 years). Chris also had few of the social
and economic advantages that may contribute to long life and good
health. He had no fancy college degrees or high-status jobs. He
worked as a tailor, as a milkman, and in a factory. He was never
rich, but in the end he was famous. He led a simple, somewhat
solitary life. No one could have expected that this man would
become one of the worlds oldest. (Wilmoth)
Mercado del Toro made it to 114. Once again, here is Wikipedia:
credited his longevity to funche, a boiled corn, codfish and milk
cream-like dish which he ate every day as a habit. Mercado also
claimed that his sense of humor was probably responsible for his
long life, and he would tell jokes and humorous anecdotes almost
to the end of his days.
we come to the inventor of modern-day flash-fried ramen noodles,
Momofuku Ando, who died at 96 years. Unlike many of the 110
plus-year old people listed above who died blind or nearly blind
in nursing homes, Ando was active until the week he died.
know ramen noodles aren't the best prescription for long lasting
health, yet Ando claimed to have eaten a pack of chicken ramen every
states: "Ando claimed that the secrets of his health were playing
golf and eating Chikin Ramen almost everyday. He was said to have
eaten Ramen until the day before he died."
golf and eating chicken ramen every day? And golf isn't even a strenuous
sport, especially when you have a caddy and a golf cart to ride
you can see, there are very few discernible patterns for super longevity.
Speaking factually, what we do know is that genes play a large role
in longevity and that universally women live longer than men. But
the short life summaries above clearly show the amazing range of
diet, lifestyle, and attitudes among the six people listed.
it's impossible to definitely catalogue factors in longevity, several
elements repeat in many supercentenarian lives.
a good sense of humor throughout life. Many people over
the age of a hundred claim their "sense of humor" as
a key factor in living so long. Many of these people continue
to tell jokes and funny stories until the end, some even still
joking before the day they died.
self sufficient. The overwhelming majority of supercentenarians
I researched lived on their own past their 90s, some even beyond
100. A few even continued to mow their own lawns, as well as do
their own shopping and maintaining an acute mental state on par
with people forty years their junior.
tenets of the "Type B" personality. While stubbornness
is a factor among many supercentenarians, having the ability to
go with the flow and not dwell on negativity while "loving
life," as many supercentenarians have put it, is just
as important. Letting stress skip off you like beads of water
from a high pressure hose striking a puddle keeps the mind young
and the body limber and flexible.
fish and other seafoods on a daily or semi-daily basis. Fish
and many seafoods are rich in the highly nutritious and critical
Omega 3 fatty acid. This form of Omega-3 cannot be found in plant
matter and other substitutes. Eating fish regularly is a common
trait among many supercentenarians. Unfortunately, our American
culture is rife with a mercury hysteria right now, which is largely
bogus, and many people are cutting fish out of their diet.
a hobby and staying active. Having a hobby or a passion is
like a lifeline, keeping you rooted in this world and alert. Gardening,
quilting, fiber arts, fishing or fish keeping, or collecting various
items are all good examples.
While the romantic poets scoffed at moderation, many supercentenarians
employed moderation throughout their lives. Too much of any one
thing is usually a bad thing, and too many bad things stack your
odds against a long life. So pass on the keg stands, absinthe,
and smoking and try to do all things in moderation.
come to my own conclusions about living 100 years or more, and I'd
like to share my opinions with you below, in order of what I believe
to be the most critical and descending from there:
medical intervention unless absolutely necessary and do not blindly
trust medical science. While many, many people equate so-called
modern long life to "medical science," the fact is scores
of us are dying from chemotherapy, excessive and unnecessary surgeries,
misdiagnosis, and secondary infections picked up in hospitals.
You can read
the numbers yourself and draw your own conclusions.
compromise your immune system with questionable vaccinations.
Unfortunately, for most of us, this is already too late. However,
as Americans, we do have the power to decide what is injected
into our children and what is not. Click
here if you're scared of mercury in fish and learn what was
injected into millions of children in the form of a "vaccine."
your drug habits. And I'm not talking about weed, meth, or coke.
I'm talking Vioxx, Prilosec, and all the other pharmaceutical
nostrums that're pushed on TV more than liquor, beer, or tobacco
ever was in the history of the United States. We may still be
fighting the "war on drugs," but the irony is jugular-deep
because we're the most medicated and hyped-up society on Earth.
life in moderation. Do not indulge too much in anything. Yes,
throwing moderation to the wind may be trendy and the romantic
poets are still famous, but remember how Jimi, Janis, and Jim
went out: choking on his own vomit in bed, dying in a hotel room
from whiskey and heroin, and dying in a Paris bath tub with dried
blood on his mouth and nose.
our day of highly processed foods and environmental poisons, eating
plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting sunlight and natural
vitamin D, and avoiding junk food will highly contribute to the
number of years built into your genetic heritage.
your own life your own way, and don't let anyone ever tell you
differently. Do your own homework and decide things for yourself,
and don't let others do this for you. This includes doctors, health
authorities, preachers, and so-called religious leaders.
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