When I share health guidance, I assume everyone wants to live as long and pain-free as possible. If comfortable longevity is our common goal, then making lifestyle adjustments now to increase this chance later makes good sense.
Yet we still do things that sabotage our longevity, like drinking too much alcohol, eating a Western diet, smoking and not exercising, so it occurred to me that maybe not everyone wants to live a long, healthy life. I started thinking deeply about why I believe happy, healthy longevity is a sound and noble pursuit. I hope to convince you to make changes today so that you will be around as long as possible for your benefit and enjoyment as well as that of others.
Why? Because We Can
Baring accidental deaths, we know the leading causes of demise are largely preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top 10 causes of death are:
- Heart disease
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases (COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis)
- Accidents (unintentional injuries, including those that happen in hospitals)
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
- Alzheimer's disease
- Influenza and pneumonia
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis (kidney disease)
- Intentional self-harm (suicide)
Science has demonstrated that these chronic diseases are largely preventable, some even reversible. With this knowledge, anyone wishing to live a long life can. Physicians like Dr. Joel Kahn and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have written about how to prevent heart disease. Dr. Neal Barnard teaches diabetics how to reverse the condition, while Dr. T. Colin Campbell has done extensive research on turning on and off cancer genes.
The Alzheimer's Association has reported that "several conditions known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease — such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's. Some autopsy studies show that as many as 80% of individuals with Alzheimer's disease also have cardiovascular disease."
Following known protocols to prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer also serve well to prevent other lifestyle diseases and common physical complaints of old age.
Why? Because The World Needs Your Wisdom & Artistry
The accumulation of your knowledge is precious. Perhaps you've considerable spiritual, career, or avocational information and skill. Sharing and teaching others, younger or older, in person or online, need never stop.
Your community — neighborhood, town, church, virtual — is enhanced when you volunteer at a nonprofit organization, sing in a choir, or teach others how to speak a foreign language, set up a small business, or write a novel.
Active and engaged seniors are the bedrock of any community. They are wise, value service over recognition, understand life's challenges, and have time-sensitive perspective on life. Those who remain positive into old age possess keys to happiness that can benefit everyone.
Now is the time to plan and prepare for a physically and financially independent second half of life. It is a false assumption to believe that everyone who grows old will become decrepit and dependent on another for care. We can study the Blue Zones to see how seniors continue to work, enjoy life, and contribute purposefully until death.
Why? Because You Get More Time to Get It Right
The top five regrets of the dying are:
- Not having lived an authentic life being uniquely oneself
- Putting in too many long, hard hours at unfulfilling work
- Not having had the courage to express personal feelings to others
- Losing touch with friends
- Not having allowed oneself to be happier
What lights you up? What gives your life a feeling of purpose? With whom do you enjoy spending time? What do you want others to know about you and from you?
Living longer gives us more time to craft a life that will let us die without regret. Now is the time to develop clarity and put into action habits, boundaries, skills, goals and devotion toward a life well lived.
Why? Because You Get To Spend More Time With The People You Love
Our partners, children, grandchildren, pets and friends are irreplaceable joys. Why would we not want to share more time with them? With a passionate mindset and well-managed health, life can be a grand party that you never want to end. Why leave before you have to, especially when you love and are loved?
Because when you're 79, I bet you'll wish for many more good years. The time to prepare for this is now. Aim for a long, healthy life by heeding the guidance of doctors and wellness practitioners who live their longevity message and teach others how to do the same. The information is there. All you have to do is use it, starting today.
Graphic by MBG Creative