A 101-Year-Old Neurologist Shares His 3 Nonnegotiable Tips For Longevity
What is the secret sauce of longevity?
As 101-year-old neurologist Howard Tucker, M.D., shares on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, the key to living a longer life is quite simple. No special superfoods, trendy treatments, or biohacking tools here; just regular movement, purpose, and a youthful mindset—and a Friday night martini, for good measure. (No lie! Listen to the episode to learn more.)
As we mentioned, Tucker is a still-practicing neurologist—and he credits his work ethic and purpose for his centenarian status. "Retirement remains the enemy of longevity," he shares. "I'm so sure about that." Research backs up his claim, as a 2021 study found that retired participants were more likely to experience cognitive decline than non-retired individuals1.
That's not to say you absolutely must keep your full-time job (well, unless you want to). Tucker emphasizes the sense of purpose that work brings; if you retire, just make sure you don't lose your why.
"If you do retire, [try] meaningful volunteering," he notes. "That's acceptable because it maintains your interests and your vitality." (You could also take a class, learn a new hobby, join a book club, etc.)
And don't think that keeping a job is the secret to longevity. Make sure you actually enjoy your work, Tucker says; otherwise, you likely won't reap the purposeful benefits.
"I had a 42-year-old patient whose boss was such a tyrant that she would drive around where she worked several times before she could brace herself to go in," he recounts. "She had a stroke at 42." That said, it's important to find interest in your work, stay happy, and remain productive.
"I continue to exercise," Tucker says. "I used to run outside, but it's too rough for me now, so I do it on the treadmill. I do 2 to 3 miles a couple of times a week."
We always say the best exercise is the one you'll actually do, but there is something to be said about strength training as well: According to a systematic review3, muscle-strengthening activities can reduce one's mortality risk by 10 to 17%. See here for some trainer-approved exercises to add before or after your walk.
Maintain a youthful mindset
According to Tucker, you really can think yourself younger. "I have several friends who are now gone, who always talked [about being old], even though we were the exact same age, and they died earlier," he explains. "I think I'm going to live forever. I know it's not reality, but I have no fear of dying."
Again, the science is on his side: According to a study measuring 68 healthy adults between 59 and 84 years old, those who "felt younger" actually had the structural characteristics of a younger brain4—they were more likely to score higher on a memory test, and they had more gray matter in their brain, which is associated with better cognitive function.
"I am always planning for the future," Tucker adds. This mindset helps him stay optimistic and gives him purpose, which we know is associated with a longer life span. "I pick friends who are younger than I am," he adds. "I have good friends now in their 70s and 80s, and they keep me young."
We talk a lot about longevity at mindbodygreen, but according to those actually walking the walk, it's the simple lifestyle habits that make the biggest difference. It's a refreshing take, especially in our world of fancy biohacking tools, gadgets, and whatnot. That said, Tucker does follow a specific menu to fuel his body and brain—tune in to the episode to learn more.