Living Longer and Better

Dr. Steve Mason

“We make some of our greatest gains when we see old things in new ways.”

Contact Dr. Mason by email at

Living Longer and Better

People today are living longer than ever before in history. True or False?

Actually it’s both true and false. At the start of the 20th century, the average American had a life span of roughly 47 years. Today, at the start of the 21st century, it’s approaching 80.

That may seem clear cut but it isn’t. One hundred plus years ago, babies were born into a messy world with germs and hazards at every turn. Something like 50% of them didn’t survive beyond the first few years of life. A woman having half a dozen children might see half of them succumbing to infection and disease prior to age five. This is what brought the average down. Of those who survived the rigors of daily existence, they might expect to live to the Biblical three score and ten. Just check the ages of the Founding Fathers.

What made all the difference were simple things that included covered sewers, personal hygiene, clean water, adequate nutrition, etc. That said, is there anything that you can do today to live longer and better?

Yale University studied a group of almost 5,000, 70-year-olds who carried a gene variant linked to dementia. Those with nothing more than a Positive Attitude turned out to be 50% less likely to develop the disorder. And this was not a unique finding. More and more, it seems that little changes can make big differences.

Take exercise. An hour at the gym 3 times a week is nice but a daily walk for 15 minutes can reduce the risk of early death by 22%. In other words, just getting out and moving around can (according to researchers at McMaster University) result in improved fitness, health and balance which will significantly reduce the risk of a fatal fall.

When it comes to diet, don’t believe all the hype. There is no Fountain of Youth miracle food. Fruits and vegetables are healthful but the bottom line seems to be Variety. And don’t skip breakfast. Studies at Iowa State University found that centenarians rarely missed their first meal of the day. Interestingly enough, the regular routine associated with it seems to be just as important as the meal itself. Just keep it to a reasonable size as you emphasize moderation in all things.

Speaking of moderation, a daily drink (red wine especially) seems to contribute to a longer, happier life by reducing stress. But remember moderation. It’s an alcoholic drink not an alcoholic orgy.

And speaking of orgies, the British Medical Journal reported that men between the ages of 45 and 59 who had twice as much sex as a control group, were half as likely to die prematurely.

Look At It This Way

An anti-aging pill is on the horizon. True or False?

The answer is true but the question is when?

The journal SCIENCE recently reported on promising research at the Harvard Medical School while NATURE did a feature on another group that already has a supplement. A director of the Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at MIT said they’re closing in on ‘healthier for longer’.

But while healthier for longer may be possible, living better is still up to you.

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