Dr. Roger Landry, a preventative medicine physician, has recently published a book on the subject of successful ageing. The book is titled “Live Long, Die Short” (Greenleaf Book Group, 2014). Let’s discuss five of his 10 tips to build and maintain a lifestyle for resilience.
Tip No 1 – Use it or Lose It
This is a powerful phrase. You might remember watching the splashdown of space missions in the 1960s when astronauts were taken from their floating capsules and had to be carried on a stretcher from rescue helicopters. Prior to the missions, these astronauts were athletes in great shape, yet they couldn’t walk when back on Earth. NASA determined that long exposure to zero gravity — a weightless environment — was responsible. A similar situation can easily occur with extended bed rest. When we don’t use physical, mental and even social skills, those skills decline and, over time, we have difficulty using them.
Tip No 2 – Keep Moving
Sedentary living has been referred to as the “silent enemy,” increasing the likelihood of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis. These are just a few of the 23 conditions that Landry mentions. A sedentary lifestyle, one where we don’t move often — sitting in the front of the computer, in our car, on the sofa watching TV — is considered a threat to the lives of people in the U.S. and the world. Movement is important in preventing falls and if one falls, a lifestyle of physical activity can prevent breaking a bone. We all know people who have been “movers” yet still have suffered from one or more of these diseases so there are no guarantees, only the opportunity to increase the likelihood for health and longevity. According to Landry, 35 to 40 minutes of moving a day can fit the bill.
Tip No 3 – Challenge your brain
Here’s a term that might be new to you: neuroplasticity. It refers to the brain’s capacity to change and rewire in response to being stimulated through experience. Learning something new is part of that experience. An interesting study of nuns in Minnesota calls attention to the role of lifestyle. During their lifetime, the nuns showed no symptoms of dementia, confusion or significant memory loss. Yet autopsies revealed that many had signs of Alzheimer’s disease with tangles of neurons and plaques of beta amyloid. Why were they symptom free? Researchers concluded that regular physical and mental activity protected the nuns from dementia symptoms even though the disease was present.
Tip No 4 – Stay connected
Most of the time humans have been on Earth, they have walked with others. Those who didn’t connect did not survive. Being social might just be part of our inherited DNA. According to Landry, those who are disconnected are between two and five times as likely to die from all causes compared to those with close ties to family, friends and community. The question is, why? It might be that social networks provide resources such as money, access to care and transportation that could reduce stress. Just being with healthy people might influence one’s own behaviours. Some research has shown that being isolated depresses the immune response, making one more vulnerable to illnesses. So being connected might just boost our immune system.
Tip No 5 – Lower your risks
Here are two prevailing attitudes toward risk and disease. The first is the belief that illness and disease just happen and have nothing to do with how we live. How many times have we heard of the 98-year-old man who smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, drank a half bottle of scotch and never exercised? The second is the thought, “Well, we all have to die of something, so why bother?” Neither approach serves us well. Landry identifies two risk factors over which we have influence: stress and nutrition. Stress has been documented as lowering the immune system; nutrition involves avoiding obesity and “fueling the engine of health and successful ageing” writes Landry.
Article by: Helen Dennis
Specialist in Ageing, Employment & The New Retirement
Reprint from the L.A. Daily News