Keys To Living A Longer, Happier Life
What is the secret to living a longer, healthier, happier life? A recent article in the AARP Bulletin reviews the answers to this question as provided by Robert Butler, M.D., one of the country’s foremost experts on aging. The 83 year-old Butler is the founding director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. He is a gerontologist, psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His advice is founded on sound scientific research and a keen understanding of longevity. Dr. Butler asserts that research clearly shows that a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in helping people live longer and push back or avoid the onset of chronic illness, lack of mobility, and cognitive decline. Dr. Butler’s latest book, The Longevity Prescription: The 8 Keys to a Long, Healthy Life, serves as a guide to healthy aging designed to assist readers with living longer and better lives. For example, in his book, Dr. Butler prescribes “cognitive calisthenics” to maintain a healthy brain, preserve mental sharpness, and stave-off dementia. He recommends engaging in activities that challenge one’s brain for at least twenty minutes each day, five days a week, gradually increasing the level of challenge over time. He suggests activities such as learning a word a day, reading a book, learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, or pursuing a passion. He also advises increasing human interactions by volunteering, entertaining, or even playing games. Maintaining a healthy brain is just one key to living a longer, happier life. Butler stresses that the other seven keys – nurturing relationships, getting regular sleep, reducing stress, varying social connections, exercising more, eating healthier, and receiving preventative medical care – are just as vital. These suggestions seem like common sense to many, but it’s putting them into practice that can be difficult. Dr. Butler’s book uses easy-to-follow, step-by-step strategies and checklists to assist readers with getting on the path to a healthier lifestyle.
In his interview with the AARP Bulletin, Dr. Butler also offers the following interesting facts on health and longevity:
- Genes account for only about 25% of an individual’s health and longevity, while our environment and personal behaviors account for the rest.
- The life expectancy today of the average 65 year-old man is 81 years. The life expectancy of the average 65 year-old woman is 85 years. More than 17% of 65 year-old men and 31% of 65 year-old women are expected to live to 90 years or more.
- Within species like dogs and mice, small body size tends to extend life span, and shorter people are relatively resistant to most forms of cancer, compared with taller people. Shorter people may be relatively long-lived or at least resistant to certain major classes of disease.
- Resveratrol, the ingredient found in blueberries, peanuts, and in the skin of grapes, may help extend life and is ten times more abundant in red wines than whites.
- Aerobic exercise three times a week can reduce eye pressure – a major risk for glaucoma.
- A thirty minute nap a day may reduce heart disease risk by as much as 30%. Longer naps can interfere with good sleep.
- Old age is now perceived as a “time of continuing vitality.” About 44% of Americans over the age of 65 years describe the present as “the best years of my life.”
Hook Law: KitCat, we’ve heard that pets can provide a great deal of joy to their families. We’ve also heard that pets can also improve the physical well-being of the people in the household as well. Please tell us about it.
KitCat: Sure! Dr. Mehmet Oz recently wrote an article on this subject for Oprah magazine. He says that there is mounting evidence of these improvements. Exposure to pets during infancy may mean less chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema in adulthood. The simple act of petting an animal can help lower blood pressure. A 2009 study found that people who had a cat at some point in their lives were 37 percent less likely to die of a heart attack than those who don’t. People with dogs in their families are more likely to complete the recommended minimum 150 minutes of exercise per week and thus improve their fitness. Pets can also help calm people with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have revealed that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if an animal is present, and the caregivers can feel less burdened as well, especially if the animal is a cat.
If life circumstances prevent someone from having a pet in their home, he or she may want to volunteer with rescues in need of affection. The Cat Corner in Hampton is one example of an agency looking for more volunteers. I hope that I was able to help the clients at Oast & Hook while I was in the office. I have enjoyed writing my column for these past few years, and now it’s time for me to retire from this position. My mom is moving, and my doctor says it’s time for me to take it easy. I hope that all of you have enjoyed learning about animals − I’ve learned a lot too! Thank you for your e-mails and see you down the road! Love, KitCat
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