Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What Is “Healthy Aging” and How Can It Be Achieved?

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What Is “Healthy Aging” and How Can It Be Achieved?

Retaining true physical youth happens nowhere in nature and would be unnatural. That’s why “anti-aging” is a misconception – “aging” cannot be prevented unless you have access to a working time machine. If you do, all bets are off. Otherwise, realize that fighting against “aging” is a fairly futile practice. Not even the Spanish conquistadors could find the Fountain of Youth. As someone once said, “Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.”

“Healthy aging”, therefore, is one part prevention of functional decline and one part extension of longevity. Thanks to today’s understanding of the science of life, remaining as “youthful” as possible for as many decades as possible, with the fringe benefit of a few extra decades – now that is an achievable goal.

Population-based studies suggest that there are practices that healthy people around the world have implemented which show promise for living longer, healthier lives. In fact, a number of population groups around the world are living the “Healthy Aging” dream right now.

In Okinawa, Japan, over 600 men and women have exceeded a century of life and are still going strong (http://www.okicent.org/study.html). It’s not just a coincidence that Okinawa has higher than average numbers of centenarians; the average life expectancy of the 1.4 million Okinawans is almost 90 years. And they don’t just live longer, they live better longer. Compared to men and women in the US, Okinawans more than 65 years old have about one-quarter the rate of loss of cognitive functioning, half as many hip fractures, one-fifth as much heart disease, half the rate of colon cancer, one-fifth as much breast cancer and only 10% as many cases of prostate cancer. Yet, so far as researchers can determine, there are no relevant “longevity-enhancing” genetic differences between North Americans and Okinawans. Can lifestyle and diet really be that important? You be the judge – going beyond the “outcomes” statistics quoted above, it is known that on average an Okinawan has less than half as many free radicals circulating in his or her blood as has a North American.

To recap: live right, eat right, suffer half as much chronic oxidative stress, and enjoy a ten to twenty-year longer, and much more disease-free, lifespan. Doesn’t that sound motivating?

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Fundamentals of Healthy Aging – What are Okinawans Doing?