Three essentials for a long life
It’s always interesting to have the “How long do you want to live?” discussion among friends. You’ll certainly get different answers from those of different ages. For example, if you are 40 you are likely not thinking as much about longevity as you will when you are 60 – because “the end” seems so far off still. So you may say, “I’d like to check out around 75 or 80 or so, before my physical and mental health decline too much.
But fast forward just a short 20 or so years (and yes, unfortunately it kind of does feel like fast forward), and at the age of 60 you will likely have a very different perspective. Suddenly 75 or 80 doesn’t seem too far off, and you will be looking to get as many more years out of life as you can. It is not many among us that truly want to go out any earlier than we absolutely have to.
OK, that was a bit of a morbid intro, but the point has been made. Most of us will, ultimately, want to live as long as we can, and have a “quality life” as well. So how do we do this? Well, there are some obvious and not-so-obvious considerations. In this article I want to talk about three essentials.
Eating right (nay, perfectly)
If you can do nothing else to take care of your health – meaning if you cannot reduce those long working hours, if you cannot make it to the gym, if you just can’t get enough sleep – well, then, you can at least eat right. Or avoid eating wrong. However you choose to phrase it, it is the same thing.
Let’s forget about the word “diet.” At least in the sense that most people have come to use it – as in “a relatively short-term change in eating habits for the sake of losing weight.” I’m sorry to say, but that is nonsense.
Eating for a “long life” is “lifestyle,” not “diet.” And it is all about avoiding grains and sugars and chemicals – and all the other bad things out there – and sticking to natural foods as much as you can. One way we reference this type of eating is the “Paleo Diet”. Whatever we choose to call it, though, the key point is that there is a right way to eat and a wrong way to eat – and the timeframe for that is every day for a lifetime.
Generally speaking, the right way means eating natural, whole foods such as meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, and healthy oils. The wrong way pretty much means eating anything outside of these groups.
Why? Those nasty grains and sugars trigger a process in our bodies known as silent inflammation, which in turn leads to the main non-communicable diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, autoimmune, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. We can group these illnesses under the “cardiometabolic disease” category, which is the number one killer in our world today. Our poor nutritional habits are responsible for about 90% of the problem.
The right emotional balance
A healthy emotional state is needed for a healthy body. Studies have shown that happier people live longer, whereas those with a higher unhappiness level tend not to live as long.
The right emotional balance starts with a realistic approach to what it means to be human. Let’s face it, life is a major emotional struggle and will always be that way. Those hormones raging through our bodies let us experience tremendous joy, but also the full range of negative emotions that are part and parcel of daily life. And yes, those negative emotions can take a major toll on our mental and physical health.
So what is a realistic approach to managing our emotions? It is about controlling what you can. For example, a good social network is a key foundation for general emotional well being, and having a good social network has been linked to a longer lifespan.
You will also want to nurture your most personal relationships. How simple this advice is, yet how few of us are actually doing this. What does it mean? Cherish and feed the relationships you share with your partner and your parents and your children and your siblings and all of your closest loved ones. Studies have linked love and intimacy to a significantly longer – and of course a happier – life, even helping to reduce the risk of diseases including cardiovascular illnesses and cancer.
There is much more you can do here. Try and find work you enjoy and do continue working into your old age; keep your brain active throughout all your years by constantly studying and learning new things (study languages or sign up for an online university course); meditate; avoid chemical substances that will affect your psychological state; and so on.
Adopt a preventive approach to your health management
Prevention really is the best medicine. And so the final piece of advice I have for you is to get regular health checkups. Whether you live a healthy life or not – or think you do – there is only one way to find out what is going on inside of you.
While the traditional annual physical has served us for decades now, more modern programs exist that will give us a better picture of what is going on in our bodies. I like to carry out tests such as CR-P, fasting insulin, HbA1c, homocysteine, MCG (electrocardiogram), intima media thickness, and the EBCT heart scan, to name a few. These tests give me the information I need to diagnose your cardiometabolic risk and see not only where you are today, but where you are heading.
Do extensive testing once every year or no less than once every two years, and don’t be afraid of what you will find out. Given advancements in medical science, there is so much that can be done to halt and reverse even the most serious of illnesses nowadays – but it is important to detect this at the earliest stage possible.
Keeping the best possible mental and physical health is your number one priority in life. There is absolutely nothing that has a higher importance than your health, because without it you are unable to be what you need to be for yourself and your loved ones.
So while no one knows just how many years they are going to get, what I do know is that every one of my clients is individually responsible for putting the odds in their favour. Focus on living well today – now. That is the best you can do.
Graham Simpson, MD is Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Intelligent Health, a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah. Dubai. He graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine. As a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) Dr Simpson is also a licensed homeopath.