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The Key to a Long & Happy Life

Living a long life has been a human obsession since before Ponce de Leon’s 16th century search for the Fountain of Youth. While numerous pills, potions and elixirs have been tried and failed, new longevity research reveals how you can extend your life further than you ever thought possible.

Today’s scientific studies offer genuine hope for slowing or even reversing the aging process, allowing people to live to 100 years old and beyond in good health.

The reality is, not everyone ages in a linear fashion as the calendar flips from one year to the next. Instead, a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic elements affect the rate at which a person’s body, mind and skin age.

“Genetic factors play a role in longevity, but not a dominant role—they contribute 25 to 30% to how long we live,” states Jack Guralnik, M.D., professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Other key factors include lifestyle habits, environmental influences and the ongoing strain someone experiences from illness, injuries and psychological stress. Each of these factors has a trickle-down effect on various physiological mechanisms—including chronic inflammation, weight gain, hormonal and metabolic changes, and so on—affecting whether someone ages appropriately or prematurely.

In a recent study involving 1,909 people ages 65 to 90-plus from the Mediterranean islands, researchers examined the factors that seem to contribute to uncommon longevity. Scientists found that regular walking, a Mediterranean diet (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish), mid-day naps and smoking cessation were associated with greater longevity.

Another new study in the Journal of Nutrition found that high levels of polyphenols—antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, coffee and nuts—reduced mortality in older adults by 30%. And resveratrol, the compound found in the skin of red grapes, has long been known to have powerful anti-aging properties that can protect the body from age-related diseases and promote longevity.

Nutrition is an essential element to healthy aging. By eliminating refined sugars and processed foods, you can avoid unhealthy consequences, such as obesity and diabetes.

“Obesity accelerates aging by promoting insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes, increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, contributing to the inflammation and leading to degenerative arthritis and diseases of the lungs,” states David Katz, M.D., at Yale University Prevention Research Center. “If you prevent obesity, you prevent accelerated aging,” he adds.

More tips for a long and healthy life:

1. Don’t retire

2. Move  Getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week can help protect your heart and bones, improve blood flow, tone muscles, reduce inflammation and cancer risk and help prevent diabetes, age-related weight gain and dementia.

3. Sleep 6-8 hours

4. Be less neurotic  When the body continuously pumps out stress hormones (like cortisol), this leads to wear and tear. Manage your stress by slowly incorporating healthier habits into your daily routine, including mindful meditation, time for yourself, saying “no” and making yourself a priority. This is not pampering; this is good health.

5. Remove toxins The more plastics we have in our bodies, the higher the risk for disease. When our bodies contain toxins like plastics, the liver produces an enzyme called GGT in an effort to make glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize toxins. Elevated GGT levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. Avoiding toxins is the best way to live a longer life. Don’t store food in plastics, don’t put plastic in the dishwasher and don’t heat food in plastic in the microwave. If you have elevated GGT levels, you may benefit from intravenous infusions of glutathione. Supplementing with EPA/DHA, vitamin D3 and other supplements specific to your needs can help detoxify your body, increasing your longevity.

6. Stay connected

7. Floss every day

8. Live Blue  The healthiest people in the world, says Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zone, follow these principles:

  • 80% Rule – Stop eating when you are 80% full
  • Plant Power – Eat more veggies and less protein
  • Plan de Vida – Know your life purpose
  • Downshift – Work less, slow down and take vacations
  • Belong – Create a healthy social network
  • Your Tribe – Make yourself and family a priority.

This season, thank your body by leading a healthy lifestyle that will lead you to a longer and happier life!

Dr. Sharon Norling practices Advanced Functional Medicine in Westlake Village. Call 818.707.9355 or visit DrSharonNorling.com.