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You have two choices when pondering how- and whether- you will live a long, healthy life.
You can either apply the latest findings of longevity research to boost your odds, or you can eat what you want, forgo health and wellness habits, and figure it’s mostly genetics anyway. Most of us choose the middle ground. We don’t throw caution to the wind, but we don’t limit our caloric intake and turn into diet-obsessed ascetics either.
If your goal is making it to 100, more power to you. It’s a crapshoot! Only about .004% of the current global population has done it.
These lucky few are not easy to categorize. Some regularly enjoy alcohol, fat or sugar (in moderation). Researchers theorize that daily routines- even seemingly unhealthy ones like eating a dish of ice cream every night- might provide a beneficial stability.
A positive attitude helps them wave off irritants and overcome setbacks. They don’t worry about what they can’t control. And they derive joy from everyday experiences like watering plants or watching clouds cross the sky.
“People who live longer tend to be optimistic and manage their stress well,” said Tom Perls, M.D., a distinguished professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “And optimistic people tend not to be neurotic, where they internalize their stress rather than let go of it.”
Founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, Perls marvels at the resilience of individuals who reach an advanced age. He notes that a surprising number of people who approach age 100 live productively despite serious health ailments.
“About half of them have a history of aging-related disease like heart disease,” Perls said. “Maybe they had a stroke at 85 or have a history of cancer or diabetes. What's remarkable is how they’re still living independently in their mid 90s. Normally, such diseases would carry a higher mortality risk. But, these individuals have a level of resilience that mitigates these diseases.”
Like most longevity experts, he also credits good genes. “Genetics is playing an incredibly strong role at the very oldest ages,” he said.
Perls offers a free online resource, the Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator, to help you assess your odds. The calculator can be found at Livingto100.com. After creating an account, you can answer a few questions, and the results include a life expectancy calculation along with personal feedback and recommendations. An exercise like this can also help you establish necessary financial plans for a long, healthy life!
For decades, we’ve known that good nutrition, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight can extend our lifespan. And it’s no secret that socially engaged folks with an active mind (keep doing those crossword puzzles) and a rosy outlook on life can boost their longevity.
But we don’t always stop to think that longevity requires a good, solid financial plan as well, and lifetime income can sometimes be a key component to plan for.
There are new and exciting fields of study helping us live longer, like one that involves biomarkers of aging. Using various tests and measurements, researchers seek to contrast one’s biological age from their chronological age.
“Different people appear to age at different rates,” said Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle. “But we don’t understand why. So we’re developing biomarkers that are predictive at an individual level. These tools can measure the efficacy of different interventions that might be worth watching” to increase lifespan.
If someone’s biological age is 70 even though their chronological age is 60, for example, medical experts might suggest ways to slow their biological clock. Such interventions can include more exercise, better nutrition or even drugs that target an individual’s predisposition to disease.
Again, actions to sustain longevity are great, but require a financial plan as well. Being informed of things you can do, like how you exercise, what you eat or drink, or what your optimum weight should be is key, but the biological aging process will impact optimal lifestyle changes also.
So do what it takes to be physically and financially healthy for many years to come.
At Summerlin Benefits Consulting, we specialize in financial well-being, no matter how long you live. Helping our clients focus on enjoying their lives without financial stress is a way that we can help people every day.