Seven Secrets of Longevity
By Joel Fuhrman, M.D., www.drfuhrman.com
Powerful Steps You Can Take To Improve Your Health And Extend Your Life!
A careful study of long-lived people and long-lived populations around the world— combined with a comprehensive understanding of animal experiments effecting animal life span— makes it clear that decisive action must be taken if we wish to retard aging and protect ourselves against the diseases of aging.
With so many conflicting theories and ideas swirling about, it is not surprising that there is mass confusion in the general population about what is healthy and what is not. However, there is nothing confusing about the scientific evidence regarding health. Health excellence, high level mental and physical performance as we age, disease prevention, and longevity all are linked to certain well-documented behaviors. In short, health is the result of healthful living, and healthful living involves seven key concepts.
The human body has a built-in capacity for healing and rejuvenation. This inborn process can be inhibited by a variety of influences, such as personal habits and the environment. The best and most effective methods for renewing health are to follow the requirements of proper diet, wholesome environment, appropriate activities, and adequate sleep.
The idea that you can purchase health or longevity by taking Growth Hormone, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, or IV vitamin drips has not been backed up by animal or human studies. You simply cannot purchase longer life from a health food store or from an anti-aging physician who dispenses hormones. Food choice is the single most important factor effecting human health, and it is easily within our control. Good food choices, in combination with other important health factors, give you your best possible chance for a long and rewarding life.
The seven key concepts in longevity are listed below. Your best health insurance is to keep these guidelines in mind and to put them into practice. The finest health care in the world is proper self-care— learning to live so healthfully that you can safely avoid hospitals, doctors, drugs, and surgery.
Today, many people in our society mistakenly think heart disease and cancer are the result of living longer—a natural consequence of aging. (A similar misconception is the notion that disease is largely genetic and beyond our control.) Healthy populations around the world see no heart disease or cancer in their eldest. Plus, there are no strokes in populations consuming natural food diets with no added salt.
Disease is not caused by aging. Disease is caused by those negative influences that stress the body over the years and lead to eventual cellular dysfunction and breakdown. Water dripping on a rock over thousands of years may eventually wear a hole in the rock. But it is not time that makes the hole; it is the water hitting the rock over and over. In a similar way, we create the diseases of aging through our behavior. Fortunately, we can just as easily create a long, hundred-year life span, free of serious illness from birth to a gentle death.
1. Eat Fewer Calories And Live Longer.
Eating more calories than the body needs to maintain a thin, muscular weight ages us. Extra calories (whether from fat, carbohydrate, or protein) are especially toxic when they are low-nutrient calories—the so-called “empty” calories of refined and highly-processed foods. For our cells to be well nourished and maintain a clean internal environment, all of the calories we eat must be nutrient-rich. The most nutrient rich foods are vegetables, beans, fruits, grains, and nuts and seeds. Refined foods, oil, sugar, and white flour are examples of calorie-rich but nutrient-poor foods.
Centenarian studies in Europe illustrate that those individuals living into their hundreds were likely to have consumed a plant-based diet consisting of fewer than 2000 calories per day. Multiple studies have confirmed that the thinnest people live the longest.
2. Prevent Deficiencies With Plant-Based Nutrition.
As seemingly healthful as one’s diet may be, disease, accelerated aging—or even death—can occur if that person is missing B12, vitamin D, or any other individual nutrient. For example, one well known advocate of a fruit-based, raw-food diet, died in his sixties of a vitamin B12 deficiency. The B12 deficiency leads to high levels of homocysteine, which can destroy the heart and blood vessels, even while the person eats an otherwise excellent vegetarian diet.
The most dramatic finding in nutritional science in the last fifty years is the power of plant-derived phytochemicals to affect health. Phytochemicals, along with the rich assortment of powerful antioxidants found in unrefined plant foods, fuel a defensive system that removes toxic cellular metabolites that age us. Phytochemicals also are required for maintenance and repair of our DNA.
Cancer may be promoted by toxic compounds, but we have cellular machinery, fueled by phytochemicals, to detoxify and remove noxious agents and to repair any damage done. Our body is self-healing and self-repairing when given sufficient nutrient support to maximize efficiency of protective cellular machinery. But, only when we consume large amounts of green vegetables and a diversity of natural plant foods can we maximize phytochemical delivery to our tissues.
3. Regular Exercise Pays Big Health Dividends.
Despite the well-known benefits of exercise, only about 15 percent of Americans engage in regular physical activity. In people of all body weights, poor aerobic fitness is an independent risk factor for all cause mortality.1
Exercise is important for healthy psychological function and to maintain significant muscle and bone mass as we age. It has been shown to improve mental function; to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; and to improve sleep patterns, aiding healthful cycles of deep sleep.
If you plan on living a long time, you want to have your bones last along with you. A good measurement of your bone density and strength is to test the strength of the muscle that moves that bone. Bone density correlates perfectly with muscle strength. As we condition our muscles and gain strength, our bones thicken and strengthen along with the muscle. Without regular exercise along the way, your bone structure can deteriorate as you get older. Some people survive with weak bones, but their quality of life suffers when they are immobilized by arthritis and osteoporosis.
Ideally, exercise should be a part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. If you have a busy work schedule and commute, get in fifteen minutes of exercise every day before your morning shower. For example, if you routinely shower every morning, work up a sweat with some abdominal crunches, back extensions, toe raises, walk up and down the stairs in your home, mock jump rope, and then take your shower. Keep in mind; it is important to exercise your lower back frequently. Get in the habit of exercising the same time every day. Make the days where you do not exercise the exception, not the rule.
4. Avoid Toxins (Including Medication).
Our environment has become very polluted. Between contamination of our food and water supplies and the use of chemical cleaners and insecticides in our homes and weed killers on our front lawns, most of us simply cannot avoid being exposed to a little poison here and a little poison there.
Drugs of all kinds are part of our toxic problem. The first thing we were taught in the pharmacology course in medical school was that all drugs are toxic. Whether prescribed by a physician, or by the drug pusher on the street corner, prescription medication is not health food. It is best to live in a manner to avoid the need for medicinal substances.
Antibiotics are some of the most frequently used and most toxic of all drugs. More studies are documenting the relationship between antibiotic use and occurrence of cancer in later life. Most recently, a study illustrated a doubling of breast cancer in women who used antibiotics frequently in their life. This is especially frightening when you consider that 95 percent of all antibiotics used are prescribed inappropriately. For most medical visits, physicians cause more harm than good and prescribe dangerous drugs, instead of teaching patients how to build and maintain high level health.
Take steps today to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals that enter your body. If possible, plant your own organic garden; support organic agriculture and purchase organic food; politically support a clean environment; and do not put chemical weed killers and insecticides on your property. Use nontoxic cleaners, and try to manage insects and pests without contaminating your home. Eat low on the food chain (plant-based diet) and avoid animal fats, which are known to contain the highest levels of dangerous chemical pollutants.
5. Get Sufficient Rest And Sleep For Recovery.
Adequate sleep is a necessary component of good health. Our modern society stays up late into the night and wakes in the morning to an alarm clock—long before sleep requirements have been fulfilled. To make matters worse, most Americans partake in stimulating substances— such as caffeine and sugar—to remain artificially alert during the day.
During sleep, your body removes the buildup of waste in the brain. Sufficient sleep is necessary for the normal function of your nervous and endocrine systems. Most civilizations in human history recognized the value of mid-afternoon naps. The desire for a rest, short sleep, or “siesta” after lunch should not be seen as an abnormal need, but rather a normal one. People who “cover up” their lack of sleep by using drugs (such as caffeine) as food and/or food (such as highly processed, sugary foods) as drugs sometimes claim (even boast) that they can get by with very little sleep. As you begin to live more healthfully, you may quickly recognize that you need more sleep than you previously thought.
We need to avoid stimulants in order to be in touch with our body’s need for sleep, and only by meeting these needs can we maximize the body’s tremendous capacity for ongoing repair and regeneration of cells.
6. An Emotionally Satisfying Environment Is Vital.
Humans are complicated creatures, and our minds have powerful effects on healing and wellness. A positive purpose, loving relationships, self-respect, and the power to control our destiny have beneficial effects on our physiological— and ultimately physical—well-being. Few people have the perfect life without any negative stressors, but it makes a difference if you deal with those stressors with hope and action, rather than resignation and passivity.
A safe and satisfying work environment, a happy marriage, a satisfying social and/or family life, and activities you enjoy are all related to positive health outcomes. Emotional wellness starts right where your fingertips end. As you respect and appreciate the value in the world around you and develop interests in other people and in such things as art, music, entertainment, sports, nature, and physical activity, you can respect yourself more for your ability and desire to appreciate the value of things not yourself.
In other words, as you learn about and begin to care for things, you gain a legitimate reason to be pleased with yourself. A healthy emotional response to life hinges on your ability to grant value and importance to things that are deserving of it. This ability and desire to interact in a fair and equitable way with the world around you forms the basis of your emotional contentment and self-esteem.
7. Fast When You Are Under The Weather.
Viral infections such as colds and influenza can be seen as life-extension opportunities. These viruses help the body with internal housecleaning and create an excitation of the body’s powers of elimination. Viral infections are opportunities for the body to reduce cellular debris and cellular congestion. In that sense, they can be seen as having anti-aging benefits.
As we produce mucus and develop a fever, we expunge not just virions and dead cells, but other cellular debris and cellular toxins. The body has the innate intelligence and power to heal itself from within, if not hampered. We assist this renewal by thorough rest, which includes not eating much or not eating at all.
We naturally lose our appetite when we are ill. This is Nature’s way of telling us when we are not equipped to digest food efficiently. The loss of appetite when we catch a virus has been labeled “the anoxia of infection,” and the loss of desire to eat when sick should be heeded. Fasting when ill speeds recovery, reduces mucus production, and activates the immune system’s defenses to rapidly and dramatically eliminate the viral load.
Periodic fasting has been shown to increase life span in all species of animals, and this has been seen even when the caloric intake over time was not lowered.
When you are sick is the perfect opportunity to partake in a short fast. Stay home, drink pure water, rest. and fast; you can turn the illness into a longevity opportunity.
Most common diseases do not occur because of insurmountable genetic influences; they occur secondary to environmental influences, and those environmental influences are largely nutritional.
Scientific studies confirm that nutrition overrides genes during the development of disease. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that people who migrate from a country with high disease risk to a country with low disease risk (and vice versa) get the risk of the country to which they move. Obviously, the people’s genes remain the same; only their diets and lifestyles change. Therefore, the diet (and other lifestyle factors) causes the altered disease risk, not the genes.
Many of the diseases seen today were relatively unknown hundreds of years ago. Our genes haven’t changed, but our environment and nutrition have changed dramatically. Many people mistakenly believe disease, illness, death, and aging are beyond our control. The fact is, Nature has given us a marvelous, complicated body, capable of repairing and regulating itself and maintaining health excellence when we supply it with some simple prerequisites of health—proper food, clean air and drinking water, adequate sleep, sufficient exercise or activity, and emotional stability. Excellent health and a long life is earned and can be yours.
1. Blair SN, Kampert JB, Kohl HW 3rd, et al. Influence of cardiorespiratory fitness and other precursors on cardiovascular disease and all cause mortality in men and women. JAMA 1996;276:205-210