The Baby Boomer generation will never be called the “Greatest
Generation.” That title has already been grabbed deservedly by our
parents who endured the Great Depression and waged the last truly
necessary war. History is still out on us, but one thing is for
sure: We will be called the Longest Generation.
The cry from those of other vintages is most likely, “Egads! Not
more of them!”
Deal with it. We are here to stay. But
are we? Boomers, known for their cockiness, need to realize we may
have to work for our longevity. Last week, in the online version of
Healthspan, I began a delineation of the 15 “longevity factors,”
those choices we can make to live for the long run. I have saved
the big guns for last.
Learn to cope with stress. Okay, so we all know
this by now. But just in case you need a reminder, pay attention:
According to one report by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine,
modifying stress reduces one’s chance of cardiac events by a
significant 30 percent.
The gold standard for longevity, our centenarians haven’t been
immune to life’s inevitable stresses but what has distinguished
them is their attitude. The New England Centenarian Study shows
they are optimistic, use humor as a way of dealing with life’s
strangeness, take it all in stride, and are as dedicated to their
mental and emotional health as much as they are to their physical
health. Often these long-lived folk are without arrogance; they
tend to be humble, gaining strength from a spiritual relationship
to a higher power.
Exercise, dammit! The hallmark of those who
achieve the three-digit life is they have lived actively. If there
is anything that has been shown to promote longevity, it is
exercise. And we are not talking about Lance Armstrong here.
Walking 30 minutes a day is all it takes, according to some very
encouraging recent studies. (Do it with a friend and you get the
added longevity benefit of social interaction.) Even this mild form
of aerobic exercise results in more efficient energy production,
which in turn results in less oxygen radical formation, and this
means slowing down the aging process.
Weight training is still important even if you aren’t planning
on being like Rocky Balboa and making another run up the museum
steps at 60. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently you
burn fat. With strength training we can reverse the typical muscle
loss that comes with aging.
Supplement wisely. Our immune systems are
definitely at the mercy of the wear and tear of the years spent
fighting off bodily invaders. Yet recent research suggests the
weakening of our immune systems isn’t an inevitable result of
aging. By bolstering the immune system through nutritional
supplementation, we can reduce inflammation that pays off big time
by slowing the aging process.
Here is a list of the nutritional supplements we should be
considering in order to enhance our natural immunity: Zinc,
selenium, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B, and D. You should
also consider adding vitamin E, as Italian centenarians were found
to have impressively high blood levels of vitamins A and E compared
to younger adults. Calcium is another supplement often prescribed
to older adults because it will slow age-related bone loss. Vitamin
D, from sunlight, fortified milk, or added to calcium supplements,
is also necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Consult a
nutritionally savvy healthcare provider about your specific needs
There are two more longevity factors, but since space prevents
me from presenting them here, you will have to go to the Healthspan
Web site (HealthspanWeb.com)
to find out what they are. Maybe that’s another longevity factor: a
little mystery, a little anticipation, wondering what is just
around the corner.
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist
with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at email@example.com and visit his
Web site/blog at www.HealthspanWeb.com for more
information on the topics covered in this column.