Everyone knows life expectancy is increasing – few people know exactly how they can stack the odds in their favor to live long and healthy. I am not just talking life-span, I am focusing on health span. There’s a big difference between the two terms. Life span is the length of your life. Health span is the amount of time you enjoy great physical vitality and enjoy independent living.
You do not have to eat four salads a day, run marathons, or have Olympic athletes in your family tree; you can enjoy health and vitality after retirement adding a few simple habits to your daily existence. I am not talking about the perfect antioxidant pill or potion. Even though there are thousands of supplements and medications available that promise to take you to the fountain of youth, none of them are able to deliver better than a daily dose of exercise.
Exercise becomes even more important as your body ages. Between ages 20 and 70, your aerobic capacity (a measure of how well you handle oxygen) decreases six per cent per decade. After age 70 your aerobic capacity declines 20 per cent per decade. This is where breakdown and aging accelerates. Sadly, this also happens to be the time when most dentists have retired. For the non-exerciser, this is where you are too weak to fight off infections, stop yourself from falling, and unable to take care of your household duties.
If you are what you eat – why are you eating “junk food”? You need to treat yourself like a high performance formula one racecar. Premium fuel for a premium vehicle.
The body is less able to repair, recover and heal from disease as we age. It also has to deal with exhaust from the oxidative stress from the millions of chemical reactions going on every second. Which diet has been shown to be the best? The Mediterranean diet with its high amounts of good fats (monosaturated and polyunsaturated) in extra virgin olive oil, nuts and avocados. The 2008 British Medical Journal reported that the Mediterranean diet was associated with the least deaths from cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
❝You do not have to eat four salads a day, run marathons, or have Olympic athletes in your family tree…❞
Limit your alcohol intake. Yikes! You are probably saying, “What about all those studies saying a little booze each day was good for you?” Experts have shown there is an extremely narrow window of benefit. Any more than one a day for women and two a day for men and you increase your risk of suffering degenerative diseases.
Keep your BMI or body mass index under 25. You see being overweight or obese (70% of the population – dentists included) leads to poor and inefficient energy production, insulin resistance and increased levels of free radicals (promotes accelerated aging). Centenarians (people who are 100 years of age or older) have usually been lean and fit (rarely obese) their entire lives.
Don’t smoke. Did you know 20% of North Americans (your patients) still smoke cigarettes? And this is in the face of all the public health recommendations made from multiple agencies. That being said, they may not know that 40% of all cardiovascular disease and 30% of all cancer are associated with smoking.
A Harvard University study that followed 2,357 people was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reported that if you had these five lifestyle traits, you could boost your chances of living healthy into your 90’s by 53%:
#1 don’t smoke
#3 eat your veggies
#4 maintain an ideal weight
#5 manage your blood sugar levels
There you have it – the perfect prescription to practice long and well. And when the time comes to transition into that magical retirement phase – be happy and healthy for decades.
Dr. Uche Odiatu is the author of The Miracle of Health, an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and a professional member of the American College of Sports Medicine. This busy dad of four children is also a practicing dentist in Toronto Canada. www.DrUche.com