Dr. Claudia Kawas, a really smart professor who knows a lot about folks in their nineties, recently discussed her "90+ Study" and she definitely raised a few eyebrows. When her study revealed that "people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained," and "people who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did," the world rejoiced. Why? Because people don't read the fine print and only hear what they want to hear.
However, at a recent AAAS conference (The American Association for the Advancement of Science), Kawas was kind enough to point out the following to her audience, "Keep in mind that I start studying people when they’re 90." "I think it’s very likely that individuals who have very excessive alcohol intake at younger ages don’t even make it to their 90s." But, guess what? Most of the audience had already left to go to the local liquor store and Starbucks to celebrate what they perceived to be their green light to go out binge drinking and have their 3rd cup of coffee. :)
So what's the deal? What's the real secret to longevity?
Moderation, of course. And, more importantly, adopting a healthier lifestyle before you reach retirement and your so-called "Golden Years".
Look, let's keep it real. We all know that guy or someone who knows a guy who drank too much and smoked too much and ate all the pizza he wanted and lived to be 94; then we all know that guy or someone who knows a guy who ate more veggies than Popeye and did triathlons but died at 36, right? Fine. There are exceptions to everything and sometimes life doesn't always make sense. Some folks are predisposed to greatness and some to unfortunate circumstances. Your DNA and genes kinda stack the deck for you or against you. You can help the cause by being responsible. For the purpose of this article, "responsible" is defined as:
- Eat well as often as possible (you don't have to be a vegan and eat tree bark like they do on Naked and Afraid, but try to avoid having processed foods, high sugar snacks, and saturated fat-filled dishes 5 out of 7 days per week)
- Exercise regularly (beyond the physical benefits, the perks of stress reduction and endorphin releases will be just as impactful as you go through the inevitable ups and downs of life)
- Check in with your doctor every 6-12 months (the best way to survive an unexpected diagnosis aside from prevention is early detection and treatment)
Now, if you are feeling like a champ and doing these three things consistently, Dr. Kawas and many others have enough research to prove that a nice cup of coffee in the morning and a nice glass of wine with dinner might serve you well. However, the caveats to that research, which never get the same attention, also show if alcohol consumption goes beyond "moderate" it can increase the risk of brain cancer, brain damage, liver diseases, and liver cancer. (Kinda lets the air out of the balloon doesn't it.)
Another stat from "The 90+ Study" that really stood out to me was one that didn't get as much press coverage or attention: "Over 40% of people aged 90 and older suffer from dementia while almost 80% are disabled." Whoaah! I don't know about you, but I'd rather die younger firing on all cylinders. Seriously, why would you want to live past 90 if you can't move and your brain is playing mean tricks on you? The reality is that modern medicine has enabled humans to stay in the game a lot longer than before so there is a strong likelihood of you living well into your 80s, 90s, and beyond. The big takeaway here is that you should focus on quality vs. quantity. How can you accomplish this and maximize the quality of your existence?
- Stay connected and engaged with an active social network (no, Facebook doesn't count)
- Keep your brain sharp (watch Jeopardy, do a crossword puzzle, read, play scrabble, try Sudoku)
- Move it or lose it (get in a pool, walk around the neighborhood, take yoga... anything that is a full body workout that has minimal impact on your joints)
- Make a difference and help others (volunteer at the local food bank, veteran's home, or Habitat For Humanity)
- Find a purpose (having a reason (or 2 or 3) to get out of bed every morning is mandatory)
- Practice gratitude (being grateful every day will help you appreciate the fact that you're still happy and healthy- while most of the people your age are not enjoying those same luxuries)
Like a lot of stats that are thrown around these days, the hard work of well-meaning researchers can be manipulated by the media and irresponsibly cited by agenda-driven individuals. As you can see from getting a glimpse behind the curtain of Kawas' findings, the devil is in the details. Please be vigilant by doing your own homework and ultimately doing what works best for you and your family.
Marcello Pedalino, CFT, is the author of the new inspirational book on personal growth and development, Celebrate Life. He is an award-winning entrepreneur, lifestyle expert, and fitness trainer. He delivers dynamic keynote presentations to corporations and organizations across the country who need help making Energy Management and Work-Life balance a priority.