This week, Dr. Rudy Kachmann, a retired neurosurgeon, author and wellness expert, discusses how you can live to be 100 and still have a sound mind and body.
Question: I frequently read where people are living longer, well into their 90s and even to 100 or more. But like a lot of people I’ve talked to about this, I would be worried that my mind would go before my body actually gives out. How can someone keep their mind sharp or ensure their mental faculties stay sharp well into these years?
Answer: It seems like we only think about how long we’ll live when we buy life insurance or turn 50.
Most of us want to live a long life, as long as we are physically and mentally healthy. The trouble is that the building blocks of longevity begin when we’re young.
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Blue Zones created a free “Vitality Compass” to calculate your biological age and life expectancy: http://apps.bluezones.com/vitality.
You can also review lifestyle factors that improve the likelihood of living a long life with a sound mind and body.
The number one controllable lifestyle factor is proper eating.
Eating a nutrient-dense diet of 75 percent fruit and vegetables and 25 percent organic lean meats is essential. Dieting is not necessary.
Eat natural foods of color – all-you-can-eat. The vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals turn off your appetite. Food restriction is not the answer.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans eat a diet high in sugar, fat and salt. Sugar is the main problem. We are addicted to sugar. We are slaves to sugar.
Next, I highly recommend annual blood testing, starting as a child. Many Americans test pre-diabetic. Diabetes is an epidemic. Parents can help prevent the disabling complications of Type II diabetes – loss of limbs, strokes and heart attacks – by changing their child’s diet now. Prevention is key.
Increase your activity of living.
An estimated 70 percent of Americans — children and adults — spend all day sitting. A sedentary lifestyle turns off certain enzymes and can lead to chronic diseases that reduce your quality of life and longevity, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sitting is the new smoking. Sitting most of the day is like smoking a pack of cigarettes.
Increasing your movement at work, school or home is essential to disease prevention. I call it increasing your “Activity of Living” or AOL.
Some AOL examples include standing instead of sitting during phone calls or checking email, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away from entrances.
A step above increasing your AOL is exercise. Only 5 percent of Americans exercise on a regular basis. Exercise promotes neurogenesis, or brain cell growth, even in an already mature brain. Studies in animals and people have shown that physical activity increases brain volume. It also reduces the number and size of age-related holes in the brain’s white and gray matter.
Exercise also promotes muscle growth. A pound of muscle burns about 50 calories a day, even without use. Physical activity, especially if you pick something fun like dancing, tennis or walking with a friend can bring a lot of laughter and joy into your life.
Remember though, exercise is no substitute for proper eating. I see plenty of people at the gym who are desperately trying to lose weight but getting nowhere because they eat the wrong foods. It takes a combination of nutrient-dense eating and regular exercise to lose and sustain weight loss.
In fact, keeping a normal weight is critical to longevity.
Measure your pelvis/umbilical ratio. Generally, fat on the belly means fat in the liver, which causes a lot of metabolic problems that lead to disease. The Body Mass Index should be calculated for children as well as adults and tracked carefully.
But keep in mind that 25 percent of normal-weight adults and children test positive for diabetes. You can be metabolically sick but of normal weight. That’s why a nutrient-dense diet, exercise and annual blood tests are so important.
Toxic habits like smoking, alcohol and drug abuse can be deadly. Smoking affects every cell of your body. It doesn’t just cause lung cancer but increases cancer rates in every organ in your body. Smoking also affects any one of your 300,000 miles of blood vessels by promoting vascular disease and early death from heart attacks and strokes.
Even stress can be toxic. The adrenaline released in your body’s stress response – a survival mechanism – contributes to many chronic illnesses, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
Stress hormones also interfere with neurochemicals that fight depression. Breathing techniques, prayer and meditation can reduce stress. Your mind has a tremendous impact on your body through neurotransmitters, hormones and neuropeptides. Don’t forget that your mind and body are connected.
Finding a purpose in life has great value.
There is no question that helping others will keep you motivated. Think of how you can impact your family or community in a positive way, especially after retiring. Socialization reduces stress, tests your memory and makes life more enjoyable. Focus on finding a purpose every day caring for a family member, pet or garden; playing cards with friends; or mentoring someone in need. A purposeful life leads to a long, satisfying life.
And live a spiritual life. Contemplate nature and the universe. Find wisdom in religious scripture and classical literature and meditate or pray. You will experience a higher state of mind, a kind of peace, connection and joy that will sublimate your ego.
People will love you for it. Create sticky notes around your home or office that remind you to smile. Positive states of mind also increase neurotransmitters, hormones and neuropeptides that promote health and longevity.
One final word: sleep. Six to eight hours of sleep each night is essential for a sound mind and body.
For more ideas on this subject, visit www.kachmannhealth.com.