Longevity and Taking Care of Self
I was thinking about my dad’s longevity the other day and how he defied all reason as he took zero care of himself and his body. Is longevity a matter of luck? A matter of good genes? All of a sudden, as I was pondering that, I came across two articles that were exactly to my point.
One was about a 96 year old grandmother who recently passed away, telling her granddaughter that she never drank water and lived on red wine and coffee, eating anything she wished. (Attached is a list she gave her granddaughter about her longevity)
Another was about a 95 year old celebrating her 95th with two huge ice cream sundaes – the size and kind I have not experienced in years in trying to be a good girl and watching my diet and indulgences. (The photo is included here.)
My dad, Milt, passed away this past summer at the age of 95.5. He followed no health rules, rarely drank water, rarely took his vitamins, did not get exercise or Vitamin D. In fact his doctor prescribed Vitamin D as he was always deficient. I would find it stuffed in napkins in his drawers with the other vitamins he did not care to take. He was a couch potato with very poor posture but no back issues. In fact, he stayed pretty healthy until the very end when a variety of things caught up with him in his last months.
Right now, I take about ten vitamins, drink lots of water, do exercise at least six times a week, try to limit indulgences, and I am starting to wonder why I do all that. Hasn’t genetic destiny already decided my relative longevity, excluding fateful accidents? Why bother? Remember those memes about indulgences where one must decide to throw caution to the wind and live happily if not necessarily until 95ish; or grow old in absolute misery for denying life’s little pleasures?
About my genetics: I take after my father’s side of the family in many ways, and I must say, they were all fed from childhood in the old school recipes of lots of chicken fat, and loads of eggs, and lots of other unhealthy things but all of them lived very long lives.
Since my husband and I entered our sixties decade, we have made the following changes:
All organic products purchased, from food to soap, to just about everything else. No extra chemicals for us!
No nightly ice cream – but found a worthy substitute in Yasso bars.
We take plenty of vitamin supplements and go heavy in trying to get Vitamin D – naturally is the preferred way for me. (Many studies link immunity to Vitamin D levels in the body.)
We both exercise vigorously several times a week – Gary plays hockey and really gets the heart-rate up, and I still do crazy Bikram Yoga and fast paced walking.
We eat things like Cashew yogurt, to reduce dairy, and things like sardines, KALE, and spinach. (For two people who grew up in the junk food capital of the world – Philly – this is a major development. Still those years of cheesesteaks, ice-cream, and other decadence there surely took its toll for the first part of our lives.)
We go to bed earlier, to catch the appropriate amount of sleep.
We limit our alcohol intake.
I no longer eat Cheetos for dinner, and rarely begin with dessert, if we even have dessert. (Again, Yasso bars.) There are exceptions when something irresistible is around such as a recent delicious peach pie. (My favorite fruit pie.)
We snack on unsalted nuts. Speaking of that we have greatly reduced our sodium intake.
I drink about 10 glasses of water a day.
We no longer drink soda.
My husband is obsessed with Tumeric.
We get regular check ups.
Two more of my secrets: ALOE, and Apple Cider Vinegar.
Wow, that is quite a list! And that is not all, but all I am inclined to think up right now.
And all of it is done to defy illness as we age.
A nice by-product of some of the things I do is looking years younger than my natural age of nearing 68. (67 and 3/4 if you must know.)
New people I meet in Bikram Yoga, look at me in my cute yoga shorts and sports bra, and guess my age to be about 20 years younger than I am in reality. Some there have argued that with my legs and arms, there is no way I can be the senior citizen I am. I am seriously keeping up that regimen because I believe the heat and exercise are helping me to age more slowly but again, it could be my genetics. I could be doing absolutely NOTHING healthy and still look this way.
All of our anti-illness-aging techniques are due to wanting to be around to participate in life with our adorable grandchildren as they grow up. We have more incentive now than ever.
But does any of it matter? Isn’t it true that fate could decide for us even if we are healthy and in good shape? Accidents happen. I am going to be very upset if my Snickers Bar lunches that ended with my 50’s was for naught.
SIDE NOTE: I am pleading with everyone my age to please get dressed and undressed in a chair or stool. Bending down to put on socks and shoes, pulling legs out of skinny jeans without support – these are all hazards at our age as I know of two people recently with very bad falls and breaks due to their dressing and undressing regimen not including a chair for support. (And hold on to bannisters too!) I say this because FALLS are the catastrophe we cannot avoid even if we stay extremely healthy.
For this blog post, I would like some feedback. Are you denying your pleasures regularly in favor of healthier habits? Or are you just living your life, come what may? I know that the two women and my dad referenced earlier do the latter, but I want to know from people my age and a bit younger.
(I munched on Kale chips while I typed this. Those who followed my blog like forever, will remember when I typed with Cheetos fingers. I must snack when I write. Who ever knew those words would ever be admitted by me or ever typed on a blog?)
I loved your blog!!
I am a person of many words, and if I was to fully respond to it, it would be a response as long as your blog! Here is my “short” response: Personally, I think a large portion is genetics. I also believe environment plays a large role. I was raised in a family surrounded by snacks, and dessert was always served after dinner. My mother would be thrilled when my skinny brother would down a glass of milk with a three pack of Tastycakes for a meal. She was so happy he was getting something into himself. I grew up with my dad’s sweet tooth, but I never had a problem exercising control until after I retired from teaching Kindergarten and Pre- K…work that kept me very physically active . When I was younger, there was just a lot of movement all the time with being a single parent and raising two kids. I also wanted to be a good role model… and to me that was sitting down with my kids for dinner and all of us having a protein, starch and green vegetable on our plates. My weakness was always cake and bakery items, so I would have one piece after the kids went to bed. I always made sure I had Hershey kisses in the refrigerator for my chocolate addiction. But I could be satisfied with three or four and just be happy knowing that if I wanted more it was readily available… so, my mind set was: I didn’t have to crave something because it was in the house. I always did my own housework and when my children no longer needed a babysitter after work, I would go work out three times a week for an hour and a half at a local Health Club. At 45 I got hit with Fibromyalgia and I was told I could not do repetitive motion activities. So I hired someone to clean my house once a month and stopped doing any form of exercise. Once the amount of movement was further reduced, after I retired from teaching, and I started going out to afternoon lunches with friends and dinners with couples at a much more frequent rate, the pound started coming on. Every time I traveled I would add another 5 lb because of how much food would be served and if it was in front of me I could never turn it down unless I didn’t like it. So how do I live now.. well the views on Fibromyalgia have changed so I exercise with many zoom silver sneakers classes and walking on my treadmill, just about every day. However, I have acquired a number of health issues where I have to drastically limit the healthy foods I can eat, and the quantity of the healthy foods I’m allowed to eat. So… I would say my diet is pretty awful and my sweet tooth is the worst! Eating this way keeps my blood work in check and watching calories and exercising keeps me looking relatively fit. But I know my nutrition is really poor. I actually miss a lot of healthy foods. My doctors all think I’m doing a great job. I know better! I guess time will tell how I do, as with everyone else. My dad passed away from complications of prostate cancer at 63 while my mom passed away from congestive heart failure at 93. I’m 70 now.
When my Mom was in her 90’s, her weekly shopping list included cookies, Reese’s cups, and many more sweets. I was concerned supplying her with these unhealthy treats and called her doctor. His response…. at her age she deserves whatever her heart desires. Nice memories!
Love the article but not sure how it works… Brother worked out ate healthy meditated did everything right and died at 74… Mom never worked out did whatever she wanted and lived to 93…￼ ♀️♀️
Love your expressions of life’s insights!
For those with bad genetics- illness and early death, it makes sense to do everything you can to stay healthy as you age. Some are just lucky I guess!
Interesting debate. I wonder myself if it is DNA code predetermined no matter how you take care of yourself. Thanks for this.