Prolonging Your Life

Most people’s blogs have a theme. Cooking, preparing for a marathon, losing weight, becoming successful at work, becoming more spiritual, and decorating one’s home are popular themes. But this blog? Well, this blog is a hodgepodge of whatever I happen to be thinking about. It might be social commentary on single parenting, a travelogue of a recent trip, or some opinions on the presidential candidates (stay tuned for this one).

I have other blogs. One is about women in the Bible, one centers on teaching, and one focuses on psychology. The latter is reserved for my students and is a great way for us to get involved in a little psycho babble. And lest I forget, I recently got involved in a writing blog with my writing group, and as soon as we get a little more participative, I’ll share the link. This is my favorite blog, however, because this is the one where I can write whatever I want to. Just because Mom’s Musings doesn’t have a theme like religion or culinary arts, that doesn’t mean that it lacks focus. It’s focused on my musings.

Today I’m musing over the contents of a book I’ve been reading entitled The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. It’s a virtual fount of interesting and useful information that we can all apply to our lives beginning today. Always intrigued by who survives disasters and who doesn’t, what makes a person resilient, and what factors determine our longevity, I’ve been captivated by the stories and research provided by Sherwood. In fact, I’m reading it on my Kindle Fire and have highlighted so many passages that it’s ridiculous.

I’ve learned that surviving, whatever that might mean to you, doesn’t depend on a single factor. Several are involved in beating the odds. For example, the Central Park jogger’s friends describe her as indomitable. While that’s true, it’s also true that her massive brain injuries might have aided in her recovery. Unable to remember the attack, she wasn’t tormented by flashbacks or nightmares. Then there was the story of a  man who awoke to find himself in the ocean in the dark wearing his undies and a sweatshirt. He had no recollection of how he got there, but apparently he had fallen off of the cruise ship. He managed to stay awake and afloat all night, and he feels that the secret to his survival was sheer will power and his ability to stay calm and focused. That counted for something, of course, but his prior military training  and physical fitness gave him an edge that the average Joe wouldn’t have had.

But what about the ultimate survival? What about living a long, happy life? What determines how long we live? Is it heredity? Is it a 50/50 split between heredity and environment? While both are important, lifestyle, personal choice, and plain old luck figure into the equation too. According to the book, genetic factors influence about 25 percent of our longevity. This fact is especially intriguing when you consider that 80 to 90 percent of our height is determined by our parents’ heights. I can’t wait to share this information with my sister. Our mother died of cancer when she was only 71, and my sweet sis thinks we’re going to succumb to the big C too. Maybe so. Who can predict the future? All I can say for certain is that Ann and I are medium tall because of our DNA, but other factors are going to determine whether we live past 71.

Longevity depends largely on the decisions you make and the things that happen to you on a daily basis. According to Sherwood, it’s never too late to make changes to prolong your life.  Before mentioning some of those changes, I need to mention that life expectancy is more complex than eating right and exercising. While those activities are important, so is your geography. People who live in Andorra and Japan live decades longer than those living in Swaziland and Angola.

If you want to prolong your life, here are some tips. Exercise, limit saturated fat, wear a seat belt, and install smoke detectors. And here’s one I like: listen to what your mother told you, including wearing a coat when it’s cold and a hat when it’s raining. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat your fruits and vegetables, and get a moderate amount of exercise. A final suggestion is one given by Madame Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122 years old:  SMILE. 

So here’s my plan. I’m going to put on my happy face, go into the kitchen and grab a banana, and then go out for a three-mile walk. I’m also going to check the batteries in our smoke detectors. What about you? What’s your plan?