by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest, most comprehensive examination of aging ever conducted. Since the 1930s, researchers have studied more than 824 men and women, following them from adolescence into old age, seeking clues to the behaviors that translate into happy and healthy longevity. The book “Aging Well”, by Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, George Vaillant has acquired the results of these studies that track the physical and emotional well-being of the 824 men and women from every social strata.
The Harvard study found that we are better off becoming preoccupied with the following factors that turned out to be most predictive of whether we’d move successfully through middle age and into our 80s:
1. Avoiding cigarettes: Smoking increases dramatically the risk of cancer, hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. Not smoking is the single most important factor for staying alive!
2. Keeping a healthy weight : Half the [U.S.] population is overweight, 20% is obese. Obesity will stop you dead in your tracks. Maintaining a healthy wieght and eating the right foods prevents disease. Get a better handle on eating well!
3. Wear sun screen 15-20 minutes in the sun is essential for Vitamin D. When your in the sun for prolonged periods of time (for more than 15-20 minutes without a sunscreen, the inflammation process is heightened. Wear a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF.
4. Proper diet : Add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your daily menu. Most have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium — and they’re low in calories. What you do get is lots of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins, which all play a part in keeping you functioning at your best.
5. Exercise regularly : After the age of 30 we tend to lose one-third of a pound of muscle per year, and our bones become weaker as well if they aren’t subjected to weight-bearing exercise.
6. Develop good adjustment or coping skills : stress is apart of our daily life. It is unavoidable. The single most important point you can make about stress is that in most cases it’s not what’s out there that’s the problem, it’s how you react to it. How you react is determined by how you perceive a particular stress. Learn more on how to cope with stress.
7. Maintaining strong social relationships : Aging successfully, according to Vaillant, is something like being tickled — it’s best achieved with another person. Whether your social connections are with a spouse, offspring, siblings, bridge partners, and/or fellow churchgoers, they’re crucial to good health while growing older.
Other studies have confirmed the health-promoting power of social connections. At the UCLA School of Medicine’s geriatrics division, Teresa Seeman, PhD, evaluated adults in their 70s over a seven-year period. She found that those with satisfying social relationships remained more mentally alert over the course of the study, with less age-related mental decline than people who were more isolated. No one is certain exactly how a social network may help you stay healthy, although some research has shown that men and women who live alone tend to eat less well, which could jeopardize their physical and mental well-being. People with social connections also may have stronger disease-fighting immune systems.
At RAND, a policy research “think tank” in Santa Monica, behavioral scientist Joan Tucker, PhD, says that having people in your life can make you feel loved and cared for, which can enhance your mental well-being. At the same time, a spouse or close friend can also remind you to go for walks or take your medication, which can have benefits for your physical health as well.
8. Reduce anxiety : We have fears and worries but when they begin to dominate our life and our behavior, and become the focal point in which everything revolves, that’s anxiety. Many factors can contribute; trauma, chemical sensitivity, caffeine, heredity, drugs, alcohol, lifestyle choices….If you cannot change the situation that is the focus of anxiety, try to determine a way of trying to change your way of handling the problem.
9. Laugh : Humor is one of the best medicines! The most psychological predictor of aging well is learning how to cope, re-channel, diffuse, and dispense of envy, jealousy, aggression, revenge and anger.
10. Pursuing education : Curiosity and creativity help transform older people into seemingly younger ones, says Vaillant, even if their joints ache and even once their days of enjoying free access to the office copying machine are a distant memory. Individuals who are always learning something new about the world, maintaining a playful spirit, and finding younger friends as they lose older ones also are making the most of the aging process.