This search for longevity is a curious thing. We in our ultra modern 21st century world have decided that we are at the height of civilization. Some of us searched for happiness but have decided that this is the ultimate bliss, that even heaven holds no greater pleasure than 14 hour work days and gadget engaged evenings.
So what next? We need to live longer to enjoy all the benefits of hours of hard work. Longevity becomes the new Eldorado. We search for it in different ways. The decaying rich in their sunny enclaves wait patiently for that one vial of serum which will make them immortal; that one injection into their wrinkled and burnt skin that will give them a few years longer in the sun. The chattering classes with their Prosecco soaked grins try out this diet and that, this superfood and that; they go marathon running, they try the gym and dancing classes and various spas, they try the new age style crystal gazing, meditation, cleanse fasting, and in the end collapse in an alcoholic stupor, their bodies ruined by stress and and the anxiety of it all.
Meanwhile, the press, greedy to turn this dream we have into profit, search the world and every now and then find a woman in the Appalachian mountains or some such place who has lived to be a 104. They grills her fiercely as to her secret. What does she eat, what does she drink or do that gives her such a long life. Now you can imagine this peasant woman, suddenly confronted by the world’s press, these huge monster lens eyes pressed into her face. Of course she is bemused and says what comes into her confused mind. Say it is nettle juice and goat’s cheese. The next day banner head lines. “Nettle juice and goat’s cheese, the new super food if you wish to live long”. This sort of thing happens regularly. Ever few years the press discovers some such woman, just as regularly as scientists discover another new cure for cancer.
We live in a strange world folks, the world of the instant fix.
But who even thinks of inquiring a little further as to why this woman lives long? Is it the fresh air where she lives, or the unpolluted stream from which she drinks, or the the daily climb she makes up and down steep rocks to tend to her vegetables? Is it the fact that she does not have a 101 gadgets in the house which can go wrong at any moment and give untold stress? Is it the fact that she does not do a 14 hour day 4 of which is spent sitting in traffic fumes? Is it that she does not have trolly loads of processed nasties pumped regularly into her stomach? Nooo. The press is not interested. These inconvenient facts do not translate easily into prettily packaged stories. And then the dumb reader is so used to processed news that she/he does not stoop to question anything the press puts out. So they all go skipping up and down and screaming “nettles and goat’s cheese” till the next diversion comes along.
Ok. So you ask me what is my take on this. I go scathing on everyone else, what is my take? I will have to come up with an answer but it is not new. I have said this in various forms in my few posts, possibly not comprehensively.
The genes do have a part to play. That said there are many things we can do to help ourselves live a healthy life into old age. De stress, de stress, de stress! Stress is a giant killer. Scientists like Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a Nobel prize winner have experimented with something called telemores in our bodies.These are the things that decide how long we are going to live, to put it in simple form. The scientists have discovered that in stressed individuals these telemores get shorter quickly and presage decay and death. That is a sort of gutter press way of putting it. But read the whole of this article by Jo Marchant in the blog Informed Comment (great blog). The way to keep the telemores healthy and long is to meditate, according to the article. But that is my take. Read it for yourselves. Educating yourselves on these things called telemores will pay dividends. In the future the press is going to be full of these buggers.
Again, as I repeat time and again you need a holistic approach to health and life. There is no quick fix; there is no single fix. It takes total dedication, it takes a messianic fervour, and it takes some informed decisions on the direction your life takes. The facts are all out there. That is why I say there is no mystery if you are not hell bent on finding a quick fix.
My principles are, everything in moderation; exercise according to your age and your body’s requirements; eat moderately and well ( again, the information is out there); do not do destructive things to your body (you know what); have a pleasant and positive attitude towards life; be part of a social whirl of family and friends; do little favours to people on a regular basis without expectation of any reward; have a smile on your face and walk with pride (I am not kidding); consider yoga and meditation if that’s your pill; always be aware of preventing illness (or accidents) than hoping for a cure once you have it (too late!). I am sure there are many other things but you get the gist.
I always stress the social aspect for a healthy life because that is my strong point. I come from a background of close and almost claustrophobic social melieu. There were of course stressful times but on the whole looking back they were the happiest times of my life. I had close social support. If my father was strict and I was scared I could always go to one of my uncles or aunts for support. If one of my cousins was not nice to me I could play with other cousins. Female relatives spoiled me rotten and male relatives, as I grew to be a teenager gave me instructions and guidance on behaviour and on what to do and what not to do in life. Social support is something like a net into which you could fall if you someone side swiped you with a baseball bat.
As I come to the end of the post I am aware that I talked of the decaying rich and the Prosecco soaked classes but I did not mention the great unrecognised majority of our society. The poor have not the resources or leisure to search for Eldorado. In their despair they feed themselves silly and end up on hospital beds with bloated legs and bellies.
It is long past my bed time. I have been to Northampton and back to help my son in his search for a house. One was a two bed flat with a large living space. The living room was big enough to have a good sized fitted kitchen, a dining table, a large work area, several sofas, book shelves and a TV area. It was well lit and pleasing to the eye. The flat was in a converted mill. The other was a modest three bed house with two car park area. Very neat in a secluded close. I loved the flat which is leasehold. But my son brought his mathematical mind to the decision. He is still mulling the pros and cons.
Live well and stay open!