Authors: Walter M. Bortz II, M.D. and Randall Stickrod.
Gerontologist and Stanford Medical School professor Dr. Walter Bortz and co-author Randall Stickrod draw on new science and a 30-year longitudinal study of centenarians to show that genetics plays a smaller role in aging than previously thought; senility, dementia, and other diseases of the elderly are preventable and not an inevitable consequence of aging; engagement – through sexual relationships, social interaction, and professional activity – is key to long, healthy lives; and, physical fitness can recover at least 30-years of aging.
Imagine being an active, healthy boomer centenarian. You may be surprised to learn your genes do not predetermine your longevity. Almost everything we have been taught about growing older has been wrong. The “convergence of the aging process and quality of our health determines life span.” In our Boomer – Vitality section, we previously reviewed The Longevity Prescription: The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life by Robert N. Butler, M.D., considered the “father of geriatric medicine.” The takeaway new message there was that each individual has the capability to control health and well-being in the three-decade dividend or bonus years. Those who age well don’t do so accidentally. Rather, it is the achievement of deliberate action to thrive and participate fully in life, to “embrace longevity.”
Dr. Bortz and Stickrod agree with Dr. Butler that whole-life happiness balances physical health with emotional well-being. No one wants to live longer without a strong body and clear mind. In The Roadmap to 100 – a blueprint along with the science – the authors emphasize that an active, physical lifestyle is key to reaching a healthy and robust 100 years. Dr. Bortz certainly walks the talk. At 80 years, he still runs marathons, and asks, “How old would you be if you did not know how old you were?” Lack of conditioning, not chronology, is the link between frailty, heart disease, loss of an active sex life, memory loss, and more. Some life-enhancing and life-extending benefits of exercise include improved circulation by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels; reduced risk of cancer; boosted immune system and resistance to infections; improved sleep; and, increased alertness. The life-extending and enhancing benefits of aerobic exercise are clear. However, the authors stress the importance of staying strong, flexible, and to keep working on balance. The most important organ in an older person is not the heart or lungs, but the legs. Usually, it’s the legs that are the last thing to go. Legs give a person an active, independent lifestyle. Use them!
Healthy aging requires taking ownership. Lifestyle choices determine your longevity. Dr. Bortz and Stickrod’s take-away prescriptive advice, which nearly 75 million baby boomers in the U.S. and abroad will value, is:
- Be a realist. Aging is inevitable, but isn’t equal, and can be reshaped.
- Pay attention to your body. Your body talks to you if you’ll listen.
- Move. Walk. Run. Bend. Stretch. Even fidget, but keep moving.
- Get strong. Embrace and challenge your muscles. Work out with weights.
- Be a whole-body thinker. Think systems and coordination, not just body parts.
- Get fit and stay fit. Make aerobic fitness a way of life. It’s the best defense against “default aging” – disease and frailty.
- Pull yourself together. Posture. Subtle but effective.
- Eat smart. Get nutrients from your food, especially fruits and vegetables.
- All things in moderation. “Our species didn’t get to the top of the evolutionary heap by being fragile.”
- Don’t wait for a miracle. Medical science isn’t the “antidote for your lifestyle poisons.”
- Forget about your genes. It’s not the dominant factor in your personal outcome. It’s about choice, not fate.
- Be necessary. Be engaged across all fields. It’s life-affirming and life-extending.
- Celebrate your sexuality. It’s part of the life-engine, a motive force for extending years to lives. We can enjoy sex indefinitely.
- Go for the flow. Harmony. Being in the zone. Optimal convergence of purposeful activity or challenge and capacity.
This book reinforces the importance of action, motion and engagement to avoid the “long decline” to old age. No matter what your age, there are ways to enhance your longevity through healthy behaviors and Dr. Bortz and Stickrod say “start today.” Use the 14 suggestions as a cheat sheet to revitalize and reap rich rewards of the final third of life. Who knows, you may end up becoming one of those who reach an additional decade of longevity, the “super-centenarians.” There is more about anti-aging on Dr. Bortz’s website www.walterbortz.com that is jam-packed with great information like The Steps to 100 where he dares himself to be 100. Once there, like the ad says, you “just do it” and keep on doing it! We think of Dr. Bortz as a supersenior, whose sage advice and remarkable example will enable us to be superboomers!
Boomers live well by renewal and recharging through meaningful work, staying in the mainstream and never retiring from life. And, like Dr. Bortz, we’ll be out there walking the talk on the Steps to 100. So take this book’s advice and start fidgeting! We’ll be talking more about amazing and active superseniors out there still “doing it.”