Ageing and Longevity

Anti-aging is a desirable component of longevity, as of course, is health, (true) wealth and happiness. If perception is part of cognition, a chosen attitude may be the ‘chosen result’ regardless of the outside perception of others. Clearly, attitude can complement physical health, but this appears to be but a component.

So what is longevity?

I have long believed that there are two main factors that relate to the expression of the anti-aging effect and longevity. One is the inflammatory process itself and the other is genetic, hence I believe, the expression “she (or he) has good genes”.

What is Anti-aging

Anti-aging is important to us all, in fact this was the purpose behind this website. (www.lookgoodfeelyounger.com) Let’s go one step further and say, what could be more important in the ‘bigger picture’ than how long you’re going to live, how you age during your life and how you feel within that period of time.

They say that we all have just one lifetime but there seems quite a range of aging and longevity when we look at ourselves and others (which is why I believe, that as we get older, we always want to know how old the other person is!

What is Military Stress

On a recent trip to Toronto I stayed with a 74-year-old ex-Russian soldier. We spoke of longevity and he stated that after 60 we became very aware of our mortality, with which I agreed. He looked good and kept fit despite a 20-year army career in which he parachuted 403 times and one one occasion he and his group were deserted by their main army and left to fend for themselves for several years.

He told me that when Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev started to build relations with South Africa, some may say strategically and financially as it was close to the riches of South Africa. T

he  USSR continued to support the Angolan Freedom Fighters with military resistance and the general situation, based around the USSR’s continued desire to ‘spread socialism’ in Africa worsened fighting, In the ensuing guerilla war, I was told, atrocities were enacted by all sides. More civilians were killed than soldiers, how did he deal with this?

When is war stressful?

 After his party were left for dead, they made their way over thousands of kilometers to eventually join the French foreign legion and it was from there he eventually found his way home and then on to Canada. You would imagine that to be involved in such a terrible experience for nearly 20 years would have lasting effects. Yet, here he is at 74 fit and well.

Is Peace Keeping Stressful?

I also have a close friend of around mid 50s, who served there in the U.N. ‘Peace Keeping Force’ who cannot bring himself to tell of what he saw in Rwanda. He didn’t fare so well emotionally, suffering still with PTSD and neurological disorders, but has a very positive attitude and has returned recently to help orphans that were created during to conflict.

What makes one person more able to “deal” with what he or she experience?

Is careful living the answer to longevity?

Two years ago, I attended a ‘physiologic dentistry’ meeting in Arizona hosted by a friend from Seattle that I’d known for more than 20 years and he was 62 years old. He was the original ‘geek’ and used to ‘dress’ his home in over 2,000 lights at Christmas.

He was by trade a computer programmer and had supported the advancement of a jaw tracking device to determine its position in 3-dimensions which I used for years myself when treating jaw joint disorders. He was slim and careful (with everything he did ( except putting his Christmas lights up ) especially his diet and it was unusual for him to have time off, even for a ‘cold’.

However, on this occasion he decided to leave for home early that day as he had a ‘bit of a cold’, I light-heartedly told him to take ‘take it easy and drink plenty of fluids’ and then to my absolute astonishment, heard that he’d died the day after getting back home. Everyone who knew him were all shocked and devastated by his loss, especially his wife and family.

When careful living and early death are not always directly opposed.

Two months ago I attended a model railway show with a group of friends in Vancouver and one of those who was in his late 60’s was slim, active and “lived very carefully” yet died the next week (no, not of boredom) -this was a “wake-up” call for me.

So, what’s this all about? We know people die younger, I’ve had good friends whose children have died from brain cancer at 2, and close friends who died at 28, my father died at 45, as did his father before him, but it’s the range from 60 plus that I want to address, “longevity and, that after 60 we became very aware of our mortality” as my soldier friend said.

WW II Spitfire pilot

WW II Fighter pilots ready at a moments notice to ‘scramble’ into action

I was born and spent my childhood in Hornchurch in Essex, England. I’m far too young to have been involved in WWII but have always been interested in the Airfield there, which (although long gone now) I played on as a kid. It was an important airfield in WWI and a Spitfire base during WWII.

One of the many pilots who served there (Including Douglas Bader (after whom the movie “Reach for the Sky” was made, and Frank Whittle, who was later to design the Jet engine) was Norman Brown who flew many sorties and was involved in the Battle of Britain.

Every time the pilots scrambled they never knew if they would return. He died in 2013 at age 94 – I think it’s clear that there are many things about longevity and aging that we know nothing about.

Norman Brown, Spitfire Pilot based at Hornchurch died at the age of 94 years

So, what makes longevity?

So back to my suggestion that physiologically there are two main factors. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that ‘attitude’ and subsequent emotional stress, or more importantly the potentially resultant strain must play a part for some.

I remember my father telling me a story about my Uncle, a kind and generous man who ran a grocery van which went door to door, not unusual in the UK in the 50’s. When he was in his early 30’s, he accidentally backed up and (in those days they didn’t have warning “beepers” to compensate for no rearward vision), killed a child.

His hair turned white within a few months I was told, and he was never the ‘same man’ again. With this extreme I believe most of us would understand but I’d like to deal specifically with the issues of stress and strain later in a separate post.

What is longevity and aging?

Longevity is the time of life expectancy or as stated by Wikipedia as, ‘best thought of as a term for general audiences meaning ‘typical length of life’ and specific statistical definitions should be clarified when necessary’.

Ageing, on the other hand is the process of becoming older, representing the accumulation of changes over time. I would suggest that clearly it would be better and likely easier and more practical to resist those changes taking place at all, rather than trying to reverse those that have already taken place.

WHO (The World Health Organisation ), in describing those ideals to be striven for, claim; “Every person – in every country in the world – should have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life. Yet, the environments in which we live can favour health or be harmful to it.

Environments are highly influential on our behaviour, our exposure to health risks (for example air pollution, violence), our access to quality health and social care and the opportunities that ageing brings. 

Healthy Ageing

Healthy Ageing is about creating the environments and opportunities that enable people to be and do what they value throughout their lives. Everybody can experience Healthy Ageing.

Being free of disease or infirmity is not a requirement for Healthy Ageing as many older adults have one or more health conditions that, when well controlled, have little influence on their wellbeing.”

So this gives us a base, but comes close to survival, but for those of us in the ‘developed world’ what does this mean at an individual level?

Most would consider it along similar lines as disease or the antithesis of health. Ageing in mind, body and spirit and in future posts we can investigate each in practical terms – only after understanding can we work against the processes.

Let us remember George Burn’s quote, “If you live to be one hundred, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age.”.

George Burns, Comedian – lived until he was 100.

Remember too, Herbert Blake’s famous quote upon attaining his 100th birthday, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Dr. Stephen Bray 2019

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