Who among us doesn't want to live a long life? The desire to survive is built into us. As animals, we react instinctively to protect ourselves in the face of danger. As organisms our bodies marshal natural defenses to fight off disease and heal injury. As social beings, we fondly hope to observe the new generations as they are born and grow. We all contemplate the seemingly mysterious differences among individuals – why do some people succumb to age-related syndromes while in their sixties and others live to be well over 100? We ponder the even more mysterious events imputed to be "fate," when otherwise healthy people die from injuries or environmental affronts to the body.
Learning & Resource Center Articles
The Habits for Long Life
By: Dr. Maoshing Ni
Marrying thousands of years of wisdom from the East with the latest scientific advances from the West, Secrets of Longevity provides time-tested and well-researched advice for achieving a long, healthy, and happy life.
To extend your life and improve its quality, you do no need to be in good health already. In other works, do not fret about the past. What you do from this moment on is what matters. The good news is that you can positively affect your health and longevity right now.
The causes of aging-related ills range from genetically pre-programmed cell death to destruction by environmental toxins to plaque and fibers that clog up the highways within our bodies. We all possess genes that are triggered as a result of how we live our life and the environment we are exposed to. Longevity is a matter of whether we express our good or bad genetic predisposition during our lifetime.
Unfortunately, Western society doesn't make it easy to increase our longevity potential. Our youth-driven culture and our neglect of the aged promote a wholesale denial of the realities of aging. The marketplace is full of products and devices promising to make us look and feel younger. In addition, conventional Western medicine focuses on treatment and replacement therapy, prescribing expensive drugs, removing a failed organ and transplanting a new one, or replenishing a depleted hormone. Very little emphasis has been placed on preventing disease and maintaining a vigorous state of health day to day.
In contrast, prevention and wellness have always been at the heart of Eastern medicine. Eastern doctors have long viewed disease as a symptom of life being out of balance. Therefore, the medicine they practice seeks to enhance and optimize health through diet, lifestyle, and emotional well-being. The Eastern paradigm also employs a variety of natural therapies such as acupuncture, herbal therapy, bodywork, tai chi, yoga, and meditation to treat the mind, body, and spirit. This approach empowers each individual in his or her pursuit of health and wellness.
Another important aspect of longevity is healing. At some point, due to factors beyond your control, you may have become sick. How you handle illness will have significant bearing on your longevity. Therefore, I recommend that you build a team of knowledgeable professionals dedicated to furthering your health and wellness. Seek out physicians who are willing to integrate complementary medical traditions such as acupuncture and herb remedies and who will take the time to educate you, answer your questions, and guide you in the pursuit of your longevity goals.
What You Eat: Diet and Nutrition
"I have heard that in the days of old, everyone lived one hundred years without showing the usual signs of aging. In our time, however, people age prematurely, living only fifty years. Is this due to our environment or is it because people have lost the Way?" asked the Yellow Emperor.
Qibo, his court physician, replied, "In the past, people practiced the Way. They understood the principle of the balance of yin and yang. Thus they formulated practices such as meditation to help maintain harmony with the universe. They ate balanced diets at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overburdening their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgences of all kinds. They maintained well-being in body and mind, thus it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years."
"These days, people have changed their ways. They drink wine like water, indulge in excessive eating and other destructive behavior, drain their essence, and deplete their energy. Seeking emotional excitement and momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm and order of the universe. They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, they sleep improperly. They do not know the secrets of conserving energy and vitality. So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after."
– The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine
This conversation between the Yellow Emperor, the first ruler of China, and his court physician took place some 4,700 years ago and is just as relevant today. As modern science has proven, the quality and quantity of the food you consume will have a lasting impact on longevity.
After examining the diets of approximately a hundred centenarians, I analyzed the data and correlated it with current anti-aging research. Not surprising, the diets and the studies dovetailed with the court physician's observations. The majority of centenarians lived by modest means, undereating was the norm among them, and some, due to their circumstances more often than intent, practiced fasting for periods of time.
What the centenarians consumed, for the most part, was a variety of legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Heavy carnivores were the exception–most ate a semivegetarian diet. These sound nutritional practices have been confirmed by Western science to contribute to health and longevity in a variety of ways.
Living to be 100 is not the product of an expensive supplement, brutal daily regimen, plastic surgery, or anything out of the average person's reach. A few simple changes in the most basic areas of our lives – diet, environment, activity and relationships – can help us reap great rewards.
Eat Less, Live Longer
After analyzing the diets of about a hundred centenarians, I found that the majority lived in modest circumstances. They ate less than the average amount, and some fasted at times because they were poor and simply had no food. Most centenarians surveyed around the world follow the "three-quarters" rule: they stop eating when they are three-quarters full. Studies have shown a reduction in caloric intake can increase life expectancy in animals – why not humans?
Tea Party Benefits All Guests
Celebrity testimonials are all well and good, but none of them can top this: Tea is the beverage most commonly enjoyed by centenarians around the world. The free radical-inhibiting property of tea is more potent than that of vitamin E, and tea is a proven preventative and treatment for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The polyphenols in tea, especially the catechins, are powerful antioxidants that help ward off diabetes and cancer.
Ginger Gives You Snap
Best known in the West for its anti-nausea properties, ginger has probably been in the longest continuous use of any botanical remedy in the world. The Chinese use it frequently in cooking seafood, since it acts as a detoxifier to prevent seafood poisoning. Besides its popular application for digestive distress, ginger has been found to contain geraniol, which may be a potent cancer fighter. It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve pain, prevent blood clots, and inhibit the onset of migraine headaches. Since ancient times, Chinese physicians have regularly consumed ginger tea to keep their vitality fired up.
Anti-Aging Pearl Powder
The medicinal use of crushed and powdered natural pearl goes back 2,000 years in Chinese medicine. Prized by Chinese royalty for its purported anti-aging properties, pearl powder is traditionally used in herbal remedies and in ointments and massaged into the skin to prevent premature skin aging, clear surface inflammation and acne, improve vision, and calm the mind and spirit. Rich in minerals that benefit the skin, natural pearl has much more to offer than its beauty as an adornment.
Excerpted from Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100 by Dr. Maoshing Ni (2006m Chronicle Books: www.chroniclebooks.com). Reprinted with permission.
About the Author:
Dr. Maoshing Ni (Dr. Mao, as he is known by his patients and students) is a 38th-generation doctor of Chinese medicine and an authority in the field of Taoist anti-aging medicine. After receiving two doctorate degrees and completing his Ph.D. dissertation on nutrition, Dr. Mao did his postgraduate work at Shanghai Medical University's affiliated hospitals and began his 20-year study of centenarians of China. Dr. Mao returned to Los Angeles in 1985 and has since focused on Taoist anti-aging therapeutics at his Tao of Wellness Center.