The Secret to Longevity

I am obsessed with Longevity, not so much for me but the question of why people live as long as they do. What allows some people to live to 100 and what has some people die at 60? Yes, I know, diet and exercise. Work out at least four days a week, for 30 minutes or longer, eat fruits and vegetables five times a day, blah, blah, blah.

So I try to read at least one article or study a day on living longer. I quickly gloss over the diet and exercise ones, maybe because I personally am in denial. But I do look at my own parents life expectancies and see what they did and didn’t do. Mom as many of you know died at 87 years and 5 months. Dad died 84 years and 2 months.

When I look at their lives I try to find common denominators for those outliving the average age, for an American, of 76.8. Let’s start with my Dad’s Profile: Started smoking non-filtered cigarettes when he was 8 years old. Smoked two packs of non-filtered until the minute of his death. He was 5’ 10” and after 40 years of age was probably 50lbs overweight, drank whiskey weekly, was pretty active as a rancher and cooked with lard when he fried his food. The day he died he dug a 14 foot trench for gardening. Mom smoked for about 15 years, albeit filtered cigarettes, was always about 40lbs overweight, was a hard physical worker until she retired at 55 and loved what she called “Tasty” foods, which was defined as either fried, sauces or salty.

So what can I deduce from my parents. Well I think being active is huge, just moving your body, you don’t have to spend 60 minutes on the Stairmaster a day. Just moving your body, my dad did that until the day he died and mom worked very hard with four kids and then worked in the food service industry. Neither were what I would call big or regular exercise people, at least not from a gym perspective.

About a two years ago I went to a naturopathic doctor to review my diet. He said if you are going to eat bad, eat whole. What he meant was if you are going drink milk, drink 100% fat milk.  If you are going to eat eggs, eat farm fresh eggs.  If you are going to eat beef, eat organic beef. My parents did that in spades, they never drank diet pop or 1% milk. It makes me wonder what all these supposedly less fat, less calories products are doing to our bodies.

When my wife and I go to Italy we eat more cheese, bread and pasta then ever. But when we come back we are always down 3-5 lbs. I know it is the walking.  I calculated my exercise from my last trip. I did an hour more in the gym per week then I did in walking in Europe. So it has to be something else. I am convinced it is the hormones that are put in our food.

What can I conclude from looking at my parents life span…..well I hate to say it but I think genetics is the key to longevity. I have talked to researchers and scholars to determine what part genetics plays in ones longevity. No one agrees on the percentage, some say 30%, while others say 65%. I am convinced it is at least 50%. Mom’s mom lived until she was 86.5, quite an old person in the early 70’s. Her dad died of too much quinine which doctors gave him when he was sick. Dad’s dad lived until he was 76, about five years past the average male age at his time of death. His mom lived until 86 and was active until the day she died.

I hate to say it but genetics really play at least half the part. Stay tuned for the next blog when I tell some of the more creative things I have learned about living to 100.


  1. Gene Tenberg
    Posted February 15, 2011 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    It's an age old question, isn't it? Nature or nurture. I am convinced that longevity is driven by much more than stereotypical healthy living. Cause and effect are far from simple for most subjects like this.

    I am familiar with parts of the old Soviet Union, my land of birth, where residents lived to very old ages — sometimes 100 plus. Their diets, however, were far from what we consider healthy today: high percentages of animal fat, heavy fried food, inordinate amounts of alcohol consumption. I suspect they did drink whole milk and eat foods free of pesticides (many/most of these didn't exist in that country 30 to 50 years ago).

    The net/net of it all is that in the absence of better information about our personal genomes we still have to resort to exercise and healthy eating to effect — or believe we effect — our longevity.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Longevity without life quality is unimportant. The obsession should be replaced with education – at a VERY early age – and then whatever your life span will be — it is no one else's business. I would be impressed if significant books were written by those people who reached 100 or close, and not earlier. I haven't read one yet. They should tell us why the effort to live longer is important, while the quality of a good life is everything. The longevity per se is irrelevant in the 21st century, drop the obsession ! Health care will not be affordable anymore, and people should never need someone else to look after them. But if their genes are 'compromised' the doctors will make a lot of moony, ooops I meant 'money'.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    it is important to respect life as it is. I agree with you on importance of early education of healthy living to help increase quality of life. Well being means being healthy physically, mentally and spiritually which plays a great part especially when all other areas of life fails. Aging is part of life and accepting that fact only helps a person to live more graciously.

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