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How to Live to 110
Your Comprehensive Guide to a Healthy Life
By Brian Kirby, Tim Kirby
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2015 Brian Kirby and Tom Kirby
All rights reserved.
Live longer, stay healthier
This book is about giving you
the best chance to increase the length of your life, and
the best chance of being healthy, vigorous and clear-thinking in your later years.
Almost everyone can benefit from taking the steps we suggest, but the younger you are now, the greater the benefits you could gain.
This isn't just wishful thinking. It really is possible to make a difference to your life. Our suggestions are based on the most reliable scientific papers we could find. Indeed, you may be surprised at how much control you have over your health and lifespan, as we'll show you.
But you might be thinking "Why would anyone want to live longer? What's so great about ten or twenty extra years of being frail, ill and confused?"
The point of our book is that old age needn't be like this if you look after yourself all through your life. Don't think of the extra years you might gain as being tagged onto the end. Think of them as extending your middle age. How would you like to have an extra ten or twenty healthy, vigorous years before you become frail, ill or confused? Imagine what you could do. And how would you like to avoid becoming frail, ill and confused altogether? It's a real possibility.
The old age illusion
Society labels us 'old' by the time we reach 65. That's when people retire from work and receive their 'old age' pensions and 'senior citizen' travel cards. Often, it is only a few years later that people begin to feel 'elderly' and infirm. Many pass away before they are 80, often well before. No surprise, perhaps. It's natural, isn't it?
No, as it happens.
By and large, it is not old age itself that makes people ill — and almost no one dies of old age. Older people are ill because they have one or more diseases, often a result of the typical Western lifestyle.
As we will show in the next chapter, around half of us cause our own early death.
Diseases can leave people weak, breathless, in pain, unable to move freely, or confused and forgetful. Apart from white hair and wrinkles, isn't that the common picture of 'old age'?
It is largely an illusion that people are 'old' at 65. Often what we see are the effects of common diseases that start to show up in our 50s and 60s and which then worsen and become disabling.
This book is about taking steps to avoid those diseases. If you succeed, when aged 65 you may still have more than a third of your life to come — and those remaining years can be vigorous and full of health.
In fact, people who live beyond 100 can be in surprisingly good health — clear-thinking, physically active and often independent. Many are healthier than most 70-year-olds: still socialising, taking up new hobbies and sometimes even working.
Some 90- and 100-year-olds achieve levels of fitness a 40-year- old would be proud of. A 100-year-old has completed a full marathon. There is even a class in international athletics championships for the over-100s, where the current world record for the 100 metre sprint is 30 seconds. That may not be as fast as Usain Bolt, but it's pretty good for someone born before the First World War.
Even away from the sporting arena, very old people can be fit and healthy. In some of the communities around the world where high numbers of people live into their nineties and hundreds, researchers have noted how rare it is for people to need to visit a doctor.
It's worth investing in your health all your life
If you want to avoid the diseases of old age, you will need to spend some time looking after yourself throughout your life. This is a wise investment, with a potentially large payback. It's a lot like saving for your pension.
When you are young it probably seems dull and a bit of a distraction to put hard-earned money towards a pension. But the sooner you start saving and the more you invest, the more comfortable your later years will be.
The same might be said for your health, but with one big difference. Investing in your health improves your life now as well as in the future.
Ideally, the earlier you start the better. If you have children, you will be doing them a great service by encouraging them to look after their health. For example, childhood is the time to build the strong bones that are so important in old age, and to develop good, healthy habits. Children and teenagers need to avoid diabetes, which is sadly on the increase even in the young. Damage to blood vessels that can lead to heart disease many years later may already have started in teenagers and young adults.
But it's never too late. Even in your seventies and beyond you can improve your chances.
Whatever age you are, and however unfit or overweight you might be, you should be able to make a significant impact on your health and lifespan. Some of the damage the Western lifestyle does to our bodies can be reversed, and future damage can be limited or prevented.
How long could you live?
So, if you manage to avoid the serious diseases we talk about in this book, how likely are you to live past 100?
Millions of children born this year will manage it. Across the Western world, the number of people living to 100 is rising fast. In 1911, just one hundred people in Britain were 100 or older. Now there are well over twelve thousand. According to government predictions, in 25 years' time there will be 90,000 British people over 100 — people who are currently in their mid-seventies and older. The number is expected to continue shooting upwards. The same is expected in the United States and Europe. It's happening even faster in Japan.
Why the dramatic increase? It is probably down to two factors: a lot of people have the natural potential to live that long; and better healthcare and social conditions are saving people from dying before their time.
Genes probably play a part. Very old age can run in families. But there are communities — such as on the Japanese island of Okinawa — where large numbers of unrelated people reach 100 and more. This means that living to a very old age can't just be down to genes, or maybe that the genes needed are actually quite common. It also suggests that lifestyle or environment may also be important.
It seems likely that vast numbers of us could live past 100, although scientists can't prove this until it happens.
What we can say for certain is that very many people could live a lot longer than they do.
And the maximum age a human can reach? Some scientists think that this is around 120 (see Interesting extras: 'How long can a human being live?', p7). So far, only one person has officially made it to this age (see Interesting extras: 'The official record holder: Jeanne Calment', p7).
This book aims to help you become a 'supercentenarian' — someone who reaches their 110th birthday. If you look after yourself properly, and stay lucky, this is entirely possible for some readers.
It's not guaranteed, of course: bad luck can spoil the best plans. Some diseases cannot yet be prevented at all, and some of the diseases we'll be discussing can only be avoided to some extent. You might be struck by lightning. There are all sorts of risks we can't help you with.
But there are even bigger risks with taking no action over your health. A few people will be lucky and stay healthy whatever they do; but if you are not one of them, you risk dying before your time and possibly suffering years of unnecessary illness and disability. And remember, you may live past 100 anyway, which might mean 30 or more years in poor health.
We hope you choose to follow at least some of our suggestions. But even if you are ultimately defeated by bad luck, investing in your health will not have been wasted. Taking the steps we suggest in this book should leave you healthier and more active throughout your life.
About this book
This book doesn't cover every aspect of health. Rather, we have focused on all the major killing diseases that you have a reasonable chance of preventing or avoiding. The next chapter, 'Why most people don't reach 110', sets these diseases in perspective.
Rather than simply tell you what to do, we have tried to explain the science behind what we suggest so that you can decide for yourself which suggestions you take up. To help you, we have a simple rating system for each suggestion — using hearts ([love]) to show how much impact it could make on your health and magnifying glasses ([??]) to indicate how strong the scientific evidence is. This is explained in Chapter 3, 'How great is the benefit? How good is the evidence?' After that, Chapter 4, 'A friendly guide to some chemistry', is a quick run-through of some basic — but hopefully interesting — science, to help you get the most out of some of the explanations later in the book. You can skip this if you prefer.
The rest of the chapters can be read in whichever order you like, although there is a logic leading from one to the next. Section A describes different diseases that kill and harm us and how we help to cause them. Section B is about lifestyle changes to help keep you healthy and alive. Finally, we summarise all our suggestions by age group.
In explaining the science, we've cut out almost all medical jargon. Sometimes, though, a medical term was unavoidable, and where we first explain it we highlight the term in BOLD. This is a sign it will be used again and is worth remembering. If a jargon word is in 'quotation marks', you can instantly forget it.
Accompanying this book is our website: www.live-to-110.com. This has useful bits and pieces related to various chapters, and it gives scientific references and internet links to studies we've used in researching this book.
A final word
We've thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this book. We hope you find it interesting, and that it helps you and your family to live long, vigorous and healthy lives.
How long can a human being live?
In 1825, Benjamin Gompertz, a British actuary, developed a way of predicting from a person's age how long he or she would live, on average. The insurance company he worked for used this to judge how much to charge each client for life insurance.
In those days, virtually no one lived to be 100, but Gompertz's formula works pretty well even now. It predicts that the maximum age a human can reach is 120 years. The oldest age anyone has actually reached has crept up steadily since then, but only one person has indisputably made it past 120 (see 'The official record holder: Jeanne Calment', below). For a long time, many scientists thought this was the natural limit for humans.
More recently, some scientists have suggested that there may not be an absolute maximum age we humans can live to. But this doesn't mean we could be immortal. It might be possible — in theory — for someone to live to 150, but the likelihood of that happening in practice is extremely small.
* * *
The official record holder: Jeanne Calment
All sorts of claims have been made around the world for the oldest ever person. Most are not backed up with official written evidence from the time of birth, but there is no doubt about Jeanne Calment, a French woman born in Arles on 21 February 1875, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years.
Delightful, witty and completely unflappable ('If you can't do anything about it, don't worry about it'), Calment remembered Vincent van Gogh coming into her father's shop to buy canvas when she was 12 or 13, and she did not think much of him. She married a rich storekeeper and lived a life of leisure — tennis, swimming, roller-skating, cycling, hunting and music.
Throughout her long life she remained in remarkably good health. She took up fencing aged 85, and was still riding a bicycle aged 100. She lived alone until 110, and only then moved to a nursing home. She was able to walk until she broke her leg badly, aged 115, and had to give up smoking when she was 117 because her failing eyesight made it hard to light cigarettes and she didn't like to ask for help. A celebrity in France, she appeared in a film aged 114 and on a CD (speaking above a music track) aged 120.
Calment was often asked how she lasted so well. She gave numerous suggestions, including garlic, vegetables, cigarettes, red wine and port — and, in particular, eating a kilo of chocolate a week and pouring olive oil over everything she ate (although presumably not the chocolate). She also rubbed olive oil on her skin, and is reported to have said, 'I only have one wrinkle, and I'm sitting on it!'
Her memory began to deteriorate aged 115, but not her wit. As someone left her, they said, 'Until next year, perhaps.' She replied, 'I don't see why not. You don't look so bad to me.'CHAPTER 2
What stops people living to 110?
One simple reason stops most of us reaching the age of 110: we die too soon. This chapter gives an overview of what finishes us off and shows clearly the real dangers we face. The results may surprise you.
When someone dies, a doctor writes a death certificate giving the cause of death, with every possible cause having an official code number. The UK Government's Office for National Statistics publishes lists of these each year. We've done some careful regrouping, allocating all the deaths to our simpler set of ten headings.
To help you visualise the information, we have scaled everything down to focus on 1,000 people.
Just over half a million people died in England and Wales that year. That means each of the people in our drawings represents around 500 actual deaths.
A view of danger: deaths in the media
The news seems constantly to be reporting on the dangers we face: stabbings, murders, fires, hospital 'superbugs' and so on.
How good an overall picture does this give? For fun, here's a quick test. Out of every 1,000 deaths, how many would you guess result from the causes in the table below? (To start you off, we've given a strong clue for traffic accidents. In fact, it's the answer.)
Question: Out of 1,000 people, how many die from ...?
Traffic accidents 6 Assaults, murder, _____
Fires and drowning ____ Suicides _____
Other accidents ____ HIV/AIDS _____
Hospital 'superbugs' ____ Meningitis _____
The answers below are for England and Wales in 2006 (the latest available when we started this book), but the overall picture changes little from year to year, and is similar in other parts of the UK. The numbers have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
Answer: Causes of death out of 1,000 people (in 2006)
Traffic accidents 6 terrorism *
Fires and drowning 1 Suicides 7
Other accidents 17 HIV/AIDS *
Hospital 'superbugs' (2010) 8 Meningitis *
The hospital 'superbug' figure is not specifically listed in the statistics but is based on a government estimate for 2010. The figure in 2006 was particularly high, at 16 deaths per 1,000, but improvements have been made since then.)
The causes of death marked with '*' killed so few people — less than ½ a person in 1,000 — that they don't register on our scale. You may be surprised by this. Murder and assault are constantly in the news, and are the main cause of death in films and books, yet hardly anyone dies that way. People worry about being assaulted on the streets, but a greater risk is DIY at home, which kills hundreds of people each year.
We are not criticising the news media. Deaths of this nature are newsworthy. They are often sudden and unexpected, and hit the relatively young. You should definitely take precautions against them: install smoke alarms, avoid HIV/AIDS, and be careful during a meningitis outbreak (although meningitis is actually quite hard to catch). But the point is to gain a sense of perspective.
Everything we've listed accounts for just 36 out of our 1,000 deaths. What you really need to take precautions against are the causes of the other 960 or so deaths.
Excerpted from How to Live to 110 by Brian Kirby, Tim Kirby. Copyright © 2015 Brian Kirby and Tom Kirby. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Live longer, stay healthier,
2 What stops people living to 110?,
3 How great is the benefit? How good is the evidence?,
4 A friendly introduction to some chemistry,
Section A: The ways we cut short our lives and harm ourselves,
A1 How we choke up our blood vessels,
A2 How we pump up our blood pressure,
A3 How we swamp our system with starch and sugars,
A4 How our cells turn dangerous,
A5 How we damage our lungs,
A6 How we let ourselves be infected,
A7 How we lose our minds,
A8 How we poison ourselves,
A9 How we put ourselves in unnecessary danger,
A10 How we let our sight, hearing, bones and joints decline,
Section B: How to get back healthy years,
B1 Keep active every day,
B2 Burn plenty of calories,
B3 What your diet should include,
B4 A diet to live to 110,
B5 The foods that supply your energy,
B6 How to avoid hunger,
B7 How to lose body fat permanently,
B8 How to give up smoking,
B9 Have good reasons to keep living,
Summaries: What you need to be doing (by age group),
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
"A strong addition to health and wellness collections." — The Midwest Book Review.com