The skeptical cardiologist has a few nonagenarian patients who seemingly defy the ravages of aging and remain vibrant and active into their late 90’s.
Eugene, for example, still ballroom
dances regularly with his wife, Naomi and swims underwater significant distances.
In this video, recorded when he was 97, you can see him swim the length of a swimming pool underwater
As life expectancy at birth has increased from 35 years in 1900 to over 80 years now, we see more and more individuals reaching their nineties. Ongoing research seeks to further extend our lifespan.
But just as important as increasing lifespan is increasing healthspan, the portion of the life span during which function is sufficient to maintain autonomy, control, independence, productivity and well-being.
Eugene is an example of someone with a long lifespan and healthspan and this is what we truly seek, the combination of living well and living long.
Peter Attila writes that lifespan is driven by how long one can avoid the onset of diseases caused by atherosclerosis such heart attacks and strokes (see my discussions on subclinical atherosclerosis here), cancer and neurodegenerative disease.
Healthspan, Attila writes, is about preserving three elements of life as long as possible:
Brain—namely, how long can you preserve cognition and executive function
Body—specifically, how long can you maintain muscle mass, functional strength, flexibility, and freedom from pain
“Spirit”—how robust is your social support network and your sense of purpose.
Problems with the body result in frailty, recognized as a major cause of disability and related falls, hospitalizations and death in the elderly.
The single best tool for warding off frailty appears to be physical exercise.
So, if you want to life a long life with lots of quality years at the
end of that life be like Eugene: swim and dance with your loved ones. Keep moving, stretch and exercise in some manner regularly.