Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Longevity: Having a purpose may help you live longer, healthier

Ever heard of Jonathan? The world’s oldest living creature.

Jonathan is a living giant tortoise in the Seychelles, born in 1832. He is 190 years old and though he has lost his sense of sight and taste, his libido is still good as he is seen frequently mating with fellow tortoises Emma and Fred (animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive) and can be seen featuring in the upcoming “love Island” season. 

(As told to Guinness World Records by Jonathan’s vet, Joe Hollins) 

As we age, no matter what your race, ethnicity, or gender, we need to ask ourselves —

Are we existing or living with purpose?

Are we resilient to stress?

Research does suggest that living a life with purpose and a healthy amount of stress to keep you motivated may help you live longer.

Let’s define the meaning of both — 

A purpose driven life

A life filled with amounts of stress that motivate you and not perish you.

A purpose driven life is living with a sense of direction to reach goals. Each person has different goals set for their lives, be it working till your end or as they say ‘dying with your boots on,’ or contributing to your community in what ever way you are talented or being a care taker for your near and dear or even looking after abandoned animals.

Stress as we all know can negatively affect the body, the body systems and overall health. Being able to manage stress is really key to good health. It is well known that there is no such thing as a ‘stress free’ life, but research has shown that individuals with a higher sense of purpose are able to be less reactive to daily stressors as they do focus on the big picture rather than everyday small issues. 

So managing stress purposefully does lead to better health and longevity. 

Tips to stay purposeful —

  • Engage in health promoting activities like; daily exercise, annual blood work and visits to the doctor, kicking the smoking and excess drinking habit, avoid refined foods and sugar.
  • If you are a caretaker, make sure you encourage older adults to enjoy their purpose, no matter what it is – gardening, running their homes, any substantial daily responsibility will give them purpose. 
  • It is a known fact that the female gender across races and ethnicity do outlive males in most parts of the world. Those women who are physically active could live even longer.
  • Body weight and nutrition are modifiable factors and medical professionals are still debating on how this affects longevity. Though lifespan and health span share some common genetic components, the real focus should be on health span. The true purpose on how long a person lives free from disease, comes from nutrition and physical activity and needs to start early in life but its never too late to focus on behaviors and trends that we know can positively influence how long we live.
  • Healthy relationships should be given priority, as we know loneliness and social isolation are associated with premature mortality.
  • Sleeping well! A huge factor for health span and longevity in terms of having more years of vibrant, active, engaged and disease free living.
  • Science and medicine has increased the lifespan of humanity while health span has not kept pace. Older adults are living longer but are they living disease free? Age related diseases -heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cataracts, dementia, muscle mass loss and immunity are on the rise even with lifestyle changes that can get challenging to maintain.
  • A pharmaceutical invention, a potential anti-aging drug-Rapamycin also known as Sirolimus is an immunosuppressant drug, approved by FDA in 1999, is also used for longevity and reduction in age-related diseases.

Data from a study by the National Institute on Aging and the social security administration of approximately 13000 older adults. 

-The analysis showed that older adults with the strongest sense of purpose lowered their death risk by 15.2% as compared to people with the least sense of purpose.

-Women lowered their risk of all-cause mortality by 34%, compared to men, whose risk was reduced by 20%.

“Longevity is one of the most complex phenotypes, as it is the final outcome of very many interdependent processes or components, some of which may have a larger impact on one of the sexes. It is, therefore, no surprise that genetics effects on different processes would lead to different longevity outcomes.” 

Dr. Maroun Bou Sleiman, Ph.D. 

A scientist at the Laboratory of Integrative Systems Physiology 

at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne 

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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