By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
When people reach a certain age, they often think it’s too late to make changes IN their lives that will make a noticeable difference. It’s like they think they have a “best before date” stamped on their foreheads.
But what if you didn’t have an age… didn’t know how old you were? Would that make a difference?
One of my favorite stories is the one of Geraldine Shepherd. She never performed a lick of exercise until she was nearing 60 years of age. Then she became active and started going to the gym. At the same time, she began avoiding foods like beef, processed carbs, foods with preservatives, junk food and sweets.
And guess what happened? She became very fit!
Then, at the age of 71, she started training to compete as a body builder. She is 85 years old now, and holds a Guinness world record for oldest female competitive bodybuilder.
So she went from being “a well-padded school secretary and slug” (her own words) in her late 50’s, to a vivacious bodybuilding grandma in her 80’s. While she no longer competes, she does still work as a personal trainer in Baltimore and gives exercise classes to seniors in the city.
“Age is nothing but a number,” she says. “Being out of shape as we age truly is merely an option – NOT a mandate!”
Geraldine is a perfect example of how its’s never too late to start making meaningful changes in your life, and stick with them.
You’re Never too Old to Extend Your Life
Now I’m not suggesting you head out to the gym and become a bodybuilder. But there are things you can begin doing immediately to add healthy years to your life.
The foods you eat are the first thing. And a new study proves that eating the right foods can add years to your life, even if think you’re past your “best before date.”
The study found that starting to eat healthy at the age of 20 could increase a woman’s lifespan by just over 10 years, and a man’s lifespan by 13 years. But you’re not 20 years old, so that doesn’t help much does it?
Okay. What if you’re in your 60’s?
Well, men and women who start eating healthy at age 60 can still increase their lifespan by nine and eight years respectively.
And at 80? Both men and women could add about three and a half more years to their lives.
I think that’s pretty amazing.
The diets that added the most years to life were those that focus on eating more fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts; and eating less red and processed meat. And, of course, processed and sugary foods are never a good idea.
That sounds a lot like a Mediterranean style diet to me. So the life-extending benefits are exactly what I would expect.
As a matter of fact, U.S. News & World Reports has ranked the Mediterranean diet as the best diet of the year for the past four years. The Med diet also ranked highest in several other categories, including Best Plant-Based Diets, Best Diabetes Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets (tied with the Ornish diet), Best Diets for Healthy Eating, and Easiest Diets to Follow.
Other plant-based diets like the DASH diet, Flexitarian diet and MIND diet also ranked high on the list. The held the second, third and fourth positions.
Conversely, high protein and high fat diets like the ketogenic diet, modified keto and Dukan diet landed at the bottom of both the Best Diets Overall and the Best Diets for Healthy Eating lists.
Eat Like a Mediterranean
To eat more like a Mediterranean, just follow these simple steps:
Fill your plate with veggies. Choose from all colors of the rainbow. You might sauté some broccoli with carrots, baby corn, red bell pepper and yellow onion in a little extra virgin olive oil. Bake a casserole with a mix of veggies like zucchini, red potatoes, carrots, purple onion and green peppers. There are a lot of great ways to mix and match for the greatest variety of color. Buy organic whenever possible.
Add your protein. Opt for plant-based proteins like beans, nuts or seeds on most days of the week. But it’s okay to enjoy wild-caught seafood a few times a week. Just try to avoid high mercury options like tuna, yellowtail, sea bass and bluefin. And the occasional grass-fed meat or pasture raised poultry is okay in moderation.
Spice it up. Garlic is great for your circulation. Turmeric, the spice that’s used to make Indian curry, contains a natural anti-inflammatory called curcumin. But there is no shortage of herbs and spices available. You’ve got cayenne pepper, cilantro, cumin, ginger, parsley and so much more! Use them liberally.
More fruit, less sugar. Once the dinner plates are cleared, enjoy a fruity dessert. It can be as simple as an apple or a pear – or both. Or it can be a citrus salad, a melon salad or a kiwi and banana salad. Or maybe something more complex, like a mango sorbet or stewed apples with cinnamon and ginger.
Along with diet changes, becoming more active can also add years to your life. If you are a “normal weight” person, more physical activity can help you add up seven years of life. And you can extend your life by as much as four years if you are overweight or obese. So keep moving!
Fadnes LT, Økland JM, Haaland ØA, Johansson KA. Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study. PLoS Med. 2022 Feb 8;19(2):e1003889.
Best Diets Overall 2022. U.S. News & World Reports. Jan 2022.
Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Park Y, Katki HA, Linet MS, Weiderpass E, Visvanathan K, Helzlsouer KJ, Thun M, Gapstur SM, Hartge P, Lee IM. Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Med. 2012;9(11):e1001335. Exercise can add years to your life. Harvard Health Publishing. © 2022 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College.