Long Live Thee, Live Happily | Asma Ferdoes

From the time of our conception our parents and kith and kin desire for our healthy and long life and honestly who doesn’t desire it. We try our best to keep a healthy lifestyle and make everything possible to live our utmost and for many years till old age. Even in old age, it is every person’s dream-aim to remain fit like a fiddle and die as if we are still young. It is however a tragic truth that only few people, about 5 to 10% of the entire population, are able to realize that dream. The more modern our lifestyle becomes, the hectic our daily-schedule becomes and the more we compromise on our diet and health regime for the greater good the lesser our life-line becomes. So many factors contribute to our life span-

· Our lifestyle

· Genetics

· Health and its related facilities

· Diet and our diligence towards it

· Stress

· Our work environment

· Society and social pressure,

· Civics and Geography of our nation

And so many other minor and major factors contribute to how long and how well we live.

Many amongst them are beyond our control, some allow us room to manoeuvre, and there are some areas where we set the rules and where our hope lives. Two such factors are – Our choice of lifestyle, and our Health regime.

When it comes to health regime we have an ocean of guidance and advice from health experts and medical professionals that work as the Lead Kindly Light.

One basic rule is that the more active (physically and mentally) our daily schedule is, the better our health stays and more we are expected to live. However we need to keep in mind not to exceed our capacity and deplete our energy in the process. But rather gauge our stamina and ability, and build on them. Improve them slowly and steadily and utilise them in optimum way.

Here is where our diet and exercise play a vital role. Proper nutrition in the right moderation can go a long way in maintaining our health, warding off ailments, and extending our life span. Team it up with an active lifestyle that resonates with a regular workout regime, good work-life balance, and proper recreation; we have the perfect cocktail for a healthy and long life. Social interaction and meditation also impact our quality of life, and maintaining a good hobby too goes a long way in keeping our heart and mind in the right sync.

So, what do we eat to ensure we join the 60+ club?

The answer is in simplicity and variety. Whatever you choose to eat, eat them in moderation and follow basic, simple, home-made recipes. Enjoy a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, pulses and cereals, and do not forget to include milk and other dairy products into your diet. The better coordination you maintain with low-fat milk and its derivatives, the better your immunity and overall health will remain. Non vegetarians can in addition include a portion of red meat and poultry food alternatively once a week, but can benefit from two portions of seafood every week. It is so rich in essential fats, vitamins and minerals, plus easily digestible that it makes for an ideal diet for all age groups.

Our diet when aiming for a healthy, active and long life must consider three factors to be effective and well-suited overall. Namely,

· It must be friendly to our vital organs. Meaning to say, it must protect, support and tend to improve and maintain our heart health, our mental health, our respiratory organs, our digestive system, and our reproductive health.

·It must be conducive to our physical and geographical location, as a diet that may work wonders in tropical regions won’t suit cold climates and vice-versa.

· It must factor in our age, gender-requirements, health condition, our other diet goals and work needs.

Suffice it to say, it is a big milestone decision and one which needs to be made by elaborate planning, in-depth research, and clear expert assistance. There is a wonderful research article published in the website of The National Library of Medicine titled “Promoting Health and Longevity through Diet: from Model Organisms to Humans” by authors’ doctors Luigi Fontana and Linda Partridge. It has in-depth analysis and insightful results on how diet and genetic modifications can improve a person’s health conditions and contribute to a longer and more fruitful life. The following is an abstract of the article:
“Reduced food intake, avoiding malnutrition, can ameliorate aging and aging-associated diseases in invertebrate model organisms, rodents, primates and humans. Recent findings indicate that meal timing is crucial, with both intermittent fasting and adjusted diurnal rhythm of feeding improving health and function, in the absence of changes in overall intake. Lowered intake of particular nutrients, rather than of overall calories, is also the key, with protein and specific amino acids playing prominent roles. Nutritional modulation of the microbiome can also be important, and there are long-term, including inter-generational, effects of diet. The metabolic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate the responses of health during aging to diet, and genetic variation in response to diet, are being identified. These new findings are opening the way to specific dietary and pharmacological interventions to recapture the full potential benefits of dietary restriction, which humans can find hard to maintain voluntarily.”

To summarise, proper eating habits and finding the right balance between work and rest can ward off many diseases, improve stamina and contribute to a long life-span.

We cannot discuss the topic of longevity without speaking about the 2016 bestselling and much hyped book by Dr. Valter Longo titled “The Longevity Diet.” It is a very insightful and intensely researched book whose research spanned over 30 years and looks into a diverse diet options. In this book, Dr. Longo stresses on including a lot of fruits, vegetables, sea food, and grains into the diet, limiting the intake of protein and red meat, avoiding caffeine, processed foods, and saturated fats for maintaining optimum health. It also insists on keeping a healthy supply of essential fats, minerals and calcium through a variety of food choices, and also supplementing it with multivitamin boosts through medicines and tonic every consecutive day. This is to ensure proper absorption of nutrients and maintain a balance between work and stability and make up for any inconsistency and offset liable to come in the walk of life.

Dr. Longo’s suggestions compliment the Mediterranean diet on various levels like the inclusion of fruits and vegetables, and seafood; and the vast usage of essential fats as cooking medium. It however differs in the consumption of red meat and processed fats. To impress on the effectiveness of this diet it is also found by substantial research that the people of the Mediterranean region tend to live a relatively healthier and longer life than most western societies.

The biggest appeal of Dr. Longo’s diet plan is that it relates to the common man and is easy to adapt and follow as a life-long goal. However, for athletes and people aiming for specific goals like weight-loss, or cholesterol reduction, or increase in stamina, the level of nutrients may prove inadequate and need to be adjusted by expert consultation. For instance, the portion of daily proteins recommended in this plan is not suitable for those aiming for body-building or weight gain.

If we focus on any specific notorious diet, according to vast recent studies and the majority of experts The Mediterranean Diet is best suited for those aiming for health and longevity. This diet is based on the traditional foods that people use to eat in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. Numerous studies have now shown that the Mediterranean diet can promote weight loss and help prevent heart attacks, strokes, type-2 diabetes, and premature death. Many researchers also conclude that this diet is much superior to several other diets (like keto, low-fat, etc) in maintaining heart health, healthy brain function and maintaining stamina in older adults.

The key features of Mediterranean diet is-

· Including a variety of fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, strawberries, grapes, dates, figs, melons, peaches and olives into the daily regime.

· Vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, onions, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and turnips too can be enjoyed on a daily basis.

· Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds;

· Legumes like beans, peas, lentils, pulses, peanuts, chickpeas,

·Whole grains like oats, brown rice, rye, barley, corn, buckwheat, whole wheat bread and pasta

· Herbs and spices include basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and garlic to make it into the daily diet, fish,

· Seafood like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, clams, crab, and mussels can be included twice weekly.

· using olive oil as the cooking and dressing medium,

· Moderate use of poultry, red meat, and dairy products on a regular basis.

· Limit the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods to rare occasions.

· Wine, coffee, and tea are also considered as healthy beverages that can be had around 1-2 cups/glass daily; but it is left to personal choice and optional.

· Fruit juice would be OK to include in moderation, but you’re better off choosing whole fruits to get the benefit of fibre.

The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended for a healthy and long life goal, and in concord with major research studies, it also comes with a disclaimer that it may not necessarily suit one and all. Suitability of any diet depends on several factors like genetics, geographical location, age, underlying health conditions, personal habits, and so on. The key is to adapt a diet for at least two-three months diligently, closely monitor for any allergies or negative impacts on our health, discuss with an health expert and either modify or change the diet accordingly.

It is easy to get into a routine of healthy eating and active living. Plus, nature has gifted us with such bounty and is so easily found that the dream of a happy, healthy and long life is very easily realisable. At the end of the day, what we eat, how we utilise it and our attitude to life are what decides how long we live, how well we live and how well we are received by those around us. Let us live to make our lives better, make our families’ lives better, and make this world a better place to live and for the future generations to come.

To conclude, I will only quote my favourite character who himself enjoyed a healthy, long and adventurous life- Spock from Star Trek series- “Live long and Prosper.”