Healthy lifestyle plays the big­gest role in a long life span, re­searchers find

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

So granny didn’t live to be 101? Not to worry. Longevity is not nec­es­sar­ily a fam­ily trait.

We may live long re­gard­less of our genes, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers who stud­ied the world’s old­est man — he made it to 114 — only to con­clude that diet, ex­er­cise and per­sonal con­tent­ment have more to do with sur­vival than the mys­te­ri­ous work­ings of DNA.

Joan Ri­u­dav­ets was no geezer — still rid­ing a bike, tend­ing an or­chard and sport­ing snappy La­coste cardi­gans af­ter 10 decades of op­ti­mistic life on the same street in the same vil­lage on the same sunny Mediter­ranean is­land.

“Keep mov­ing, keep go­ing for­ward,” he once told jour­nal­ists ea­ger to hear his se­crets of long life.

“Live calmly and treat other peo­ple well,” Mr. Ri­u­dav­ets said, adding that he still liked to dance the fan­dango and have a shot of sherry. He died in 2004.

This supercentenarian drew the in­ter­est of Dr. Adolfo Diez Perez, a ge­neti­cist at the Univer­si­tat Au­tonoma de Barcelona who stud­ied the bone mass and an­a­lyzed the ge­net­ics of Mr. Ri­u­dav­ets, along with his 101-year-old brother, two daugh­ters and a nephew — all oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans.

The re­search team found no vari­a­tions in LRP5 — the gene as­so­ci­ated with longevity — in any of them. They even­tu­ally con­cluded that fam­ily traits most likely had noth­ing to do with the long-lived group.

“The re­sults of the re­search do not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that other ge­netic mu­ta­tions could pos­i­tively in­flu­ence longevity,” the study said, ul­ti­mately cred­it­ing “a Mediter­ranean diet, the tem­per­ate cli­mate of the is­land, a lack of stress and reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.”

The re­search was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Geron­tol­ogy, an aca­demic pub­li­ca­tion.

“We’ve forgotten this kind of lifestyle. But our grand­par­ents would rec­og­nize it,” said Dan Buet­tner, au­thor of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Liv­ing Longer From the Peo­ple Who’ve Lived the Long­est,” which was pub­lished last month.

“There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about liv­ing to three dig­its, so to speak. Th­ese peo­ple be­come great icons for good liv­ing. Genes may ac­count for 10 to 20 per­cent of how long we live, but the big­gest vari- able is lifestyle. We may not all make it to 100, but the av­er­age Amer­i­can can live a dozen ex­tra years if they just op­ti­mize good lifestyle,” Mr. Buet­tner said.

“This gen­tle­man could walk, bike, visit an or­chard. He had a daily rea­son to go out and keep mov­ing and keep so­cial. All of us can at least em­u­late that,” Mr. Buet­tner said.

His own re­search — funded by Na­tional Ge­o­graphic and the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Ag­ing — has re­vealed five longevity “pock­ets” around the planet where peo­ple live long, healthy lives. Mr. Buet­tner found that cheer­ful­ness plays a de­fin­i­tive role in spots such as Sin­ga­pore, Den­mark and Sar­dinia where pro­duc­tive ag­ing is com­mon. A kind of tribal so­cia­bil­ity, sen­si­ble eat­ing and strate­gic calm mo­ments also help.

He leaves for Tahiti next week to in­ves­ti­gate what may well be the sixth “pocket.”

The med­i­cal com­mu­nity has a long­stand­ing in­ter­est in the field. Founded in 1992, the Chicago-based Amer­i­can Academy of Anti-Ag­ing Medicine has grown to a mem­ber­ship of 20,000 physi­cians and re­searchers who con­done sen­si­ble life­styles, along with pow­er­ful di­ag­nos­tic tests, ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­ven­tions and the prac­tice of hor­mone re­place­ment for men and women.

Longevity pays off, the group says, cit­ing a Univer­sity of Chicago Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness study, which cal­cu­lated that the U.S. econ­omy would en­joy an ex­tra $2.4 tril­lion a year if av­er­age cit­i­zens lived an ex­tra six years, due pri­mar­ily to in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and less­ened med­i­cal care costs.

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