Aging Smartly
A slew of new advice books promises secrets to a longer life. Our columnists offer a rundown of the best tips.

WEB EXCLUSIVE
By Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz
Newsweek

June 14, 2006 - With the oldest baby boomers turning 60 this year, it’s no surprise that publishers are eagerly churning out books promising secrets to living longer. Most boil down to a few truisms: eat right, exercise regularly, keep your mind active and participate in social activities. If you did all of these, research tells us you would indeed enhance your chances of reaching a vigorous old age. But, as we all should know by now, the devil is in the details. Here are a few to chew on:

ON DIET
“Try your best to make every meal as naked as possible. Skip the decadent desserts for now ... Get the dressings on the side. Cook at home as much as you can. Opt for steamed vegetables. If you just absolutely have to have that Big Mac fix, just make sure the next meal’s a cleansing salad.” (“Age Smart: Discovering the Fountain of Youth at Midlife and Beyond” by Jeffrey Rosensweig and Betty Liu, Prentice Hall, April 2006, p. 54)

“Each time you take a bite of food, chew at least 30 times before swallowing. When you do, your food is predigested in the mouth by the enzyme ptyalin, found in your saliva. As a result, the stomach doesn’t have to work as hard, and absorption of important vitamins and nutrients occurs more readily. As I tell my patients, your stomach doesn’t have teeth!” ("Secrets of Longevity" by Maoshing Ni, Chronicle Books, June 2006, p. 32)

“Mindful eating not only helps us maintain an awareness of when we have had enough food, but also when we have had enough of a specific taste. Usually, after four or five bites of a particular food, taste buds become desensitized to that food’s flavor. That is why even if someone cannot possibly eat another bite of grilled chicken, they may still have room for chocolate soufflé.” ("The Longevity Bible" by Gary Small, Hyperion, June 2006, p. 188-89)

ON EXERCISE
“The results of this study were pleasantly surprising. Of all the different types of physical activities, dancing was the only one that conferred beneficial effects on the mind.” (“Age-Proof Your Mind” by Zaldy S. Tan, Warner, March 2005, p. 131)

“Every centenarian I have interviewed over the last 20 years walked for at least 30 minutes as a daily activity, and most walked more than an hour.” (“Secrets of Longevity,” p. 182)

“Becoming physically active on a routine basis may even boost your sex life. A study of approximately 500 middle-aged men found that those who exercised regularly reported more frequent and satisfying sexual encounters than their less active counterparts. Another investigation found that the level of sexual activity of middle-aged expert swimmers was comparable to that of the average adult 20 years younger, after drying off.” (“The Longevity Bible,” p. 145)

“If you haven’t exercised in months, or years, you’ll find it tough to stay committed the first month. After 30 days, reward your self with something—a slice of chocolate cake, a massage, a new dress, or an electronic gadget. You’ll feel terrific.” (“Age Smart,” p. 36)

ON KEEPING YOUR MIND ACTIVE
“Many people do not reach the pinnacle of knowledge and intellectual skills until relatively late in life. The minds of people who lead intellectually stimulating lives can even continue to grow and mature well into late adulthood and old age.” (“Age-Proof Your Mind,” p. 13)

“Remember how you were told not to drink too much alcohol in college because you’d kill too many brain cells that don’t grow back? Well, that’s not entirely true. Neurologists are now finding that the brain can actually generate new cells even into older age, though not at such a great rate that you can maintain a constant number.” (“Age Smart,” p. 73)

“If you don’t have a bowel movement for several days, you’re not only constipated, you’re filled with wastes and toxins that can damage your health. The same thing happens with our minds. Negative thoughts, feelings, and images can linger and become `toxic,' affecting our thought patterns and behaviors subconsciously. To quell this ‘mental constipation,’ write in a journal at the end of the day to unload all the negativity you have experienced … For the ultimate elimination, rip out the journal pages and burn them. You will feel lighter and clearer in your being.” (“Secrets of Longevity,” p. 281)

ON BEING SOCIAL
“Researchers have discovered that selfless, altruistic service not only promotes love, peace and understanding bur also produces natural killer cells that protect your from infection.” (“Secrets of Longevity,” p. 269)

“Treasure your friends. Respect your wife or husband. He or she might drive you nuts from time to time, but you are better off with them than without them.” (“Age Smart,” p. 128)

“Coupling is not the social solution to quality longevity for everyone. There are advantages to being single and able to make decisions based on one’s own needs and desires, without having to compromise to suit another person’s whims. But the need for social connectedness remains.” (“The Longevity Bible,” p. 84)

“Practice kindness by looking for opportunities to make someone feel happy: sweep the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house, give up your seat on a bus to an elderly person, bring food to the homeless. Once you begin, you will find many pathways to universal love.” (“Secrets of Longevity,” p. 267)

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