Dr. Day is a cardiologist and Medical Director of Heart Rhythm Services at his practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowship in cardiology at Stanford University. He is board certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology.
7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at Age 90
Odds are that you will be medically disabled by age 69 according to data from the World Health Organization. As the current life expectancy is now 79 in the U.S., this means that you will likely spend the last 10 years of your life with chronic medical conditions, on lots of medications, and with many doctor visits. Is this really how you want to spend your “golden years?”
Research shows that if you can do all 7 things discussed in this article, you will likely be able to do everything you now enjoy doing right up until your 90th birthday. Don’t leave 21 high quality years “on the table.” Read on to understand the science of how our bodies were genetically designed to function well until age 90.
Our Distorted Concept of Aging
Many people are afraid to live a long life. Some even have the mistaken idea that the reason why they make poor lifestyle choices is because they don’t want to live very long. What they don’t realize is that these poor lifestyle choices are much more likely to cause premature medical disabilities rather than a premature death.
Sadly, I often hear the following from patients. “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
The key message of this article is that you don’t have to “grow old” in the traditional sense of the word. You can continue to do everything you now enjoy doing until age 90. For most people, your genes will allow you to enjoy great health at age 90 if you are committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Men vs. Women, Disability and Longevity
In general, men become medically disabled and die several years younger than women. The only exception seems to be “Sardinia’s Mysterious Male Methuselahs.” For some strange reason, the Sardinia men seem to outlive the women.
Despite these grim odds for men, there is one group that does surprisingly well in the U.S. This one group of men that seem to thrive in the U.S. are male physicians. What can we learn from these long lived male physicians that can help all of us to live to 90 without medical disabilities?
If you are a woman, even better, as your chances of hitting 90 in great health are even higher than men. This is true even among U.S. physicians.
The Physician’s Study
The Physician’s Health Study was launched in 1982 at Harvard University to test the role of aspirin and beta-carotene in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer. Now, 33 years later, we have learned far more than the health effects of aspirin and beta-carotene.
Surprisingly, many of these male physicians have lived healthy lives, doing everything they have always enjoyed, until their 90th birthday and beyond. Indeed, researchers found that if these physicians did all of the things described in this article, most of them would still be alive at age 90.
I should point out that if physicians even missed just one of the following things, then they probably would not make it to age 90. Even more striking is that most of these physicians, living to age 90, reported excellent health. Below are the 7 things you must do for great health at age 90.
7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at Age 90
1. Don’t Smoke
Every cigarette smoked takes 11 minutes off your life. This adds up to dying 10 years too early. It also causes rapid aging and premature medical disability. Indeed, for physicians to make it to age 90 with excellent health meant absolutely no smoking.
If you smoke it is never too late to change. The sooner you can quit the sooner you can gain back these lost years of quality life.
2. Prevent or Reverse Diabetes
Diabetes is a tragic disease causing premature medical disability and death. In one study, diabetes took away up to 9 years of life and caused people to become medically disabled 20 years earlier.
According to a study performed by my former classmate, Harvard researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, 90% of diabetes is completely preventable. Even if it is genetically impossible to reverse your diabetes, do everything possible to keep your hemoglobin A1C in the normal range or at least as close to the normal range as possible.
3. Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check
High blood pressure not only wears out your heart but also your arteries and other organs. The goal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. Anything above this is prematurely aging the body. Indeed, studies show that people with high blood pressure lose 5 years of high quality life to heart attacks and other heart problems.
As with diabetes, I have seen hundreds of my patients reverse their high blood pressure and get off of medications with an unwavering commitment to a healthy lifestyle. To learn more about how to reverse high blood pressure without medications, please read this article I wrote.
4. Physically Active
Studies show that every hour spent sitting watching TV takes 22 minutes off your life. This could be any form of sitting.
The physicians living to age 90 and beyond with excellent health, in the Physician’s Health Study, were physically active their entire lives. At the cellular level, studies show that if we spend too much time sitting then we give up 10 years of life.
5. Maintain a Lean Body Weight
These physicians living to 90 with great health were not obese. They were a lean group. The average body mass index (BMI) of these physicians was 24. A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight. To determine your own BMI, click on this link.
Studies show that obesity will rob you of up to 9 years of life. Like diabetes, it can cause you to become medically disabled 20 years before your time.
6. College Education
When reviewing the findings of the Physician’s Health Study, it is important to note that this was a very homogenous group. They were all physicians. Thus, we also have to understand what makes a physician a physician.
To begin with, to become a physician means you have to go to school for a long time. Countless studies have shown that the more education you achieve the more likely you are to avoid medical disabilities and live a long life.
According to this 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people did not finish high school gave up 9 years of life. Even those who may have attended college, but did not finish their degree, lost out on 5 years of life.
If you did not go to college, or did not finish your degree, it is never too late. Most colleges offer night courses or online courses to help you get your degree. Spending the time now to get your degree may also help you to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.
7. Calling in Life
Many physicians I know feel that being a physician is their calling in life. There is no separation between work and personal life. As a physician, you are driven by your desire to help other people. This calling in life, or sense of purpose, has been shown to improve health and longevity.
If you don’t yet have a purpose or mission driving your life, now is the time for you to explore why you are on this Earth. What legacy do you want to leave?
Surprising Factors Not Associated with Health and Longevity
Interestingly, there were certain factors not associated with health and longevity in physicians. The following were not shown to improve the health and longevity of physicians in the Physician’s Health Study:
1. Social connection
2. Wine consumption
3. Cholesterol numbers
Of these three, the most surprising to me was that social connection was not a predictor of health and longevity in physicians. Perhaps this is because, by nature, physicians tend to feel very needed and connected to their communities. For example, every week I go to church, at least several neighbors will come up to me asking for help regarding a medical situation.
Also of interest was that as you get older cholesterol numbers don’t seem to matter as much. Other studies have shown similar findings. One other factor that should be considered is that most of these physicians were in good health when they first enrolled in the Physician’s Health Study in 1992.
It Is Not Just Physicians Who Make It To 90
You don’t have to be a physician to enjoy great health at age 90. With strict adherence to a healthy lifestyle, studies show that most Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Okinawans can also live to age 90.
Making It Work For You
The key message of the Physician’s Health Study is that aging does not need to mean medical disabilities, lots of medications, and frequent visits to the doctor. You can continue to enjoy excellent health to age 90 and possibly beyond.
Are unhealthy lifestyle choices worth becoming medically disabled 20 years younger?
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.