Just a Thought
What this series is about As we age, keeping physically active is essential. It not only improves the appearance of the body, it also prevents the occurrence of health complications in the future. Join the discussion in this series as we research the various programs that can help maintain a healthy body.
Staying Young: How to stay youthful and age slowly
We all age differently. If you have ever been to a high school or college reunion, you will have seen the proof up close. While some former colleagues may look decades older than the calendar says, others radiate youthful vitality. Though the chronological clock ticks at the same rate for all of us, everyone's biological clock has its own speed. To a great extent we can control that rate. Though we cannot stop ageing, as some people and products might claim, we can delay the ageing process.
The essential part of ourselves, whether you call it soul, self, or spirit, is ageless. This ageless self enables us to identify with the youthful protagonists in coming-of-age films and books because, internally, we feel eternally young. In a notable attempt to highlight the possibilities of anti-ageing medicine and clear up its speculative, often conflicting counsel, Edward L. Schneider challenges the belief that ageing is predetermined by genetics and offers an everyday, behaviour-based strategy as a way to achieve longevity. His book AgeLess offers tools to minimise the toll of time and maximise the correspondence between our ageless self and the face that meets the world. By adopting AgeLess principles, we can increase vitality today, prevent or postpone the diseases of ageing, and add healthy years to the time spent on earth.
Commenting on the work of Schneider, Robert Griffith, Editor, says “… Schneider introduces reasons for writing the book, his measure of individual longevity — the Longevity Quotient (LQ) — and the basis for his New Rules for improving one’s LQ.”
Edward L. Schneider explains:
Live Well to Age Well
My own grandparents were AgeLess role models for me. Though I knew them for 40 years, I never saw these two dynamos grow old. Their joie de vivre communicated an agelessness that would one day become the elixir that I now offer to all of you. My grandmother lived life to the fullest throughout her eighties, doing her own housekeeping and shopping, cooking for her grandchildren, running out to have fun with her friends at the senior centre, and still having time left over to volunteer at the local nursing home. My grandfather was equally active, managing his apartment building and playing vigorously with his grandchildren. He never lost his energy or gusto for life.
During my medical training, I did not understand what the doctors meant when they discussed old age in a negative way. These vital, engaged, and energetic people were proof to me that ageing didn't mean the inevitable decline that my medical teachers described. My grandparents inspired me to make the study of ageing my life's work.
We live at a time of unprecedented opportunity to maximise our AgeLess potential. The rate at which average life expectancy is increasing in the developed world, most readers of this book will make it to age 85, and many of you have a good shot at celebrating your 100th birthday. But with current trends, half of our future 85-year-olds will need help with simple daily tasks due to age-related infirmities acquired along the way. Which will you be ---independent, vigorous, and active, or needy, disabled, and sick? Now is the time to decide.
As they say on the radio when they try out the emergency broadcast system, the LQ is "only a test." The results don't cast your future in stone, in fact, quite the opposite. With these tests and the six-point LQ plan, you can take control of your future --- perhaps for the first time --- and decide for yourself how to increase your health span. Seeing is believing, and your LQ score can provide the framework you need to start ageing less today. And remember, whether the number you see on the page is high, low, or in between, the key fact is that your longevity quotient can change for the better, if you begin implementing the LQ plan. You are investing in your present and future - so the sooner you start, the higher your lifelong LQ will be.
The Old Rules
The majority of people I meet are following old, outdated rules that no longer apply. In many cases, factors that we thought were important for successful ageing have been proven wrong by newer and often better-controlled studies. Sometimes there was no solid scientific basis to begin with --- the federal government's Food Guide Pyramid, for example. Many of the old rules were based on what are called observational studies, in which researchers look at such health behaviours as eating habits or exercise in groups of individuals and correlate them with specific diseases they may acquire over time. While the findings from observational studies can seem remarkable, some of those termed breakthroughs have not stood up to the next level of scientific scrutiny.
And the old rules were hard to follow. I remember exhorting people seeking the keys to ageing less to work hard at their goals. Run 5 miles a day! Peel off those extra pounds! Slash the fat in your diet! Avoid stress whenever you can! Giving this advice was easy. What was hard was finding anyone who could stick with the program. We'd set the bar too high.
It was a great relief when scientific studies started to show that we could relax these rigid rules. In this book, I lay out the New Rules --- cutting-edge knowledge based on the newest, most credible research that will help you maximise your LQ.
The New Rules
So where do the findings behind the New Rules come from? They came from thousands of studies published in the top peer-reviewed journals. I've traced the science of each rule back through its history and accounted for the full balance of evidence --- not the latest "breakthrough." The New Rules are exciting because they break the old rules and make extending your health span easier than ever before. And because I take the long view, the New Rules will also serve you well far into the future.
As much as possible, the New Rules are based on the gold standard for research: randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies. Obviously, this design works best for pills. The best behaviour-based studies compare the behaviour --- for example, taking exercise --- with alternative health behaviour plans like taking supplements or participating in an educational group.
I have based each New Rule on the preponderance of evidence from the strongest, best-designed studies conducted by leading experts on the issue. The references in the back of the book give you just a sampling of this work. If you take an interest, by all means head for the library or to the Internet to see the data at its source. If not, don't worry. I have done the hard work for you, and the New Rules translate complex research into simple lifestyle measures.
It is important to note that while the New Rules are based on the very best science, many anti-ageing claims don't meet even minimal scientific standards. I've attended plenty of talks in which the speaker claims "I know it works and so do those people who've used it", effectively dismissing the need for rigorous scientific studies. No matter how many glowing testimonials you hear, even from sources you respect, don't be taken in by anecdotal evidence! Even the most intelligent individual can experience a short-term placebo effect from any given treatment; the novelty and heightened expectation of trying something new can buoy your feeling of well-being.
The above is just a sampling of Schneider’s introductory chapter. Future issues in this series will attempt to discuss some of his views on Exercise, and Nutrition - fuelling youth with great food and a few smart supplements. In the meantime …
Discover your Longevity Quotient - and change it
Will you be playing tennis on your 85th birthday or struggling to get out of a chair at 60? Should you expect your energy and sex drive to fizzle by age 45 or will you hit middle age with body and mind in their prime? To help you measure your health span --- and change it --– Schneider has developed a measurement he calls the longevity quotient (LQ). Most of you may already be familiar with this sort of assessment in the form of the intelligence quotient (IQ) test, which was introduced by Dr. William Louis Stern in 1912 to predict how an individual will perform in comparison to the population on various cognitive tasks. Likewise, Schneider’s LQ measures your habits to help assess the length and quality of your health span in six key areas.
Habits that can help slow the ageing process fall into six categories:
- Weight management
- Engagement with life
- Hormone replacement
Schneider provides LQ quizzes that can help one to see where they are on track for a long, vigorous life and where you have room to improve. If you score 100 percent on all the quizzes, congratulations! Pass this message to someone else that may benefit. For the rest (and that is most of us), a true assessment of your current situation is critical to prioritising your personal longevity plan.
Schneider EL. AgeLess: Take Control of Your Age and Stay Youthful for life. Rodale, CA, USA 2003. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1579546218/healthandagecom/
ISBN 1-57954-621-8, Rodale Inc. as Live Well, Age Well
Project Manager and Editor, Quality4Life Programs
24 April 2006