In Search of the Fountain of Youth
Ann Tyndall Ph.D.
The study of aging, gerontology is a relatively new science, though lengthening the life span has been a goal for centuries. The First Emperor of China offered huge rewards for anyone who could find the secret to youth and prolonged life. The great magicians of Shantung cast spells, concocted potions and induced trances to lengthen life. Ponce de Leon spent his life following stories and rumors, searching for the Fountain of Youth, an enchanted pool of water that could give everlasting youth to those who drank from it. Leonardo da Vinci dissected many corpses, hoping to discover the secrets of life and death.
In their attempt to uncover these secrets, researchers have begun to study the mechanism of aging. For example, what signals the cells to stop multiplying, grow old and die? Why do some people live to be ninety-five, continuing with an active life, while others slow down at the age of sixty and die slowly of chronic disease? In order to answer these questions, various studies have been done on long-lived people. Other studies have involved the transplantation of aging organs into young hosts to see if youthful qualities were observed in the transplanted organs. (They were not.) Though the life span of one's biological parents remains the most important predictor of one's life span, there have been some important findings from recent research that allow anyone to extend their life span many years beyond what they might normally expect. It is the purpose of this book to explore the findings of this research and make recommendations for positive changes you can make in your life that will help to prolong the prime of your life.
For instance, recent advances in medical science have shown that the two biggest killer diseases in the United States, heart disease and cancer, are heavily influenced by lifestyle. If lifestyle plays a major part in the prevention of these diseases, then at a minimum that means we are in control of two of the major factors that influence longevity and quality of life. Population studies that compare the Asian diet and the Mediterranean diet with the American diet show remarkable patterns that could be the key to why Americans die more from cancer and heart disease than do the Japanese or the Greeks.
If there were a fountain of youth, we'd have to say that it is exercise. Instead of a fountain of youth, perhaps it would be more accurate to say there is a mountain of youth. The peoples of the world who live the longest inhabit mountainous regions that require them to engage in a great deal of physical activity during their daily lives. Of all the populations studied, the single most important common factor influencing the subject's longevity (other than genetic inheritance) was exercise. The chapter on exercise and lifestyles outlines a program of physical activity that is designed so anyone can follow it, no matter what their current physical condition.
Did you ever wonder why you never see very old people who are overweight? There is a reason. In the chapter on lifetime weight control you will learn the techniques for lifetime weight control and these habits can keep you healthier, longer.
As we grow older the risk of hip and bone fractures, as well as osteoporosis (bone loss) increases. The chapter on bones and aging recommends dietary changes and physical activity that can decrease your chances of getting osteoporosis and debilitating bone fractures.
This book focuses on nutrition as a proven key to health and longevity. There are powerful, natural chemicals in foods, called phytochemicals, that can fight cancer, delay the aging process and provide energy for peak performance. This book offers a total approach to lifestyle habits, including eating habits, exercise, weight control, goal setting, life enrichment and finding meaning. It was written not only for older people who are interested in maintaining their health but for younger people who can reap long-term benefits from positive health habits. Each chapter includes a section at the end, "What You Can Do," that gives practical recommendations for putting research findings into action.
There is a massive amount of misinformation and false claims about nutrition and it is difficult to know what is the right thing to do when faced with so many conflicting choices. Some people have become convinced that there is no way to get adequate nutritional benefits from the natural food supply; therefore, they take a variety of food supplements, still feeling uneasy that something could be missing. This book will answer many of the most frequently asked questions about what foods are healthiest and will provide an easy to follow nutritional program that will help prolong the prime of your life.