Here then are a few fascinating facts gathered by this gerontologist, psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author:
- Genes account for only about 25 percent of an individual’s health and longevity, while “our environment and personal behaviors account for the rest.”
- Today’s average 65-year-old man and woman can expect to live to be 81 and 85, respectively. More than 17 percent of 65-year-old men and 31 percent of 65-year-old women are expected to live to age 90 or beyond.
- Within species like dogs and mice, small body size tends to extend life span, and shorter people are relatively resistant to most forms of cancer, compared with taller people. Indeed, shorter people may be relatively long-lived or at least resistant to certain major classes of disease.
- Resveratrol, the ingredient found in blueberries, peanuts and in the skin of grapes, may help extend life and is 10 times more abundant in red wines than whites. It is “evident especially” in pinot noir reds.
- Aerobic exercise three times a week can reduce eye pressure—a major risk for glaucoma.
- A 30-minute nap a day may reduce heart disease risk by as much as 30 percent. Longer naps, though, can interfere with good sleep.
- Old age is now perceived as “a time of continuing vitality.” About 44 percent of Americans over age 65 describe the present as “the best years of my life.” As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, beautiful old people are works of art.”
Elizabeth Agnvall is a contributing editor with the AARP Bulletin.