As I get older, I have to admit the subject of longevity is more interesting to me. I have been looking into what the secret to a long healthy life might be. I am slightly surprised by what I have found but not disappointed. There is as Curly stated in the movie City Slickers, one thing. But, I am not giving the answer away just yet.

Of course, eating healthy and exercise is a big part of overall health. However, it is not necessarily the sure way to longevity. The woman who has lived the longest life so far was Jeanne Calment. She lived in France. She smoked from the age of 21 to 117. She ate 2 pounds of chocolate a week and rode a bicycle till she turned 100 and took up fencing at the age of 85. However, she was not a health nut. She suffered many losses and changes in her life and throughout she kept her wit and her cool. Ms. Calment was basically immune to stress.

Studies of the long living Okinawans in Japan have found several factors that explain their longevity. These include:

  • Okinawans exercise physically and mentally
  • Their diets are high in fruits, vegetables and fiber containing foods.
  • They eat organic soy that is high in flavonoids.
  • They do not overeat. They stop before they are full and consume a modest number of daily calories.
  • They eat a diet rich in natural vitamins and antioxidants.
  • The elderly are respected and appreciated and included as an important part of their society.

The psychologist Lewis Terman started a study called the Longevity Project in 1921. He and his successors followed 1500 children over the course of 80 years. They came to some interesting conclusions. They found that conscientious children and adults stay healthier and live longer. The reason for this is that they are more likely to take care of themselves and adopt a healthy lifestyle. They also seem to be less likely to develop diseases in general, and they form healthier relationships.

The Harvard Longevity study followed Harvard grads from 1940 till they died. The study found that the secret to a long and happy life had to do with having close relationships and finding a path that is fulfilling. Those who participated in vigorous exercise on a regular basis also lived longer.

Thus far I have left out the one thing that all these studies found when it comes to the secret of a long and healthy life. It is true that healthy eating and exercise make a difference and that learning to cope with stress is important and that it helps to be conscientious and have a good sense of humor, but the real secret is love. Whether it is the love of people or a passion (such as Beethoven and music), the true secret of longevity is simple. It is to love and be loved.

“Where there is love there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi