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The Concept of Longevity

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Updated February 20, 2007

About Longevity:

From the immortal gods of the Greeks to the Fountain of Youth, longevity has always captivated people. As we age, we become interested in methods to extend life. We look to supplements, diet changes, and other techniques to increase life expectancy. There are really two sides to longevity -- living long and living well. The goal should be to live as many healthy, happy years as possible.

How Long Can People Live?:

Proving the age of people over 100 means going back before 1900 for records. Often this information is unavailable or unreliable. Jeanne Calment, who lived until the age of 122, is considered the oldest verified person. About 50 other people have been verified to have reached the age of 114.

Longevity Myths:

Longevity is surrounded by myths and legends. Many of these legends involve places where people are reputed to live long. While the life spans of people in these places is hard to verify, it is true that certain cultures do not suffer much chronic illnesses while aging. We can learn much from these people about living healthy throughout our lives through diet, exercise and a good attitude.

Nationalism and Longevity:

Comparison of longevity statistics has been a source of competition among nations of the world. During the Cold War, Stalin famously upheld claims of people in his native Georgia living beyond 160. These claims and others have been proven false. Longevity statistics in the form of life expectancy are often used to compare health care systems around the world.

Longevity Techniques:

Calorie restriction, special kinds of meditation, red wine and herbal concoctions have all been held up to increase longevity. Many of these techniques are based on limited research or no research at all. Much of the research is done in rat and monkey models where scientists study how long animals live when exposed to different experiments (such as giving red wine extract or subjecting the animals to calorie restriction). Whether and how these experiments apply to humans is unknown. An individual's best bet is to live a healthy lifestyle filled with laughter, good friends, nutritious foods and exercise.

Modern Longevity:

As the baby boomer generation ages, increasing attention is being paid to the subject of longevity. Anti-aging doctors are emerging who sell any number of medicines, treatments, and services that all claim to increase life expectancy. Drug companies are investigating ways to put the beneficial components of red wine and green tea into a pill. People are obsessed with the idea of increasing their life expectancy. The most important thing you can do to improve your life expectancy is to master your daily habits of eating, exercise, and stress reduction.

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