25 dares for a long, healthy life. Are you up to them?

The author dares to you adopt a lifestyle that will enable you to live up to 100

Beautiful healthy lady smiling and happy

1. Dare to eat well.

Eat enough, but not too much. Eat good food. The best diet is balanced; all food groups should be part of your daily meal plan. Your body’s engine will thank you for assuring the best fuel. You are what you eat, so if you seek to be your best, the first step is to assure that your protein, carbohydrate and fat are well distributed.

2. Dare to get your essential vitamins from your food and not from a bottle.

juiceA sound, balanced diet provides all the necessary vitamins that your body chemistry requires. Remember, however, that taking a hundred times the necessary amount is simply wasteful and may be dangerous. Eating a balanced diet is a good vitamin insurance policy.

3. Dare to watch your salt intake.

Many people simply use salt before tasting. Too much salt in the diet causes fluid retention, thereby encouraging high blood pressure. Know too that a hot climate causes sweating, which means loss of salt. Some salt is good, but too much is a burden on your system.

4. Dare to consume enough calcium in your food.

Calcium is the most important mineral in the body. Without it, you would be a jellyfish. Your body contains three pounds [about 1.4kg] of calcium. The recommended daily intake is the equivalent of three glasses of milk. Many do not reach this ideal. Fish and green vegetables are notably alternative dietary sources of calcium. A chronic deficiency of calcium leads to weak bones, osteoporosis, and the human equivalent of a jellyfish.

5. Dare to stay wet.

Our bodies are mostly water so it makes compelling sense not to dry out as we age. A prune is not an attractive fruit. Water is the most available source of fluid, but these days more and more people derive their fluid allowance by using other liquids—coffee, tea, and soft drinks are everywhere. However, none of them is as valuable as plain water as a fluid replacement. Besides, other liquids may carry negative features. Do not dry out. Dare to drink water.

6. Dare to watch your alcohol intake.

Is alcohol a friend or a foe? I confess to a personal delight in my wine and beer ration. However, I am lucky because I am in control. Too many others are not. Alcohol has two strong negatives associated with its excessive use. First is a danger to the liver, which acts as a blotter to soak up this potentially dangerous chemical. The second and more dangerous concern is the harm alcohol causes to a person’s psychosocial development. Alcohol is never the answer to a problem; it makes many problems worse. Stay in control.

7. Dare to be an optimist.

My friend, Norman Cousins [American political journalist and author], insisted, “No one is smart enough to be a pessimist.” It is hard to have a really good day, if you view the world through dark glasses. If you say that today is going to be rotten then what chance does good fortune stand? If you say yes to each morning and to confronting issues, only then will it be a good day.

8. Dare to ask why.

What is your meaning? Are you only a lone voyager on a lonely planet or do you have a larger role in the cosmos? Everything and everyone matters. A poet observed, “You cannot touch a flower without just the troubling of a star”. We are all intimately interconnected, and this interaction compels each of us to find meaning in our lives. Why live, if not to matter? Oblivion is avoided, if we find meaning.

9. Dare to take risks.

The turtle only gets ahead by sticking its neck out. The same holds true for us. If we choose the ease and comfort of our constrained lives, then challenges go unmet and our potential languishes.

10. Dare to laugh.

Understanding the frequent absurdities of life helps to defy sickness and encourage smiles and laughter. A sense of humour is strong medicine, stronger certainly than most of the things that come in bottles. Laughter lightens the burdens of life and releases tension and depression.

11. Dare to touch.

Modern life is often dehumanising and with this comes the temptation to allow machines to take over. However, no machine can replace the reality of human touch.

12. Dare to believe.

Commitment overcomes the many negatives of life. Faith in yourself is much more important than unreasonable reliance on extrinsic agencies. As a physician, I see too many of my patients believe that I am going to take care of them. Wrong! They take care of themselves. I pledge all the help I can in this effort, but belief in self is the real healer.

13. Dare to be in flow.

My friend, Mike Csikszentmihaly, psychologist in California, has made life flow his concentration. He defines flow as that idealised state when the presenting task is met by appropriate competence. When a task is too much and is not met by competence, stress results. On the other hand, when a task is less than your competence flow, boredom follows. A person is in maximum flow state when competence and challenge are in good balance.

14. Dare to grow old with competence.

Don’t abandon the best years to fate. Stay in control. Only you can decide how long you will live, and more importantly, how well you will live long. My mother lived to be 95 years old. She died healthy without an illness, doctors, or pills. That is the ideal. Go to the finish line healthy and independent. Stay in the race until it is fully run.

15. Dare to die well.

Death is a certainty and no one has yet discovered how to deny it. Rather than letting this reality lead to a helpless, hopeless life scheme, place death in its natural context. Do not let the medical system rule your last moments. Stay in charge of your dying, as you insist on control of your living.

16. Dare to have a good health adviser, nurse, doctor or pharmacist.

Know whom to trust to answer your questions honourably and competently because there are far too many charlatans who pretend to be your trusted health advisers. You must work hard to know where to place your trust. When you need advice, don’t take the easy choice. Be informed about whom you can trust.

17. Dare to be smart.

Your brain is a muscle. It needs to be worked to stay sharp. Ageing is a not a disqualification for intelligence. In fact, it brings with it the responsibility to keep growing intellectually. Smart people live longer and better.

18. Dare to be wise.

Wisdom is a rare virtue. My friend Paul Baltes, former director of the famous Berlin Longevity Study said, “Not many old people are wise but all wise people are old.” This major claim derives from the fact that wisdom consists of accumulated knowledge, which is simply not available early in life. Most knowledge that is valuable derives from defeats, not from successes. An old person has lived long enough and had more defeats to confront. Wisdom is a late life credential.

19. Dare to work.

man at work Idleness breeds decay. Nature has little tolerance for inactivity. Age is no disqualification for productive endeavour, if we maintain the conviction that added years provide work advantage. Who would you trust more, a young airplane pilot or an old one? Who would you trust more, a young banker or doctor or an old one? Remain useful.

20. Dare to remain fit.

Fit people live longer and better. Frailty is the principal pathology of ageing and a choice and not fate. If you retain your fitness, you can enter the last decades of life full of confidence and vigour. Fitness cannot be bought. It must be earned over and over. Earn it.

21. Dare to know how hard, how long, and how often to exercise.

Exercise must be an integral part of life, but our industrial age has made our muscles almost vestigial. To acknowledge this, we need an enlightened protocol to keep our muscles fit. Use them or lose them.

22. Dare to honour your heart.

Your heart is your life pump. Its job is to keep you vital, moving your blood to every remote part of your anatomy. The best tonic for the heart is exercise. Exercise is a 30 year age advantage. A fit 80-year-old has the same mechanical advantage for the heart as does an unfit 50 year old. What medicine can match that claim?

23. Dare not to lose it.

Too many people accept the notion that, “I don’t want to lose it, but it hurts too much to use it.” A little discomfort, often arthritic in origin, is frequently used as an excuse not to exercise. Wrong! Not exercising is not an option in late life. If something hurts, do something about it! But not exercising is absolutely out of the question.

24. Dare to deny depression.

Too often older people become gloomy. The answer is not the bed, but exercise. I’ve participated in studies that showed that the beta endorphins—our best antidepressants—are directly associated with movement. Depressed? Take a walk!

25. Dare to be 100.

100 healthy, robust, creative years are your birthright. Demand it. No excuses.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Walter Bortz II
Dr Walter M. Bortz II, MD, is a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and a graduate of Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Recognised as one of America’s most distinguished scientific experts on ageing and longevity, his research has focused on the importance of physical exercise in the promotion of robust ageing.


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