In my novels, I often include characters with a wide variety of ages. Sometimes a reader will ask if it’s accurate that one of my characters would have lived to be a senior. I tell them yes, because this is where statistics come in.
Sadly, up until the mid 1800s in America and England, nearly half of all children died before the age of ten. Nearly half. Childhood diseases such as measles, diphtheria (a deadly membrane that grows over the throat) and scarlet fever took many lives. Tuberculosis was another killer. Statistics vary slightly by region and time period, but the average lifespan for the early part of the century was roughly forty.
However, once a person got beyond childhood, these diseases weren’t usually fatal. So, let’s look at statistics. If one person lived until they were 4 years old and another lived till they were 76, the average lifespan of these two people would be 40. Or if one person lived till they were 1 and another till they were 80, their average lifespan would be 40, as well. You get the idea…the average lifespan, statistically, doesn’t give a true picture of what that society looked like back then. It does not mean that people over the age of 40 were scarce. What it means is that half the population was wiped out in childhood.
Fortunately, after the 1850s, people started to understand the connection between germs and disease. Soaps and disinfectants came into common use. Public sanitation, such as garbage collection and water treatment, began in New York City. The average lifespan increased dramatically in the latter half of the century. And later, with the development of vaccines, most children’s lives were remarkably spared.
So how can we improve our own lives?
In writing this article, I goggled tips on longevity and you can imagine how long the list was. We pursue the fountain of youth with zeal. We’ve got anti-aging formulas, bottled vitamins, testimonials on new exercise techniques, cleansing products, and you name it.
What caught my eye were natural solutions, and not based on buying a certain product. In other words, getting back to basics. Besides eating well—especially vegetables and fruits—and getting regular mild exercise, these are some other interesting tips I’d like to share:
1) Some scientists believe that eating only until you feel 80% full, will prolong life. According to the BBC news, residents of Okinawa, Japan have four times more centenarians (those over 100) than the rest of the world. The calendar says they’re 70, but their body says they’re 50. Most impressively, a lot of them are healthy until the very end. They eat more tofu and soya products than any other population in the world, a rich source of anti-oxidants. But they also have a cultural tradition, called hara hachi bu, which means eating only until they feel 80% full. Recent lab studies with mice also mimics this result—those fed less, live longer.
2) Taking deep cleansing breaths for 2 minutes a day stimulates the lymph system. The lymph system is Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of the toxins in our body naturally. Inhale slowly, hold it for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Lymph flow improves throughout the body.
3) Studies show that being exposed to nature makes us feel better. A recent study of hospital patients who had a window view of trees and grass went home, on average, a day sooner than patients who didn’t. You don’t even have to be in this environment, you just have to see it!
4) Natural endorphins in our bloodstream—that give us an emotional high and fight disease—can be triggered by laughter. These are the same endorphins that can be triggered by jogging (the runner’s high). So being a couch potato and watching sitcoms can be beneficial.
5) Reduce your stress level. We’re all individuals and as such, different things trigger a lower stress level. For some, it’s exercise, for some it’s reading, others spend time with their children and families, or take a trip to the beach. Here’s one you may not know—scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but they’ve known for twenty or thirty years now that people who go to church regularly, in whatever faith they observe, live longer. It seems that churchgoers have significantly lower levels of stress hormones. What’s your method of relaxation?
6) Singing can help you live longer. According to studies in the UK and one recently done in California with opera singers, and studies from Harvard and Yale with choir singers—singers live longer. Singing releases endorphins (those happy hormones) and increases oxygenation through the heart and lungs. Singing promotes a healthy heart and enhanced mental state. Wow!
Do you have any other tips you’ve heard of? Are you blessed with longevity in your family?
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