Wednesday, November 1, 2017

7 Subjective Longevity Markers to Track (and Fix)

Inline_Subjective_Longevity_MarkersA few weeks ago, I went over 7 of the most important longevity biomarkers to track. Today, I’m shifting gears a bit. The theme remains longevity markers, but the markers I’ll discuss today are subjective, logistical, and psychological ones. A couple involve physical sense but you can’t measure these with a blood draw or a lab scan. The only way to assess your standing is through some genuine self-experiment and honest soul-searching. Or by, in one case, running a mile.

So, as you read through today’s list, keep that in mind. Where do you stand—truly? Do any of these apply to you? Number of years aside, what do you really want your longevity gains to look like, feel like? What changes are you willing to commit to now that will make this a more probable reality—to live longer and live more while doing it? Here are a few markers to start with.

Let’s have at it….

A Mile Run at Age 50

I’ve extolled the virtues of the mile run before. It’s a nice blend of stamina and intensity. It’s over quickly, ideally in less than 10 minutes, so you won’t accumulate the damage associated with longer runs at similar intensities.

And research shows that your mile run time at age 50 is a good barometer for your heart health. Since it’s right around middle age that heart disease becomes a real issue, if you can go into your twilight years with a decent mile run and the confidence that your heart works well, that’s a big advantage.

If you’re a man in your 50s, aim for 8 minutes or less. If you’re a woman in your 50s, aim for 9 minutes or less.

Number of Prescriptions Filled

Pharmaceuticals are getting better. The newest HIV drugs render the virus effectively non-lethal, for example. But we’re probably over-treating our elderly. We don’t need so many drugs, even if they work more reliably with fewer side effects than previous incarnations.

Am I going to say you should cut out the pills? No. Doing so may actually reduce your longevity, especially if they’re prescribed for a good reason. But if you find yourself filling prescription after prescription, perhaps you should take stock of the rest of your lifestyle…because something isn’t right.

Many prescriptions are given because doctors assume their patients won’t assume the responsibility to make lifestyle or dietary changes. This isn’t you. You’re different. Take your list of prescriptions to the next appointment and ask your doc which ones you can try replacing with lifestyle interventions. Maybe I’ll do a post on this subject.

Getting Weaker

This is a mix of objective and subjective. You can track your strength with PRs and reps, or you can observe how day-to-day life feels. Carrying groceries felt extra tough today? Are the stairs getting harder? Can you still toss your grandkid in the air? We all know when we’re getting weaker. The trick is to admit it to oneself.

What’s important is to be honest about your strength and to never accept its degeneration—because you can actively counter it with proper training, effort, and diet. Countering the loss of strength requires hard work, but it’s doable.

Aim to be one of those virile young Grandpas or Grandmas with an iron grip. You know the type. They look you in the eye as your hand withers in theirs. It’s here that actively countering this trend will prolong your life. Lift heavy things. Carry heavy things with your hands. Take the stairs whenever possible. Make sure you’re getting (more than) enough protein, since our ability to utilize protein degrades as we age. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give an inch, or else the agents of aging will seize every opportunity to chip away at your lean mass (and, thus, organ mass). 

The Question of Retirement

The effect of retirement on mortality is context-dependent. In men pleased with their post-retirement lifestyle, it increases lifespan. In men dissatisfied with retirement, it decreases it. There are also links between early retirement and dementia, depression, heart attacks, and early death, though they’re riddled with potential confounders (are people with dementia-prone brains unable to stay productive and keep working as long as people with healthy brains?). Still, I think it’s safe to suggest that retirement isn’t always good for a person’s longevity.

Maybe it’s different in more laid-back societies with greater social and familial support. I can see the old Italian paterfamilias going gracefully into old age, retiring on the porch with his glass of homemade chianti, a wedge of pecorino romano, and perhaps a pipe as grandkids scuttle about at his feet. Me, when I think about retiring—which, financially speaking, I could do, I get antsy. I feel my soul slip away and my reason for getting up in the morning dissipating. Relaxation and repose is extremely important to me and to health, but so is having a mission. As lifespan extends so, too, must our engagement with the world.

I’m not saying every 70-year-old needs to start a business or even continue working. Retirement is fine. But if you do, when you do, don’t melt into the couch and gaze at your television. Get a side gig going. Have a hobby. Travel. Learn a skill. Read as much as you can. Be a regular caregiver for your grandkids. Just inject meaning into your life. One guy I know retired from a fairly hum-drum job and started haunting swap meets for old automotive promotional material and classic car tools and parts, which he now sells on eBay. He’d done it as a hobby before retiring, but it’s become a full-fledged side gig. Do something like that.

A Narrowing or Growing Social Network

I once heard a very poignant piece of advice from an old acquaintance. It was a sad moment, a man nearing the end expressing the deepest regret. He said, “Stay in touch with your friends. I didn’t, and just look at me.”

Make that call. Send that text. Reach out on social media. Answer the phone. Attend the reunion. Don’t drift away. Some suggest the only thing in this world a person can count on is that they themselves exist. Or that this is all just a simulation and we’re bits of data being rearranged for the viewing pleasure of the software developer/god. I don’t buy it. And if I’m wrong and I am the only real entity on this plane of existence, that social circle I’m imagining certainly feels real. I reckon I’ll keep in touch.

Financial Security

Most research has centered on the effect of growing longevity on seniors’ financial security. A longer-lived population needs more money, especially given the retirement age was made in an era when people died much younger. I’m interested in the effect of financial security on longevity. I’d argue that a strong longevity marker is whether you feel financially secure.

Not riches. Security. This isn’t necessarily only about savings (although that, too) but maybe about income potential through later years (again, maybe thinking semi-retirement with that passion-fueled gig like I mentioned before). 

Worrying about your finances as you head into old age is no way to live long and well. The fact is, financial insolvency is a strong risk factor for early mortality in cancer patients.

Tenor of Your Self-Talk

Sure, “negative” people are at a greater risk of early mortality. But many negative people don’t recognize that they’re negative, making this a difficult marker for people to track in themselves. In their estimation, they’re simply “realistic,” and their comments are honest observations of a dysfunctional and unfair world. Maybe. Or maybe you’re exaggerating. Maybe you’re making the world out to be a den of inequity and injustice because that makes it easier to give up and stop trying. If you can’t beat it, why strive?

A better marker is to observe the tenor of your self-talk. Are you denigrating yourself inside your own head? Are you thinking things that make you feel weak? Do you apply a fatalistic stamp to every new idea or enjoyable possibility that comes to mind?

An example of negative self-talk: “Ah, geez. Where’s my phone again? Looks like I’m getting old!”

If you’re going around grumbling at the world and bemoaning your place in it, your wish may come true sooner than you think.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of subjective longevity markers. These are simply the 7 markers I track in my own life, and I’m still kicking—and happy doing it.

What subjective markers do you use, consciously or not, to determine how well you’re living and how well you’re supporting your longevity prospects?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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Honeymoon: Part Three

This post is sponsored by Princess Cruises and SheKnows Media.

Don’t miss part one and part two!

Our final port of call was the famous Cabo San Lucas, a destination I have always wanted to visit. We had arrived in Cabo during the night, so our excursion began early in the morning. We were only in Cabo until 1:00pm because we had to cruise all the way back to Los Angeles in only one day. Quick little breakfast and we were off!

We booked all of our trips through Princess Cruises, and they had some great recommendations. We chose a Luxury Day Sail.

We boarded a 50-foot sailboat and hugged the coastline through the Sea of Cortés.

Again, the scenery was just stunning!

Lover’s Beach!

Our guide, Pepe, surprised us with a cute bento box filled with snacks –cilantro grilled shrimp and chips and guac! It was early, but this still tasted great for a yummy second breakfast.

Our destination was this pretty cove for some swimming, paddleboarding, and snorkeling.

In contrast – LOL!

I don’t quite have the sea legs that T does. The waves were too rough for me to stand when I attempted to paddleboard.

Back on our boat, it was HOT. We had no shade and thus had to lather up in all. the. sunscreen.

When lunch was served so we were happy! Look at this awesome feast! Chicken salad, fruit salad, ceviche, tuna tomatoes, pasta salad, more chips, rolls, brownies. Everything tasted so fresh. Also: there was an open bar! I had a few Mai Tais :mrgreen:

On our return trip, they raised the sails, and we had to hold on for dear life when the boat tipped to a nearly vertical angle. We were soaked from the waves! It was a blast, and the highlight of the whole trip for me!

I wish we’d had the whole afternoon to explore Cabo!

Once we were back on the Ruby Princess, we spent the afternoon at The Sanctuary, which is an adults-only extension of the spa and a really nice outdoor lounge area.

There was a $25 cover charge for the afternoon, but we felt it was well worth it to have the most comfortable double chair, tea service, privacy, and quiet.

We also got m a s s a g e s while on board at the spa! My masseuse was from Thailand, and she was amazing. It was one of the best massages I’ve ever had!

Late afternoon tea time treats!

Lest you think that we didn’t exercise the whole trip, we did! There was a nice workout room with a large number of treadmills, ellipticals and bikes, all with incredible bow-side views! I did three different workout sessions, which were much needed!

Dressed up for another dinner!

We actually ate in the specialty restaurant Crown Grill twice we liked it so much! The ambiance was great, and we loved the menu.

This lobster cake with herb foam was so good! I love anything in the foam family of texture : )

The salads they offered were great – goat cheese and olives.

I loved my Filet Mignon, which I had with a baked potato and asparagus. They also offered a trio of fancy salts to use with your meal, and the smoked salt was so good I want to find some here in town.

Dessert during our first visit was a sampler of everything they offered – yaaaaas!

For our last night they made us a special Baked Alaska that was not on the menu!

We went to so many different entertainment options while on board, from music trivia to a 50s dance party to the Marriage Match game. During a cruise I went on when I was a teenager, I always wanted to participate in one of the marriage games as a newlywed. THIS WAS OUR CHANCE! …But Thomas said “no thank you, not in a million years.” So, we watched and laughed instead! The show dancers, comedian, and magicians were all great!

We had such a great trip overall, and I felt that we covered so much ground – from sitting and doing nothing to eating a wide variety of great food, to adventuring along the Mexican coast to watching shows, going to the Casino, and more. We were never bored! I have always loved cruising – I love the coziness of everyone being on one ship, the panoramic ocean views, the convenience of seeing multiple ports from one room, and the entertainment. I would love to take Mazen on a cruise next time! I loved it when I was young, and I know he will too! Princess Cruises promises that you will “Come Back New.” Not only did we return home refreshed and renewed, we came back newlywed! <3

Thanks to Princess Cruises and SheKnows Media for sponsoring this post and the most magical honeymoon! 

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