Healthy lifestyle prescription for longevity

The headline screamed for attention—“51 Top Scientists Blast Anti-Aging Idea.”

The article in a seniors’ publication went on to say “anyone who claims that they can stop or reverse the aging process is lying to you—even if they’re a doctor.”

This statement is part of a debate between scientists and doctors who believe there are some things that can delay aging and those who say there’s nothing to do about it.

The article went on “there are no lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones, or techniques of genetic engineering available today that have been demonstrated to influence the processes of aging.”

I’m sure the scientists’ warning is well meant and intended to keep seniors from wasting money on quack solutions. But I strongly take issue with the statement “there are no lifestyle changes” that can “influence the processes of aging.”

I do not believe that statement is true.

“The Okinawa Program,” written by Bradley Willcox, M.D., Craig Willcox, Ph.D., and Makoto Suzuki, M.D., reports on a 25-year study of the healthy longevity of people in Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan.

Although there have been reports of extreme longevity in other parts of the world, researchers found no birth certificates. But in Okinawa, ages are well documented.

Okinawa has a life expectancy of 81.2—the best in the world. The United States, on the other hand, has a life expectancy of 76.9.

Why that difference in longevity?

The researchers credit lifestyle factors—a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and social connectedness. Okinawans also live life at a slower pace that reduces stress.

With this lifestyle, they not only have achieved longevity, but “healthy longevity,” as researchers find them physically younger than their chronological ages.

They have 80 percent fewer heart attacks than Americans. They also have fewer cases of cancer, a low risk of developing osteoporosis, significantly less mental decline, and better skin tone.

Their diet, said Dr. Wilcox, helps Okinawans to feel better and look younger. It consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, soy products, calcium-rich foods, and fish.

They also drink lots of liquids—six glasses of water and six cups of tea—every day.

Okinawans are physically active no matter what their age. For older people, it is often walking, gardening, and Tai Chi that keeps them young.

According to the researchers, the activities that older people choose are designed to “connect their physical selves with their psychological and spiritual selves. And make them feel whole.”

As whole people and spiritual people, they help one another. The entire community is connected and even the oldest of the old have close friends and family support.

No matter what age, each person works at something meaningful to help the community.

The researchers comment that “a sense of belonging and connection to other people helps keep us healthy, increases our longevity, and makes us happier and more fulfilled.”

So this is the prescription for healthy longevity. In the words of one Okinawan elder, “Eat good food, walk everywhere, and enjoy your work!”

“The Okinawa Program” details the scientifically-validated study and features a four-week turnaround plan of lifestyle changes to help you live long and healthy.

So why not start living the Okinawa lifestyle today and prove the skeptics wrong.

Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit