5 “guilt-free” pleasures to help you live past 90

This week, I previewed the early results from the “90+ Study,” which focuses on the diet and lifestyle habits of 1,900 men and women who researchers call the “oldest old.”

Researchers at the University of California Clinic for Aging Research and Education began the study in 2003 to investigate what factors attribute to people living to age 90 and beyond.

Overall, they consistently found that five key lifestyle and dietary habits play a large factor in longevity. But really, we should call these habits “pleasures,” because you’ll thoroughly enjoy working them into your lifestyle. (Or better yet — maybe you already enjoy them!)

And while these “pleasures” may shock some, if you’re a longtime reader of my Daily Dispatch, you’ll find them delightfully familiar.

So, let’s get right to it…

No. 1: Enjoy more than just one glass of cheer

The most prominent finding from the study involves moderate alcohol consumption. In fact, the study participants who drank two glasses of beer or wine each day improved their chances of living longer by an impressive 18 percent compared to those who abstained.

Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist and lead author of the 90+ Study said, “I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that moderate drinking improves longevity.”

Oh dear, dear Dr. Kawas, we have plenty of explanations. In fact, I’ve been reporting about the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption for years. And the science doesn’t change just because the politically-driven American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) decided to issue a manifesto against any and all alcohol consumption

And the science just keeps getting stronger…

Last year, I told you about research that showed that moderate drinkers were twice as likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia, as compared to non-drinkers.

And what about all the well-designed, long-standing studies that illustrate the “French Paradox”? This widely-known paradox stems from data showing French men and women have half the rates of chronic diseases even though they drink more wine and alcohol, smoke more, and eat more fatty foods than the U.S.A.

Twenty years ago, researchers labeled these findings as paradoxical — most likely because they didn’t fit the prohibitionist narrative. But now that more and more studies support these findings, isn’t it time to stop making them seem so absurd?

In fact, even before we had these well-designed studies on the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, we knew about it anecdotally in medical circles…

I vividly recall the teachings and observations of our clinicians and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital during the 1970s. We all saw how patients who drank alcohol had less heart disease, based on decades and decades of clinical observations on hundreds of thousands of individual patients.

It’s obvious to us that moderate alcohol consumption works by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. And stress is the No. 1 killer behind high blood pressure and heart disease. Stress also contributes to other chronic diseases, including dementia, Type II diabetes, and even cancer!

Just look at the existing evidence, Dr. Kawas. There’s no magic — or mystery — here!

No. 2: Spend your free time doing something you love

The study showed that participants who enjoyed a hobby for two hours per a day had a 21 percent better chance of living into advanced old age.

This finding makes a lot of sense as well. Whatever takes your mind away from your troubles will certainly help your health. In my book, New World Mindfulness with Don McCown, we discuss how hobbies are another form of stress reduction and relaxation (which is the same reasoning behind why I feel moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial.)

And speaking of books, reading makes a great pastime. In fact, book lovers live almost two years longer than those who don’t ever crack open a book, as I reported a few years ago.

Of course, any book will do. But if you’d like to read some books that can also help you live longer in other ways, and help you reduce your risk of chronic diseases, visit my website: www.drmicozzi.com.

No 3. Don’t overdo it on the exercise

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how much exercise you really need.

I’ve always been a big proponent of just 20 to 30 minutes of light-to-mild exercise a few days a week. This amount of exercise gets just enough blood pumping to all the muscles and your brain.
Plus, the science shows any more exercise than that doesn’t really confer additional health benefits. Not to mention, there’s real danger in over-exercising. In fact, extreme exercise harms your heart, kidneys, joints, and even GI tract, as I’ve previously reported.

And the 90+ Study confirms my view…

In fact, it found you need even less exercise than I’ve been recommending.

In the study, participants who exercised just 15 minutes per day had an 11 percent greater chance of achieving advanced longevity.

All of this evidence makes me wonder: What good are the government’s exercise guidelines if they’re just plain wrong? (Kind of like their dietary guidelines.) As this study shows, you just don’t need as much exercise as we’ve been led to believe.
I recommend moderate exercise like walking, hiking, swimming, or gardening out in the sun a few days a week. And maybe plan it for after dinner. Studies show when you get moving after dinner, there are greater benefits for your metabolism and blood sugar control.

No. 4: Carry a few extra pounds!

I also report a lot about the health benefits of carrying a little extra weight, especially as you get older.

Remember that study I told you about a few years ago from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)? Researchers found slightly overweight men and women lived longer than those with a “normal” weight.

That study wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It involved nearly three million people from nearly 100 different countries around the world. And multiple, well-designed studies since then have come away with the same results — including this one!

For this study, participants who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than “normal” or “underweight” people.

Doctors have made this common-sense observation for centuries. Even the good Dr. Kawas admitted, “It’s very bad to be skinny when you are old.”

Again, it makes we wonder, when all this evidence points to the health benefits of being slightly “overweight,” maybe we need to change the guidelines for what is deemed “normal”!

No. 5: Enjoy a morning pick-me-up, without feeling guilty!

The recent kerfuffle by the California nanny state regulators about coffee causing cancer is absolute nonsense. Even the American Cancer Society says it’s safe and beneficial to drink coffee.

Not to mention all the science and current research confirming your daily cups of java are a-okay. Like the results from the 90+ Study, which show that drinking coffee is far from a “vice…”

The researchers found that those who drank two cups of coffee per day increased their chances of achieving great longevity by 10 percent.

A few years ago, I also told you about six great reasons to drink coffee. Most importantly, it protects you against a host of different diseases, including cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

Just make sure you always skip the flavored, artificial creamers and sugars. If you want a little cream in your coffee, just add whole milk or half-and-half.

So all-in-all, if you want to live to 90 and beyond, keep these healthy habits:

• drink alcohol in moderation,
• pick up a hobby that occupies your mind and engages your body
• exercise (but only in moderation)
• don’t fret over those few extra pounds
• enjoy that cup of coffee (or two or three)

This all reminds me of a joke my mentor, US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop used to like telling. “ You should give up smoking, drinking, and sex; eat oatmeal every day, and spend every morning in the gym. You won’t live forever, but it’ll sure feel like it.”

Now, I am going to take my own advice and spend some time on one of my favorite hobbies now — getting the garden ready for planting.

You can learn all about the simple, natural strategies to stay vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s — and beyond — in my brand-new protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” If you’d like to be one of the first classes of scholars to enroll, or if you’d just like to learn more, simply click here.


“90+ Study,” UC Irvine Mind (mind.uci.edu)