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Do’s and don’ts for a long and full life


Q—How long can people actually live? Do we already have the technology to enable us to live longer than our ancestors? Do you have tips on how to live longer?—

A—Despite the numerous scientific breakthroughs on biological research that we have witnessed the last few decades, we still do not have the capability to prolong our natural lifespan. But we already know how we can maximize the time allotted to us on this earth.

What determines our lifespan?

Our maximum lifespan is determined by the genes that we have inherited from our parents. A few lucky people have superior genes and can live well beyond 100—the longest confirmed human lifespan on record is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875–1997) who lived for 122 years and 164 days. But, for most of us, our maximum lifespan is only between 70 to 100 years. In any case, any person who dies before 70 hasn’t lived his or her natural lifespan and has, therefore, died prematurely.

How much of our maximum lifespan we will actually come to enjoy depends on us, specifically, on our lifestyle. World Health Organization (WHO) figures show that non-communicable diseases account for seven of every 10 premature deaths worldwide. Of the premature deaths, an estimated 80 percent are caused by just four diseases. These big four are cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. Although our genes also play a role in the development of these diseases, they are largely brought about by lifestyle factors. Thus, by steering clear of certain damaging health habits while adopting a few good ones, we should be able to live way past 70 with a minimum of pain and disability.

Risk factors for chronic diseases

There are actually just a handful of major risk factors for chronic diseases and premature death including smoking, unhealthy diet, sedentary living, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption. These risk factors interplay with each other in causing disease. Here are surefire measures that will help you negate the risk factors for chronic diseases and enable you to live a long and full life.

  • Do not smoke—Cigarette smoking causes not only many forms of cancer but numerous cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well.
  • Maintain a desirable body weight through diet and exercise—Overweight and obesity increase one’s chances of developing type two diabetes mellitus, hypertension, high blood cholesterol level, gallbladder disease, sexual and reproductive problems, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and some cancers. Incidentally, waist circumference—which indirectly measures the amount of excess fat a person has in and around the belly—is currently the most sensitive gauge and determinant of the metabolic and cardiovascular complications of obesity. According to the WHO Asia-Pacific Guidelines for central obesity, Filipino women should have a waist circumference of no more than 80 cm (31.5 inches) while Filipino men should have no more than 90 cm (35.5 inches).
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet—Consume low-salt, low-fat, high-fiber food with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly—Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week. Exercise can come in a variety of ways—jogging, walking, swimming, dancing, and doing household chores, among others.
  • Drink moderately—Better still, don’t drink at all. There is a very thin line that separates moderate from heavy drinking.
  • Get enough sleep—There is no activity that enables the body to recuperate as much as good night sleep.
  • Be socially active—People who keep in touch with friends and relatives are less susceptible to depression. They also tend to recover from illnesses faster.
  • Learn to handle stress—Leave your worries in the office. Start a hobby. Unwind by listening to music and taking a walk.
  • Check your blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and lipid profiles regularly—If you develop either hypertension or diabetes mellitus, control the condition with the help of your doctor. Keep your cholesterol and blood lipids within normal ranges preferably through a healthy diet, but with the help of cholesterol-lowering drugs, if necessary. If you have been prescribed maintenance medications, take them religiously.

(Note: Email inquiries on health matters to:


Source: Manila Bulletin

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