Royal longevity

September 16, 2022

It was a long life and very well-lived.

Genes, of course, played a role, as well as the privileged life that she led. Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96 without having experienced cancer, dementia, or other health issues related to aging. She was working until a couple of days before she passed on when she met with Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Really quite an admirable feat.

Genes, however, make up part of the story. According to studies, genes only determine 20 percent of our longevity. QEII’s mother lived until the age of 101, but her father passed on early in life at the age of 56. Staying active, I believe, is key to living a long and healthy life. The queen was often photographed walking her beloved corgis, riding her horses or taking long walks through her various estates. It seems like until the day before she passed on, she tried, as much as she could, to spend time in nature, and to continue moving about.

Photograph courtesy of unsplash/sangharsh lohakare
Genes, as well as a privileged life, played a role in her long life.

A recent study of 78,000 adults revealed that half an hour of walking each day at a brisk pace cut one’s risk of dementia by 62 percent. The study also showed that even a smaller amount of steps, say, 4,000, which is not as daunting as 10,000, could still cut the risk for dementia by a quarter.

The secret sauce to living a long, happy, and productive life really lies in a few critical components. In 1981, 14,000 residents of a senior community in Southern California called Leisure World were surveyed about their exercise, diet, vitamins and health habits. A few years ago, Dr. Claudia Kawas, a neurologist and professor at University of California at Irvine, tracked down 1,600 of the survey’s survivors who had made it to their 90s. Some of the pertinent things that she found were as follows.

One, 45 minutes of exercise a day is optimum, but even as low as 15 minutes a day makes a positive difference. Longer than 45 minutes made no difference. The exercise need not be done all in one go, the total number of minutes is cumulative.

Two, book clubs, board games, and socializing are all good. Here in the country, mahjong is a game that helps keep the mind sharp, and encourages some degree of socialization.

Photograph courtesy of unsplash/mathew browne
her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.

Three, one to two cups of coffee per day was much better than none. The Queen was known to begin each day with tea (Earl Grey) and then had another cup in the afternoon.

And surprise, surprise — gaining weight is good as you age, but it’s not good to be overweight. Just the right amount of fat, I suppose can be protective as well.

Lastly, the study found that romance is an important part of staying young, and keeping your sanity.

After reading the findings in this study, and being inspired by QEII’s longevity, here’s a simple formula that will hopefully help us reach our 90s. First, get enough sleep each night. Seven hours is the magic number. Wake up consistently at a set time, and begin the day with prayer or meditation and a cup of coffee. Head out and walk or do whatever form of exercise pleases you for 30 to 45 minutes. In the evening, walk around again with friends or neighbors as a means to socialize and move.

Check the scales at least once a week and work on your target weight.

The influence of genetics does play a more important role as one approaches the ninth decade of life. King Charles, whose mother made it to 96 and whose father made it to 99, can give thanks and look forward to a longer reign in spite of having begun it at the ripe old age of 73. All in due time.

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