How long would you like to live?

Garry Boone Contributing columnist

Garry Boone Contributing columnist

Have you picked a number, an age, you’d like to live to – or surpass? One Harvard poll discovered that many people chose 73 as an attainable age. My grandfather and I had birthdays one day apart and the family often celebrated our days together. He would ask me how old I was that day and I would say, for example, “10.” And I would ask his age and he would say, “58.” I would ask how long he expected to live and he would always say 100. To better him, I would always say 120. He lived to 92. I now think I might be able to exceed that 120 number.

Before you scoff and stop reading, let me just say I have been studying the subject of longevity and life expectancy for over 25 years. There are many people, scientists and laymen alike, who are convinced they will live well past that 120-year mark. Aubrey de Grey, a scientist who studies regenerative medicine, thinks that new biotechnology will ease the curse of aging. He has stated many times that he believes there is a person on earth today who will live over 1,000 years. Google’s resident “genius,” Ray Kurzweil, in his book “The Singularity is Near”, says anyone who can live a healthy life until the year 2040 … can choose the day they die.

“A healthy life” — that’s the key. Whenever I mention to my friends that I plan to live well over 100 years, they inevitably say the same thing: that I’m nuts and they have no intention of living that long. What they fail to see is the health angle. They see themselves sitting alone somewhere in a wheelchair or forcibly moved into a bleak hospice or nursing care facility, just stacked up with the others, waiting to die. When I discover that is their expectation of living a long, long life, then I must agree with them. No. Impaired health will never do. Good health equals happiness. And not just physical soundness — mental health is of equal importance.

Now, how does one maintain these qualities after life has kicked us around for 60, 70, 80 years? After over 25 years of study and research, I must say the answer is not acceptable for most. The issue is so complex that I’ve concluded that one individual cannot dictate a course of action for many others. A few, maybe, but not some blanket formula that would include all of humanity.

Let’s take Mr. Kurzweil. When I first researched his daily intake of vitamins and supplements some 10 years ago, he was ingesting 250 pills a day. I recently read that he has that down to around 100 now. Still, taking even 100 pills every day does not sound to me like living the good life. Many supplements are very expensive. Mr. Kurzweil spends around one million dollars a year on his pursuit of living a long life. I don’t know about you, but that leaves me out. So I examined each supplement he was taking. I guess his body is drastically lacking in producing the various components of cell regeneration.

I have my blood drawn and examined twice a year and I keep it logged in my chart. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep those results within the acceptable range on each test for the past 25 years. Ray needs help maintaining proper levels of sodium, potassium and chloride, among many, many others. I don’t. So after taking each of his pills under consideration, I determined that only one might be of use to me. I decided that resveratrol was helpful to keep a happy heart and have chosen to drink one glass of red wine (preferably a malbec) every day around dinner time. The one supplement is called Metformin and it’s been around since 1995 and was originally prescribed for diabetics. During scientific study it was found that Metformin also was useful in cell regeneration. Cell regeneration is the foremost proponent of long life. Cells die and that’s called old age.

This description is way too simplistic. As I said, I’ve been studying this for many years. And before you go off buying this vitamin and that supplement, you would be foolish if you haven’t consulted your doctor and undergone testing.

And that’s only the physical part. The brain is of equal importance. Notice I haven’t even brought up exercise, which is crucially important, but the brain also needs daily exercise. Every day I complete a difficult crossword puzzle, play online chess, read, write. Not everyone will want to do that. Nonetheless, if you want to avoid that nursing home, you’d better find something that challenges your mind.

Your soul. It needs nurturing. No one knows what a soul is, it’s simply a quick way to assess a person’s overall outlook on life. If you are overbearingly negative about most things, chances are you won’t hit that 120 mark. So feeding that soul means keeping a balanced, happy attitude and a daily perspective of one’s blessings.

Have you ever watched a Tom Cruise movie and marveled at how well he seems to have maintained his body and health? Or Keanu Reeves? Stallone? Cruise is 57 years old and still defying death as he completes most of his own stunts. Keanu is 58. Stallone, 76. Harrison Ford has a new Indiana Jones movie coming out soon. Harrison is 80 years old.

Garry Boone is a Hillsboro resident.

Garry Boone Contributing columnist Boone Contributing columnist