“The Longevity Project” the myth and facts behind it. This book is easy to read. It is like a conversation between friends, over coffee, who recount their research experience in the study of why some people live a long life. The researches, Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, whose research experience covers the past couple of decades of their continuation of a longitudinal study started in 1921, of 1,500 four and five year old students, in the San Francisco area. As of the publication of the book, the study is still in process, because some of the subject were still alive. The original work was started in the 20’s by Dr. Lewis Terman.
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Throughout the book, the authors offer questionnaires one can use to measure themselves with, to see how your responses compare to the experience of those that have lived a long or short life. Friedman and Martin point out in their conversation with the reader, how they are impressed with many of the myths that fly around the concept of a healthful long life. One myth is, if you jog on a regular bases, you will increase you life expectancy. They point out, if a twenty-one year old jogs daily, for an hour, to age sixty-six, they will have spent 14,400 hours, or 900 days, or two and one half years as joggers. They question, as researchers, is the lack specific data on life expectancy by way of exercise, and that a two and a half year extension of one’s life would be note worthy. Yet, in their study of the subjects in the longevity project they found an absence of a correlation between exercise and life expectancy.
Rather the authors were impressed with the characteristic of conscientiousness and sociability as key characteristics of people as predictors of longevity. The authors used, by way of example, Lewis Terman, the person who initiated the longevity study, and our local Ancel Keys, of the University of Minnesota, as conscientious and sociable people. Conscientious, Lewis Terman was dedicated to his psychological studies and Ancel Keys to his study of cholesterol. Sociability, Lewis Terman lived to 79, and died the same year his wife of 55 years died; and, Ancel Keys, who lived to 100 “was survived by his wife” of 57 years. Neither Terman, nor Keys, were known for their exercise regimen. In fact, Ancel Key’s work, which included the study of runners, spent much of his leisure exercise time in the garden or as a walker. The book asks, is it more pleasurable to garden or to jog?
Friedman and Martin gently raise some very serious questions about the assumption of modern medicine and compare them against what does happen. Health care has a cure for all your ills; and, the medical / pharmaceutical industry, if they were able to, would create a “polyp ill” that one would take on a daily bases that would cure any and all of your ills. While medicine has reduced the average cholesterol in many people, by use of a pill, it has left us with an overweight general population because the medical / pharmaceutical industry wants to fix all issues, and have yet to find a cure for longevity, with a “poly pill”.
“The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study” by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, Published Hudson Street Press, © 2011, hardbound $25.95