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Methuselah lives lite and smokeless. (Starting Here).

FOR SOME TIME SCIENTISTS AROUND the world have been studying the increase in life span in humans--the age at which the average member of a species would die if there were no diseases, predators, or accidents to cause a premature demise.

Swedish national statistics confirm the maximum age at death has been rising in industrialized countries for the past 100 years and that the maximum they have now documented is 122.45 years. In fact, they report that from 1969 to 1999, human life span increased by 1.1 years every decade. If we look at this as our potential future, it does turn a lot of our basic assumptions and plans catty-wampus.

People who thought of retiring in their early or mid-60s will be just approaching middle age. Actuarial tables are turned on their ears; life insurance policies that expire at age 75 will be useless when we tack on another fifty years. Heirs to crowns might be great-great-grandchildren rather than my-son-the-prince. Delayed gratification will become the order of the day. And dancers at 30 are likely to be considered juveniles.

I see a fair number of dancers' obituaries here, and I have noted that--barring accidents or early-onset terminal diseases--dancers are remarkably long-lived; a number of them who died this year were more than 100 years old. Not bad when you consider that in 1900, when some of them were born, the average American life expectancy was 47 years. Dancers must be doing something right!

As reported in William Evans's and Irwin Rosenberg's best-selling book Biomarkers: The 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality, investigators have determined some important lifestyle patterns in primitive regions where populations are allegedly long-lived: diets low in calories and animal fats, a high level of physical activity and fitness, a lack of obesity, moderation in alcohol and tobacco consumption, and no retirement. In fact, elderly people remain active in social and economic life with a sense of usefulness and purpose, because in traditional cultures social status increases with age. More recent studies in California identified simple guidelines for longer life: no smoking; weight within 20 percent of what's recommended for age, sex, and height; moderate alcohol intake (which they found better than either total abstinence or abuse); moderate exercise about three times a week; regular meals including breakfast; and sleeping seven or eight hours a night. And, 70-year-olds who followed all these health rules were as healthy as people aged 35 to 44 who practiced only three of them!

Life span is not the same as life expectancy, the age at which the average person can expect to die given their society's environmental conditions; infant mortality, accident, and disease statistics; health care, and other factors. The problem with such a life span as 122 years, or even the 90 or so that we can now expect, is that some portion of it will include years of declining well-being and a loss of self-reliance. The goal is to have a long healthy life and a short disability period. It seems that to achieve that goal we must adopt most of the lifestyle patterns mentioned above. Now, not later.

In this issue, Dance Magazine's special section on the body examines not only the look of diverse dancers but the body's usefulness and perfection as a biomechanical tool, mind-body connections, and ways dancers have found to improve and prolong their creative art of dancing. In a real sense, the care and feeding of the body equals expected life span. So dancers, stop smoking and keep moving.

Be of good health.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:good health and longevity
Author:Patrick, K.C.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:591
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