Shirley I., a 34 year old social worker raising a young daughter on her own, had always been fastidious and fiercely independent. She lived with a certain level of stress in her life, but it was constant, and she had developed habitual ways to cope. After all, Imelda Marcos had more than 300 pairs of shoes and it didn't kill her. As she had planned, Shirley went back to graduate school and became a licensed psychologist. It was at the outset of her career that she met and began dating a hugely successful investment banker. The attraction was strong and Shirley was falling in love, but she felt he was pressuring her to give up her independence, move in, and get engaged. In time, his sense of humor, intelligence, and "old fashioned" courting style -- flowers, candlelight dinners, Mediterranean cruises -- won her over. Eventually she agreed, and they set up a household together with her daughter.
With the added stress of a new career, the pressing needs of a pre-teen daughter, and the heavy social demands of her fiancé weighing on her, Shirley found herself becoming forgetful for the first time in her life. Little details began falling through the cracks and she actually mixed up a patient's appointment and missed one of her kid's sports events. When her daughter started making jokes about "Mommy losing her memory," Shirley decided to do something about improving her memory and reducing her stress. She came to UCLA and volunteered for our 14-Day Healthy Longevity Study.
After just two weeks on the program, her memory scores improved significantly, she lost three pounds without trying, and felt more relaxed and better able to deal with both her job and her responsibilities at home. Shirley was able to comfort herself with her old, familiar coping styles, and she was happy. So were the shoe departments at Saks and Neiman Marcus.
Shirley's experience was similar to many other subjects in the study for whom these essential longevity strategies improved memory and reduced stress, as well as lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Scientific evidence indicates that adopting these lifestyle strategies not only lowers the risk for Alzheimer's disease, but actually increases life-expectancy -- making us live longer -- while adding to the quality of those years.
Large-scale, longitudinal aging studies, including the MacArthur Study of Successful Aging, The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, The Leisure World Cohort Study and many others, have yielded scientific findings, which add to the foundation of The Longevity Bible strategies. The MacArthur Study found that staying connected through social relationships as we get older is linked to longer and better living. A healthy emotional life -- founded on intimacy and strong relationships – is associated with a more positive mental state as well as improved physical health and function. Another key finding is that it's almost never too late (or too early) to make healthy lifestyle choices and instigate changes to achieve quality longevity.
Whether we are approaching our forties, fifties, sixties or more, we all face the challenges and rewards of aging. Studies on successful aging have shown that only one-third of what predicts how well we age is controlled by genetics. Approximately two-thirds is based on our personal lifestyle choices, and therefore, under our own control.
As we learn about the Eight Essentials, we will see how our psychologist Shirley and several others tackle the bumps and hurdles that so many of us face as we get older. We will learn how to apply the Eight Essentials, quickly and easily, and begin living a quality longevity lifestyle. If it's true that we're only as young as we feel, then it's time to start feeling, looking and acting younger today.