Learning a Foreign Language Can Help You Live Longer

ByABC News via logo
October 23, 2005, 8:19 AM

Oct. 23, 2005 — -- Although you can't reverse the aging process, it is possible to take daily measures to increase your lifespan. In his new book, "Healthy Aging," Dr. Andrew Weil says the key to living longer and better begins with a shift of focus from anti-aging to anti-disease.

"We are bombarded with messages from all sources telling us that youth is where it's at. That age is a catastrophe, that the worth of human life diminishes with age, I think it's absolutely not true!" Weil said.

The anti-aging industry, however, already a $30 billion a year business, is growing.

"Anything that's called aging reversal or eraser, hormonal treatments, fountains of youth -- none of these are going to affect the aging process," he said.

But there is some good news. Weil believes that by learning a foreign language we can reduce the risks of getting some of the most common age-related symptoms and diseases such as memory loss and Alzheimer's.

"You don't have to master it," he said. "Just the attempt to learn a language is like running different software through the brain. You're exercising more communication channels in the brain."

Keeping the body active is another key to successful aging, said Weil. But you don't have to go crazy working out. Walking is a great exercise that's often overlooked.

Weil is also a huge proponent of nutritional supplements and minerals. He recommends a daily intake of multivitamins, and a low dose of ibuprofen to retard inflammation.

Smart food choices can also help the aging process. Foods like fresh fish and vegetables are well known for their antioxidant longevity benefits. But there are less obvious choices that can help fight inflammation in our bodies, such as "carotenoids, these are the yellow and orange and red pigments that are in vegetables," Weil said.

"Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent," he added. "I'm a big fan of Asian mushrooms. It really boosts immunity and helps the body defend itself against cancer."

So can one possibly live to 120 if you speak a foreign language, eat well and exercise?

"Human lifespan appears to be fixed somewhere around 120. Very, very, very few people are going to make it, but I think our bodies are designed to live probably into our early 90s. And, most importantly, to be disease free," Weil said.