June 1, 2006 — -- Ditching the cigars but not the army fatigues, Cuban leader Fidel Castro leads a life that guarantees he'll live more than a century, according to his doctor.
"He is going to live 140 years," said Dr. Eugenio Selman, who heads the 120 Years Club that promotes healthy habits for the elderly.
Despite recurring rumors of his demise, Castro, who turns 80 in August, is not only a stellar club member but has also shown great resiliency as a leader, said Selman.
"El Comandante" rose to power as Cuba's supreme leader in 1959, outlasting eight -- and potentially nine -- American presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush Sr., Clinton and perhaps G.W. Bush).
Selman credits Castro's "good genes" and outstanding diet and lifestyle.
"He eats moderately," he said. "His health is strong as iron -- he has demonstrated that his whole life." The doctor shed no light on Castro's actual diet or if the leader drank specially brewed teas but emphasized that his famous patient follows all the club's six main guidelines.
The six points cover diet, habits, environment, health, culture and motivation.
After smoking his custom-made stogies daily for years, Castro gave up cohibas in 1986. He now makes a point of offering them to his guests but never lighting up.
Selman remarked that Castro works 16 hours a day and often outlasts young people in meetings. In addition to his discipline, Selman credits the leader's mental curiosity as a perfect stimulant.
"He is a widely cultured man. He is always reading, at every occasion," said Selman.
Despite Castro's graying beard and slightly slower gait, the demands of the job don't seem to show.
"Everybody is under stress, but he can handle it and life has demonstrated that he can handle it," Selman said.
Cuba's presidential doctor started his club to fulfill Castro's goal of raising life expectancy on the island. Today the average citizen on the Caribbean island south of Florida is expected to live 77 years, the same as the average citizen in the United States.
Aside from the warm ocean climate, Cuba's Communist government prides itself on providing free public health care from cradle to grave. Selman also boasts that science and research have allowed people to live longer.
In his opinion, science will eventually offset obesity, drug use and other health problems.
"Science is working against all that, and it will advance more every day," Selman said."When he dies," the doctor said, referring to his world-famous client, "nobody will believe it, since they have killed him so many times already."
Rest assured, the doctor said Castro is far from that day.