Want to Live Long? Surprise! Again, the Secret is Love

By Greg Baer M.D.

March 28, 2017

Our society is obsessed with living long and looking young. Look at our conversations about—and our advertisements for—medication, nutrition, supplements, physicians, cosmetic treatments, rejuvenating creams, and on and on. What I have easily observed, however, is that there is a great deal of contradictory evidence out there, and it keeps us in constant confusion about whether we’re doing the “right thing.”

Watch a two-minute video on this subject.
The full presentation can be found here.

For those who prefer to read than listen—I being in that category—following is the transcript of the video:

So what does it take to live to 100 or beyond? As you will see, the answer is not what we expect. Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a researcher at Brigham Young University, and she addressed this very question in a series of studies of tens of thousands of middle aged people. And she looked at every aspect of their lifestyle: their diet, their exercise, their marital status, how often they went to the doctor, whether they smoked or drank, etc. She recorded all of this, and then she and her colleagues sat tight and waited for seven years to see who would still be breathing. And of the people left standing, what reduced their chances of dying the most? That was her question.

So let's now look at her data in summary, going from the least powerful predictor to the strongest.

1. Clean Air
2. Hypertension Treatment
3. Lean vs. Overweight
4. Exercise
5. Cardiac Rehab
6. Flu Vaccine
7. Quit Boozing
8. Quit Smoking
9. Close Relationships
10. Social Integration

Whether you're lean or overweight, you can stop feeling guilty about this, because it's only in third place. How much exercise you get is next, sill only a moderate predictor. Did anybody here know that having a flu vaccine protects you more than doing exercise?

And getting towards the top predictors are two features of your social life. First, your close relationships. These are the people that you can call on for a loan if you need money suddenly, who will call the doctor if you're not feeling well or who will take you to the hospital, or who will sit with you if you're having an existential crisis, if you're in despair. Those people, that little clutch of people are a strong predictor, if you have them, of how long you'll live.

And then something that surprised me, something that's called social integration. This means how much you interact with people as you move through your day. How many people do you talk to? And these mean both your weak and your strong bonds, so not just the people you're really close to, who mean a lot to you, but do you talk to the guy who every day makes you your coffee? Do you talk to the postman? Do you talk to the woman who walks by your house every day with her dog? Do you play bridge or poker, have a book club? Those interactions are one of the strongest predictors of how long you'll live.

(My addendum):
Whether we want to live longer or fuller, love is the most important quality that will contribute to our goal. It’s all about love . . . again.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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