There is good news regarding aging. It turns out, just because you get older doesn't necessarily mean your health and happiness go down the drain. It is a choice we make.
Take for instance Betty Brothers, who discovered the modern-day fountain of youth, complete with 6-pack abs. It is a combination of exercise and positive relationships.
"My doctor said I had the blood pressure and the cholesterol of a teenager and he said I was extremely healthy for my age," Brothers said. "I'm 62 and he said, 'I probably don't wanna see you any more until you're 65,' so that made me very happy."
Turning Back the Hands of Time
Right on her heels are Maria and Joe Camacho. They, too, are making changes to their lives to turn back the hands of time, as far as their bodies and minds go. That is a complete u-turn from where they were just months ago.
"We would go shopping, my husband and I, and I would just start crying in the store," Maria Camacho said.
The couple assumed their declining health and appearance was a normal part of aging. But from your body's point of view "normal" aging is not normal at all.
Manhattan internist Dr. Harry Lodge did double duty: keeping one eye on his patients who were aging well and the other on new scientific research.
The result? The bestseller: Younger Next Year.
Promote Cell Growth
"The message we've been given over and over and over again is a lie about what aging should look like," he said, "It turns out that your cells really don't age. They either grow or decay. And if you do things in your life that trigger growth in the cells, then your body gets stronger, younger, fitter, healthier."
Lodge said your body is better able to resist disease and you live life as functionally as a younger man or woman until very late in the game.
Three months from now, we will all have almost entirely new bodies. That is because most of our cells only live that long. Now, whether the new cells are older or younger, that is to say, whether they grow or decay, depends on how we signal them.
Motion is the signaler. Sedentary muscles tell your cells to decay, but when you exercise, your muscles release substances telling your cells to grow. An hour a day, six days a week will produce amazing results. Even deep into your 70s you can double your leg strength in just three months.
In addition to exercise, caring about others also signals cell growth. People who do things like volunteer and get involved in a larger purpose, live longer, healthier lives. People who are socially engaged have half the immortality of people who are isolated.
People involved in a religious community live about four years longer than people who are not.
But negative emotions like stress, anger and loneliness trigger the secretion of adrenaline and cortizol, which turn off vital machinery inside every cell.
"They turn off the parts of our body that are supposed to repair us, to re-do the damage that comes from daily life, to keep ourselves young and nourished and healthy," Lodge said. "We know that cancer, heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer's are driven very powerfully by emotional substructures."
Connect With Others
Additionally, MRI scans of a depressed person's brain reveals areas that actually begin to die off. Those areas come back to life when the people begin positively connecting with others.
So in the Bible, when we are told to love and care it is actually great medical advice.
Joe Camacho has taken this advice to heart.
"What I try to do is every month is try to think of someone I can help and try to focus on that person to see how I can help them," he said.
He is currently involved in a mentoring program to help inner-city teens.
If you hang out with people with negative attitudes, remember this: happiness is twice as contagious as depression. You can turn that crowd around with a positive attitude.
Humans are designed to be both very physical and positively engaged with others. Pay attention to these, and you'll live longer and live better.
*Originally aired August 12, 2009