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Men's Health

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Going Long: Secrets of Male Longevity

Life extension tips that can also make life more fun

Keep walking, talking, and thinking continued...

The geriatrics expert, who circumnavigates Central Park with a walking club on weekends and works the treadmill in his library while watching TV on weekday mornings, subscribes to the “10,000 steps a day” program of Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, who popularized the use of pedometers in Japan. Butler says he wants to spark a national walking movement. “If everyone started walking four or five miles a day — even less,” he says, “we would lose weight and have a healthier, longer-living population.”

Walking also encourages socializing, Butler points out, which contributes to male longevity. “My group has breakfast together after our walks and we even have little symposia on topics that interest us.”

Greenblatt affirms that the potential for male life extension has to do with the brain and not just the body. “Men who remain intellectually active, not just physically, tend to thrive,” he says. “That means, are they reading, following the news, participating in social clubs? I see a lot of men who’ve had successful careers. The ones who don’t have social relationships or interests they cultivate generally have a real tough time in retirement.”

Love handles and love lives: Do they affect male longevity?

What about sex? “The more the merrier,” chuckles Butler. “Actually, we don’t study sexuality enough, so I can’t answer scientifically that sex per se leads to a longer life. But we do know that married men live longer than non-married. That may not be related to sex, but to the fact that, in couples, there is someone looking out for you, particularly if you get sick.”

“Men who are widowed have a considerably shorter life expectancy than men who are married — however, the opposite is true for women,” observes Greenblatt. “When women lose their husbands, that improves their life expectancy. That says a lot about who is helping who.”

There is more good news for aging men, according to Greenblatt. If you put on a few pounds as you get older — and we’re talking about in your 70s or 80s here, not 50s or 60s — it might not be the end of the world. “Weight, as men age, appears to be less and less important,” Greenblatt says. “In fact, a normal body weight in an older man is more predictive of dying than being overweight.” This might be due to the fact that the male population with a normal body mass includes some people who used to be overweight but are now sick and losing weight — so the average life expectancy of the normal weight group might be dragged down by these ailing men. “But who knows — that’s just conjecture,” says Greenblatt. Carrying a few extra pounds “might simply be an advantage,” as men age, he says.

So let’s review — a couple drinks a day, strolling around the park, hanging out with friends, plenty of sex (OK, that last one is not scientific, but it doesn’t seem to hurt), not sweating the love handles, enjoying life. A guy could get used to this life-extension program.

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Reviewed on January 06, 2008

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