The secret to longevity is simpler than you think

May 18, 2021 in Podcast  •  By Miles Varn, MD
Sun Life

I was recently invited to speak with Dr. Ruchir Sehra and Nancy Rothstein on the Performance Enhancer podcast. We covered a wide range of topics during our discussion, from COVID-19 to the steps you can take to improve your longevity. We share some of the highlights from our discussion in this post.

The pandemic has been reshaping our lives for more than a year, but with the increasing vaccination rates, there are now a lot of reasons for optimism. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tends to lag in highlighting what vaccinated people should do and is still focused on what they shouldn’t do, but the data gives me hope. As of the writing of this post, there are more than 100 million Americans who are fully vaccinated. Less than .007% of those people experienced breakthrough infections with COVID-19, and of those who were infected, 400 were hospitalized and 77 died. These numbers are markedly different than they were just a month ago and show progress in the right direction.

When you look at the data, things are looking up. If you have a normal immune system and are fully vaccinated, you don’t have to be as constrained as you have been. Of course, there’s always some risk, but if you fit this profile, your risk of contracting the virus is lower than your risk of getting in a car accident at this point.

That’s not to say COVID is behind us. We still need to be alert to the variants and how they respond to vaccines. But as the pace of vaccination accelerates and 12 to 18 year-olds are vaccinated as we move into summer, I think we’ll be back to a more normal life this fall. It will take us all some time to become social citizens again and not instinctively back away from other people, but we’ll get there.

My advice is to follow the facts when making decisions about activities and things like returning to the office. Evidence-based facts will help you feel less worried.

Another issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic is mental health. The positive news is that people are now being more open about the mental health issues they’re living with. On the other hand, the incidence of mental health issues and substance use has increased a great deal because of the stress of the pandemic. It’s not an issue that will be resolved quickly. People are traumatized and it will take time for us to heal.

Improving longevity

The other topic we focused on was how to improve longevity. In my experience, people are always looking for some technology or pill to help them live a longer, healthy life. But the secret to longevity is much simpler—proper nutrition, fitness, sleep, and stress management. It’s easy to talk about these behaviors, but it’s harder for people to consistently engage in the behaviors that lead them on the path to improved longevity.

Technology, like smart phones, fitness trackers, and apps, can enhance and reinforce these behaviors and motivate you, but it takes personal commitment to make behavior change stick.



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