How to Ensure Your Final Years Are Good Ones

Strong SeniorWe talk about aging gracefully, but what does it mean? How does one age gracefully? To me, it means ensuring your final years are good ones. Basically, we want to avoid the “regular” maladies of aging like dementia, osteoporosis, blindness, sarcopenia, and immobility. We want to live long and drop dead, not live long and wither away from a host of degenerative illnesses that prevent our ability to enjoy or even experience life, relegated to a bare room tucked away in a building somewhere. That scares me more than anything, more than heart disease or cancer or shark attacks: helplessness.

When I’m nearing 100, I want to be able to…

  • Fix a meal for myself.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Use the stairs.
  • Use the bathroom without help.
  • Lift a grandkid or two.
  • See where I’m going.
  • Recall distant memories.
  • Create new ones.
  • Hold conversations.
  • Play – and play hard.
  • Be witty.
  • Be sharp.

How do we do it, though? What steps can we take, what foods can we eat, what exercises can we do to ensure these things – or at least boost our chances?

Going and staying Primal is a good start. Hewing to the 10 Laws will help. But I thought I’d dig into the research and get a bit more specific. What can we – the young and the old and the in-between – do to improve our chances at graceful aging?

Start walking every day.

One of the most effective predictors of an older adult’s mortality risk is his walking speed. The faster you (normally) walk, the longer you (normally) live. That doesn’t necessarily mean that grandma should start speed walking to live longer, because it may not work exactly like that. It’s “walking speed at a normal pace” that matters, not “how fast you can force yourself to walk.” But “forcing yourself to walk” and cultivating that walking ability – right now, this instant – will certainly help predict normal walking speed later in life, or later this week. So get on it.

Lift heavy things and stay active.

A while back, I linked to undeniable visual evidence of the importance of staying active all throughout life. It depicted cross-sections of the thighs of a 40 year old male triathlete, a 70 year old male triathlete, and a 74 year old sedentary man. The first two were nearly identical – a good sized cord of dense bone surrounded on all sides by several inches of lean muscle with very little fat – while the sedentary thigh had a more narrow bone and pitiful amounts of muscle that seemed to be actively degenerating, plus about two or three inches of pure fat. The stronger you are, the more able you are, the less likely you are to fall, and the longer you are likely to live. The good news is that even if you weren’t very active in the past, starting today can make a big difference.

Take the stairs.

Stair-climbing is a fairly simple, highly accessible mode of exercise for anyone, but it’s been shown to improve resting and exercise heart rates, balance, and perceived exertion particularly among seniors.

Do planks.

All movement originates from the core – from the torso. If it’s not stable and strong, you’ll be less sure-footed and more prone to make mistakes. A strong trunk is a stable trunk, and stable, strong trunks help prevent falls and improve balance. Planks are a great way to strengthen your trunk. Almost anyone can get started on them, too, so don’t wait any longer. Doing a few minutes (with some rest, of course!) of planks every other morning is a good recipe for strength and stability. Check out the basic plank progression here.

Eat your spinach with butter.

Spinach is a great source of lutein, a micronutrient that can help protect against eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and retinitis pigmentosa, but you have to absorb it for it to do its thing. The saturated fats in butter seem to be the best vehicle for lutein absorption when compared to MUFAs (olive oil) or PUFAs (fish oil), so eat your butter and spinach! Similar effects were found for absorption of zeaxanthin. Shrimp scampi, anyone?

Keep in touch with your friends, or make new ones.

Being social animals, humans need contact with other humans. Whether it’s a spouse, a son, a daughter, or an old friend, these are the real human connections that give us meaning and indeed promote better physical health. Having a strong social network improves the quality of life in everyone, including people with dementia. It also improves mortality risk in senior citizens. So say “hello” to the neighbors.

Play often.

Play doesn’t necessarily mean “play a sport.” Play can be card games, video games, board games. Heck, go LARP if that’s what you enjoy. Play simply has to be fun. Those are the only requirements. Sorry – no studies to reference here. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Have a pet.

A sad reality for many older adults is loneliness. Spouses and partners pass away, children move, and friends drift apart. But pets? Pets remain, and pet ownership has been shown to attenuate the negative effects of loneliness in seniors. Plus, a dog will keep you active by requiring daily walks. Cats on the other hand will keep your ego in check. And hey, you could always be the eccentric old guy with a snake draped over his shoulders or a ferret in his pocket.

Laugh a lot.

If you haven’t laughed yet today because of something funny, go ahead and force it. The simple act of laughter, even if it’s contrived, can reduce stress and improve immune function.

Eat a variety of plants.

Corn, potatoes, and peas for dinner every night just won’t cut it. Research suggests that seniors with a wide variety in the fruits and vegetables they eat have improved health markers, including higher HDL and lower triglycerides, higher folate levels, higher potassium levels, and more lean mass. Eating a wide variety of edible plants also gives you a wide variety of plant polyphenols, which have been associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age.

Eat a diet that allows you to maintain good blood sugar control, avoid obesity, and keep chronic inflammation at bay.

Simple, right? Though it’s a non-linear, somewhat confusing one, a relationship does appear to exist between Alzheimer’s disease and the standard outcomes of a standard American diet: hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, obesity, and chronic inflammation. That makes a Primal eating approach more important than ever.

Get plenty of sleep.

Some people have the weird idea that sleep is a waste of time when you could be out doing stuff and living life. Don’t listen to them. Sleep is restorative, preserving immune function and insulin sensitivity and repairing muscle tissue. Sleep is when our sex hormones are made and growth hormone is secreted. If we get bad sleep on a regular basis, our bodies will be too broken to enjoy the waking time we have left.

Drink coffee, tea, or both.

In aging rodents, coffee (both the caffeine and the bioactive compounds) has neuroprotective, cognitive-enhancing qualities, and in humans hoping to avoid Alzheimer’s disease, it may offer therapeutic potential. Humans and rodents both show similar brain biomarkers upon coffee consumption, and among older women with vascular disorders, caffeine intake is associated with improved maintenance of cognitive function. Meanwhile, most studies of both tea and coffee consumption report protection against cognitive decline in consumers of the beverages.

When losing weight, be careful, eat more protein and lift more weights.

In the elderly, ever ounce of lean mass is precious. Unfortunately, weight loss in the elderly often means more lean mass is lost than fat mass, which probably explains the connection between weight loss and mortality in that demographic. That’s why eating more protein and resistance training is more essential than ever in seniors looking to lose weight; both will help reduce the loss of lean mass. Don’t go on crash diets.

Limit stress.

Or rethink it.


Meditation can reduce stress and improve sleep and lower inflammation, all of which are good for functioning as we age, but it may be more than that. Evidence suggests that meditation may directly improve cognitive function in older people. There’s also some limited evidence linking meditation to increased telomere length and life extension.

Keep your bones strong.

Underneath all the skin, fat, muscle, nerves, and organ tissue, your bones support you. When they break, your mortality risk goes up. You need to support them with the right nutrients and weight-bearing activities: vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium, and resistance training.

Take vitamin D.

Vitamin D isn’t just good for your bones, immunity, and heart. It also improves neuromuscular function, especially in older adults with a history of falling (which indicates poor neuromuscular function), and reduces the incidence of falls with somewhere around 1000 IUs as the highest and most effective dose studied. Get sunlight, too, but don’t rely on it for vitamin D because our ability to synthesize it wanes with aging.

Don’t let your cholesterol get too low.

“High” levels of cholesterol are fairly consistently associated with lower risks of all-cause mortality, in both women (PDF) and in men (I particularly love the conclusion in that last study: “We have been unable to explain our results.”) Meanwhile, elderly with cholesterol levels lower than 189 mg/dL – which is often high enough to get you put on a statin – are at an increased risk of dying, even when all other variables are accounted for. Low total cholesterol can also predict future cognitive decline.

Challenge your brain.

It could be the daily crossword (that’s mine). It could be sudoku. It could be a game of chess down at the cafe, or a weeks-long game of Risk that ends with a Ukrainian guy smashing the board on the subway. It could be a great conversation or a day whittled away at the library. Just use your brain.

Eat fermented foods.

With all the research coming out concerning the interplay between the health of our guts and the function of our brains, it’s no surprise that the gut microbiome might also affect cognitive decline during aging. Eating fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and natto (a great source of vitamin K2) and taking probiotic supplements is a good way to hedge your bets while the research is being sorted out. Eating prebiotic fibers to feed your probiotic flora is a good idea, too.

Have sex.

Sex promotes graceful aging for many reasons. First, it’s a form of play, and play keeps you vibrant and engaged with life. Second, it’s pleasurable, and pleasure is an important motivator and a vital component of a happy life in its own right. Third, it may even promote neurogenesis – the growth of new neurons.

Use coconut oil.

The medium chain triglycerides present in coconut oil are uniquely ketogenic, meaning they increase the production of ketone bodies, even in the presence of carbohydrates. High levels of one of these coconut-derived ketones, beta-hydroxybutyrate, have been linked to improved cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline.

Find ways to avoid medications when it’s possible.

In some cases, medication is absolutely called for, but not always. Don’t avoid medication by just not filling the prescription and going about your day (the head in the sand approach). Instead, ask the doctor or health practitioner if there are other, more lifestyle-driven ways to tackle the problem, instead of turning immediately to, say, statins that might speed up cognitive decline and increase the risk of cataracts. Avoiding unnecessary medication also helps you avoid the medication meant to fix the side effects of the unnecessary medication.

Cut the cord.

Some would have you ditch the TV altogether, but I don’t think you need to do that. Just eliminate the mindless droning of reality TV and commercials. Stick to watching great movies, good TV shows that you’ve vetted, and maybe even playing the occasional video game (which may enhance cognitive function in older adults, provided they learn how to use the controllers!).

Believe in something.

It doesn’t have to be a deity (although that can work) or anything “mystical.” But being committed to something, having a purpose (whether originating within of your own motivations or from an outside source), being a part of something bigger, or having something to live for in other words – these are good practices that foster long life. For me, it’s my family first and foremost, but I also believe in and derive meaning from this blog, my books, and this movement.

As you can probably tell, a lot of it comes down to doing the same Primal stuff we talk about on here all the time, only with more urgency and specificity. And that’s not even everything. In the future, I’ll dig more into how things like supplementation and glucose restriction might be able to improve how we age.

Thanks for reading, everyone! Got anything else to add?

TAGS:  Aging, pets

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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96 thoughts on “How to Ensure Your Final Years Are Good Ones”

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  1. It seems to me, that the social factor is a huge, underlying factor in aging gracefully.

    Between having active friends who take care of themselves (and give us impedus to to likewise), to cognative stiumlation, to simply boosting our ‘feel-good’ hormones, there’s something so critical to a strong social network.

    Although the eating plans for Weight-Watchers are far from healthy, I do believe it’s thier social accountability factor that gives them a tremendous amount of success.

    Thanks for the great article.

    1. +1

      My parents, now in their 70s, actually seems much more happy, healthy and active, than they were earlier in their life. Simply because they now take much more time to socialize and travelling a lot with good friends. It’s so nice to see <3

      1. Isn’t that amazing that they do? Although I believe there are a hundred ways (if not more) to create a healthier lifestyle through social habits, I joined CrossFit almost a year ago, and have seen a major change in my friends—this social culture where most of the people I know work out and eat well. In your parent’s case, a binding factor they have with their friends is that they travel a lot. I love it! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. great article! I wonder how many environmental factors reap havoc on us though. I agree it is best to control what you can and not worry about what you can’t. I live my life deliberately now.

  3. So, what are those of us who are Primal, but still have low cholesterol to do?

    1. maybe eat some liver and eggs? good for you anyway…!

      1. Eggs, MCT, butter, and omega-3s daily, liver (lamb, calf, and chicken) weekly, bacon almost daily, etc., but still can’t break 120.

        1. that’s so odd, but I dont know enough about how these things work to be helpful. anyone out there have any insight into this?

  4. I strongly believe that Paleos and Primals alike are going to change the face of aging, and ultimately, medicine theory and application. WE are going to be the ones who turn this ship around, and not some elected leader by manipulating how we engage with certain industries.

    The change comes from within, and not from just sitting around hoping! It’s not just a campaign slogan.

    1. Unfortunately we still have people like Bill Clinton going vegan and praising Ornish and his non-fat, no meat nonsense. He said he wants to get everyone on the Ornish bandwagon…I’m hoping we can turn the ship around though. Seams like we are on the right track.

      1. While I agree that going vegan is probably not the answer for most people. You have to admit that Clinton seems much healthier than he used to be. While I think he would benefit from more of a Primal approach, at least he seems to have ditched all of the crap.

  5. Amen to all of this. My 89 year old grandmother is doing remarkably well following a lot of these rules. Her diet is lacking (“Healthy” SAD/Weight Watchers with lots of fake and real sugar) but otherwise she follows all of these. She lives with me, my husband and our daughter so she isn’t lonely, and she can still do all the things listed. She walks daily, climbs our stairs often out of necessity (no downstairs bedroom), spends a lot of time meditating and praying, drinks coffee and tea, avoids all prescription meds (she doesn’t need any), reads a lot, including the newspaper every day, and has the most positive attitude of anyone I’ve met.

    I’ve tried convincing her to change her diet, burst some point the old dog new tricks thing proves true 😉

    1. My grandmother lived to two weeks shy of her 95th birthday and unfortunately her diet was crap. BUT she always took a walk, even if it was only to the end of her short block and back, did crossword puzzles and lived with my parents who included her in every social event they did. Her last six months were crap, because she lost her ability to walk, had to move into a nursing home and her memory went. I credit that to her being resuscitated when she had pneumonia. Luckily dementia kept her from really hating her last months, but I always wonder if it wouldn’t have been kinder to have let her pass from pneumonia instead of eking out her existence for those last months. She didn’t enjoy them.

  6. I gave up TV as a regular habit in 1977. From what I hear and occasionally see I haven’t missed much. More to the point without TV I have become the most watched forager in the world. The internet can be what TV promised but did not deliver.

    1. My wife and I gave up the T.V. 3 years ago as well, and absolutely love it! Got to say, though-since 1977 for you? That’s a lot of mindless reruns to get caught up on lol. Seriously, congratulations, and all the best 🙂

        1. Yes, when we want to watch a movie, we’ll stream Netflix. You’re right-there is some top quality programming that’s out there-I just like making the more deliberate choice to see it, and then turn it off when it’s over.

      1. We cut the cord back in 2011–the TV blew up, and the satellite contract was due to expire anyway, so both went to the curb.

  7. Yesterday was my 71st birthday. Thanks to you, Mark, I am a lot younger than when I started Primal 3 1/2 years ago because I have started doing more of all the things in this post.

    1. I’m still a very slow walker but getting better. Four years ago, elderly, obese people in walkers, with small dogs on a leash, would blow past me. Only a slight exaggeration.

  8. Fantastic article Mark, really.
    I will be linking this to my parents shortly.

  9. Great article, I feel positive about the insurance policy I have in the Primal lifestyle. I just need to get my parents to read this and take responsibility. My fear (before my own decline) is having my parents helpless.

  10. Get out of my head, Mark! I’ve been brainstorming this the last month, and could not have asked for a more relevant post, so thanks.

    My grandma is almost 97. She lives lives independently and can do everything on your wish list except lift grandkids and play hard. It’s still really tough to be that old, even when you are in better shape than most people 15 years younger. A common set back like a virus can last a long time, the elderly so quickly lose muscle mass, and it is really tough to come back.

    Watching my grandma start to lose mobility after an illness, and seeing those cross sections of muscle and bone density was a real smack upside the head. I don’t think you can emphasis lifting heavy things enough to combat aging. Inspired by this-and a good friend, I’ve gotten a barbell and realized that I LOVE lifting. I can’t wait to see the changes in the next year. I’m 51 and well padded, but I am already feeling completely different after just a couple of weeks. It is a game changer, for sure.

    Everyone should think about how they want the last 25% of their life to go. I don’t want my future to hold diapers and nursing home “gravy”. Thinking about it is making me be bolder in what I want now, as well as make changes for how I want to age.

    But, you never know how long the clock is going to run, so enjoy today.

  11. Really enjoyed this. The older I get and further along my health & fitness journey, the less I care about my max deadlift and the more about my health and maintaining it through all stages of life.

  12. I think “develop a positive attitude and the ability to move on,” should be added to the list. My in-laws became avid cyclists in their 50s (they’re now 79) and began doing mountain bike races, which they “retired” from around age 72. But they’re still some of the more active people I know and I’m not factoring their age into it. They’ve watched everyone around them become infirm or ill or die, but they don’t DWELL. They support the person (or the person’s family) and then they “let it go.” My mother in-law takes medication for arthritis and still manages a GI condition brought on by arthritis medication that was taken off the market in the 1990s. She recently got hearing aids, but she never complained. (my mom can’t hear, but by comparison, got depressed over it because she was “falling apart.) My father-in-law had back surgery 5 years ago, but does daily stretching and strengthening for his back, so he’s 95 percent recovered instead of the 80 percent he would be if he didn’t. My mother-in-law belongs to numerous book clubs, keeps in touch with her former teacher colleagues, goes to the theater, etc. Right now, my in-laws are in FL for a few weeks of biking. Neither are primal/paleo, but eat mostly whole foods (despite the grains) and eat “sparingly” (their words), meaning that they eat simple meals, enough, but not too much. They frequently go to a nice restaurant once a week for a delicious meal, but still make good choices.

    I want to be like them when I grow up (I’m 45).

  13. For me, i found my blueprint in Charles Eugster. Hope i can reach similar fitness level .

  14. Very cool post! Tons of info, thanks Mark! I especially enjoyed your plank video…I really need to do more planks! Also re-thinking Stress really spoke to me……in it you say “stress WILL kill you, but only if you let it” . Thanks

      1. Planks. The very word makes me want to go to sleep…zzzzzzzz.

        There are so many other great core-strengthening exercises and movements out there.

  15. The info from the fantastic book Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter and the low carb recommendations for neurodegenerative diseases should also be on this list!

    1. +1 Grain Brain has lots of great anti-aging suggestions from a practicing neurologist who knows his stuff. Really enjoyed the book! And really enjoyed this article, Mark, many thanks! Turning 65 in a few months and appreciate seeing posts on aging and related topics. After all, we may not all be young anymore, but we are all aging!

  16. Addendum to my comments above – I think this is called “resilience.” It’s not about what happens to you as you age, but how you deal with it. It’s a really important component of aging, in my opinion.

    1. Is that a ferret in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

      Sorry, had to be said.

      1. I’m all for the sex part as long as it doesn’t involve all those ridiculous stiffie pills. It’s insane that everyone thinks they should be humping until they are 102. I am thankful every day that as I get older, sex becomes less and less important and it’s not always on the brain. I can actually get stuff done now. Ahhh, the beauty of ageing.

  17. The main thing I have to add is….no matter how young you are, pay attention to this list. You will be old in years before you know it. Hard to imagine when you are in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s but it is true. Actually, 50 seems young to me now.

    I am not so great at meditating. I think I prefer something more physical so Tai chi works well for me. It feels like meditation to me. Also making art has a similar effect when it becomes an outta body experience.

    At 73, I can tell that a lack of consistent exercise is having it’s toll. I have especially lost mobility. I try to incorporate movement into my daily life. Pushups against the kitchen counter while waiting for water to boil, squat when loading the washer, etc. I live with loads of stairs so climb about 10 flights a day at least. I need to do better, I need to do better.

    I believe being forgetful is natures way of exercising the old people. Go upstairs. Why am I here? Go back down stairs. Ah, I remember. Go back upstairs. Come to think of it, maybe I get in more than 10 flights in per day.

    1. “I believe being forgetful is natures way of exercising the old people. Go upstairs. Why am I here? Go back down stairs. Ah, I remember. Go back upstairs.”

      LOL !

    2. Don’t knock the stairs–that’s what keeps Betty White going.

      1. I didn’t mean to give the impression that I knock the stairs. I am grateful for them. That is unless I fall on them which has happened several times. Every time I have to go down them or up them I think, oh boy, more exercise. Honest, really, I am not being sarcastic.

        There is a flight of stairs to get in my house, then two flights of stairs within my house. I have gotten more mindful of being safe on them but I have no problem getting up or down them.

        If they don’t kill me, I think they will add years to my life.

    3. “I am not so great at meditating. I think I prefer something more physical so Tai chi works well for me. It feels like meditation to me. Also making art has a similar effect when it becomes an outta body experience.”

      You can meditate while doing pretty much anything. Not everyone wants to sit in lotus or stare at their navel. 😉

  18. This is one of the best posts I’ve read on MDA. Not only will I apply it to me and my immediate family, but also am eager to share with my parents who are in their 60’s. Keep doing what your doing Mark, aka Grok on!

  19. My mother had both of her hips replaced when she was a teenager (joint issues she was born with that she couldn’t help) and by the time she was 48 she had both of her knees replaced and a couple foot surgeries. Just about every step she takes now seems to be painful especially going up and down stairs… I am fortunate not to have any joint issues so far in my life. If I can natually prevent ever needing any sort of joint replacement surgery, that has been one of the biggest drivers to starting me down the path of really making health and fitness a priority in my life. I understand that there are some things we just can’t predict and prevent no matter how hard we try, but I’m sure as hell am still going to try as hard as I can to live long and healthy. I’m only 28, but I’m already thinking the same way as Mark, and my stepdad has the same outlook as well. I want to be as happy, independent and self-sufficient as possible until the day I die, not waste away to a fragile being having to use a walker or a cane or confined to sitting in a rocking chair and/or a bed all day. Grok on!! 🙂

  20. This is very valuable information. Glad I’m on my second year of eating primally and turning 60 this year.
    It’s sad that my parents are suffering from the SAD and “low-fat/plenty of grains” propaganda. I think they would be so much better eating mostly fat and protein with some veggies and fruits here and there. However, Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and maybe more cereal or pasta for dinner….. Ugh! Mom is failing mentally and dad is failing emotionally, I’m hoping that they can get fewer (no) grains and LOTS of fat to replace them. Ginger, I get the “old dogs” thing. Sometimes people just don’t want to change.

  21. Wonderful post.

    I was reading and in my mind I was saying “Check” to everything. I guess I’ll live a little longer unless I do something stupid like parachute-less skydiving.

    There’s something that makes me sad though. That’s my parents. I wish they would be open to the primal way. They are not that old but look super old. Both are sick and depressed. But when I even mention the idea of letting grains go, they get super angry and defensive.

    Anyway, thanks for another awesome post!

  22. Let’s not forget the moderate…i said MODERATE (shall I say it one more time for effect?) consumption of alcohol is shown to increased longevity and better health than either teetotalers or heavy abusers.

    Here’s a comprehensive list with references of the known health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption on a daily basis –

  23. I agree with everything here with the following exceptions.

    I think a lot of people have adrenal / thyroid issues. They should quit coffee and get these under control. Then maybe they add some caffeine back in to the mix.

    Vitamin D is great. Humans can make 7,500 – 20,000 IU’s per day from the sun before the feedback loops shut down production. This tells me were are probably meant to get around 10,000 IUs per day. Good luck getting that from food! But Magnesium is required to convert this storage form to the active form (even D3 and that produced by the sun is in the storage form). If you don’t have enough available magnesium (Mg) a D3 supplement can crash your Mg levels and you can end up having a health crisis. Mg is used (and needed) for literally thousands of biochemical processes in the body. Getting enough is very important. A very good diet can provide enough but you need to watch your calcium levels as this too can drive down Mg. If a person gets plenty of Mg they are also less likely to need Vitamin D and calcium supplements. I would put magnesium at the top of the list of supplements that people might need.

    Fermented foods are excellent for helping you make the best use of the vitamins and minerals in your diet. Include 1/4 to a whole cup of them per day! kefir and kombucha are also good.

    1. Yes, +1 re adrenal/thyroid issues – I think they are so common – b/c we are socially encouraged to “run on empty” all day/night/year long. Dr. Lawrence Wilson following someone named Dr. Paul Eck has a nuanced approach to treating this realm of dis-ease that is helping me. Much of it is consistent with Mark’s Primal thinking.

  24. Been reading MDA for a long time, first time I’ve been moved to comment. This is a great piece.

    I’d expand the ‘TV’ section to cover social media and the internet. The greatest waster of time, raiser of blood pressure ever invented (Chris Kresser has ‘don’t debate with people on the internet’ as one of his golden rules for reducing stress). At least, reduce and control use of such things.

    I’ve also made a conscious effort to stay away from the news this year. The world is a glorious place, but that’s not how it comes across on rolling news or tabloid headline (not to mention all that coverage of the latest survey suggesting something will kill you). There’s lots of evidence that kids get stressed when watching the news, and I’m sure adults do as well.

    On the general underlying point on aging, one of my favourite quotes is from Samuel Ullman (quickly, hypocritically, searches internet)…(sorry for the long post)

    “Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.

    “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

    “Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every being’s heart a love of wonder; the sweet amazement at the stars and starlike things and thoughts; the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what comes next, and the joy in the game of life.

    “You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

    “In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, grandeur, courage, and power from the earth, from men and from the Infinite—so long are you young. When the wires are all down and the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then are you grown old, indeed!”

    1. I LOVE this quote! Thanks so much for taking time to share it. I think I will post it on my wall.

      On another note, people often comment on how they wish their parents or grandparents would change to a primal diet. We are parents and grandparents and we fervently wish our kids and grands would go primal, or at least make more healthy choices. They know what to eat, not eat, and to exercise more, etc. but sacrifice their health at the altar of convenience because they live a rushed, time-strapped lifestyle. We continue to just try to be good examples, but it’s sad to see the choices they make.

      1. I’m with you! My 35 year old son is living with us for a few weeks. He is overweight, has sleep apnea (scary to listen to) and eats Costco muffins for breakfast and convenience store pizza for lunch. I make dinner so that’s always primal. Other than going up the couple flights of stairs to our apartment, he gets no exercise. My daughter is also overweight, has PCOS, and blood sugar and blood pressure readings that belong to someone way older than 30. She has been walking daily and is using MyFitnessPal to log her food, however, which is a start. She knows she has a gluten sensitivity (like me, her acid reflux stopped when she quit gluten), yet swears she “can’t” give up bread. So, yeah, for me it’s wishing that the kids would “see the light.”

  25. “I’ve also made a conscious effort to stay away from the news this year … There’s lots of evidence that kids get stressed when watching the news, and I’m sure adults do as well.”

    There’s more than 1 type of stress, and avoiding it entirely is a pretty terrible thing. One of the paragraphs above is about “challenging your brain.” Certainly that’s something that one can do simply by learning new things, and there’s no challenge without stress.

    I’m a news junky. Not only is it mentally stimulating to discuss these things with other knowledgeable people, but it’s an absolute requirement for success in investing — something even older people should certainly be thinking about, unless they’re independently wealthy or dirt poor.

    “Staying away from the news” is something that a lot of older people do — people who are on death’s door and have given up.

    Never stop learning, and that includes learning about the world around you, something that requires being aware of that world and your place in it, and accepting that you don’t already know everything — or really, much of anything at all. Be flexible.

    But while I’m here … the most important thing in the article to me is this: Get a dog. Unless you’re a terrible owner (or your dog is physically impaired in some way), you’ll remain active every day.

    1. I have no problem with reading a weekly newspaper, but staying glued to rolling news and flicking constantly through net news sites isn’t healthy. It’s addictive and leaves one in a state of heightened stress/near-panic. It also has very little to do with learning about one’s world.

      I’d rather learn new things by travelling, reading books, talking to people. There’s a wonderful new journal in the UK called Delayed Gratification, a quarterly that covers the news of the past three months, re-visiting the stories of the quarter AFTER the cameras have left. It tags itself as delivering ‘slow news’; something of the way humans would get news 150 years ago.

      Hell, I trade forex for a living, I have to watch some of what’s going on, but I don’t need constantly flickering pictures of death and destruction.

  26. Great post Mark! I turn 65 shortly and I am so happy to have gone primal. In my 16th week of primal now and have lost 25 pounds, have watched my blood sugar average drop down from 183 to 107 and I can do all the primal movements daily at the recommended amounts except pull-ups. I can only do one of those but I will keep trying unt I can do 12. If you love working crossword puzzles, go to the AARP website. They are free and they are challenging!

  27. i LOVE coconut oil and it’s magical ketone-producing properties!

    this article just seems like a celebration of life to me. i’m learning, slowly, how to have closer friends, laugh and play more, sleep more. i’ve got the primal diet down after 3 1/2 years, figured out some primal exercise that works for me, and now i’m gradually changing toward a more primal lifestyle.

  28. Anyone know who the gentleman is in the pic at the top of the post?

  29. Mark – thanks for writing a post that all of us younger folks can forward to our parents. Just to focus on one of your points – coconut oil, especially during a fast, has amazing benefits. Not only do MCTs like coconut oil fight Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline:

    -the ketones stimulate increased HDL production
    -the saturated fat satiates and provides energy during a fast (and, like Mark mentioned, increases the bioavailability of important nutrients like lutein)
    -lauric acid and caprylic acid from coconut oil kills stomach bugs and prevents gut dysbiosis
    -coconut oil can be used on the skin to prevent wrinkles

    So coconut oil fits with several of the steps here…and is an easy dietary adjustment

  30. How timely! Father in law went into the nursing home last week, and mother in law moves to a nearby partial care retirement unit this week.

    Both have lost purpose in life, and that seems to be the crux. Without purpose there is no point to eating right, exercising etc.

    Can’t help thinking I would rather not end up like that. Thanks for clues on how to avoid it.

  31. Mark,
    This is one of the best posts I’ve read on MDA.
    One point: You’re grandchildren may be 180 lbs when you’re 100 so keeping up on the lifting sounds good.

  32. The walking fast thing rings true… my dad was always super fast. .. In fact he used to often run about town to get errands done… He is 92 and still runs the farm singlehandedly. .. His Xmas present from me was an angle grinder he can take out on the motorbike with him…

  33. I don’t know. TV can certainly help me laugh. I’m watching old episodes of Dirty Jobs and cracking up. I feel healthier.

  34. Is it possible to create a placebo effect when considering ones age? I think so. Since starting the Primal Blueprint lifestyle I feel younger every year. The “Primal Age Formula” acknowledges this and keeps me looking forward to my next birthday. To calculate, take your age from 100 and the remainder is your “Primal Age”. This seems to take the sting out of growing older…I mean younger!

  35. Great summary of many of your recommendations from topics you have gone more in depth in the past. Now everyone needs to execute these strategies. Easier said than done that’s for sure!

  36. I’m turning 30 in a few months and I actually feel like I am turning 15. I hope that when I’ll be turning 100 I would feel like I am turning 50. I think I follow most of the recommendations in your article and it works.

    One thing I would like to add is you need to learn to know yourself. You need to be able to listen to your body and react immediately when it needs you to do something. You need to know what kind your food your system enjoys and what kind of food that hurts it. What is good for others might not be good for you and what’s bad for them might not be bad for you. You should be able to determine that.

    Keeping active and exercising is good but sometimes your body just needs time to rest and recover. You need to be able to sense that immediatly because the weaker you get, the easier it is for you to get sick and the more sick you get, the harder it is for you to survive. Don’t force your body when you are tired or injured. Stop. Let it recover and prepare you to go further the next time.

    About social, pets are also a way to eliminate stress and be happy. Human usually disappoints you but pets are always there for you. Taking care of them and spending time with them in your house and out walking or at the beach can be very beneficial. They give you something human being can’t. Total devotion and unconditional love.

    Thanks Mark!

  37. Aloha Mark,
    Thanks for writing such a great article. I’ve been Paleo/Primal for two years now, fell by the wayside during the holidays, but jumped right back on the train because I felt lousy eating the junkI was eating.
    I meditate on a regular basis as well as walk with my husband. We do things with friends, neighbors and family, so I think my husband and I are on the long and comfortable road to a wonderful life.

  38. I live in Zephyrhills, Florida – truly God’s waiting room. With the snowbirds here now the parking lot at Florida Medical Clinic is maxed. But it is near impossible to talk about lifestyle changes, especially food, with people here. The shuffleboard club sponsored lunch is a buffet. Desserts are presented first, followed by a limp iceberg salad, then you may choose soup (with macaroni), sloppy joes or hot dogs. Get my drift. But if you want to see the effects of the SAD come for a visit.

  39. Thank you…timely post as my 87 year old mother is struggling with seasonal depression and reluctant to take some of my suggestions (which actually are things I learned on MDA over the years!). I suspect that when I show her this post, she will implement many of these guidelines because they come from an “expert”, not her daughter….whatever it takes.
    Again, many thanks Mark!

  40. I think I’ve found my new favorite blog. This is only the 2nd post I’ve read of yours, and both of them I want to print out and start collecting. You hit upon so many relevant points. As someone who who divorced in the past few years, lives alone, and who has been trying to find the next chapter in my life, and as someone who is 56, I can tell that so many of your points hit right on the money. Having a purpose is something I’ve been really thinking about for the past few weeks. As always, your posts seem to hit the spot every time – many times. Thanks!!

    1. Scott,

      Similar story for me. Divorced at 48 followed by a bit of a down period, but then a new chapter of my life has certainly opened up very well for me. Sort of understand it now when people say things like “an ending is really just a new beginning”.

      And, like you, I’ve found many of Mark’s posts to be very helpful indeed.

      All the best for the future!

  41. So glad I found you. I decided several years ago that my goal is to live to a healthy 100 years old. I have been incorporating many of these goals into my life and it’s always nice to to get more affirmation. I had my children later in life, so want to be around and present in their lives as long as possible. I gained a lot of information by reading about habits of centenarians, and am currently working on my own blog, “healthyblueliving” to hopefully inspire and encourage others as well.

  42. Wonderful post! I make a point to do the crossword at lunch almost everyday, but recently heard no real evidence that type of mental stimulation not so helpful (beyond just the satisfaction of completing one, which is not to be dismissed lightly.)

    Apparently luminosity and other brain training games are more efficacious.

    Also, could I put in a plug for springboard diving? The oldest masters athlete was Voila Krahn, who was still diving at 101. I recently started diving again after a 40 year absence and love it. If you have access to a masters diving program, (and that is a rare thing in some areas) check it out. Dryland conditioning is all about core and the entry into water is a pretty soft landing. Plus the rotational forces and the fun factor adds up to a great work out.

  43. You do NOT want to be eating bacon! Dirty meat….It’s in the bible.

  44. Awesome post Mark!

    I’m 32 years young and my goal is to love everyday!

    Great inspiration!

  45. Great Reading, Great Advice~! Well pretty much all of your stuff is, but I really enjoyed todays article after texting my daughters a picture of my supper for night shift and the comment – Who’s going to live to be a 150 years old!
    Secondly while on vacation in Cuba with the University kids, while having a Solve the World problems talk ( at the swim up bar ) we had discussed the aging process and the quality of life issue at length. All world issues were solved at the end of the conversation.
    Well night shift begins.. Hoping everyone is well.

  46. wow!! huge list of suggestions. Many of them are quite common and few of them are new to me. I think having healthy lifestyle and healthy diet are crucial for healthy life.

  47. Thanks for the very nice post.

    I’m constantly amazed by people who work out at the gym several times a week but then take the elevator at work instead of the 2 or 3 flights of stairs. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Moving around as much as possible is the first form of exercise everyone can fit in.

    I really like planks. A lot of the yoga poses that look easy are actually bloody hard. I’m feeling better and healthier because of yoga.

    I love coconut oil.

    Wish I could ditch the TV. That could probably help me get more sleep as well.

    Thanks again.

  48. OK then – Going by Mark’s list I’ve got about 40 or so years to become witty & sharp!

  49. Fabulous post. I’m 61, and after 3 1/2 years of doing CrossFit and 3+ years of eating Primal/Paleo I feel better than I did when I was considerably younger. I follow most of the recommendations listed, and am determined to keep living at a pretty steady-state level (that is, healthy, mobile, and high energy) until shortly before my demise. So far, so good! I’m often mistaken for being a good bit younger than I am, and I’ve avoided the meds and chronic health problems that an awful lot of my age-peers are experiencing. And FWIW, count me among the ones who wants to keep having sex right up until the end.

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  51. Cool, I’ve got coconut oil in my tea right now. Love reading about the benefits of something I’m currently doing or did or am about to do. It’s mostly orange pekoe with re-used bags of blueberry, jasmine, and green-ginger-lemon, with a big chunk of coconut oil, quite a bit of lemon and lime juice, a little bit of orange juice, and a dose of honey, maple syrup, and molasses. It’s sweet and tasty.
    I’m staying with my family for a couple weeks so I can create concoctions, infusions, etc. that I otherwise wouldn’t, when staying at a shelter or outside.
    I made a decent warm chocolate pudding the other day melting Baker’s pure dark chocolate with coconut oil and molasses on the stove over low to medium heat.

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  53. Outstanding post. Not that any one suggestion is better than the others, but we can’t overstate the importance of good quality sleep. There are a few popular movements today that encourage people to get up earlier each day and I see people competing with each other to see who gets up earlier. It’s hard to imagine anything more counter-productive in the long run.