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The keys to longevity July 29, 2008

Posted by Daniel Martin in General.
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Dr. Manuel Viamonte Jr. wants people to know that getting older is a whole lot of fun.

“I’m a believer that the autumn and winter years of life are the most enjoyable ones,” he said in a lecture Monday at University Medical Center’s DuVal Auditorium, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. .
Viamonte, 80, a professor of radiology at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and associate director of radiology at Miami’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, certainly seemed to enjoy his time in Tucson.
Amid slides of monkeys dancing, drinking milk, playing croquet and dressing up as physicians, interspersed with the occasional snorkeling koala, the doctor laughed and told jokes, seeming to validate his theory.
He quoted Chinese proverbs and the Torah, as well as studies on communities with high levels of centenarians in Ecuador, Pakistan, Okinawa and Georgia (Russia). He told of the Bantus of South Africa, who can defecate on command, making their bowels healthy.
He has studied long-lived communities around the world to find what they might have in common.
He said he found that it is not only reaching 100 that is important, but doing so in a happy, healthy way.
Dr. Manuel Viamonte Jr.
The keys to longevity are covered in the five elements Viamonte believes will help to achieve a happy, longer life: genetics, attitudes, nutrition, lifestyle and activities.
Through genetics, people can identify “weaknesses” that their bodies may have inherited from family, such as heart disease, and work to prevent the condition from occurring, Viamonte said.
As far as nutrition goes, “Eat things that are colorful. These things have the best nutrition and there is no supplement that has the same amount,” Viamonte said.
The five “L’s” make up a healthful lifestyle: love, laugh, learn, labor and leave (preparing for personal or financial losses), he said.
A positive attitude and physical activity are the final two ingredients needed, Viamonte said.
Despite the guidelines, the doctor does not believe that numbers of centenarians in America will increase any time soon, due to a lack of health education early in life. About 1 in 10,000 Americans lives to be 100, he said.
“It is like a car you put a lot of mileage on with no maintenance, and after a while you start putting oil in,” Viamonte said. “It still won’t work completely right after that.”
And while he recognizes certain modern habits as harmful – excessive drinking, cigarette smoking, using drugs, unsafe sex – Viamonte said he does not believe in abstention, either.
Moderate alcohol intake, cigar smoking and “sexual gratification, as long as you don’t get in trouble” are all part of enjoying life, essential to living longer, Viamonte said.
Today’s technology-heavy existence also doesn’t faze the doctor.
“I don’t believe we have to go back or dismiss technology,” Viamonte said, “I don’t have an iPhone, but if it facilitates your life, why not?”
Viamonte said a balance between the hardscrabble lives of the poor communities he has studied around the world and a trimmed-down version of materialistic Western life can result in the mindsetthat enables a century of life and happiness.
“We have to redefine things that are meaningful and things that are not,” he said. “Proper perspective is what it takes to be happy.”
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