Cardiology professor Manuel de la Peña’s guide to reaching a healthy 120 years of age

The regions where super-centenarians live are known as “blue zones”: Sardinia (Italy), the island of Okinawa (Japan), the island of Icaria (Greece), Loma Linda (California) and the Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica). Healthy habits characterise these areas and continue to break all records for longevity. This means that people in these areas live between 110-119 years.

For this reason, we have sought the opinion of Dr Manuel de la Peña, a renowned longevity guru, who enjoys great international prestige as an academician, professor of cardiology and president of the European Institute of Health and Social Welfare.

A citizen of Okinawa (Japan) © Elisabeth Knowles

Professor de la Peña states that we will soon live 120 years, and that 75% of our life expectancy is determined by our epigenetics, i.e. by the influence of our habits, and 25% by our genetic inheritance. In this sense, he describes as a guide, one by one, the habits and lifestyles to reach this age in good health:

  1. Positive thinking, active mind, and discipline. People that live long have a positive attitude and know how to cope better with the adversities of everyday life. They know how to turn problems into opportunities for inner growth and self-improvement. All this by adopting an iron discipline.
  2. Think green. A diet based on lots of vegetables, pulses, and fruit, with whole grains. A handful of nuts a day, all kinds of fish, especially blue fish (anchovies, sardines, salmon…), moderate consumption of lean meats. Avoid ultra-processed foods and eat a diet based on organic products. Take 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily.
  3. Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting.  Avoid overweight-obesity-diabetes, which are determining factors of illness. Reduce calorie intake by 30%, have the feeling of being a little hungry and avoid eating to the point of overeating. Intermittent fasting for at least 14 hours is a healthy habit as it allows cells to perform autophagy, a process by which cells eliminate harmful materials.
  4. At least 20 minutes of moderate physical exercise daily, combined with light weightlifting, is imperative.
  5. Sleep and rest. Quality is more important than the number of hours we sleep, as the key lies in getting sleep to repair our physical and mental fatigue, which is its primary function. An excellent aid is the intake of melatonin combined with tryptophan supplements.
  6. Salt and sugar reduction. Seventy per cent of people are salt sensitive and therefore vulnerable to hypertension (figures should be below 130/80). Regarding sugar, more and more people are becoming glucose intolerant, making them candidates for pre-diabetes-diabetes. Both hypertension and diabetes are two typical causes of heart attacks and strokes.
  7. Strict control of bad cholesterol fractions. LDL cholesterol should be below 70 and lipoprotein (a) below 50. Otherwise, they accelerate the process of arteriosclerosis, which leads to clogging of the arteries, with the consequent risk of heart attack.
  8. Intake of supplements. Nicotinamide (B3) supplements, resveratrol, and metformin are highly reccommended as they promote pro-longevity.
  9. Maintain adequate levels of vitamin D. It provides vitality, and liposomal vitamin C, which strengthens our defences.
  10. Hydration. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, i.e. 2 litres to prevent dehydration.
  11. Take care of your microbiota to ensure a balanced intestinal flora. Have a microbiome analysis to identify the colonies of beneficial intestinal bacteria and to know our needs for an adequate intake of probiotics and prebiotics.
  12. Emotional stress and anxiety management. Learn relaxation techniques, deep diaphragmatic breathing, music therapy (listening to 30 minutes of music daily), meditation and mental control to know how to manage emotions and control calmness. People with an anxious personality type A (compulsive, competitive, tendency to hostility and aggressiveness, multiple commitments…), are 3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack and, therefore, they should learn techniques to manage their behaviour.
  13. Socialising. The feeling of belonging to a group or community to combat loneliness and feel the love of another person provides a solid support that extends life. A good option is to join a dance school, where besides physical and mental exercise, we listen to music and socialise. It is essential to surround yourself with people who are a source of positive energy.
  14.  No to tobacco and drugs. Moderate alcohol consumption (2-3 glasses of red wine, which contains polyphenols, is tolerable).
  15.  It is essential to have a vital life plan.
  16.  Innovative treatments with gene therapy.
In Sardinia, there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. Only about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark. © Claudine Doury

Professor de la Peña concluded by pointing out that healthy habits and lifestyles are determining factors in longevity. This is how emphatically he described it in his “Tratado del Corazón” (2010), which has received numerous awards, including that of the Instituto de Cardiología Ignacio Chávez in Mexico. De la Peña, besides being a professor of cardiology and academic, is a Cum Laude doctor and writer and is Director of the Cátedra del Corazón y Longevidad (Chair of the Heart and Longevity). He has been awarded the Gold Badge of the Association of Coronary Patients (APACOR) and the Bronze Medal of the Society for International Studies (SEI). His published books are: “The Needs of Patients” (2010), “Cardiopatients” (2010), “Healthy Companies” (2010), “e-Health” (2010), “Healthcare Excellence: patients, innovation and technologies” (2009), “Patient Satisfaction” (2008), “Tobacco Control” (2006), “WHO Guide to Health Surveillance” (2002), “Quality in Healthcare” (1999), “Cardiocheck” (1993). And author of the blog The Power to Heal.

The European Institute of Health and Social Welfare is an independent institution, where Nobel Prize winners, ministers of different political persuasions and members of the European Parliament, among others, have participated.

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