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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Encore Presentation: Living Longer, Living Stronger
Aired December 30, 2005 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening. "Living Longer, Living Stronger, a special edition of 360 starts now.
ANNOUNCER: Unlocking the secrets to living longer and living stronger. We travel the globe to unravel the mysteries of those who lived the longest on Earth. What do they know that you don't know? On how to live a vibrant life to 100 or more.
DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR: We have gotten on a really, really wrong and unhealthy track in our attitude about aging.
ANNOUNCER: Plus, best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil on healthy aging, the connection between your mind, body, and spirit. This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360: "Living Longer, Living Stronger."
From the CNN studios in Los Angeles, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: They're an inspiration and a mystery, people who live to be 100 years or older and yet remain healthy, even vigorous. They're clearly doing something right, but what exactly? Researchers are slowly beginning to unravel why this elite group is off the charts when it comes not just to aging, but aging well, extraordinarily well.
National Geographic devotes its cover story this months to "The Secrets of Living Longer." Dan Buettner, who wrote the story, will be joining us later. He visited three corners of the world where people live the longest to find out what lessons they have to teach us. Tonight we'll take you around the globe, retracing Dan's path, along the way, and you'll meet some remarkable people.
Our first stop is Okinawa, a Japanese island where people have the longest life expectancy in the world, and it seems none of the usual fears of growing old. So what are their secrets?
Here's CNN's Atika Shubert.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Zenei Nakamura has been fishing for most of his life. This is no leisurely hobby. Fishing on Okinawa means swimming in the open sea and diving about 12 feet under water to chase fish into wading nets. He then hauls the heavy catch aboard his tiny boat, a process he repeats over and over until mid afternoon every day.
He sees no reason to give it up now just because he's about to turn 90 years old.
ZENEI NAKAMURA, 89-YEAR OLD FISHERMAN (through translator): My children tell me to stop fishing, but it's fun. I feel more powerful doing it. I think they're pleased that I'm still fishing. I deliver fresh seafood to every family member. I should hope they like it.
SHUBERT: Doctors have warned Zenei that fishing like this is too strenuous for someone his age and say he should stop. But his family says if you take away his fishing, then you take away his ikigai, a Japanese word that means "reason for living."
Instead, family members have painted a telephone number on the side of his boat. If he's lost at sea, they say at least he'll have been doing what he loves best.
Zenei has plenty of company his age in Okinawa. The island has the world's highest ration of centenarians, people who live to 100 or older, and the longest life expectancy anywhere.
DAN BUETTNER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (on camera): Okinawa, we call the longevity hot spot of the world.
SHUBERT: Okinawans have low rates of heart disease, cancer, bone loss, memory loss and other problems associated with old age.
BUETTNER: If you want to live a long healthy life, I believe you emulate the lifestyle of Okinawans.
SHUBERT: Some believe genes determine longevity, but studies show that lifestyle, exercise, friendships and activities can play as great a role.
Case in point, Ushi Okushima, who lives in another village nearby. She's 103 years old and still showing up for work every day, selling the island's famous tropical fruits, small green oranges to tourists. Ushi is something of a tourist attraction herself. Visitors ask to touch her snowy hair and marvel at her good health. Everyone it seems wants to know how she does it.
USHI OKUSHIMA, 103 YEARS OLD: We worked for long hours in the fields. We grew and ate our own vegetables. We never spent our money on extra food. I think that's why I live so healthy.
SHUBERT: In fact, that is part of Okinawa's secret, says Dr. Craig Willcox, co-author of a 20-year study on the island's centenarians.
CRAIG WILLCOX, AUTHOR, THE OKINAWAN WAY: They eat a lot of vegetables, these green leafy vegetables which are very high in antioxidants which help control the aging process.
SHUBERT: Also important, keeping active.
WILLCOX: And these people are active. They're out in their gardens, they're out walking, they're out socializing.
SHUBERT: Ushi's social life is plenty. She even has a new boyfriend, who, at 76, is 27 years her junior. The ability to find romance at any age could factor into Ushi's longevity. The Okinawan Study shows that elders here often have higher levels of sex hormones, suggesting that romance can help you live longer.
Ushi's advice to aging gracefully, get a young man, the younger the better. "I can set you up with some good candidates," she offers. It turns out her cheeky humor is another secret to long life.
WILLCOX: I noticed here in Okinawa a kind of a very, how would I say it, optimistic, almost a happy-go-lucky sense of joy de vivre.
SHUBERT: Optimism is everywhere. And Zenei's family celebrates a new great-grandson with more than 60 relatives. Singing, dancing and tasting Zenei's freshly caught fish. The youngest here is just a month old; the eldest are in their 90s. Both get a place of honor at the table, which it turns out is yet another factor when it comes to living a long life. This is a society that does not turn away its elders.
BUETTNER: In America we have this culture of youth. You know, we celebrate young, beautiful bodies and new rock 'n roll. Here it's sort of the opposite, that the older you get, the more respected you are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to live like my grandparents, doing something I really want to do, enjoying life. Looking at them, I think that is the secret to longevity.
SHUBERT: Okinawa's secret to long life seems simple enough, healthy food, exercise, a little romance, a sunny outlook. Then, find something you like to do. Zenei's been practicing that for years. And it looks like he'll have lots more ahead.
Atika Shubert, CNN, Okinawa, Japan.
COOPER: Next on this special edition of 360, our globetrotting journey continues. Meet Marge of Loma Linda, California, she's 101 years young, she bikes eight miles a day and even does weight lifting. She shares her secret to "Living Longer, Living Stronger."
Plus, we go back overseas, does an Italian island hold the key to extending your life? This is 360.
COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360, we're going around the globe tonight to discover "The Secrets of Living Longer," a journey inspired by the cover story in this month's National Geographic magazine. In "The Secrets of Living Longer," writer Dan Buettner visits three continents in search of answers. Our next stop is in Loma Linda, California, home to some of the most vibrant people in the United States.
Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, ready?
MARGE JETTON, 101 YEARS OLD: I think so.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marge Jetton renewed her driver's license in 2004. She was born in 1904.
JETTON: So I always drive slowly.
TUCHMAN (on camera): All right.
JETTON: Because I can get more mileage to my gas that way. Did you know that?
TUCHMAN: I do know that. They're right. You're right.
JETTON: Well, not very many men do.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marge is now 101. Her license expires when she's 104.
(on camera): Are you a good driver?
JETTON: I think I am.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marge also has another set of wheels, a stationary bicycle, which she uses for a daily eight-mile ride which is then followed by a regimen of weight-lifting, usually accompanied by some power-walking in her neighborhood in Loma Linda, California.
(on camera): Why do you walk so fast? You have a tough time having people keep up with you.
JETTON: Somebody rings a bell, and you have got to hurry. I've been a nurse for many years.
(voice-over): Marge was married to a doctor for 77 years. James Jetton died two-and-a-half years ago at age 96. She has two children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Marge grew up in Northern California and remembers the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
JETTON: I was 2 years old. And I remember that the water was splashing out of the horse trough and wondered if they would have anything left to drink.
TUCHMAN: So how does this 101-year-old woman maintain this amazing mental and physical condition?
JETTON: In true righteousness and holiness.
TUCHMAN: Marge Jetton believes faith has much to do it.
JETTON: I'm Seventh Day Adventist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What then shall we say, brothers.
TUCHMAN: The Adventists, Christians who observe the Sabbath on the Saturday, the seventh day of the week, preach good health. An Adventist is not supposed to drink, smoke, or eat many types of meat, many Adventists don't eat any meat at all, and refrain from coffee and soft drinks.
PASTOR RANDY ROBERTS, LOMA LINDA SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH: Our bodies are an important part of what it means to be children of God, we only have one while we're here.
MINNIE IVERSON WOODS, 97 YEARS OLD: Suck it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
WOODS: Surprise breath and stay surprised.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
TUCHMAN: Minnie Iverson Woods is also a Seventh Day Adventist.
WOODS: That was a good one.
TUCHMAN: At the age of 97, she teaches voice and piano lessons.
WOODS: You're not going to hell.
TUCHMAN: And strictly observes the teachings of her religion.
WOODS: When you are satisfied with what you're doing, you can relax and you can get a night's sleep. But if you're doing things that you shouldn't be doing, you lose sleep and you lose strength.
TUCHMAN (on camera): There are about 14 million Seventh Day Adventists in the world, and this congregation in Loma Linda is the church's largest, about 40 percent of the people who live in this city are Seventh Day Adventists.
(voice-over): And it appears they live longer than others. A National Institutes of Health study shows Seventh Day Adventists in California live five to eight years longer than other Californians. That's why Nation Geographic magazine came here for the cover story titled "The Secrets of Living Longer."
BUETTNER: That religious based sense of purpose I think gave them an enthusiasm for life, something that propelled them into their older years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May your kingdom be established in our praises.
TUCHMAN: The Loma Linda congregation is full of elderly people, so are exercise classes held in the town.
DARREL FLEISHMAN, LOMA LINDA RESIDENT: I want to beat the retirement system and the only way to beat it is to keep breathing.
JETTON: Have we had enough?
DR. ROGER HADLEY, DEAN, LOMA LINDA UNIV. SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: And when you combine one's faith, one's community, along with a good, healthy diet, and an exercise program, together, combined, can result in significant improvement of longevity.
TUCHMAN: Marge Jetton has one other quality that leads to longevity, a good sense of humor.
(on camera): Not only do you not look 101, you don't look 91, you look about 81.
JETTON: Well, keep talking.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marge says it all cams back to faith and embracing every day.
(on camera): How does it make you feel that you've reached this age and are in the shape you are, such good shape?
JETTON: I marvel at it.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Loma Linda, California.
COOPER: Next, on this special edition of 360, we take you to the Italian island of Sardinia to learn what those who are living healthy long lives are doing right, and what they can teach you.
Plus, best-selling author, Dr. Andrew Weil shares some tips for lifelong physical and spiritual well-being. Stay with us.
COOPER: Now back to the question we've been exploring all night. Can we eat, drink, and exercise our way to a better life or do our genes trump everything in the end?
Researchers are just beginning to answer the question and some of the strongest clues are coming from corners of the Earth where living a long and rich life is at all not unusual. National Geographic magazine visits these extraordinary places in its cover story "The Secrets of Living Longer." The island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy, is our next stop.
Here's CNN's Alessio Vinci.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the great secrets of longevity lies here in the remote hills of Sardinia. In fact, it's a few secrets. It's about vigorous work, a hearty diet, and strong family values.
In this region, with a population of 1.5 million, there are more than 100 Sardinians who are currently 100 or older. Rafaela (ph), 107 years old, is believed to be the oldest woman on the island. Her grandniece, Sylvia (ph), is 105 years younger.
In this village of only 2,400, locals say over the last century, 91 people lived past 100. But these facts mean nothing to Tonino Tola, a 75-year old farmer. Longevity, he says, is something he rarely thinks about. What keeps him going is a passion for work and the well-being of his family.
TONINO TOLA, FARMER (through translator): Of course, I don't like the idea of dying. I like to live.
VINCI: Tonino believes every day at dawn. By mid-morning he has already milked the cows, walked miles to reach the pastures, and chopped enough wood for his brick oven back at home.
Here, he takes his first break of the day. Giovanna (ph), his 70-year-old wife, is in charge of breakfast and as is tradition here, of everything else around the house. Tonino has time to relax.
He doesn't even have to stir his own coffee. Coffee is usually followed by homemade pecorino cheese, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and a glass or two of the red wine Tonino makes in his small vineyard.
Tonino's healthy, low-stress rural lifestyle may explain why here in Sardinia there is roughly an equal number of male and female centenarians; whereas, in the U.S., for example, women outlive men by four to one, after the age of 95.
By mid-afternoon, Tonino is back at work, climbing hills with the agility of someone far younger.
(on camera): Watching Tonino at work, one definitely gets the impression that people here age at a slower pace. The environmental factors clearly play a role. But you can find good weather and good food in many of the parts of Italy and there people don't necessarily live any longer.
(voice-over): And that is why scientists believe the secret of longevity here may also be hidden in the genes. And that brings us to the second secret.
Like most people in these remote villages, Tonino married a local. A general wariness of outsiders following centuries of foreign occupation means most Sardinians are believed to descend from a few founding families, making Sardinia essentially an island of genetic purity.
BUETTNER: Well, what you have here is a Bronze Age culture that has been pushed by Phoenicians and Romans, actually, up into these highlands of Sardinia, where they remained isolated for about 2,000 years and they intermarried, which created what I think of as a sort of a genetic incubator of sorts.
VINCI: And this is secret number three: an endlessly upbeat attitude towards life.
TOLA (through translator): If you don't drink to avoid dying, if you don't eat to avoid dying, if you don't smoke to avoid dying, and if you see a beautiful woman and you don't go after her, well, then you may as well be buried alive.
VINCI: A weekend lunch is a big affair here. A 90-year-old relative is put to work making fresh ravioli. Giovonna takes care of the bread. Each family member, young and old, contributes to a feeling of togetherness that gives them all a sense they are protected.
To put him in a hospice away from all this, Tonino says, would be like digging his grave.
Alessio Vinci, CNN, in Sardinia, Italy.
COOPER: Next on this special edition of 360, more secrets unlocked, living longer, much longer without the typical health problems. Two experts share more tips on how to extend your life.
Plus, famed Dr. Andrew Weil, he has made New Age remedies a hot buy. He shares what you can do to age gracefully and embrace it at the same time.
COOPER: We've taken you to three continents tonight looking for the secrets of living stronger and longer. With some more tips for you and your loved ones, Dr. Thomas Perls, professor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center, and director of the New England Centenarian Study.
And here with me in New York is Dan Buettner, he wrote the cover story "The Secrets of Living Longer" in this month's issue of National Geo. He is also the founder of bluezones.com, a Web site devoted to the study of longevity.
COOPER: Dan, based on what you saw in Sardinia, and Okinawa, and Loma Linda, what's the biggest takeaway for you?
BUETTNER: Well, we found about a dozen really extraordinary things in the article, but I'll tell you the top three. Number one, we've all heard of the Atkins Diet, but the cultures of longevity, the blue zones, as we call them, eat almost always a plant-based diet. Lots of legumes, almost no meat. I think a big takeaway is minimizing meat in your diet.
BUETTNER: Number two, we tend to exercise in great exuberant bursts, 85,000 people signed up for the marathon -- New York Marathon last weekend. Cultures of longevity do sort of daily, kind of low- intensity exercise. The Sardinians, we just saw, were shepherds, who take long walks. The Okinawans garden a couple hours a day. I think the best level of physical activity is probably a 40-minute walk everyday.
COOPER: And exercise seems to be built into their lifestyle.
BUETTNER: Right, it was sort of encoded in their culture. So it wasn't regimented, it just happened naturally.
COOPER: Dr. Perls, say you are listening to this, you are 50 years old, you're cranky, you are a meat-eater, you are a smoker, is it still possible to extend your life at this point, or the damage already done?
DR. THOMAS PERLS, BOSTON UNIV. MEDICAL CENTER: No, actually, 50s, even 60s, I think the horse isn't out of the barn at all. And some of the things that have already been talked about, clearly, benefit people. I would say even things like exercise, both your body and your brain, benefit people into their 90s.
COOPER: You have a thing which you spell out as aging, it is sort of a formula for living longer, A-G-E-I-N-G. Let's just quickly run through. A is for attitude. You need a positive attitude?
PERLS: Absolutely. I think what was also said in the Okinawan piece about having a cause that gets you up in the morning. It is really important for these people. There are a couple of other things. The centenarians, they raise the bar for the rest of us so that I think when people start thinking about getting to their 80s, it is not such a big deal.
COOPER: But what about genetics? I mean, genetics, G, is the next thing in your AGEING chart. I mean, you know, my dad died when he was 50 years old. I kind of wonder how much I can really do to overcome genetics.
PERLS: Well, I think looking at the longevity in your family is really important. If you have people living into your 90s or even 100, that's really good news. You may even be able to indulge a bit.
On the other hand, if people are passing away in their 60s or 70s, then, you know, it's really important for those people to enter into a good program of prevention and screening with their doctor.
COOPER: And Dan, also exercise you talked about a lot being a key in this. Also interests. I mean, people maintaining an active life with a lot of different interests.
BUETTNER: Yes. Yes, in America, we tend to break up our adult life into two phases, the working phase and the retirement phase. In Okinawa, it's ikigai, this sense of purpose, the reason for which they wake up in the morning that sort of propels them through -- through -- into their 100s in many cases.
COOPER: Doctor, what do you think about that?
What is the next one? We've got two more. We've got nutrition and...
PERLS: Well, just one more thing about the interests. You know, we'll be talking about exercise in a minute, but we also want to exercise our brains. And learning new things that are also complex.
The most powerful would be learning a musical instrument or learning a language. This exercises the brain, it gives it more functional reserve. It actually means a delay in things like Alzheimer's disease for those who are prone to it, it means a delay in problems with your memory.
COOPER: You also say nutrition and the G, getting rid of smoking.
But Dan, you know, in a lot of these places people are smoking all over the place and you're getting exposed to second-hand smoke in Okinawa and Sardinia.
BUETTNER: Not the centenarians. A very tiny percentage of centenarians that we interviewed for the story smoke, maybe 1 or 2 percent.
BUETTNER: Smoking is definitely -- and I think the biggest thing most Americans do to live longer is to cut out smoking.
COOPER: Dr. Perls, you've got a Web site, Livingto100.com. You have a longevity calculator. And I actually did the test earlier.
It said I'm going to live to 87. It said that's sort of my target. One of the factors, though, was flossing. Why is flossing so important?
PERLS: There's a good link between gum disease and the inflammation associated with it and heart disease. So good gum health, it's good for your heart, it's good for your sex life, all kinds of things.
COOPER: Dan, is there something that you changed in your life after doing this story?
BUETTNER: I quit eating a lot of meat, I took up yoga, and I invest more time in my family. COOPER: That's the other thing that really struck me, especially the incorporation of elderly with young people in these families. It's so important, Dan.
BUETTNER: That was a huge finding, the attitudes towards elders. When people get older in our country, frail, we tend to warehouse them. But in Sardinia, 95 percent of these centenarians lived with their family.
And when you're living with your family, you have better care, you're loved and you're expected to love. And there's even something called the grandmother effect. And children who live in households with grandparents do better than children who live with no grandparents.
COOPER: 360 next: more Q&A on living longer and stronger. Dan Buettner, Dr. Thomas Perls answer some of your phone calls and e- mails.
Plus, Dr. Andrew Weil on the secrets of healthy aging. The best- selling author and health and wellness expert shares how your choices now could affect your health later.
COOPER: So we're taking your calls right now and your e-mails about living longer. And any questions you may have you can ask to Dr. Thomas Perls, professor of medicine at Boston University Medical Center and director of the New England Centenarian Study.
And here with me in New York, Dan Buettner. He wrote the cover story in "National Geographic" this month, "The Secrets of Living Longer." It's on the newsstands right now.
He's also the founder of bluezones.com, a Web site devoted to the study of longevity.
Our first caller is Lorraine in North Carolina.
Lorraine, good evening. What's your question?
CALLER: Yes, I was wondering what the doctor thinks about peace of mind, how -- I'm 86 and I think I'm doing very, very well. I'm very active, my mind and body. And I wondered if peace of mind has a lot to do with it.
COOPER: It's a great point. What about it, doctor?
PERLS: A lot of these people, it's not so much the amount of stress that they've had in their lives, it's that they manage it so very well. And we see that all the time among these folks.
They don't dwell on these things, they don't internalize stuff that would be stressful. They seem to just be able to let go.
And as Dan said, yoga is a great way to do that if it doesn't come naturally. Other things are like tai chi, meditation -- other forms of meditation, even learning to take a deep breath now and then. And spirituality.
I think with the Seventh-Day Adventists, the spirituality in their lives probably plays a role in having that kind of peace of mind that you're talking about. It's very important.
COOPER: Well, Dan, one of the Seventh-Day Adventists we were hearing from earlier in Gary Tuchman's piece was saying about going to sleep at night sort of feeling good about what you've done throughout the day and not sort of tossing and turning. And sort of -- all the people in the piece seemed very content with their life.
BUETTNER: The Adventists, encoded in their religion is 24 hour sunset Friday, to sunset Saturday, where they take a sanctuary in time. No matter how busy, no matter how stressed out they are, they take 24 hours to focus on their religion, on their family, and then they actually prescribe to take walks in nature.
COOPER: Oh, that's good.
There's so -- I'm glad we're doing this, because, I mean, I completely don't live this lifestyle. And I really now am more motivated to do it more than ever.
We've got another question from Brandy in Massachusetts.
Brandy, good evening. What's your question?
CALLER: Hi, Anderson. I love your show.
CALLER: My question concerns climate. The people being interviewed seem to be from a warmer climate. Does that have anything to do with living longer, perhaps?
COOPER: Dan, what did you find?
BUETTNER: Well, it was true -- that was true in Okinawa and Sardinia, but the Seventh-Day Adventists, they're all over the United States. In fact, they're all over the world.
And this Adventist health study out of Loma Linda showed that -- that men can live as much as 11 years longer than their American counterparts. So this is purely lifestyle and it doesn't have anything to do with climate.
COOPER: Dr. Perls, do you have anything to add on that?
PERLS: I would agree. There's actually been this whole mystique about this thing called Shangri-La, and we equate these very high places in the hills of Pakistan, up the Chinese border, and places like that, the Hunza (ph) region. And I would agree with Dan. It's more myth than it's more lifestyle that counts.
COOPER: Another question. Kathy (ph) in California has a call.
Kathy (ph), what's your question?
CALLER: Hi, Anderson. Love your show.
COOPER: Hey. Thanks.
CALLER: And hi, Dan.
BUETTNER: Hi, Kathy (ph).
CALLER: I tried to reach you. I'm Margie Jetton's daughter-in- law.
BUETTNER: Oh, we love you.
CALLER: Well, she loves you. And anyway, I was just talking to her, and she said she'd call, you'd call. And one thing I wanted to add about my mother-in-law that's so remarkable, and it's her spirit for loving and giving to everyone in her family, everyone that she meets.
She never, ever has nothing to do. And I, being her daughter-in- law, it's been a tough act to follow. She's a remarkable person.
COOPER: Well, and that really gets to attitude. I mean, that's -- that's a key thing.
BUETTNER: Yes. Marge (ph) was a poster girl for living well for the centenarians.
You know, we interviewed over 100 of them. And uniformly, you find these people are consummately likable people.
We all know seniors who you're with them for five minutes and you're looking at your watch. People like Marge are not only interesting, but they're interested. And they become likable.
I don't know if they're born that way or they made the effort. But at the end of the day, they're surrounded by a social network, they get better care, they have lower levels of stress, and they stay sharper than people who are not likable.
COOPER: We got an e-mail from Linda Banks in Boulder, Colorado.
Linda wrote in, "What was learned about what role diet plays? I'm a vegetarian, eat lots of soy, although I've been reading bad things about soy.
Dan, anything? You talk about greens and legumes.
BUETTNER: The Okinawans eat about eight times more tofu more than Americans do. I think that's really kind of a complete super food in many ways. The Seventh-Day Adventists found that people who eat nuts four times a week, at least two ounces, were living as much as three years longer than people who weren't eating nuts. They don't know why, but certainly a plant-based diet.
COOPER: Dr. Perls, what about soy?
PERLS: Well, I think Dan's earlier point about the fact that they don't eat red meat, so they're replacing that with these soy products. And it's the iron and the red meat. I think iron plays a really important role in the basic biology of aging and perhaps just less iron in your diet. And the main source of iron in our diet is red meat.
And then I think the other thing about nutrition is you would look at most of these centenarians and they're thin. You rarely see, especially among the men, you rarely see fat centenarians. And so the other important component of the diet is that they're mostly thin.
COOPER: It's a fascinating topic. It's in the "National Geographic" on the newsstands now.
Dr. Thomas Perls, thanks.
And Dan Buettner, you wrote the article. Thanks. It was great talking to you.
COOPER: Next on this special edition of 360, the quest for immortality. See how an award-winning scientist hopes to live forever. It sounds like science fiction, but he says no way.
Plus, best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil on the misconceptions on aging and his lifelong guide to healthy aging.
COOPER: Welcome back to the special edition of 360, "Living Longer and Stronger." We're taking you around the world to see how some people are doing just that. Now best-selling author and health and wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil shares his own tips on "Healthy Aging." That's the title of his newest book.
He talked with CNN's Heidi Collins.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He looks like Jolly Ol' St. Nick, a full white beard, round apple cheeks, a generous girth, and some would say, even a twinkle in his eye.
(on camera): You think people trust you because you look like Santa Claus? DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR, "HEALTHY AGING": I think people trust me, first of all, because I have a medical degree from Harvard. I have good credentials. I'm a full professor at the University of Arizona. And I think that what -- the message that I put out there is balanced.
That is what I mean by "healthy aging" or "graceful aging."
COLLINS (voice-over): He may not be Santa Claus, but millions of people consider his message a gift. That message is all about healthy aging. Doctor Andrew Weil has been preaching it for decades and people are listening. In fact, they're reading, they're watching, they just can't seem to get enough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm 85.
WEIL: Good work.
COLLINS: One of "TIME" magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, he's written 10 books, five were "New York Times" best- sellers. He's generated $15 million hits a month on his web site and made a fortune along the way. But even with a Harvard medical degree, his way, his path, was anything but mainstream.
WEIL: I made a very conscious decision not to take further clinical training in conventional medicine, because I didn't see myself using it.
COLLINS: Instead, Doctor Weil developed his own kind of healing. He calls it "integrative medicine." He's the founder of the program for integrative medicine at the University of Arizona.
WEIL: We're really looking at you as a whole person, not just a physical body, but a mental/emotional being, and a spiritual entity, and a community member.
COLLINS: Doctor Weil cherry picks from many disciplines, Eastern, Western, herbal remedies, acupuncture, yoga, massage, and in cases of serious illness or injury good old conventional medicine.
WEIL: I respect the areas in which standard medicine has made great accomplishments, and at the same time I look out there and see there is a lot more that we could be doing.
COLLINS: To many in the medical establishment, Doctor Weil's hodgepodge of therapies is close to heresy. Too much anecdotal evidence, not enough science.
DR. GRAHAM WOOLF, GASTROENTEROLOGIST, CEDARS SINAI: My only concern is whether these have been proven to work or people are just throwing money at a variety of different therapies.
COLLINS: Doctor Graham Woolf, of Cedars Sinai, has written in magazines and medical journals that he doesn't buy Weil's ways. GRAHAM: These herbal products are not benign. Just because they're natural doesn't really mean that they're safe. They contain contaminants. They're not FDA approved. There is really no evidence that any of them work.
WEIL: That is not a substantive claim. You know, for instance, if you look at many of these areas mind/body medicine for example, there is four decades of very solid research on that.
COLLINS: Doctor Weil agrees not all alternative medicines are reliable, but he says the herbal remedies he favors are far less dangerous that pharmaceutical drugs.
When he's not battling critics, or jetting off to book signings, Doctor Weil builds a peaceful life around his teachings. A long dirt road leads to his 120-acres secluded ranch at the foothills of Arizona's Rincon Mountains. It was there we sat down, Indian style, no shoes allowed, for a rare on-camera interview at the heart of it all, the Zen room.
(on camera): So what is the key to longevity?
WEIL: I think the key to longevity is delaying the onset and reducing the risk of age related disease. The big ones are cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease. We're all dealt a certain hand of genetic cards, some good some bad, but it is up to us how we play them.
COLLINS (voice-over): The ace in the hole, he says, the food we eat.
WEIL: Eat fewer foods of animal origin, more fruits and vegetables. Make sure you've got omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, either from oily fish or fish oil supplements.
Try to reduce consumption of quick digesting carbohydrate foods, which are the ones made from any kind of flour, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup. Take a good multi-vitamin, multi-mineral supplement. Add things to the diet like green tea, and dark chocolate and red wine, in moderation.
COLLINS: It seems Weil's mass appeal capitalizes on just the right balance of herbal intrigue and common sense.
WEIL: Aside from eating right, you want to maintain physical activity throughout life. Walking is a perfectly good physical activity. If you want to learn some method of stress management. I think you want to keep your mind active, whether that's by learning another language or changing your computer operating system frequently.
And for the record, I don't tell people to do anything I don't do myself. So the lifestyle that I promote in my books is thus my lifestyle.
COLLINS: There are greenhouses to grow his own organic fruits and vegetables. A Swiss Family Robinson style tree house, built to connect with nature, a hand-crafter personal labyrinth with only one way in, one way out, to exercise his mind and spirit. Doctor Weil, walks the walk.
WEIL: The more one has walked the more it builds up a concentration of energy.
COLLINS: For all of Dr. Weil's focus on healthy aging this 63- year old is bluntly realistic about the inevitable.
WEIL: I think the whole concept of anti-aging is flawed. Aging is a natural, universal process. If you set your goal as anti-aging you've put yourself in a very wrong relationship with nature.
COLLINS: So instead he emphasizes aging gracefully.
WEIL: My favorite techniques are breathing methods because they're so cost efficient and time efficient.
COLLINS: So that's what we did; we breathed.
WEIL: Seven out, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
COLLINS: Even though Weil stresses staying connected, maintaining relationships, he is divorced. Something he counts as one of his failures in life. One of his greatest successes? A daughter from the marriage, 14-year-old Diana.
WEIL: All right. Well, have a great trip. And if you wind up in jail, I'll come get you.
COLLINS (on camera): Are you revolutionary?
WEIL: You know, I've been called revolutionary. To me the irony is that I think what I'm working for, and what I and my colleagues are working for, is really a very conservative movement. The least expensive, least invasive, least risky is going to save money, it's going to lower healthcare costs. The success of it will be that one day we can drop the word "integrative" and this will just be good medicine.
COLLINS (voice-over): In the time it took you to watch this story, you just got a little bit older. It happens to everyone. But we continue to fight it every step of the way. If Doctor Weil has his way, we'll stop fighting it and learn to accept it gracefully. He just might be onto something.
Heidi Collins, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.
COOPER: Next on this special edition of 360, what about living forever? Immortality? Could biotechnology make it possible one day soon?
360 investigates. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of 360.
Tonight we've been looking how researchers say you can live longer and live stronger. Now, when we say longer, you may not think of living forever and ever, but that's the quest of one man you're about to meet. Could his dream become reality for all of us one day?
CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Fifty-seven-year-old Ray Kurzweil's daily routine: 250 supplements, 10 cups of green tea, four miles of brisk walking. All part of his quest for immortality.
RAY KURZWEIL, AUTHOR, "FANTASTIC VOYAGE": The diseases that kill 95 percent of us are not things that just hit us one day walking down the street. You can find out where you are in that process and stop that process and reverse it fairly readily with the right lifestyle, the right supplements.
GUPTA: That right lifestyle is outlined in "Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever." Ray is not a doctor, but an award- winning scientist.
He and co-author Dr. Terry Grossman recommend intravenous supplements for better digestion, acupuncture, and regular biological testing to determine body age. All geared towards taking advantage of biotechnological advances they say are just over the horizon.
KURZWEIL: I expect and hope to be in good shape when we have these powerful techniques in biotechnology 10, 15 years from now. For example, have devices called the nanobots that can actually perform functions inside our bloodstream, augment our immune system, destroy pathogens and cancer cells, enhance our red blood cells, for example, so that we can breathe better.
GUPTA: Sound like science fiction? While oddly reminiscent of the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage," in which scientists travel in vehicles through the blood system, in fact humans have made giant leaps in life expectancy.
Consider this: in 1900, the average American life span was 47 years. By 1960, it had risen to the early 60s. Now, life expectancy is 77.
PERLS: We're always going to hear some special potion or nostrum for immortality. And that's not new.
GUPTA: Dr. Thomas Perls, a leading researcher on centenarians, says that living longer, healthier is a good message. But relying on Ray's plan to do it is another. PERLS: Much of the book is based on Ray and Terry's own antidotal experience of what works for them. What the book is asking people to do is everybody to be a guinea pig. And I think that's very dangerous.
GUPTA: Anti-aging is a multimillion-dollar industry. And as baby boomers grow older, they want greater control over their own longevity.
KURZWEIL: I would like that to keep on living indefinitely. And I would like that decision to be in my own hands and not in the figurative hands of fate.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
COOPER: One day, could it happen? Could researchers make a vaccine to reverse aging?
CNN's medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, reports.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In human years, this mouse is 120 years old. That's because these scientists made him 120. They cranked up one of his genes that regulates aging.
Mice get bigger as they get older. Take a look. The genetically engineered older mouse, the one on the left, is much bigger than the younger one on the right.
Dr. Kevin Rosenblatt, one of the researchers, says even his team was surprised at what happened when they manipulated the gene.
DR. KEVIN ROSENBLATT, U.T. SOUTHWESTERN: We did not think it would work quite this strikingly.
COHEN: Humans and mice have this particular aging gene in common. So the question is, given our society's obsession with youth, could scientists manipulate our genes to make us live longer?
ROSENBLATT: The possibility of a sort of age -- an anti-aging hormone or vaccine, so to speak, that could prolong life or actually protect humans against particular diseases is quite possible.
COHEN: And even better, this mouse isn't old and decrepit, he's old and quite healthy without the usual diseases of aging.
ROSENBLATT: It would be sort of like a 70-year-old man or woman living closer to be 100 years old. But not just living longer, but perhaps healthier, without many of the age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis or certain diseases that are more common in the elderly. COHEN: The researchers think in about 10 years their mouse research could translate into medical advances for humans. But they warn it might not pan out at all.
Over the years, scientists have waved their magic wands and made fat mice skinny. They've made paralyzed mice walk again. They've made brain tumors in mice disappear in a matter of days. But none of these advances has ever translated into breakthroughs for humans.
So this aging discovery is great news if you're a mouse, and might turn out to be helpful if you're a human.
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: That's all for this special edition of 360, "Living Longer, Living Stronger."
I'm Anderson Cooper.
Thanks for watching.
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