A guy walks in to the doctor’s office. “Doctor,” he says, “I want to live to be 100. What should I do?” The doctor replies, “Give up wine, women and song.”

The patient asks, “And will I definitely live to be 100 if I follow that advice?”

The doctor replies, “No, but it will certainly feel as if you have.”

That’s an old, and I mean old doctor’s joke which, it turns out, may be giving the wrong advice. For many of us, living longer and healthier is possible and a number of studies have highlighted the path we should follow, such as …:

1) Stopping or never smoking is important.

2) Not drinking too much alcohol — realistically not more than a drink a day. Having said that, the official limits are a bit higher. Less than 2 a day for a woman or 3 a day for a guy.

3) Exercise, daily. High intensity brings added benefits but even low intensity for 30 minutes (it can be cumulative) a day will help. Even if you exercise, don‘t sit in front of a screen. For every hour you‘re immobile in front of the TV for example, you may increase your risk of an early demise by 11 per cent.

4) Eat your fruits and veggies. A diet high in both and low in fats and carbohydrates and processed foods is good for you. Also, limit your calories. Studies looking at people living long lives have emphasized that, along with being active every day, they don’t consume a lot of calories. In the case of the long-lived Japanese, they stop when they‘re 80 per cent full.

5) Sex 2 to 3 times per week. It turns out that supportive relationships, including regular safe sex, is good for your health — as is not being lonely.

6) Be careful with your exposure to the sun to reduce the risk of UV-related cancers.

So, it turns out the old joke may have been wrong after all.

While I cannot guarantee that everyone who follows these recommendations will make it to 100, they do increase your chances considerably and aren‘t horribly restrictive, so why not go for it?

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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