When I was growing up my parents lived with my mom’s parents, who had immigrated from Poland and had kept many of the old Polish traditions. One of those was to sing a traditional song, “Sto Lat!” for birthdays and other celebrations. The words mean “100 years!”, and the wish is, “May you live to be 100 years old!”. The song dated back to a time when living to be 100 years old was very, very uncommon. There still aren’t many centenarians among us, so the song seems as appropriate today as it always was.
It turns out that many cultures use the phrase, “100 years!” for toasts or for good wishes. For example, Italian-Americans use the word “Cent’anni!” (from cento anni). With better nutrition and all of the advances in medicine, you’d think the number of centenarians should be increasing, wouldn’t you? Maybe they are, at least in some parts of the world. A few years ago a family friend went back to Italy to visit relatives, and the young folk told him that the old toast, “Cent’anni!” has changed- after someone says “Cent’anni!”, everyone responds, “e piu!” (and more!).
With modern America’s emphasis on youth and beauty, do people still want to live to be 100 years old? Apparently they do- books such as Younger Next Year, The Blue Zones and The China Study give lots of hints about what we should do to have long, healthy lives. Web sites do the same, and will even do life expectancy calculations from information you enter. If you haven’t visited them before you might want to check http://www.realage.com or http://www.livingto100.com. They give good advice about diet, exercise, smoking cessation and stress reduction techniques.
With all of this great information readily available, we should be getting healthier all of the time. Yet just look around and you’ll see many, many men and women who are seriously overweight (if not outright obese). We know that excess weight brings an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, which lead to increased morbidity and mortality. It’s a sad fact that some experts believe that Americans will actually have shorter, not longer, life expectancies unless we reverse the trend towards overweight/obesity.
So what about you? What are you doing to stay healthy? Your mom was right: start by eating your fruits and vegetables! There are lots of other easy things you can do. When you shop, park your car further away and walk a little more. In fact, walk over to my office and enjoy a cup of green tea with me. Take a hike in Fair Haven Fields or any of the great parks we have in our area. Enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, and feel the stress fall away. You can do it, and this is the perfect time of the year to get started. Local fruits and vegetables are inexpensive and readily available; eliminate many of the highly-processed foods in your diet and load up on the fruits and veggies instead.
Need some motivation? Just remember there are people who love you who and want you to be around for a long, long time. As my grandparents would say, “Sto Lat!”- may you live 100 years!