What steps can people take right now to ensure their lives are as long, happy and healthy as possible?
This is the question a new speaker series by the University of British Columbia’s Healthy Aging Program hopes to answer.
The current chair of the program, Michael Kobor, says they still don’t know all the answers, but they do know where some of the secrets lie. Good nutrition and exercise are obvious ones, but less researched areas are important too.
“There are also psychosocial aspects, like belonging and having a purpose in life,” Kobor says.
A leading expert in epigenetics, Kobor has devoted years of study to examining how people’s behaviours and environments can impact their genes. These changes can alter how people’s bodies interpret their own DNA, possibly influencing health and diseases in the long-term.
Kobor won’t be speaking during the series, but he is helping to put together its lineup.
The first lecture is set to kick-off on Monday (Jan. 23), with a discussion on the possible benefits of daily stressors. David Almeida is a professor of human development and family studies and a faculty member of the Center for Healthy Aging at Pennsylvania State University. He’s working to debunk the idea that no stress is better than some.
His research, the National Studies of Daily Experiences, showed that in a group of 2,804 adults, those who reported no stress over an eight-day period were more likely to be older, male, less-educated and lower-income, compared to those who reported stressors. Almeida’s research also showed people with daily stressors also reported more positive events in their day-to-day lives.
On Feb. 27, Catrine Tudor-Locke will take to the stage to discuss how daily physical activity can be re-imagined with modern technologies.
Both speakers will touch on some of the nine lifestyle habits identified as common factors between the world’s five “Blue Zones” – communities with the highest life expectancy. It’s an area of research that has intrigued Kobor. He says he’d like to identify if “micro-blue zones” may exist in some parts of B.C.
The nine factors associated with long lives include: natural movement, sense of purpose, coping mechanisms for stress, eating until 80 per cent full, consuming more plant than meat proteins, drinking wine daily, a sense of belonging, putting loved ones first, and being born into a group with healthy behaviours.
The speaker series will take a break in March before returning in April. Kobor says they’re aiming to cut through all the misinformation and misleading marketing online to provide people with the knowledge they actually need to live long, happy lives.
“We welcome input from the community at large as to what might be helpful, and what perhaps is missing in this sort of information soup that’s out there.”
Each lecture can be attended online or in-person at the Vancouver General Hospital. More information can be found at healthyaging.med.ubc.ca.