Book Review

The Art of Longevity

What is the secret of longevity? Balanced diet, regular exercises and quality healthcare services. If your answer is just these, you are missing out several other factors. Health and longevity are dependent not just on taking good care of body but also taking equally good care of mind and spirit. A number of factors affect this, from the art of laughing and practising gratitude to the love and support of your spouse and parents to eating chocolate!

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, a biological scientist and certified life coach, has deliberated on these factors in her book “99 not out”. It is pitched as a guide to long and healthy life.

In a chapter titled ‘Being Reasonably Altruistic’, Shetty argues that acting both selfishly and altruistically are deeply ingrained in human nature. Altruism is when we work selflessly, with kindness and compassion towards someone else’s welfare even if it exacts a cost from us. It has been proven by research that altruism has positive impact on health and longevity of both the receiver and the giver.

The book quotes a clinical study research done on 10,000 Israeli men aged 40 and above to observe the risk factors for angina pectoris or chest pain due to heart disease. Researchers found that ‘those who perceived their wives to be loving and supportive had half the rate of angina of those who felt unloved and unsupported’. It noted that wife’s love is also associated with lowered risk of duodenal ulcers. Perceived experience of parental love is also associated with better health. Reasonable altruism strengthens our mental and physical health and protects us from the debilitating effect of stressful life events.

Researchers and doctors have noted the pain-relieving power of laughter through the ages. The book advises to laugh more. The act of laughing leads to an immediate increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, respiratory depth and oxygen consumption. These increases are then followed by a period of muscle relaxation, with a corresponding decrease in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. Laughter connects us with people and heals us in the process.

The book argues that the life journey is meant to be happy. Eating chocolate might have some bad effects on your health. But you don’t need to get obsessed with the ill effects. If a few pieces of chocolate help keep you happy, why not indulge?

Longevity is the result of a dynamic equilibrium between mind, body and spirit. When we work on one, we are more easily able to nudge the others to a higher equilibrium. If we ignore the wellness of one, the others get compromised and thus we suffer from illness. Therefore, for a healthy and long life we need to take equal care of mind, body and spirit.

The book is divided in three sections by the aspect of wellness – mind, body and spirit. Each section has a chapter dedicated to a wellness principle. It has been backed by clinical research evidence and real-life examples. It is a well-researched book with interesting read. It presents a holistic view of good health, critical for achieving longevity.

(99 Not Out: Your Guide to a Long and Healthy Life, Penguin Random House, 2019, is authored by Sujata Kelkar Shetty.)

Sameer Kochhar

Sameer Kochhar, Chairman of SKOCH Group, is a passionate advocate of social, financial and digital inclusion. In 1997, after spending 15 years in the corporate world, he decided to follow his inner calling and become a development thinker. Ever since, he single-mindedly applied himself to the rigours of self-education, academic research and field tours. The SKOCH Group – which has a think tank, media and consultancy arms – was established as part of this endeavour. His expert opinion is sought by the government. In Kochhar's thinking, writings and activities, his profound admiration for Indiaís economic reforms – and in extension, those outstanding personalities who strive to make these reforms more meaningful and broad-based – comes out clear and unambiguous.
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