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Surprising longevity advice from a doctor who just died at 105

Milk and Cookies


Calah Alexander - published on 08/23/17

Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara's ideas are definitely worth getting behind.

I’m pretty sure I know what it takes to tip the scales in favor of a long, healthy life. The basics are usually eat right, exercise often, get enough sleep, and drink all the coffee you can, right?

Read more:
Diet and exercise tips from a 1900s health guru

Not so, according to Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, a longevity expert, physician, and chairman emeritus at St. Luke’s University, who passed away recently at the age of 105. Open Culture posted his 10 tips for longevity, and along with the standard (exercise daily) and the eclectic (a very long ode to poet Robert Browning) were some truly ground-breaking ideas.

We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.

This longevity expert just contradicted pretty much every single thing other people have written on diet, sleep, and … longevity. At about 100 years old.


Actually, though, what he says makes a lot of sense. His advice can basically be boiled down to four imperatives: stay busy, stay active, have fun, and eat to live.

It sounds almost too simple … but maybe that’s because it is.

Staying busy isn’t hard in our over-stressed, over-stimulated, over-connected world. Most of us feel like we can’t ever catch a break — but the second we do, out come the smart phones for constant scrolling.

Staying distracted or mentally busy isn’t the same thing as staying truly busy, though. When Dr. Hinohara said to stay busy, he meant to keep doing work worth doing. Not only was he always planning ahead, with a calendar full of hospital work, he was constantly scheduling lectures for audiences ranging from businessmen to school children. He believed that sharing his knowledge was essential for the next generation, and for himself.

Likewise, staying active was a simple task for the good doctor. He didn’t advocate long, grueling hours at the gym — he just told people to carry their bags and take the stairs — preferably two at a time, like him.

Perhaps his most unusual advice was to have fun — and that’s advice he gave everyone. He insisted that hospitals had forgotten this “basic need of patients,” and implemented music, animal therapy, and art classes at his own hospital.


Read more:
Apple cider vinegar keeps the doctor away — but how should you drink it?

But my favorite by far is his take on diet, because it’s just so simple: Eat to live, don’t live to eat. We’ve heard it a thousand times, usually accompanied by a pie chart and 12-page-graph about what foods are toxic and what foods are super, how we should combine them and how far apart we should time our consumption of them. Eating healthy often seems so impossible that many people just give up.

But Dr. Hinohara actually ate simply. Orange juice and coffee for breakfast (I’ll skip the olive oil he took, because gross), milk and cookies for lunch (um yes!!), veggies, fish, and rice for dinner. Some lean meat sometimes. But no rules about what to eat when, and no dire warning about how you will self-implode into a cake-eating mess if you don’t eat half a handful of almonds every 57.2 minutes.

The crazy thing about these tips for longevity is that they’re so basic we keep waiting for the catch. But what if there is no catch? What if the secret to health and longevity is to relax, have fun, and just live well? I can get behind that.

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