Out of the blue the other day it dawned on me: Half my life is over.
As some of you may know from reading this blog, I turned 48 in November 2010 and am en route to 50 in 2012 (which is when, as you also may know from reading this blog, the Mayans expect the world to end). But let’s just say that the world does not end in 2012, I would still have to live beyond the age of 96 to contradict my recent realization that, again, Half my life is over. Fin. Kaput.
So, I did a little research into the likelihood of me reversing this new revelation, in other words, living past 96. First of all, let’s dismiss the fact that cardiac arrest is prevalent in the maternal side of my family: my mother’s mother died of a heart attack at 66 and my mother had just-in-time double bypass surgery at 56. My mother is still living (thank God) and in good health at 71, thanks to that double bypass, a change in diet, and the myriad of medications available to extend a comfortable and productive life. When I say my mom changed her diet, I mean to say that what she eats adheres to the old joke detailing the cardiologist’s diet: “If it tastes good, spit it out.” Not only is she a model citizen, she is a model eater. I’ve got the citizenship thing down, but the model diet — not so much. I still cannot shake my cravings for carbs, fried carbs especially, which are, as one of my friends puts it: “Crack.”
But, for now, let’s set aside the fact that I cannot yet vanquish my occasional fried “crack” addiction and look at the average lifespan of Americans like me. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the average life expectancy for a Caucasian female is 80.3 years. Holy crap (or, should I say, holy carb), it’s looking like I am well into the back half of my life. Unless I have exceptional genes (which I have already established that I do not) or medical science progresses to such a degree that it can save an average old cow like me (possible, but I’m not holding my breath, plus Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and the rest of the soon-to-be-50 Brat Pack would certainly take all of the Fountain of Youth drugs for themselves), I am likely not holding on until I’m 96. (I guess I should be grateful for how much longer folks are living these days, period. Four decades ago, the Beatles sang that life was virtually over When I’m 64…)
My only hope might be to move from my native United States (ranked a disappointing 49th among countries in life expectancy for its population) to the number one ranked country in that category: Macau. In this region of China, women live, on average, to age 87 and a half.
But I don’t speak Chinese and, frankly, I feel too old to learn. I do like Chinese food, but I’ve got a feeling that’s taking me back into “crack” land and that’s dangerous. I haven’t even called Allied Van Lines and I’m already feeling like a fish out of water. Perhaps Macau is a place — for me — to visit someday, but not to live.
As I run through more online information, however, I see that there are dedicated blue zones in the world where folks live 100 years and beyond. Oh, happy day! I can chose between five of these blue zones:
- The Italian island of Sardinia
- Okinawa, Japan
- Loma Linda, California
- Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
- Ikaria, an isolated Greek island
Now that list holds some possibilities. I’ve even been to one of the zones — Sardinia — as a stop on a 2009 Mediterranean Cruise. That fact alone must add a week to my longevity. And Loma Linda is, shockingly, a mere freeway drive from where I live (although that time spent on the Los Angeles’ freeways would probably take away the week from my life I earned in Sardinia).
Of course, I know that the real key to a long life (besides the luck of good genes) is lifestyle. Eat right, exercise, decrease stress, blah, blah, blah… We all know that. So if I’m gonna have any hope of living to 96 (or perhaps even 64), I must realize that there is no quick fix. I have to get up from my computer and actually use that stationary bicycle in my bedroom for something other than hanging clothes on. I have to attempt to shut out the world — from external barking dogs to internal thoughts of self-doubt — and get a good night’s sleep every night. And I have to give up fried crack.
That is, unless medical science does discover a magical elixir that allows us to live forever. Then I just have to knock the Brat Pack out of the way to get enough of the stuff for myself.