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Growing Old, Staying Young: Tips From a Longevity Expert

Medical advances theoretically make it possible for us to live to the age of 110. But despite what science tells us, the average life span for Americans is just 76 years. So what are we doing wrong? Don't even think of blaming your parents. Genes are only 30% responsible for how long we live and how we age. The rest is pure lifestyle.

As part of the Early Show's "Living Better Longer" series, Dr. Robert Butler, director of the International Longevity Center and one of America's leading longevity experts, addressed the issue. Dr. Butler is cofounder, president, and CEO of the International Longevity Center (ILC-USA). He is also a professor of geriatrics and adult development at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he founded the nation's first department of geriatrics in 1982. Former director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (1975-1982), he won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1976 book Why Survive? Being Old in America. Dr. Butler, who is 74, has been studying the science of aging for almost 50 years and is an expert on how it is possible to feel better and live longer.

Can people really stay younger?

Well, there are certainly many ways to speed up the aging process, like alcohol, tobacco, poor nutrition, or a sedentary life with no aerobic or muscle training. We have certainly perfected ways to age ourselves prematurely. 50 percent of our country is currently overweight and being overweight certainly increases the incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes, which leads to a decreased quality of life. We are now the fattest country in the world and that is a real shame. The consequences to both our quality of life and our health costs are enormous.

We haven't yet discovered the magic way to "stay young" but there are certainly things that people can do to prevent premature aging and increase their quality and length of life.

Is there a "magic pill" for staying young?

If we could put exercise into a pill, we would have found the magic pill of youth. But there is no magic potion. People need to work at it. They have to do the physical work involved. Exercise is definitely the best anti-aging medicine around. Exercise is a key factor in the prevention of age-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.
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