What Makes For a Long Life?


Today’s post is a rerun. 

I make no apologies for this.

This weekend I took a mini-vacation to St. Louis,MO to meet in person two of my favorite Twitter friends. I am happy to report they are just as nice and as much fun in person as they are on Twitter. I had a fabulous weekend of great conversation, lots of laughter, fun, and good food.

Thus this rerun. But it is a goodie. I ran this first time under the title, The Longevity Project about nine months ago.

So, what factors lead to a long life?

Eating the right foods? Vigorous exercise everyday? Supplements? A happy marriage? Optimism?

The answer it seems is NONE of the above.

Over the years we have had antidotal answers to this question.

We have had wild guesses.

We have had outright lies.

But until a few months ago, no definitive answer.

In March of last year Hudson Street Press published a 272 page hard back book unassumingly titled, The Longevity Project. The authors, Howard Friedman, PhD and Leslie Martin PhD at the University of California, Riverside drew on the findings of an eighty year study that is still ongoing to take a look at this ago old question.

The paperback version will be out in early March, 2012.

At the Longevity Project website, Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, wrote of this project:

In 1921, before most of us were born, a remarkable study began tracking the loves and lives of 1500 Americans from childhood to death. The study continues even today, with research teams led by Howard Friedman still keeping tabs on the remaining few who are still alive and analyzing massive amounts of data to establish what it is precisely about these 1500 individuals that led some to stay well and others to fall ill or die before their time.

I have not read the book. I am on the wait list at the library. But I am getting antsy. So I may just have to break one of my budgeting rules and actually purchase a hard back edition of this book at full cost because I am so eager to get inside of it.

Mostly because it seems that the road to longevity has little to do with or obsessing over what we eat, how much we exercise, or our stress levels. As regular readers here know, that is kind of the drum I beat around here. I am an eat, drink, and be merry sort of gal.

While I have not read the book yet, I have read several reviews of the book and several magazine articles about the book. I have also scoured The Longevity Project website. (See link above.)

Following is just a bit of what I have found out.

The Introduction of The Longevity Project book can be found at their website. In the Intro there is a list of commonly held beliefs of what leads to a long life. The authors tell you straight out whether these are true or myths. Most all of them are myths. You can read those by clicking the following link: Myths link. (About half way down the page)

My favorite quote from the Introduction to the book is this:

Exercise, diet, stress, and weight are indeed relevant to health, but in ways that vary from person to person. Lists of dos and don’ts are nearly impossible for most of us to follow for days, months, and years.

The Atlantic magazine review and interview with the author of the study is the best of the articles I read. Following is the quote that stood out most for me: 

One breakthrough finding was that conscientious children and conscientious adults stay healthier and live significantly longer. [Emphasis mine.]

That is an amazing finding! Finally those of us who are persnickety have some thing to shout about!!

According to the Amazon  book review there is no magic pill to longevity and that what we think makes for a long life turns out to be mostly wrong.

According to The New York Times, it appears the key traits to longevity are prudence and persistence.

I give National Public Radio an A+ for the best title:  It’s Not All About  Broccoli. The book has several self-assessment tests in it. NPR publishes one of them. To take this self-assessment test click the broccoli link above. It is toward the end of this very short article.

Just FYI, I got a 48 on the test.

Over at The Week magazine they list the five key traits of longevity and the Slate website also has a pretty good summary of the book.

Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence closes their brief review of this book with:

……this changes the conversation about living a long, healthy life.

One kinda, sorta, maybe surprise I am really eager to learn more about since I was a first grade teacher for years and years is this,

….. starting formal schooling at a very early age turned out not to be a very good idea for most. Children need unstructured play time, and they need to get along with their peers; starting out young seemed to alienate them.”

Quote from Howard Friedman from The Atlantic magazine interview.

So stop obsessing over life and food and exercise and just enjoy life.!!!

And last, meet and listen to the authors yourself from this You Tube video.


Featured Recipe            
Pork Chops  With Wild Rice Casserole

There are few dishes as elegantly delicious and as fast and easy as this one. It is quick and easy enough for weeknights, yet a perfect meal for company too. The fact that is also tatses so heavenly just makes this one of my favorite meals. I hope it will be one of yours too.

Today I also do something a little different for More Thyme Than Dough. I provide two additional recipes: a side dish and a salad to make an entire meal for the Featured Recipe.

This is what you need for 3 people:

1 – 6 ounce box long grain & wild rice

1 – 10 ½ ounce can cream of mushroom soup

1 – 4 ounce can mushrooms with liquid

3 lean pork chops (You can use up to six.)

1 ¼ cup water



Here Is What You Do:

Brown the chops in a skillet over high heat. You do not want to cook the chops, just quickly sear them. They will finish cooking in the oven.

Mix together the contents of the box of rice, the soup, the mushrooms with the juices, and the water in a bowl.

Pour the soup mixture into a casserole with a lid.

Arrange the browned pork chops on top. If using, sprinkle with the salt. For a little color sprinkle just a little paprika on top of the pork chops too. It will make them look much prettier. 

Stick it in the oven and bake covered at 350 degrees for about an hour or up to an hour and twenty minutes depending both on the thickness of your pork chops and your oven. The rice should absorb most of the liquid. I start checking after 45 minutes. If the chops are not done I may add a little more water. I don’t want either the rice or the pork to be come too dry.

When most, but not all, of the water is absorbed by the rice remove the casserole from the oven. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes or so. The rice will still absorb some of the water.

You can serve this with a salad and a vegetable side dish, like carrots in Tarragon Butter.


Bon appétit!!!


1 6 ounce box long grain & wild rice          $2.05 (sale & coupon)

1 10 ½ can cream of mushroom soup       $0.50

1 4 ounce can mushrooms                       $0.50

3-6 lean pork chops                                 $4.83 for 3

1 ¼ cup water                                        Depends on local water costs

Salt and Paprika                                      Pennies

Total cost = $7.88
Cost per person = $2.63

BONUS RECIPE: Carrots With Tarragon Butter

The carrots you see in the picture above are easy to make. I made it just for me, but all you need to do is multiply by the number of people you want to serve. I sliced 1 carrot (11 cents) into a inch rounds. I placed them along with a bit of water and 1 tablespoon of butter (15 cents) in a skillet. Over high heat I brought the water and butter to a boil. Then I covered the carrots and lowered the heat to low. I cooked them until they were crisp tender, about 7 minutes. I just keep checking with a toothpick. Drain the carrots and put another tablespoon of buter (15 cents)  in the skillet. I put the carrots back on low heat till the butter is melted. Then off the heat I add 1 teaspoon of fresh tarragon (20 cents.) Total cost for 1 person = 61 cents

The Salad

The salad has 2 leaves of Romaine lettuce, (50cents), one-eighth carrot cut into rounds (2 cents) one-fifth a tomato in chunks (16 cents) a splash of fresh lemon juice (best guess 2 cents), and 2 teaspoons olive oil (5 cents.) Total cost for 1 person = 75 cents.

Total cost per person with the salad and the side of carrots: $3.99

Quote of the Day

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln

Print Friendly

1 comment to What Makes For a Long Life?

  • Cindy

    Glad you had a good visit..! “Meet me in St. Louis” 🙂 Re: may just be that being conscientious & persistent allows folks to eat right & exercise regularly..