Kindness - A Key To Longevity

When she died at age 116 in 2015 Gertrude Weaver of Camden, Arkansas was the world’s oldest woman. When asked, she attributed her longevity to kindness: “Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you.” Her advice to those aspiring to a long life was a bit more specific: “Use a lot of skin moisturizer, treat everyone nice, love your neighbor and eat your own cooking. Don’t eat at fast food places.”

While a healthy diet has long been recognized as central to longevity, some recent evidence supports her conviction that kindness contributes to a long life. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School studied chromosomal DNA extracted from blood samples provided by 37 individuals. Fifteen of the study participants practiced Loving-Kindness Meditation, a Buddhist meditation practice focusing on health, happiness and well-being towards all people. The analysis revealed that the meditators had significantly longer telomeres than non-meditators. Telomeres are structures at the ends of chromosomes that are considered a biomarker associated with aging. Longer telomeres are associated with longevity. 

E.A. Hoge et al, “Loving-Kindness Meditation practice associated with longer telomeres in women.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, August 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.04.005

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