Risk Takers Live Longer

The Times OnLine, the UK’s most respected newspaper, published an article in the February 18, 2006 online edition, Who dares usually wins: Risk-takers will live longer, have more friends and are less likely to get Parkinson’s.

Quoted in part:

A study published this week in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry showed that people with a strong streak of sensation seeking were less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, a disorder caused by the death of brain cells that make dopamine, a chemical that activates pleasure centres in the brain and which is involved in whether we feel a reward or motivation.

And further:

High-stimulus seekers actually drop their heart rate briefly and become more alert, which allows them to process all the information needed to stay upright on a black ski run. For the rest of us, heart rate immediately soars and our dominant thoughts are freeze or flee An appreciation of the benefits of pushing ourselves to extremes may be just what we need to fend off the rigours of ageing. “Quite the worst thing you can do is to avoid stress to either mind or body,” says Professor Mario Kyriazis, a GP specialising in anti-ageing medicine. “Ageing is due to the loss of complexity in our system and the way to boost complexity is to challenge the system. Don’t let it know what to expect if you want to live long and healthily; don ’t settle into routines.”

People who don’t know me but talk to me on the phone often think I am much younger than my 50 something age. Heck, I can’t really remember my ACTUAL age so I just claim 50. I’ll claim it ‘til I’m 60. It’s not about not wanting to get old, it’s really about not remembering the numbers.. But wait, I digress.

Some people in my family think I attract stress. Not the kind that makes it hard to manage my life, but the kind that really does a number on a routine. A plan of action that is sending that skier on the black slope to certain death, a complex organization structure that is careening out of whack, missed details in an event plan. These are the things that really put me on the jazz, as Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith used to say on the A-Team.

I can’t speak to the part about reduced Parkinson’s disease, but the rest of this sounds to me a lot like people with AD/HD: high-stimulus seekers, processing a whole situation in a flash, trying new things. I can’t say that all people with AD/HD have more friends. But I bet the ones who are most centered in themselves, the ones who know who they are and who they’re not – AD/HD and all – are more passionate about enjoying life and trying new things. People want to be with people like that.

I think it was Gail Sheehy who talked about passion, not sex, being the thing that keeps a person young. Passion keeps you looking at your world with open eyes and seeing what’s new. So, if you don’t have AD/HD, and therefore a natural bent toward seeing it almost without looking, make it a point to shake up your life. You’ll live longer. Or as they say in the movies.. Die tryin’!