The current life expectancy in the United States is 77.28 years, which ranks 46th in the world behind dozens of countries including Cuba, Estonia, Lebanon, Chile and Costa Rica.
The United States also spends the most on healthcare worldwide according to recent statistics, yet its health outcomes remain among the worst of all nations, with an estimated 133 million people having some form of chronic disease.
One United States resident who has been bucking the trend over the course of her long, illustrious life is Dr. Gladys McGarey, who was featured in an article by the Today Show recently.
Dr. McGarey was born in 1920, and has managed to stay in exceptional condition thanks in large part to her focus on health as the co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association, based in Woodmere, Ohio.
A cancer survivor, physician and holistic medicine practitioner, McGarey is also a cancer survivor who has overcome the death of her daughter, as well as a divorce at the age of 70 that occurred when her husband and clinical partner of 46 years left her to be with another woman.
She offered the following advice to TODAY.com on how to overcome setbacks in life.
“You just don’t get stuck in them,” she said. “It’s a matter of choice: What do I choose? I chose not to be stuck in the pain and suffering. It hurt and I didn’t like it.”
After difficult times and grieving processes, she finally decided to move forward.
“There comes a point where it’s just not worth my energy to spend any more time on that. I’ve got the energy to do something that’s creative and pull myself out of that and work forward.”
1. Strive for Improvement
McGarey lives by the core belief that each year she spends on this planet draws her closer to her purpose in life.
While many people feel the opposite, often feeling less valuable as they get older, McGarey chooses to flip that disempowering viewpoint on its head by living by this mantra.
She has a 10-year plan to “create a village for living medicine where people can ‘come together to practice wellness,'” she said according to TODAY.com.
2. Embrace Your Purpose
“I truly believe each one of us has a purpose here,” McGarey said. “It’s our privilege and our responsibility to find that within ourselves.”
Her philosophy is similar to the one found in ‘Blue Zones’ such as Okinawa, Japan, where advanced age is celebrated to the degree that people in this age bracket are paraded around and celebrated in the city streets.
The holistic doctor added that love is the best medicine, and each person is able to love and be loved in this lifetime.
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3. Health is a Personal Thing
Diet and exercise are important for health and longevity, Dr. McGarey said, but she also preaches to her clients that everyone’s version of health is different.
She makes time for foods like chocolate cake and hamburgers, and generally does not drink alcohol or smoke.
“I’m not opposed to alcohol and I think wine for some people is a lovely thing. It’s what works for you,” she said according to TODAY.com.
“The individual person has to live their own individual life, so as you find what works for you, bless it and use it and work with it.”
4. Movement, and Moving On, Matter
Each person has a certain type of energy within themselves that has to move, she added.
That could take on the form of stuck emotions after a breakup or a death in the family or it could take on the form of needing to exercise.
McGarey walks 3,800 steps each day, even though she relies on a walker to make it happen.
She urges people to move on from difficult times and to look for a different path in life when the one they’re on begins to feel like a dead end.
“If you’re spending your energy on something that is just keeping you miserable, uncomfortable or in a place you don’t want to be, start looking for what is out there… the world is all around you and it’s full of amazing, amazing things,” she said.
5. Everything is Your Teacher
Dr. McGarey also makes it a point to keep an open mind in life.
She believes that everything is her teacher. She used the pain of her divorce to fuel the beginning of her holistic health clinic with her daughter, which she said gave her life purpose.
“Up to that point, I had depended on (his) support in the things that I was saying. After that, I had to believe that what I was saying had strength and was important,” McGarey said.
“Once I could actually find my own voice, I wrote (her ex-husband) a letter and thanked him for giving me my freedom. Because up until that time, I did not feel that my voice was strong enough.”