Jeanne Louise Calment: The oldest woman.
You might have read my colleague Merry’s recent article about what’s supposedly good for us and what is damaging to our health.The article is called Food for Health. It’s a great read – why do scientists and nutritionists keep giving us conflicting advice?
Instead of listening to them, let’s take a look at Jeanne Louise Calment, until her death she was the world’s oldest person.
She was born in 1875 and died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, 164 days. No-one has ever lived to such an age. What were her daily habits?
Well, for one thing, she ate chocolate. Not just a little – about two pounds of chocolate every week. So that’s going on to my ‘good for you’ list. She also drank wine. (This is so much more fun that the aged folk who are so very clean living). She said that her diet was rich in olive oil (good, so is mine).
Now for the shock-horror part – she smoked from the age of twenty one until she was a hundred and seventeen. Although an ‘unspecified source’ says that this was no more than a couple of cigarettes a day by the time she had reached about a hundred and fifteen years of age, we have no idea how many cigarettes she puffed away on for those ninety six smoking years. Why did she stop smoking at the age of one hundred and seventeen? Evidently it was a matter of pride rather than for health reasons.Her eyesight had more or less gone and she could no longer light cigarettes herself. It wounded her pride to allow someone else to do it for her.
She took regular exercise though (she rode a bike until she was a hundred years old) and kept her weight in trim. She also kept herself mentally sharp. She claimed she was never bored. She also said that she was extremely calm and avoided stress. It makes me wonder if these factors counteracted the wine, the chocolate and the cigarettes?
In the year she died, experts estimated that by the time we get to 2040, there will be 1.3 million American aged over one hundred. It’s claimed that the life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease threaten the fifty to eighty age group, implying that if you make it to eighty, you’ve still got plenty more years left.
By the time medical researchers discovered Jeanne, she was living in an assisted living facility. She had cataracts and was deaf but other than that, had no medical problems. Mentally, she was completely alert. However, her deafness did make extensive studies difficult for them.
She lived all her life in the South of France, in the town of Arles. Researchers therefore concluded that her diet was the same as most people in the area – the Mediterranean diet that has become so popular in recent years.
Was this, combined with her positive mental attitude, the secret to her long and healthy life?
On her one hundred and twenty first birthday she said:
‘I dream, I think, I go over my life. I never get bored’.