I’ve often waxed lyrical about books that celebrate centenarians; I’m a big fan of Healthy at 100 by John Robbins and the work of Dr Weston A Price a dentist who studied tribes all over the world to find what were the determining factors as to why people lived to a ripe old age.  Of course, many of us are living longer, but the real question is Are we in good health so that we can lead a good quality of life into our 80’s 90’s and even after we have received the telegram from the Queen (guess it’s an email now?)

It was good recently to interview Dr Dawn Harper on BBC Radio 2, you will know her of course as a leading media medic best known for her work on Channel 4’s award winning ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ & ‘Born Naughty?  Dr. Dawn works as both an NHS doctor in Gloucestershire and a private doctor on Harley Street. She has also been working as a media doctor for over ten years and her ability to simplify complex medical issues has made her an extremely sought after medical commentator and expert.

dawn harper

Her new excellent book is Live well to 101 A practical guide to living a long and healthy life’  Click this link to buy) (Live Well to 101: A Practical Guide to Achieving a Long and Healthy Life”  and in it she assesses major factors that determine how long we live, it’s a step by step guide on what we can do to invest in our health, now and for the future in order to enjoy our old age to the full.  What’s lovely about the book is that she meets some inspirational centenarians, such as a 102 year old man, who decided he ought to do something to help others, so he takes off on his motorbike (yes really) and plays the piano at an old folks home, he doesn’t even notice the fact that many of the elderly residents are nowhere near his age!   Not everyone can be motorcycling into their 100th year, but the ‘Use it or lose it’ adage is an important one, Dawn discovers the importance of being active, as we have read so often it seems ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and many of us do far too much of it.

She looks at the importance of genetics, and how with the right lifestyle changes we can often prevent even those diseases that we may have considered are ‘pre-determined’.  Having a healthy heart, good nutrition (there’s a lot on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet), and whether red wine really is good for you is covered in the book, along with the importance of sleep, and the fact that too much sleep, along with too little can shorten your life.

One of the most fascinating sections in the book is chapter 10 which looks at optimism versus pessimism, as with the John Robbins book, it seems Dawn also found that attitude and community is incredibly important. Being part of some kind of ‘social circle’ is a huge factor, and we aren’t talking social media!

Another lovely case study in the book is that of Giuseppe Vassallo who is almost 100, he lives in a small port in the Mediterranean called Acciaroli, it’s become famous for the longevity of its people, the population is only around 2,000 people but ten per cent of them are over 100 years old!! (500 times higher than the national average!) Giuseppe attributes his longevity to growing his own veg, and eating lots of olive oil and Rosemary (which hit the news as being the reason so many people remain in good health. – see my article here   He also believes good companionship and being in love helps.


In one of Dr Dawns ‘top tips’ which are scattered throughout the book, she suggests that if we can’t move to Acciaroli (I’m tempted) we could at least try following the example set by its residents.

  • Follow the Mediterranean diet .
  • Live near the sea (how HOW I wish!!) to benefit from fresh clean air
  • Keep your children living nearby (you listening kids?)
  • Maintain an active social life in the local community
  • Stay active, walking and gardening
  • Drink red wine in moderation
  • Enjoy a healthy and active sex life
  • Eat lots of rosemary

I can manage about five of those….need to get working on the rest..

Live well to 101’ by Dr Dawn Harper is out now.Live Well to 101: A Practical Guide to Achieving a Long and Healthy Life