A 100-year-old neurologist who’s still working shares his secrets to longevity
Dr. Howard Tucker added another honor to his illustrious career last year when the Guinness Book of World Records named him the world’s oldest practicing doctor. At the time, the neurologist was 99 years old and still seeing patients.
Now, at the age of 100, he told TODAY he recently stopped seeing patients but keeps himself busy teaching medical residents at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, twice a week.
Dr. Tucker believes his long career is a major reason for his incredible longevity. “I look upon retirement as the enemy of longevity,” Tucker told TODAY.
The doctor was born in 1922, graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1947 and served as a Navy neurologist during the Korean War. “Anyone who was discharged from the Navy for neurological reasons, if his residence was east of the Mississippi, I had to examine him before he could be discharged,” Tucker told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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Dr. Tucker practiced neurology at a time when CT scans and MRIs didn’t exist, so diagnosed his patients using little more than his knowledge of medicine.
“We used to have to really think through a problem because there weren’t any diagnostic tools of that magnitude,” Tucker told JTA. “We used to agonize over a problem. Is this a pattern of a tumor? Is this a pattern of abnormality with a stroke? In those days we had to work harder, but it was fun.”
It’s no surprise that, as a neurologist, he believes keeping mentally active is the secret to a long life. He told News 5 Cleveland that he tries to learn something new every day with a focus on new advancements in the medical field.
He stresses the fact that people should remain active as they age, whether that means staying in their careers or engaging in mentally challenging hobbies.
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“I think that to retire, one can face potential shriveling up and ending in a nursing home. It’s fun staying alive and working,” he told TODAY. “It’s delightful work. Every day I learn something new.
“I’m going to caution (people): If they retire from their work, they should at least do something as a hobby, whether it be communal work or self-hobbies,” he continued, “you need a stimulus for the brain daily.”
Dr. Tucker clearly knows what he’s talking about both as a centenarian and a medical professional. A 2016 study of 3,000 adults published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that staying at work for an extra year reduced the risk of dying from any cause by 11%, over the following 20 years.
“Retiring earlier would seem healthy because you might escape a stressful workplace or have more time to exercise—a few studies have shown this,” CBC longevity columnist Sharon Basaraba said. “But more and larger studies have concluded that early retirement is actually a risk factor for early death.”
Dr. Tucker attributes his longevity partially to his genetics because his mother lived to be 84 and his father, 96. But lifestyle habits are important, too. “Everything in moderation, except no cigarette smoking—that’s about it,” he told TODAY.
He also has a philosophy he lives by.
“Study each day as if you were to live forever, and live each day as if you were to die tomorrow,” he told WKYC. “I’ve carried that with me all the time.”
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