A 75 Year-old Surgeon’s 7 Anti-aging Secrets To Become An Ironman (like him)

This doctor’s 7 anti-aging secrets may appear like common sense to you, but how many of them are you practicing in your own life?

Dr. Robert Willix, jr.

THIS IS a good time to introduce you to Dr. Robert Willix Jr., because the famous Ironman Triathlon competition held each October in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii just ended a week ago.  Next month, Dr. Willix will attempt to qualify for next year’s Ironman competition.

So, why should you care?  It’s doubtful that you intend to compete in triathlon.  And that’s fine, because this article is not about doing a really difficult sporting event, but rather getting inspired to do some things well within your reach, and self-interest.

You should care to the extent that Dr. Willix can be an inspiring example of what’s possible for you to do.

As he did 26 years ago, now 75 year-old Dr, Willix intends to:

  • Plunge into the ocean and swim 2.4-mile (3.86 km),
  • Immediately emerge, shake off the water and race a bike for 112-miles (180.25 km), and
  • Leap from the bike and run a 26.2-mile (42.20 km) marathon.

Thus, you should care because Dr. Willix’s story may inspire you to make some beneficial changes to your own life, seven of which he recommends below.


A Bit About Dr. Robert Willix and Epigenetics

I bumped into a Dr. Willix/Ironman story written by Charlotte Libov on Newsmax, and want to present him to you as an example of what feats are still possible as we get older.

Dr. Willix spent the first 40 years of his career as a cardiovascular surgeon, pioneering the first open heart surgery program in South Dakota. He then shifted his focus, and carved out his second career as a nationally known anti-aging expert.  He does this age-expert stuff at an integrative medical practice called Enlightened Medicine in Boca Raton, Florida.

Dr. Willix is also the author of Healthy at 100: 7 Steps to a Century of Great Health, among other books. He’s also a lifelong athlete who has completed 14 marathons, along with triathlons.

(Click pic for more info.)

His program is built on the science of epigenetics.

Time Magazine put epigenetics on it’s front cover some years ago and discussed it in an article entitled, Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny.  Get this byline they used:

The new field of epigenetics is showing how your environment and your choices can influence your genetic code — and that of your kids.

epigenetics time magazine

(Click pic to enlarge.)

What this “epigenetics” boils down to is that your behavior affects gene expression, which refers to which genes are, in effect, actively affecting your body and mind, and which genes are dormant… and this behavioral influence is so profound that it can affect your children’s genetics.

Put in another way:

Genetics is about what you inherent and thereby prone to experience biologically, whereas epigenetics is about how those genes are actually expressed.  Once expressed, those genes are inheritable.

(For more on this, read my article, Behavior and Epigenetics – The Surprising Reasons Your Kids Care About Your Genetics.)

Dr. Willix teaches and shows us by example that people can change their genetic destiny by adopting healthy habits. He says:

We understand aging a lot more now and we know one thing – the idea that genetics is all-important is a lot of hooey. It’s less important than we used to think it was, but it’s up to people to take charge of their health.

Dr. Willix is obviously an exercise junky, but he underscores the importance of nutrition:

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1977. I feel best that way but it’s not necessarily for everyone. The Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time as well.

As you may know, the Mediterranean Diet puts an emphasize on consuming fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, olive oil (as opposed to butter), and grilled or steamed chicken and seafood (as opposed to red meat).

If you’re flummoxed about diet and nutrition, I’ve got your covered.  Just go here and dig in.

The 7 Anti-aging Secrets for the Ironman In All of Us

First off, although it may be titillating to refer to the following list as “secrets” — the term used by author Charlotte Libov — they’re more akin to “common sense” than secrets.

Some on this list will appear to be “no-brainers” to you, and the impulse will be to speed pass them.

Maybe even yawn.


Instead, read what Dr. Willix and I have to say and ask yourself earnestly if you’re doing enough of that particular “secret”.  (His suggestions are in the yellow boxes and mine are everywhere else.) Moreover, there’s lots of additional resources presented that underscore the value of each of the seven.

So, with all that said, here are Dr. Willix’s 7 anti-aging secrets to becoming an Ironman and aging well – no matter how old you are.

1. Never retire:

You need to keep both your mind and body active in order to counteract the aging process, he says, adding that he knows “too many people who retired and died only a year or two later.”

Nothing is more important than Mindset.  Think about the word — how you set your mind.  For good or ill, what you set your mind on is more likely to happen.

If someone like 77 year-old Dr. Jeffrey Life tells you that if you do certain things you can look like and be as healthy as him, what does your mindset say?

Dr. Jeffry Life at 68 years of age.

Dr. Jeffry Life at 68 years of age.

“No way”

“Could be”

“I’m going to do it!”

Remember the old saw,

“Minds are like parachutes. They only work when open.”

Thus, whether in retirement or not, the key thing is to keep challenging your mindset and always be actively learning about and doing new things.

2. Stay physically active:

Swimming, biking, and running are great, but you don’t necessarily need to do these activities. Exercise can be playing golf, tennis, gardening, or any activity that that gets you to use your muscles is fine.

If you could do only one thing to manage the quality of your life as you age — as in, age more slowly and stay youthful longer — it would be to exercise. Post 40, or so, it’s no longer about achieving personal records (unless you’re relatively new to whatever you’re doing for exercise), but to exercise for the long haul.

Can you do the sitting/stand test? These kids can. Click here and watch.

For more about the sitting/standing test and how it predicts longevity, go to: Three Easy Ways You Can Predict Your Lifespan In 10 Minutes.


3. Eat healthy:

What you eat affects your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. You don’t need rice, potatoes, bread, alcohol, or sugar. Consider where food comes from and choose whole, natural foods, not processed ones. “If it comes in a box, it’s not food,” he says.

Click here to watch Dr. Robert Willix talk about the dangers of sugar and excess insulin.


Your food should look like it does when it was originally made on the farm.  In most supermarkets, the only food worth eating is placed along the perimeter. Everything else in the typical supermarket — row after row — is factory manufactured food that should be avoided.

My current kick is water. Thirst often masquerades as hunger, a point which Dian and Tom Griesel point out ad infinitum in their book, TurboCharged.

(Click pic for more info.)

This topic is worthy of its own article, but suffice to say here that using pure water as an appetite suppressant works quite well, and offers many additional benefits, detoxification being one of them.

Drink two large glasses of water after you get up in the morning and before breakfast. Throughout the day, drink water, particularly about 20 minutes before a meal. Intentionally reduce the size of your portions, as you should be somewhat satiated by the water consumption.

Check out: Why You Can’t Outrun Your Fork and What To Do About It and The Best Anti-aging Protein, Fats and Carbs You Can Eat.

4. Meditate daily:

Life is stressful, so you need to do something that quiets your mind, whether it’s meditating, yoga, or tai chi.

Perhaps you’d rather stick a needle in your eye than meditate.  If that’s the case, perhaps it’s the word that bothers you, or the idea of observing your thoughts is too stressful to contemplate.

OK, let’s use another word.  How about 4x4x4?

Some members of the military are taught this 4x4x4 technique, the aim of which is to make them calm and centered in the face of whole scale havoc, such as bombs bursting all around you.

  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold for a count of four.
  • Exhale through your nose for a count of four.
  • Pause for a count of four, and repeat.

You just learned how to, in effect, meditate, or whatever else you’d like to call it.

For more on 4x4x4, read Create Your Day in 5 Minutes.

If you are open to meditation, read Meditate Like A Monk In 20 Minutes.

5. Family counts:

Stay connected to your family and friends. “This is the way to make sure there is peace and love in your life,” Dr. Willix says.

This “secret” has been thoroughly explored by Dan Buettner in his various “Blue Zone” studies, which seek to understand the common traits experienced by various long-lived people, which happen to occur in specific places on the planet he refers to as the “Blue Zones”.

Five Blue Zones have been identified by Dan Buettner and his team:

  1. Okinawa, Japan, where live the longest-lived women in the world live.
  2. Sardinia, an Italian island, where live the longest-lived men in the world.
  3. Ikaria, Greece, where dementia is almost non-existent.
  4. Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula, where people are about two-and-a-half times more likely to reach a healthy old age than the rest of us.
  5. Loma Linda, California, USA, where the Seventh-day Adventists, a religious group, live 10 years longer than most of us.

Turns out, one of several things all these communities have in common is intimacy.  You can’t have intimacy without connection, and truly these Blue Zoners are connected to where they live, who they live with and those nearby.

For more on the Blue Zones, read:

Simple Things to Live Longer, Better

Want 10 Extra Years? It’s Easier than You Think!

Reverse Engineer Longevity — Three Ways Your Environment Creates A Long and Strong Life

6. Be of service:

People genuinely want to help others, and this is a way you can add purpose to your life.

This reminds me of Rick Warren’s blockbuster book, The Purpose Driven Life.  Pastor Warren posits that your journey to live a “purpose driven life” needs to cover three of life’s most important questions:

(1) The Question of Existence: Why am I alive?

(2) The Question of Significance: Does my life matter?

(3) The Question of Purpose: What on earth am I here for?

For many people, helping others in some way, manner or form is the key for their purpose driven life.

(Click pic for more info.)

7. Live in the moment:

You can plan for the future, but you can’t do anything to change it, so don’t waste your time worrying. “Positive thoughts create positive chemistry in your body,” says Dr. Willix.

“Be here now” is the refrain made famous by Ram Dass and his classic book by the same name, Be Here Now.


(Click pic for more info.)

Think of this as the “no stress” approach to living life. If you’re locked in the past, repeatedly dwelling on what went wrong, or always living in the future, either in fear or delight about what may come — then you miss what is actually happening and real, the now.

When you miss what’s happening now, you’re living an illusion.  Not only doesn’t the pass exist any longer, but it probably never did as you now recollect.  Not only doesn’t the future yet exist, it probably will not be as you project.

In either case, you’re not only wasting your time, but also not experiencing your life right now. That’s the definition of a wasted life.

The reason I refer to living in the now as the no stress approach to life is because a person living this way is not worrying about anything.  Unless you’re starving, shivering or being tortured right now, your worries are either behind or in front of you; in the the past or future.

Be here now, chill out and live without stress.  You’ll live longer and healthier.


How to Be Powerful and Stop Time. Be Here Now.

Two Unemployed Boomers Endeavor to “Be Here Now”

How Depression and Stress Make Us Age Faster


Your Takeaway

So, what are you going to do with these “7 anti-aging secrets”?

As I said at the start, we all have a mindset that tends to set in stone what we’re willing to conceive and do and what we are not.

Are you willing to conceive that you can become sufficiently fit and healthy to at least meet. Dr. Willix half way?

Half way, as in not being able to do half of the legendary Ironman Triathlon in Kona when you’re 75, but as in being able to move and think like a youthful and vital version of yourself?

My suggestion is to do this:

  • Scroll back up to that list of 7 anti-aging secrets and review them again.
  • Find the one that you’re not doing now, but you think you could do without much effort.
  • Choose it.
  • Do your research. Find out exactly what you’ll need to do in order to make your choice your reality.
  • Tell two friends what you intend to do, the timetable for success, and ask that they hold you accountable.
  • If you’re serious about this, tell each of your friends that you’ll pay them some amount of money significant to you if you don’t succeed when you say  you will.  Studies show having money on the line substantially increases compliance.


P.S.  Dr. Willix will learn if he is going to Hawaii when he competes on Nov. 5 in the Panama City Beach qualifying event.  Let’s send him some good vibes!

Last Updated on February 27, 2022 by Joe Garma

Share. Someone you know will be thankful.
Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments