Tips for Making Your Time on Planet Earth a Little Longer
Recently a psychic told me that I was in my “last life.” That sounded sort of ominous to me but she assured me that was a good thing. “Enjoy!” she exhorted merrily.
I still don’t know what to do with that information. What has been more helpful to me is a recent test I took which calculated that I would live to the ripe old age of 94.8. Now that was helpful. At least now I know that my financial planning for retirement is truly a joke.
The test utilized the impressive research from the New England Centenarian Study to determine the most salient longevity factors. While there are many of these factors that are a given and therefore not under our control (like our gender, because statistically, women have a 10 year advantage over men when it comes to longevity), there are many that we can do something about.
These are the ones that I will share with you this week and next. They make up a helpful checklist of things we can all pay attention to in order to increase our health and life span.
1) Live close to relatives
Research has shown that life-zapping psychological stress is increased when people do not have frequent contact with an extended and cohesive family, resulting in an increased mortality risk. If you can’t live nearby your relatives, you can work to have meaningful and frequent contact. If you are estranged from family, you might want to consider working on a rapprochement.
2) Drink more green tea, less coffee
Okay, I know I often offer support for one my favorite addictions, coffee, as a health supplement, but as in all things, moderation is key. Excessive coffee drinking can be indicative of a life in need of boosting, one lived in the depleting fast lane of stress. Coffee can chronically inflame the stomach which can then open a door to other illnesses such as uclers and heart disease. Tea, especially the wondrous green tea favored by those long-lived Okinawans, is full of life-promoting antioxidants.
3) Drink alcohol moderately
Much has been written about this one. The research is mounting up impressively in support of the many health benefits gained from a moderate, even daily use of alcohol, not the least of which is a lower risk of heart disease. “Moderate” is usually defined as two drinks a day for men and one for women. Anything more will subtract years from your life. The days of keggers and drinking games should be a thing of the past.
4) An aspirin a day…
…may just keep the doctor away. Again, our odds for avoiding heart disease are benefitted considerably by taking this humble pill. Its credit for increasing our healthspan comes from its anti-inflammatory effects as well as its ability to decrease blood clotting. A baby aspirin is recommended.
5) Stay regular
Keeping “gut transit time” under 20 hours will decrease the odds for contracting colon cancer. This is a science-y way of saying: have regular bowel movements. More fiber in the diet and increased exercise can help with this. There are always “cancer potentiating” substances in our diet, and decreasing the contact time between them and the gut lining can reduce the potential DNA damage and, in turn, positively impact the rate of aging.
Despite what Starshine feels about the practice, flossing will actually not only help your teeth stay in place longer but your life as well. Recent research indicates that chronic gum disease can release inflammatory, toxic substances and certain bacteria into the blood stream which potentiate plaque formation in arteries and ultimately lead to heart disease, greater risk of stroke, and even accelerated aging.
8) Know your numbers
Having an annual medical check-up is pretty essential for those concerned about their healthspan. Your doctor will always tell you what your numbers should be, but you can take more responsibility by knowing the numbers you need to make in order to be healthy. Here is a quick primer:
For Cholesterol, HDL (“healthy” cholesterol) should be above 35 and LDL (“lethal” cholesterol) should be lower than 130. Triglycerides should come in below 200. Blood pressure numbers should be 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic) or less.
For a more thorough discussion on this, go to www.healthspanweb.com and click on “Health by the numbers”.
9) Know your family history
Your gene pool is something you have had no say in. But if you know what diseases have felled those who have come before you, you stand a better chance of surviving them through vigilance and preventative measures. Be sure and get questions answered about ancestors from people who know while there is still time.
10) Examine thyself
Knowing how to test yourself for testicular cancer and for breast cancer is the first defense against these two killers. Knowing the physical signs of skin cancer and doing a full body scan in front of the mirror can alert you to potentially lethal melanomas. Depression is another all too common life-curtailer.
11) Do the obvious
Live in a pollution-free environment and breathe deeply. Use your seat belt; don’t drink and drive. Wear a full spectrum sunscreen daily. And for God’s sake, don’t smoke!
Now here is the usual but very important disclaimer. Check with your physician whenever contemplating any of these lifestyle changes as their may be complications from other medical treatments or conditions. Okay, maybe you don’t need to get her permission to wear your seat belt, but such things as aspirin therapy and alcohol consumption should definitely be discussed with your health pratitioner. And any suspicion arising from a self-exam or diagnosis should immediately be followed up with a medical examination.
There are more things you need to consider. Next week, Healthspan will report on the rest of the “longevity factors”. This week, I will continue blogging at www.healthspanweb.com daily on the subject of longevity and what we can do to promote it.