Patients come to see me in our medical clinic with one universal theme: they want to live long and healthy lives. The goal then is to not just extend life but to do so gracefully. Genetics play a major role in determining your longevity, but there are many things we can do to improve our chances. Here are my best recommendations.
1. Eat high-fiber whole fruits and vegetables and cut back on the animal products. Lose weight and keep your BMI below 25.
2. Hydrate with eight or more eight-ounce glasses of water daily and minimize sweetened drinks and sodas. Don’t forget to brush and floss your teeth regularly and get regular dental and medical checkups.
3. Take care of your heart. I tell my patients to just focus on my four basic blood recommendations to prevent heart disease:
· Control your blood pressure: less than 130 systolic.
· Control your blood sugar: A1C < 7.0 for diabetics.
· Control your blood cholesterol: total cholesterol: HDL ratio < 4.5.
· Finally, take a blood thinner: an 81-mg baby aspirin daily for men older than 45 and women older than 55.
As always, check with your own doctor to adapt this advice for you personally.
4. Follow cancer screening guidelines and incorporate your family medical history into your screening. Review these with your personal physician.
5. Be smart! Studies suggest that those with more education and who continue to learn will live longer. This is primarily because the more educated you are, the more likely you are to live a healthier lifestyle and less likely to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors. According to David Cutler, dean of social sciences at Harvard, “It turns out that across the board, if you look at any health behavior, better educated people do better than less educated.”
6. Work, serve others, and have a purpose. It seems that engagement with life is what helps prolong life. This can come from working, taking up causes, volunteering, finding a new hobby, or contributing to your family and community.
7. Here’s the biggest no brainer—don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or take any drug that is not specifically prescribed by your own doctor. I tell my patients you want to be on the fewest medications that are necessary. In essence, study and follow the Word of Wisdom. The more I learn about medicine and health, the more amazed I am about the truths in Doctrine and Covenants 89.
8. Get proper rest and relaxation. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night and learn to control your reactions to stress. Getting plenty of sunshine and maintaining a positive mental attitude make a difference.
9. Build healthy social and family relationships and focus on spirituality. Become involved in the lives of those you care about and genuinely listen to others’ concerns. You have a lifetime of experience to share. Daily spiritual nourishment through prayer, meditation, or reading scripture helps keep us more relaxed and helps us maintain an improved perspective on life.
10. Finally, if you want to focus on the single most important factor that will have the most impact on your life span, exercise! Turn off the screen, get off the couch, and move! You can spread it throughout the day, do it with a friend, take the stairs, walk the dog, park farther away, whatever. Just get physically active for 30 to 60 minutes daily. And it doesn’t have to be a difficult commitment; as much as I love running marathons, consistent walking has been proven to have more impact on your longevity than just about anything else and is every bit as effective as more vigorous exercise. The key is to just do it!
Now let’s get healthy!