If I added up all the reductions in risk I would live to be 143! Kind of puts a whole new spin on the Social Security solvency issue. At the risk of ruffling a few feathers, I would like to suggest some order to the risk hierarchy. A logical starting place, if you plan to live a long time and are actually doing something to facilitate it, should begin here.
1. Stop smoking (or don’t start). This is the most researched topic and has absolute consensus in the medical community. Smoking cuts 5 to 10 years off your life. If you do only one thing to help you live longer, do this one.
2. Diet. I am reserving the No. 2 slot for what you eat, not how much you eat.
If you want to live a long time, eat grains, fruits and vegetables and avoid meats of all kinds, especially red meat. This is also very well researched and results in a dramatic decrease in cancer and heart disease – the No. 1 and No. 2 killers in this country. Your life expectancy will increase by five or more years from this.
3. Exercise every day. Do some form of exercise 20 minutes every day and that will get you the most life for your time investment. Your life will be a few years longer, and perhaps more importantly, you will be able to do more things and feel better. The cancer and heart disease rates are lower in exercisers.
4. Treat lifestyle disease. We are talking hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. Some of these are a result of excessive living and some just genetic roulette – blame your parents. Treating these illnesses almost completely neutralizes the dramatic decrease in lifespan that they can cause. Treating these diseases can easily add a decade to you life.
5. Weight Control. It’s not what you eat, but how much. Excessive body weight contributes to hypertension, heart disease and cancer. This can easily take a decade off your life, and make the rest of it pretty unhappy.
6. Seat Belts. Protect yourself from an untimely death in a motor vehicle. There are about 40,000 deaths per year in theUnited Statesfrom motor vehicle accidents. Seat belts have added a bunch more years than Vitamin C and the rest of the alphabet combined.
7. Deal with your depression. Depression measurably shortens life, but makes it feel way too long. The solution can be regular exercise, good friends or medications. The important thing is do something about it. Living a long life takes the will to live – that means treat the depression.
8. Stay married or get married. Married people have a measurably lower mortality rate then unmarried people. Sounds curious, but this is a well researched and a reproducible fact. However, a good marriage helps you live longer and bad marriages don’t. Make sure you know the difference (hint – if your spouse is your closest friend, you have a good one).
9. Sleep well. Insomnia and poor sleeping contribute to accidents, cardiovascular disease and poor health. Sleep apnea is one treatable culprit and can add years to your life.
10. Take vitamins. This is No. 10 because vitamins have precious little good scientific evidence of extending your life. There are a couple of exceptions (like Niacin) but 98 percent of vitamins are unproven.
The recommendation here is start at No. 1 and go as far down the list as you can.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.
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