Every time we turn on the TV or pick up a magazine, we’re told to do this or don’t do that. And if we follow the guidance, it will greatly decrease our risk of getting some horrible disease.
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.
Below are some good tips to get off on the right foot health wise for 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Seat Belts: Protect yourself from an untimely death in a motor vehicle. There are about 40,000 deaths per year in the United States from motor vehicle accidents. Seat belts have added a bunch more years than Vitamin C and the rest of the alphabet combined.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
Here’s to a healthy New Year,
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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