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What's This?

Can you affect your longevity, today? Absolutely.  Studies of twins have shown that only 25% of longevity is genetic—meaning that you have the ability to affect the other 75% for you and your loved ones.

The best thing?  It’s never too early—or too late—to start.

(1) Bone up: Many adults get inadequate Calcium and Vitamin D, leading to increased risk of fractures after a fall, and even compression fractures with  minimal trauma. I have too many patients whose backs and necks are bowed due to compression fractures from osteoporosis, and with longer lifespans that we have, multiple decades are a LONG time to spend with your head hunched down and in pain, so get on board!

  • Premenopausal women and men should take at least 1000mg of calcium daily, and postmenopausal should have 1200mg (including from diet).   There are two main forms: Calcium Carbonate should be taken with food, while Calcium citrate is best taken on an empty stomach.  If you take an antacid or Proton Pump Inhibitor, you should take calcium citrate (antacids block absorption of the other form)
  • Combine with Vitamin D—600-800 units per day.
  • Add Magnesium: Some of my patients avoid calcium supplements because they make them constipated.  Some Calcium and Vitamin D supplements come with Magnesium, or you can just purchase a separate supplement (100-200mg daily), which should alleviate this.

(2) Give it a rest already!

  • I get it. We’re all so busy—sometimes the first thing to go is an adequate night’s sleep.  But burning the candle at both ends leads to impaired insulin use (increased risk of diabetes), decreased growth hormone release (linked to obesity), elevated blood pressure, and decreased immunity.  Just adding an extra hour, or preventing interruptions from waking you, can increase your time in REM and reap benefits.  People with actual insomnia are also shown to have higher mortality, so if you’re actually having sleep problems, check in with your doctor to see if there is a cause and to evaluate treatment options.

(3) Your mother was right: Eat your vegetables.

  • You take a multivitamin, so that makes up for missing a few fruit or vegetables a day, right?
  • Wrong.  Research has not shown that a multivitamin or supplements can replace the longevity benefits of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eating more than 3-5 servings a day reduces your risk of stroke by 11% (versus someone who eats less than 3), and having more than 5 reduces it by 26%! In a study of adults from 40-79 years old, it reduced the risk of death by 14%.

(4) Exercise: it’s not just to fit into your skinny jeans!

  • Research has shown that exercise (independent of other factors such as blood pressure, weight, and diet), is an independent predictor of life expectancy.  Moderate physical activity levels have been shown to increase life expectancy by 1.3 years, and high levels can add nearly FOUR years to your life!
  • Adding in high-level exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times per week, in addition to your regular exercise of moderate activity 30 minutes per day, most days a week, was associated with a 50% (yes, FIFTY) decreased mortality risk in a study of 250,000 men and women.

(5) Don’t Skip the Screening: Make January your annual month to catch up on necessary testing

  • Our successes and new technology in medicine are greater than they have ever been—but they only work if you get diagnosed! Skipping screening tests leads to delays in diagnosis, unnecessarily prolonged treatments, and increased risk of treatment failure.   I’ll do another segment more in-depth on this topic in the future, but please do not avoid these.
  • Complete recommendations per age and condition can be found at the US Preventive Services Task Force, under “Cancer” http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/adultrec.htm#cancer

(6) Take an Aspirin (81mg), and [you won’t need to] call me in the morning:

  • The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends aspirin for men ages 45-79 and in women ages 55-79 to prevent both heart attacks and stroke

(7) Maintain a healthy weight—for both adults and children.

  • In a major health study, men and women who had a BMI between 22.5 and 25 had the lowest mortality, and for every 5 kg/m2 of BMI increased, mortality increased by 30%
  • Being overweight in adolescence and childhood is also harmful. At age 18, a BMI of 19-22 seemed to be ideal. Having a BMI of 22-24 raises the risk of premature death by almost 20%, BMI 25-30 increases it by 66%, and a BMI >30 increases the risk of premature death by 280% (almost three times as likely!).
  •  The statistics speak for themselves.  However, drastic measures are not always necessary.   Weight loss of 5% of more can reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke, and losing 7% cuts your risk of diabetes in half.

(8) {ok, this last one is a freebie, since I promised you seven!} Take time to pause, reflect, and make a little list of things in your life that are good.  When times are stressful, pull it out, take a deep breath, and read one item.  Research is showing that optimism and mindset may very likely play a role in one’s health and lifespan.  No matter what, it will make the trip just a little nicer.

As George Burns said, “you can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old”. Here’s to 2012 being your healthiest and best year yet.  – Dr. Darria

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1 Comment

  1. Alicia Perkins

    Hello again,
    This is a synopsis that isn’t overwhelming and is easy for the general public to introduce into their activities of daily living. You deserve a bigger forum for your ideas Darria! Gain access to public television and let others partake in your vision!

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