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Posts Tagged longevity

When It Comes To Longevity, Genes May Trump Behavior

This long NYTimes article describes the activities of 87-year-old David Murdock, a billionaire who has used his wealth to do major laboratory research on how to live a healthy life and all the way to age 125. He never gets sick, although his hearing is going. Described throughout are what he eats and how he lives. At the end of the article, some doctors claim that it all has to do with your genes, which “trump behavior,” that no one has ever lived to 125, and there are some things, like overeating, that will kill you earlier than your genetic potential.

If this is accurate, that “no documented intervention has been shown to radically extend duration of life—ever,” according to a doctor quoted in the story, then does it make sense to deny yourself all those good foods and subject yourself to all those difficult exercises? That’s a personal choice. I still feel that for however long I am destined to survive by my genetic inheritance, I’d like to live as actively as I can, with high energy and vitality and without self-created illness.

“Murdock’s methods are utterly mainstream, an example of extraordinary discipline rather than frontier science…and a plant-based diet that’s low in animal fat while still allowing for protein sources beyond legumes has emerged as the consensus recommendation of most medical professionals.”

When he developed a rare and unfamiliar sore throat. He went crazy wondering what went wrong…that sore throat wasn’t just an irritant. It was a challenge to the whole gut-centered worldview on which his bid for extreme longevity rests. “I went back in my mind: what am I not eating enough of?” he told me. Definitely not fruits and vegetables: he crams as many as 20 of them, including pulverized banana peels and the ground-up rinds of oranges, into the smoothies he drinks two to three times a day, to keep his body brimming with fiber and vitamins. Probably not protein: he eats plenty of seafood, egg whites, beans and nuts to compensate for his avoidance of dairy, red meat and poultry, which are consigned to a list of forbidden foods that also includes alcohol, sugar and salt.

He is careful to get a little bit of daily sun, which is crucial for proper absorption of vitamin D, but not too much, lest he court skin cancer. He tries to go to bed no later than 11 p.m. and to get more than six hours of sleep every night. Perhaps the only real eyebrow raiser in his regimen is his rejection of any medicine that isn’t truly necessary. When he had that sore throat, he didn’t suck on a lozenge or swallow aspirin. When he has had precancerous growths removed from his face, he has passed on anesthetics.

“I just turned my brain on and said, ‘Cut!’ ” he said. “Of course it hurt. But I controlled that.”

The doctors who work with Murdock say that he has ideal blood pressure, clear arteries, good muscle tone. They point out that he didn’t adopt his healthful ways until his 60s.

The life expectancy for an American man born today is only 75½, and demographic data suggest that an American man who has made it to 87 can expect, on average, another 5¼ years. The longest life span on record is 122½, and that belonged to a woman. Her closest male competitors reached only 115½.

As for beating those statistics? The doctors are skeptical. I still think it’s good to have a lofty goal, even if it is unattainable. Not so bad if he falls short by 10 years. If he only goes for 100, he might make it “just” to 93…

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What’s Your Choice? 50 Years of Denial or 30 Years of Pleasure?

I met a 40-year-old woman yesterday whose husband used to go to the gym religiously and turned into quite a hunk, she told me. She knows what a fit body can look like and the work it takes to make one.

She is now 30 pounds heavier than she was 20 years ago, has a serious cholesterol problem and really intends to start exercising and cutting calories. She’d like to have her old, slimmer shape looking back at her in the mirror. Her only concrete effort so far is cut back her three-cokes-a-day habit (at 150 calories each) to one a day.At least it’s a start.

I told her how I gave up everyday cheese, my favorite source of protein, when my own cholesterol shot up. She said she loves cheese too, and can’t yet stop eating it regularly. Why is it so hard to take those steps to better health? Are we all just too busy? Or too lazy?

My son was impressed by the web site I found of a man who lost over 200 pounds. He found pictures of a different man who lost 400 pounds. Clearly those are horribly unhealthy cases of obesity. Those heavyweights can barely walk to the bathroom is my guess. It’s easy to see that they finally decided to alter their limited, immediate daily activities.

But if you are only 30 pounds heavier than you used to be, what’s the big deal? It’s not that bad, and the food tastes so good, and maybe you won’t continue to gain just a pound or two a year. And maybe the cholesterol won’t keep rising up and blocking arteries and lead to a heart attack. Just maybe.

Last night we went out to dinner, and I ordered the only soup—potato. I started to send it back after it arrived, because it was half cream. I need to avoid dairy products, because I want to keep my cholesterol down. My son said he would eat it, so it stayed.

Now here comes the silly part. With recent stories of two people dying of heart attacks, a friend who says he eats extra calories, because he could die in 10 minutes, and a woman telling me how much she likes cheese, I am sitting at the table wondering why I don’t have at least a taste, one spoonful, of this incredibly delicious-looking soup. After all, I rationalized, I just did 5+ hours of exercise in the last day—more than enough to offset the cholesterol damage that might result.

Absurd, right? No moderation here. Pretty extreme. One damn spoonful. Will I die on the court? If I am going to die, I may as well enjoy some potato soup. So I did. Had four spoonfuls. And swallowed each one so slowly and lovingly that you might have thought I was tasting fine wine or rare caviar. Swirling the juice around on my tongue. What a nutcase I am.

What is the goal, really? Read the rest of this entry »

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Strange Advice About How To Take Care Of Yourself

old lady

A doctor on his morning walk noticed an older lady sitting on her front step smoking a cigar, so he walked up to her and said, “I couldn’t help but notice how happy you look! What is your secret?”
“I smoke ten cigars a day,” she said. “Before I go to bed, I smoke a nice big joint. Apart from that, I drink a whole bottle of Jack Daniels every week, and eat only junk food. On weekends, I pop pills, get laid, and don’t exercise at all.”

“That is absolutely amazing! How old are you?”

“Thirty-four” she replied.

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