By Dr. Willie Ong
Secrets to live longer? Yes, it’s true. I have gathered scientifically-sound strategies to add more years to your life. To recap on our health tips, here are numbers 20 to 11 from the previous article: (20) Be a “Type B” personality, more relaxed and less stressed, (19) check your vitamins and supplements, (18) pray, in addition to seeking medical help, (17) read up on your disease, (16) get vaccinated, (15) limit or avoid alcohol, (14) do charity work, (13) find a good doctor and get a check-up, (12) exercise moderately and (11) get married.
Here are the top 10 ways to live longer:
Be a positive thinker.
Norman Vincent Peale, the main proponent for positive thinking, recalled a time when his concept was laughed at in the 1950s. Decades later, positive thinking eventually gained scientific evidences and adherents. Doctors have estimated that almost 60% of all illnesses have a psychological basis like the marital spat before a heart attack, the business problems before the stroke, or the failed love affair before the depression.
Train your mind to think positively. See your glass as half full. Believe you’ll beat your disease and you can. To learn more about positive thinking, I would urge our readers to read any of Peale’s books.
(Difficulty Level ***; Health Benefit ***)
Consider statin drugs for high cholesterol.
The statins are one of the best drugs in medicine. Since the 1990s, the drug’s benefits for patients with high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes have been proven time and again in dozens of clinical trials. No question about it. No argument there. Right now, scientists are excitedly pitting the statins against other formidable foes like prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. However, all heroes have an Achilles heel. For the statins, it’s the 2% of patients who develop some liver damage and muscle weakness, especially when higher doses are used.
Therefore, who should take statins? It’s a case to case basis but the greatest benefit will be gained by those with higher cholesterol levels (higher than 240 mg/dl) and heart problems. The most popular and effective statins out there are Simvastatin, Atorvastatin and Rosuvastatin.
(Difficulty Level ** because they’re expensive; Health Benefit ***)
Live a less risky lifestyle.
In health matters, it is better to be safe than sorry. For example, it pays to get a check-up even if you’re feeling fine. Some people have this “if you don’t know about it, it won’t hurt you” attitude. I’ll be honest with you. Even if you don’t know about your disease, it will still hurt you. And usually, because you delayed your doctor’s visit, the damage found is far more severe.
Regarding food habits, it’s better to avoid the latest diet craze. I have a friend who rotated from the high fat, to the high carbohydrate, then the high protein diet, and is now back on the “whatever I want to eat” diet. Just imagine the strain on his bodily organs.
Moreover, young people should be educated on the dangers of practicing unsafe sex, having multiple partners and taking illicit drugs. Limit your risks and live longer.
(Difficulty Level **; Health Benefit ****)
Be financially wise.
There’s no nicer way to say it but poor people really die earlier. In the same way, rich people usually (but not always) live longer. People with lower incomes are afflicted with more diseases like tuberculosis, infectious diseases, malnutrition and even heart disease. Why? No check-up. No money for medicines. Lack of education. Lack of nutritious food.
While having more money means better access to healthcare, the problem is in the process of earning that money. I had a 50-year-old overworked patient who developed bowel cancer. He worked so hard to earn several million pesos, yet, in the end, his hospital bills just drained away his life’s earnings. Net result equals zero money saved for his wife and children. The ideal scenario is to try to gain wealth, without sacrificing your health. (Difficulty Level: ****; Health Benefit: ****)
Aspirin is an amazing drug that has been around for over a hundred years. Aspirin’s major health benefits are for patients with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol. Lately, studies show that aspirin may prevent some bowel cancers. And its greatest advantage is its cost, only 1 to 2 pesos per tablet. The only problem with aspirin is that it may cause an upset stomach or an ulcer. That is why we advise patients to take aspirin after meals.
Just to show you how beneficial aspirin is: Large-scale clinical trials have proven that aspirin given immediately after a heart attack can save 1 life in every 30 patients given this drug. That is undoubtedly one of the greatest health benefits seen in modern science. For senior patients, the question is not “Should I take aspirin?” but rather “Why aren’t you taking aspirin?” (Difficulty Level *; Health Benefit: ****)
Eat fruits and oily fish.
Nature’s healthiest fruits are bananas, carrots, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Carrots are abundant in beta-carotene, an antioxidant which helps your vision and immune system. Likewise, tomatoes have high amounts of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lycopene. Citrus fruits like Calamansi, Suha (Pomelo) and Dalandan are teeming with healthy vitamin C.
If you want to know the secret of Japanese centenarians, it’s their high fish intake. Oily fish like sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon are filled with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which make your blood less likely to form clots. Omega-3 helps protect the heart, prevent heart attack and balance cholesterol. If you can’t take fish, take Omega-3 supplements. (Difficulty Level *; Health Benefit: ****)
Eat green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fibers known to provide health benefits. Vegetables are beneficial for people with heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, bowel problems and various cancers. Vegetables are also excellent diet foods because they’re low in fat and high in fiber. Locally, we have cabbage, bokchoy (pechay), broccoli, kangkong and spinach. If you want to live longer, it pays to be less carnivorous and more herbivorous. (Difficulty Level **; Health Benefit ****)
Lose weight, if overweight.
Being obese is associated with all sorts of diseases, from arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. If you’re 20 pounds overweight, then it’s like carrying a 20-pound chair tied around your back all day. Soon, you’ll develop back pain, knee arthritis, and high blood pressure. And did you know that for every 10 pounds of excess weight you shed off, your blood pressure will also drop by around 10 points? That’s a fact.
(Difficulty Level *****; Health Benefit ****)
Take medicines for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Recently, scientists are toying around with a new combination drug called “polypill.” This polypill will contain the best drugs ever invented by man. If you’re interested in knowing these wonder drugs, they are the statins (number 9 on the list), aspirin (number 6), and ace-inhibitors, a medicine given for high blood pressure and diabetes. Wow, what a superpill! It’s like a CD of your favorite artist’s greatest hits.
With the right medicines, a patient whose high blood pressure is brought down to normal levels (readings of 120 over 80) will possibly live 10-15 years longer, as compared to someone who refuses to take medicines. With regard to diabetes, studies show that the more we bring down our blood sugar to normal levels (fasting blood sugar of less than 100 mg/dl), the greater is the health benefit. Hence, take charge of your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Consult your doctor about this.
(Difficulty Level ***; Health Benefit: *****)
To all smokers, please take note (and believe) that there are over 70,000 scientific articles to prove that smoking damages your heart, lungs, esophagus, stomach, bowels, prostate, and predisposes you to all kinds of cancers. Each year, smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of death in the Philippines. What is worse is that smokers actually hurt the non-smokers around them by letting them inhale its toxic fumes. A study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that 47% of Filipino males, and 16% of females are smokers, one of the highest worldwide. 33% of our minors are smokers already by age fourteen.
What’s the best way to live longer? Don’t smoke, period. It will save you.
(Difficulty Level ****; Health Benefit *****)