20 Steps to a Healthier Life
It's inevitable. Time marches on....hour after hour, day after day and we're all getting older. In fact, every day over 11,000 baby boomers turn 50 and are dismayed to get an AARP card in the mail. There are only two ways to go. Either we die young or we slowly fall apart. Most of us would chose the later. The trick, of course, is to delay the aging process as much as possible and enjoy the life we have left.

Ideally, we should all go through life armed with a sense of physical and mental well-being, able to handle the stresses of daily living with clear mental faculties and sense of enjoyment and self-satisfaction.

Of course, chronological aging will continue but the physical and mental changes of aging can be altered somewhat. Some of the aging process is programmed into your DNA and predestined genetically. But much of aging is due to social and enviromental factors over which you do have some control. Below is a simple checklist that emphasizes the lifestyle changes that you can make to maximize the good days and minimize the bad...

Anti-Aging Checklist
1.Exercise daily for about 30 minutes. Fewer than 15% of Americans get adequate amounts of exercise, but exercising regularly is one of the best ways to reduce aging. Adopt a 3-tiered exercise plan which includes low-impact exercise, strength training, stretching.
2.Don't smoke and avoid passive smoke.
3.Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. A better source is grapes. Red grapes contain a moderate amount of antioxidants. Purple grape juice is the best since it contains 4 times the antioxidant power of orange or tomato juice. Red wine has about the same effect as purple grape juice. If you drink, limit alcohol intake to 2 drinks a day. Drink purple grape juice.
4.Eat a balanced low-fat diet which is high in produce, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Like your mother said, eat your fruits and vegetable. Be sure to get a good supply of anitoxidants in your diet. Tomatoes are a major source of lycopene, a strong antioxidant which can reduce your risk of prostate and lung cancer by as much as 40%. Tomato eaters function better mentally and have a reduced risk of heart disease. Concentrated tomatoes such as pizza and pasta sauces and canned tomatoes have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. Another great source of antioxidants is blueberries. Aninmal studies at Tufts University suggest that half a cup a fresh or frozen daily can block brain changes leading to decline and even slow the aging process. Garlic is packed with antioxidants and both raw and steamed spinach are rich in antioxidants as well as folic acid, an important vitamin. Use olive oil. Olive oil, unlike other oils, is also high in antioxidant activity and monounsaturated fats.
5.Drink at least 8 glasses of fluid daily. Water is the best, but any decaffeinated fluid is acceptable. Your body needs fluid to maintain optimum general health and kidney function. Most surveys put two-thirds of Americans at least a quart short. Lack of fluid is a common cause of fatigue. Many of us go around slightly dehydrated during the day. A simple way to check this is to observe the color of your urine. It should be very pale yellow or almost clear. If your urine is dark yellow, you are dehydrated and need more water. Those exposed to high heat or who experience high levels of physical activity require even more.

Most of your fluid intake should be without caffeine, but a cup a day of black or green tea is a potent source of antioxidants and can cut the risk of heart disease in half. Use tea prepared from loose tea or tea bags Don't use instant or bottled tea which only contains minimal antioxidants.
6.Eat nuts regularly, but in moderation. The fats in walnuts, almonds, and peanuts can reduce bad cholesterol. Studies at Harvard found that eating nuts can reduce the risk of heart attack. Nuts are high in fat, but most is good-type monounsaturated and/or omega-3. Still, too many can add excessive calories to your diet. About 5 ounces a week should be your goal. Best bet: unsalted nuts.
7.Include fish in your diet. Salmon,tuna, sardines, herring, and mackerel are good sources of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fat performs miracles throughout the body preventing cancer, soothing the joints, unclogging your arteries, and even helping your think. Minimum: two servings a week.
8.Get enough calcium. Adults need about 1200-1500 mg/day to maintain bone health and help avoid the ravages of osteoporosis. Calcium is best found in low fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables (avoid these if on Coumadin), and calcium supplements like Tums. Marketed for the aging baby boomers, many foods such as rice, orange juice, and yogurt are now calcium fortified for your convenience.
9.Maintain a healthy weight.

Calculate your ideal body weight here. The ideal range is +10% to -10% of the calculated value. Most of us struggle with weight gain during our adult years. However, after age 70, be alert to weight loss. Many older individuals lose their appetite and don't like to eat alone. Depression often causes loss of appetite. If you are older, be sure to eat enough food. If you are losing weight, you need to ask why.
10.Take your vitamins. Optimal daily intake should be around:
  • 1000 mg of vitamin C
  • 400 IU of vitamin D (600 IU/day if over age 70)
  • 400 IU of vitamin E
  • 400 mcg of folate (folic acid)
  • 6 mg of vitamin B6
11.Consider low-dose aspirin therapy. Use the enteric-coated form to reduce stomach upset. I take 81 mg 5 days a week and a full 325 mg Ecotrin twice a week. Low dose aspirin can reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and certain forms of cancer. Be sure you first discuss this with your doctor since some patients should not use aspirin on a regular basis.
12.Postmenopausal women should discuss estrogen replacement therapy with their physician. When given appropriately and in individually-customized doses, estrogen has many beneficial effects on bones, heart, brain, and digestive tract and improves sexual function. Some women, particulary those with a family history of breast cancer, should not take hormone replacement.
13.Make your health a priority. You should have a personal physician with whom you plan a lifelong health maintenance program. Undergo appropriate screening tests for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, glaucoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Be sure your immunizations are up-to-date and consider immunizations for flu and pneumonia. If you have a chronic condition, be sure to control it as well as possible. Tell your doctor if you have any persistent symptoms even if you find them embarrassing. Problems such as diarrhea, urinary incontinence, impotence may be treatable. Know your family history and take action on genetic risks.
14.One in four Americans over age 65 has lost all of their teeth. Try to keep yours. Practice good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing daily to keep your teeth and gums healthy. There is even growing evidence that taking better care of your teeth and gums can help prevent heart disease and stroke. See your dentist every 6 months for an exam.
15.Don't let a senseless injury pull you down. Wear your seatbelt. If you ride a bike or motorcycle, always wear a helmet. Protect that brain.
16.Challenge your mind. People who remain intellectually involved throughout their lives have a better chance of staying mentally active. Become a life-long learner.
17.Stay socially engaged. Invest time in the relationships in your life. By building strong social networks and adopting stress-reduction strategies, you can reduce the aging that stress will cause.
18.Have sex. People who have healthy sex lives within the context of a monogamous relationship can feel much younger than people who have sex less frequently.
19.Keep a can-do attitude. There is definitely a place for optimism and determination in a healthy lifestyle.
20.Plan financially. You do not want to outlive your money. Start a regular diversified investment program as young as possible. Take advantage of retirement plans at work. Younger individuals should be more aggressive in their investments. Older individuals who are approaching retirement age can take a more conservative stance. Get professional help. Be kind to your heirs. Have a will drawn up and ask your attorney about an advanced directive (Living Will).

It always amazes me how many of my patients take much better care of their cars than their own body. (Of course, State inspection laws may have a lot to do with that.) Choosing to live a healthier lifestyle can mean slowing the pace of aging - and even reversing it - so that you are living younger today. Even though you can't change your calendar age, you can live healthier and, hopefully, longer. Just do it....

Dr. Robert Fusco
Three Rivers Endoscopy Center

Text & Images Courtesy of Three Rivers Endoscopy Center
© Dr. Robert Fusco, Three Rivers Endoscopy Center, All Rights Reserved

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