(Last Updated on Wednesday, August 22,2012)
The Top Ten List of Ways to Postpone Aging or Avoid Premature Death
1. Do not smoke (Lung cancer; heavy use of tobacco is ten times more prevalent among the prematurely dead);
Avoid using or at least reduce the amount of table salt used on your food. NaCl raises blood pressure, and chronic hypertension leads to cardiovascular disesase.
2. Do not drink alcohol excessively (DUI; alcoholism destroys marriages too);
3. Do not do drugs (Mind-altering, addictive drugs are life shortening; epidemiological studies of withdrawal [heroine and cocaine] reveal that about half the risk for addiction is inherited in genes controlling the dopaminergic pathway);
4. Do not gamble (neither casino-style gambling nor "harmless" Lottos);
5. Do not incur excessive debts (by continuously spending beyond your means);
6. Remain faithful (to your spouse); or, if not married, practice "safe sex" (Happy/Well people are six times more likely to be in a good marriages than Sad/Sick people);
7. Avoid obesity (A major risk factor for cardiovascular disease);
8. Avoid extreme sports (Sky diving, Bunge jumping, Race-car driving, Professional football, Boxing, Down-hill skiing, or Marathon running -- all too risky);
9. Avoid auto accidents: Drive defensively, no speeding, no cell phones on the freeway [not even hands free], wear seat belts, stay out of heavy traffic, if you can);
10. Do not keep a loaded revolver in the house, especially if there are children around. If needed, a gun's ammunition must be stored separately.
People who observed four or more of the above restrictions at the age of 50 were one-third less likely to be dead by age 80. Persons who ignored three or more by age 50 - even if they were in otherwise good physical shape were three times as likely to die during the next 30 years .
But doesn't life get to be miserable if one scrupulously follows all these boring rules? Not really. The above list was merely a list of "don't's." Next comes the list of "to do's" …
1. Get a routine Flu Shot every Fall.
2. Pneumococcal Vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, an infection that can be fatal in older people or those with weakened immune systems.
3. Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus - - A DPT booster every ten years can protect against wound infections. Although you were probably immunized as a child, immunity tends to wane with age. (Tdap is a vaccine that can protect against all three of these diseases.) 4. Zostavax for Shingles. Even if you had chicken pox as a youngster, this vaccine can reduce your risk of Singles by about 65 percent.
2. Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D., Harvard Women's Health Watch, Vol. 19, No. 12, p. 2 (August 2012).
The List of Ways to Promote Extra Longevity (Top 23)
1. Make a commitment to a life-long purpose (be driven, even relentless in your determination to discover something) whether your mission is inspired by
(a) Faith (Conventional Religion) or
(b) Personal Convictions: Trying to solve an important problem (scientific or otherwise, like
(i) "Why do we get old and die?" or
(ii) "How does the brain work?" or
both (a) and (b) above in combination)
[Note: These choices are not mutually exclusive.];
2. Chose a mentor (pick a personal hero/heroine, someone to emulate);
3. Become a mentor ("Promote your students on to your mentor" when they're ready, in order to create a multigenerational legacy; Scaramouche: "I must learn from the teacher of my teacher.");
4. Get married, or else have intimate physical contact every day with a willing "significant other";
5. Procreate and Nurture:
a. Have children, and/or
b. Keep pet(s): dogs, cats, or even fish;
6. Spirituality: Join a church and go to services at least on annual holidays, pray/meditate regularly;
7. Sing songs, listen to music, play an instrument;
8. Optimism: Be flexible; laugh; tell jokes; have a sense-of-humor about adversity;
9. Proactively cultivate a strong social (family) support network;
10. Sleep [6 - 8] hours per night; work only during day shifts (not night or grave-yard shifts);
11. Stay informed: Watch TV news, Listen to the radio, Read newspapers, magazines, journals, books, Surf the Internet; Go a local library; Go out to the movies at least once a month; Rent CDs or VHS tapes; Go to the theater/ballet/opera/symphony at least once a year;
12. Keep mentally active: Play Chess, Checkers, cards, Scrabble; Go to school and take courses; Go to lectures; Go to museums;
13. Fitness: Play sports: tennis, volley ball; Exercise regularly (sweat): lift weights; walk a mile twice a week (The benefits of fitness extend to mental health as well as physical health);
14. Nutrition: Drink lots-of-fluids: water, milk, wine, coffee, green tea;
Eat: fish, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges;
Take: Vitamins and Mineral supplements every day;
Once a week, get dressed up and eat out in a restaurant;
15. Practice Good Oral Hygiene (Brush and floss your teeth and use mouth wash at least twice per day);
16. Take vacations in far away places, like a tall forest (but never in Afghanistan!);
17. Make sure your vaccinations are current;
18. Stay out of the sun for long periods, unless protecting your skin with sun screen;
19. Find a reliable source of current medical research information and seek to keep up with it. Conversely, don't believe all the medical news items you read in newspapers or see on TV without checking the sources. Even stories that are not deliberately sensationalized are often misunderstood or misinterpreted by reporters;
20. Find someone to talk with about any personal problems or negative feelings, and talk with them frequently. Women do this more often than men and live somewhat longer. Pent up frustrations raise cortisol levels, which is a corrosive hormone;
21. Know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Be proactive in keeping them within the normal range by means of life-style and/or therapeutic management;
22. For women, see your gynecologist for a regular PAP Smear and/or Mammogram. The frequency of these exams will vary with age and family history. Younger women, of course, need an ample supply of birth control pills, as needed.
23. Avoid Stress [cortisol is corrosive to the body]: (a) choose a job that helps you avoid freeway commuting or any commute that takes longer than one hour each way; (b) Observe the following rules for dealing with stressful situations:
· Pause (count to ten) before taking any specific action;
· Perform a deep-breathing exercise and/or muscle relaxation;
· Write down on a pad of paper other possible ways of interpreting an adverse event that does not force you to be the culprit or "at fault";
· List all the constructive ways to respond to this anxiety-provoking event.
The following Table  lists five examples of irrational thought patterns that are known to produce continuing anxiety:
Catastrophizing -- Exaggerating the harmful effects of something that just happened to you
When your boss offers mild criticism, you're sure you'll be fired.
Personalizing -- Seeing yourself as the cause of an otherwise random event
Your child fails a test, and you assume that you must be a bad parent.
All-or-Nothing Thinking -- Reducing complex situations to black and white
You know that you're not perfect, so you must be a "total" loser.
Overgeneralization -- Interpreting one unpleasant situation as part of an endless pattern with, say, your parents or ex-spouses as the root cause
When you are turned down for a date, you're sure everyone will reject you
Mental Filtering -- Focusing on the bad elements of a situation while neglecting the positive elements
Obsessing about a "D" in Math when all of your other grades were B or better.
Note: "See your doctor once-a-year for a routine checkup" is not found on this list; if it were, it would be much further down on the list, like No. 62.
Many of the prohibitions in the first list above could be characterized as gratuitous, since proselytizers have been urging us to conform for a long time and, being largely "common sense," it doesn't require much expertise to recommend them to others. In fact, writing these lists was a little embarrassing for me, lest I be lumped together with the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Laura, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Deepak Chopra, Ms. Suzanne Somers, or other assorted new-age gurus of the self-help establishment. This group is not my favorite.
But don't forget, I consider these only as a way to "bridge" one's self through the next [20 - 30] years, which is what I believe it will take to get us to the really important scientific breakthroughs that are expected and may ultimately reverse the aging process at a truly fundamental level. If meaningful discoveries arrive on schedule, it won't help us much if we're not around to enjoy them.