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Long Life, Prospering

Usually those Yahoo or Hotmail homepage health articles are pretty useless. Don't eat a lot of cupcakes! they breathlessly inform us. Um, yeah? But a quick survey of their info certainly can't hurt. There's one up about longevity, which they define as "living longer than you think". Obviously there are some things you can change, and some things that are beyond our reach.

If your mother was under 25 when you were born you're twice as likely to live to a hundred. Younger eggs are more vital, it's supposed. And having had a healthy weight in your teens is an indicator of future health. Pretty obvious -- having been healthy is an indicator of continuing that way. Having had any college adds to the lifespan as well. Education correlates to more healthful habits, in particular non-smoking. Just works out that way. Smoking is the new chewing tobacco -- more of a blue collar, or no-collar sort of thing.

Alas, we can't change the past, pick a younger mother or do retroactive dieting or get better grades to get scholarships with. But the present is controllable, in terms of our own actions and reactions to the world. Mental attitude, for example. Maintaining a positive outlook, dispositionally, makes us live longer. Optimists deserve to live longer. And having close friendships increases lifespan. Humans are a gregarious species, and being happy makes us live longer. Somehow that seems obvious. The habits of our friends matter, of course. If they're overweight, we're more likely to absorb some of that -- some of their habits. Maybe we'll help them, but maybe they'll influences us too. Sort of works out as the latter, statistically: we're 57% more likely to be overweight if our friends are. On the dark side, being around disapproval without any positive counterbalance can take 8 years off your life. Chronic stress ages cells faster, and all life is cellular. Stress undermines the immune system as well.

In terms of diet, which is, objectively, utterly controllable, drinking fresh-brewed tea every day, without added dairy, increases lifespan -- the catechins in it relax the heart. Likewise, eating darkly colored fruits and vegetables. Good for the heart, protective against Alzheimer's -- turns out that what's good for the brain is good for the heart. Seems logical, somehow. The colors represent protective factors with which the plant fights off sun and other environmental damage. It's transferable to us. Nutrition is about more than the big three nutrients, the macronutrients -- protein, carbs and fat. It's even about more than the vitamins and minerals. The slightly more modern understanding is about polyphenols, phytonutrients, plant nutrients, bioflavenoids and lignins and the like. Anti-oxidants and other protective factors. Life comes from food. Health comes from good food.

Skipping sodas, including diet sodas. Especially diet sodas, in fact. Even one a day doubles your chance of metabolic syndrome -- high BP, high insulin levels (pre-diabetes), lots of gutfat (the poisonous kind). The behavioral downside to sodas and other such toxins is that they condition your to crave even more sweets. Mild just won't do anymore. It's like any addiction.

Another thing to skip is the burgers. Can't live without your burgers? Well, maybe that's your choice, and maybe it's your addiction. But you can't live with them either. Not for as long as otherwise, that is. Moderation is fine -- no downside to moderation. But burgers are not a meal -- just a part of a meal. More than 19 ounces a week of beef, pork or lamb correlates to gravely increased risk of colo-rectal cancer -- up 42% for every additional three and a half ounces of processed meat per day. Moderation means once in a while, not daily.

Don't eat things that have no nutrition. The digestion involved doesn't count as exercise. It counts as damage. Necessary biochems are used up and aren't being replaced. Sound like a good thing? And then there's all the hormonal chaos eating non-nutritive sweets causes. Like wildfire.

Just burning a few hundred calories doing chores is beneficial. It's not so much about the exercise benefit, which is minor, as about the actual burning of the calories. Of course, not having eaten those calories in the first place would have been better, but we take what we can get. A daily hour of such activity, mopping, vacuuming, lowers risk of death some 30% for people in their 70s and 80s. As for actual exercise, getting in some sort of, uh, cardio everyday for about a half hour is huge. Accelerated heartrate, not just puttering. Even 10 minutes of fast heartrate have a fair benefit. But if you benefit from only 10 minutes, you are VERY sedentary. There is a heart benefit, but the standard for improvement is very low.

Having strong legs is an indicator of high vitality. Balance, flexibility and endurance all cluster together. Frailty and broken hips do, too. Indeed, about 20% of older people who break a hip die within a year. The break isn't the cause, it's an indicator of general decline. Sad, but preventable. If you know an older person, you might do them a favor and help them with some air squats. Start with repeatedly getting up off a chair, and down again. Repeated difficult actions are called exercise. It's a start.

Living long is a good thing. Living long, and well, is better.

Be excellent.


CrossFit Burbank
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