On February 9, 2009, I turned 60. Ever since, staying healthy has been on my mind.
Staying healthy is not only good for me and my family, but it is also good for our country, because a healthier older population means lower health care costs.
So, here is my list.
1. Getting adequate sleep: I have started to get more sleep (I try for 7-8 hours/night plus a daytime nap if possible) because of all that has been written on sleep recently http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/sleep-challenge-2010-slee_b_436341.html; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/madan_kwatra?action=comments and better sleep can help in many ways; our own Duke anesthesiology research implicates sleep apnea in postoperative delirium, which is common: http://www.asaabstracts.com/strands/asaabstracts/abstract.htm;jsessionid=156CF1D3AA083E5FB1FC00EBAD11E350?year=2009&index=11&absnum=1562
Am I getting adequate sleep? The answer is no, but I am trying hard.
2. Controlling body weight: Obesity has been linked with every ailment known to mankind, and we need to fight it. What is the best way to lose weight? The rock-hard truth is that there are no gimmicks. "No Gimmicks: Eat Less and Exercise More" appeared in New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/01/health/nutrition/01brod.html
Is my weight within the normal range? No, but I am trying. I was 158 lbs a few years back and now I am 147 lbs. My goal is to reach 140 lbs, because I'm 5'6".
3. Quitting smoking, drinking as little alcohol as possible, and eating less meat:
Quitting smoking: We all know that smoking kills. I might not be here today if I hadn't quit smoking in 1986--the year my son was born. Quitting is hard, but resources are available http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm
For me, the best way to quit was to smoke a little less everyday. I started by smoking every hour on the hour for the first 4 weeks and then doubled the time-interval between smokes every 4 weeks until I smoked just one cigarette a day. Then it was fairly easy to give it up. Eating crunchy stuff like carrots and almonds between cigarettes helped curb the craving and kept me from gaining weight.
Drinking as little alcohol as possible: Alcohol in moderation seems to be fine. I used to drink red wine regularly but when I found out that it increased my blood pressure, I stopped. Now I drink wine only on social occasions. You might ask: "To drink or not to drink? That is the question." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17846344?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=3
Also "Query for Aging Patients: How Much Do You Drink?" http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/health/16brod.html
Eating less meat: As we grow old, eating less meat may benefit our stomachs and hearts, but as Jane Brody pointed in her recent post entitled "Rules Worth Following, For Everyone's Sake," eating less meat is also good for mother earth http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/health/02brod.html
Am I eating less meat? Yes. My goal is to eat meat no more than once a week.
4. Checking blood chemistry regularly: A trip to the doctor's office is worth keeping. One should regularly check blood pressure, blood glucose and blood lipids, know what the numbers mean, and keep them as close to normal as possible.
a) Blood Pressure: High blood pressure has been linked with heart disease and stroke and keeping it within normal range matters to our body. Learn more about blood pressure from these websites: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2114; http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html;
b) Blood glucose: high blood glucose leads to diabetes which is a deadly disease. Learn more about diabetes by consulting the website of the American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org/. Also read Jane Brody's nice article entitled "America's Diet: Too Sweet by the Spoonful" http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/health/nutrition/10brod.html?_r=1&scp=63&sq=Jane%20brody&st=cse.
c) Blood lipids: High blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL have been linked with heart disease and need to be kept within normal range. Learn more about these by visiting the following websites http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4600; http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbc/HBC_WhatIs.html.
5. Making others happy: Seeing others happy makes us happy, and happy people are healthier. So doing something every day to make those around you happier is important for our health.
Am I helping to put smiles on faces? Yes. I am a fast walker now, not because I am in an absolute hurry to get to places, but because walking fast is better for my health. Because I work at a busy hospital, I often blow past people. But if I am just a few yards ahead, I stop and hold the door for them. Most are very grateful, because they see that I slowed down to help them, and their thanks, in turn, makes me feel even better.
Let me know what is working for you.