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Sunday, 14 July 2013


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Permit me to add one to your list, inspired by your next post. Don't drink coffee. Lack of all that mud will not only keep your teeth from becoming stained and your breath from smelling, not ingesting caffeine will greatly aid in establishing regular sleeping habits.

Note that excessive chocolate consumption can also be a stealth source of caffeine.

Now that 40 draws nigh, there's a lot I wish someone had pounded into my brain when I was a teen (or even a twenty-something when advice is more likely to be looked upon favourably). Would have saved a lot of trouble.

I guess it's advancing age that makes me confused by the posting of Part II prior to Part I.

As someone with an interest in exercise that I've been cultivating over the past few years, I cringe a little bit when I read "muscle tone", especially with no context. But while I know what the actual definition is (the amount of tension your muscles have in them when at rest), I also have a pretty good grasp on what the popular definition is. You want to see muscles.

There are only two things needed for this: lower body fat and strength training. Everything else is superfluous as far as "muscle tone" goes. The fun thing about strength training for me is how unflinchingly objective it can be, which puts it in direct opposition to the type of photography I do. I know exactly how much better I am at lifting weight than I was a year ago.

You strengthen your bones with weight bearing exercise, such as walking. Supplements probably do no good unless you have a specific deficiency, i.e., you eat some crazy diet without any calcium in it. Getting out of breath each day only works if you are pretty fit already. Otherwise just going to the toilet can do it.:-)

[Well, okay, but bear in mind this column is addressed to young people. They're unlikely to be so unfit that one flight of stairs or trip to the loo will make them winded. For older people, yes, I can see your point. --Mike]

Better is to start some daily exercise that you can do without a lot of hassle. Walking 30 minutes (an hour is better, but not twice as good) will do you wonders if you keep it up for the next 60 years.

There is little advantage to taking extra calcium although a disadvantage to taking less dietary calcium when young as far as bone health is concerned. A recent set of papers suggested some increased risk of coronary disease if supplemented too much. The Institute of Medicine has a starting point for discussion at
Or google RDA IOM calcium.
Calcium is very likely similar to all our nutrients displaying a U shape curve when intake is plotted against general benefit(morbidity and mortality). Too little you are sick or die early; too much and the same thing happens. There is an optimal middle level that minimizes badness(or maximizes goodness). Science is trying to define the shape of these curves. These curves fly in the face of the natural food crazies of a few years ago that maintained that 'a little good, a lot better' especially for 'antioxidants'. (References available on request iffn I am not too lazy.)
I call this the Goldilocks view; 'Not too little,not too much, but just right'.

And actually the admonition to get winded regularly may be more helpful to your brain than using the brain regularly while also strengthening your bones. Blood flow seems to be a useful 'nutrient'.

Poor sleep is Bad™.

I am too lazy to look most of this up. The IOM stuff was easier because I gave an Osteoporosis talk last summer and the summary is in one place.
Google is your frenemy. Remember that the source frequently has an ax to grind especially in health related topics.

Nature Lover AB MA MD

Sorry about the flowers at my website I could not avoid the Pretty. It is my wife's fault.

Upon reading this, my first thought was that "Sunscreen" song from a few years back, possibly based on:

I agree with the thought expressed by Victor Hugo, but I would think that the appropriate dates are more like 50 and 60 now. I certainly hope so!

Mike, I concur.
I would add, in addition to exercise that puts you out of breath, and effort that stretches your muscles (and strengthens bones), add activities that make you bend, reach, stretch, and stoop. Balance and flexibility are also important, because they will keep you out of trouble as you age, and will determine what you can do. There's an excellent, and very simple test, called the sitting and rising test that does a pretty good job of predicting mortality. Here's a popular press account. Bonus points for thinking deeply about why this test might predict mortality.

I know an elderly couple where the husband had great cardio health, and decent upper body strength, but poor balance and flexibility - there's a lot he can't do anymore much to his frustration. (Bending over to pick something up is terrifying to watch!) The wife has excellent flexibility and balance - but terrible memory problems because her cardiovascular system is leaky and weak.

Anyway, exercise for its own sake is useless, but activities that you do for the fun of it always work. Ice skating, biking, hiking, walking to work, sitting on the floor to play games with your friends - all good. Self-punishing dull exercise? Ugh. (I will cop to using an elliptical, but only while watching anime on my iphone, which I tape to the display.)

p.s. for those in the upper age brackets, I learned that it's important to stay ahead of those necessary but minor surgeries, such as ones for suspicious skin cells, hemorrhoids, etc, before you get old enough that you have to take blood thinners on a regular basis.
Also, for you late middle age types, you aren't fooling anyone when you claim that you don't have a hearing problem. Get your ears checked regularly, particularly if you loved going to concerts or wearing headphones. People won't care if you get hearing aids. They will respect you less if they have to assume you misinterpret 30% of what they are saying.

My wife's Uncle, on his death bed, said if he knew he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself!

Great list–thanks for a nice post! It's never too early to develop good habits, and it's always nice to see a mix of good suggestions.

I wonder about maintaining eye health and thus good vision–very important for us photographers. There are exercises for the eyes out there, yogas and other such things, but I don't really see them discussed, and I don't know more than what I've heard secondhand, aside from a few eye exercises I keep up on a regular basis.

Apropos of aging, Oliver Sacks had a great piece in the Times the other week called "The Joy of Old Age."

I will leave the scientific and medical advice to the scientists and doctors. What I would advise a 24 year old is to find work that he loves. The other pieces will fall in to place on their own. Oh yeah, and if you try smoking I'll give you a hit in the head.

I don't know that I can attribute this to anyone, but my favorite quote is, "If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

I'm 71. Going on 12. Or 100. Depends on the day.

[I think that was originally said by Eubie Blake, at about age 96. --Mike]

Nature Lover is right: I'm not a physician, but I have learned that the human brain at work demands a lot of resources, and blood is what delivers those resources (and carries away waste). Stressing the brain will exercise the vascular system, and strengthening the cardio-vascular system will benefit the brain (in more ways than one, not to mention other parts of the body as well--it's all connected, y'see).

I didn't include it in my post as it was a personal observation but after starting vitamin D my mood brightened a little.

It's all connected. Mind, body and spirit. (In any order you choose.) Got sick of being a pudgy middle aged guy about a year and half ago. My advice get your hormone levels checked, do body weight exercises if possible. (feel free to add machines and free weights.)think young, feel young and you will be a happier person. I'm still down 30 pounds look better and feel better. I love food but watch out for carbs like bread and pasta. Lean protein and veggies will do the trick trust me.

Two words:
Sun. Screen.

As a 26 year old, I try to search out this type of advice. I have no living parents, no living grand parents. So while a number of people my age, and younger, may never put much thought into what is here, you found at least one person up for listening, and hopefully learning. Also, any post with a Hedberg quote is all right with me. Quite poignant to use him within the body of a post on aging, being that he past at quite a young age. He was a fantastic talent, which we sadly lost to addiction.

I'm 69 and, having been a vegetarian for 40 years, I've always been under 160 lbs on the scales. At retirement age (OK, freelancer snappers never actually retire) I got rid of my car so that any reasonably short distance I have to travel is on foot or two wheels (I've ridden "fixie" - one fixed gear - since I was a schoolboy). Your "getting short of breath once a day" tip is golden advice... and the more you walk or ride the more difficult it is to get there as your heart and lungs get stronger.

My tip on casual exercising for a healthy lifestyle is to be able to wipe some perspiration from one's brow after going for a walk. My measure of that is to cover one kilometer in ten minutes... or around 15 minutes per mile on your side of the pond. I do it every sunrise here in France before my one and only small daily coffee in the bar.

I should add... regular sex is very beneficial too, and at 69 I have more women friends than when I was a teenager!

Because our world is changing so fast, a lot of the advice older people give to teens now truly is either irrelevant or plain wrong. I'm a high school teacher. One of my classes last year was made up of seniors; none of them will get a job paying even a living wage, let alone a middle class income now that they've graduated.

Many of them will NEVER have a decent job, even years after they've left my school. I don't say that because my kids were dumb or lazy or any other bad thing that might keep someone from getting a good job. The fact is, there just are not any decent jobs available to high school grads here, and there are precious few for college grads.

Having my father, or anyone else of his generation, come in and advise my students about life after high school would do them no favors. He graduated in 1968, did not go to college, and at age 18 had a job that paid (in todays money) $40,000 a year. He bought a nice new (NOT used) car, a nice house, and got married to a woman who did not have to work because he made enough to support both of them, plus my sister and I after we were born.

His experience was not at all exceptional back then. Everyone he knew got similarly good jobs right after high school. None went to college. None were from well off families. My father was the second person in his family's history to graduate from high school!

Having him, or anyone else his age, come in and tell my students about life after high school would be dishonest and immoral. That world died a long time age.

The secret of a long life is to pick your parents

I'm 69 and, having been a vegetarian for 40 years, I've always been under 160 lbs on the scales.

Having been vegetarian for thirty years myself, I can state that it has nothing to do with keeping off weight!

Don't drink coffee

Great advice.

But the only reason I was so skinny is that I smoked

How does smoking keep weight off? Unless it prevents you putting edible things into your mouth.

I could never understand why anyone would ever have a second cigarette. I tried one puff once and decided 'no thanks'.

There's some really good advice in this post. For me, it all boils down to two things that really matter: 1. your physical health, and 2. your mental health. You build the rest of your life around those two things , so it pays to look after yourself.

The unfortunate thing is, you only tend to look at these two things after a really negative life changing event (in my case, a terrible breakup).

My advice to all my friends now is to not wait for that. It's never too early and it's never too late.


The link between gum disease and heart disease is (drum roll) sugar.

If young folks only knew the damage they were doing to their skin with all that tanning and UV exposure (said the UV photographer). Once the dermatologist starts frying lesions off your middle-aged face, you will most certainly wish you had slathered on the sun block stuff early on.

What about SEX?

Is it good for you or bad?

Well, seeing that I am in between being an old coot youth, and entering the salad days of my old age, the first and only thing that immediately came to my mind is what was echoed above by Dave Stewart, and succinctly by Marty - protect your skin from the sun.

Aside from getting your nice healthy dose of vitamin D from it, be mindful to not scorch yourself to a crisp, that I ashamedly have done entirely too many times in my ignorant / stupid youth.

I know now that the deed has already been done, and too late for me, but for those whose epidermis has not been repeatedly lobster'd, and later, could have passed as a leper or a creature that molts, little, peeling bits of skin at a time - good for you! Don't!

Then again, aside for the last tiniest fraction of the existence of mankind, exposure to the sun has gone unchecked and unprotected, so... who knows?

One last thing. Back in 90's I shot an interview with Warren Buffet. He said his doctor had just told him that the best way to guess your life expectancy was to look at how long your parents lived.
When he heard this he went out and bought his mother a treadmill.

drinking wrecked my father's heart, and smoking (and asbestos) wrecked his lungs. pneumonia finally took him, far too early, I might add; he had another 5-10 years in him if he didn't smoke, i'd wager.

my grandmother died of lung cancer, and she quit smoking 30 years prior to her passing.

my mother recently suffered a heart attack. major contributing factor? lifelong smoker.

my best childhood friend suffers with bouts of pneumonia every other year: smoker.

best advice you heard here: don't smoke.

also, three of my doctor friends all promote the use of vitamin d supplements. they said so all in separate occasions, i've taken their advice to heart.

Do not sit for hours! Get up and move as often as possible. The body is not made for right angels here and there for long whiles. Has to do with blood circulation, that has to do with the heart and so on...You can not compensate for long sitting with more training. You simply have to brake the sitting every half hour. Or why not stand at the computer with a high table. The good thing is that even very short breaks are enough. (Australian research on 222500 people) http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2011/04/21/the-danger-of-sitting-still/

Dear Christer,

If the sex wasn't good for you, then you were doing it wrong!


pax / Ctein

Dear Mike,

Heh heh, good overall advice, but it also made me think about a medical/actuarial website that Paula came across maybe 10 (?) years ago. One of those sites where you answer a whole bunch of personal and medical questions and based on mortality statistics it tells you how long you'll live (assuming there were a very large number of you's to average over).

I took the quiz and it concluded that I would live into my mid-late eighties. It then offered to make recommendations on how I could change my living habits to increase my lifespan. Here were the most important five, in no particular order, and my reactions to them:

Alcohol: namely, start drinking some wine. Teetotalers have a shorter life expectancy.–– Yeah, well, problem is I hate the stuff. I think it tastes vile. Worse than medicine.

Eliminate dairy from my diet.–– The thing is, being entirely lactose tolerant, milk is still by far my beverage of choice with dinner (and besides, what am I going to dunk cookies in?), cheese is a highly pleasurable part of my diet as well is an important source of protein for me, and ice cream might just be my most favorite thing in the world. I am also distinctly fond of ***buttered*** popcorn.

Give up driving.–– Okay, that one makes sense, except where I live my best estimate is that over my lifespan the inconvenience/time-inefficiency of public transit means that I would waste approximately a year of my waking life. Which is pretty much what it would be extending my life by. I suppose I could move…

Give up almost my entire love life.–– Seriously? Seriously?!?! Like, that is going to happen. No f**kin' (you can take that both literally and figuratively) way. I WOULD rather be dead, thank you very much.

Exercise vigorously four times a week or more. I've tried exercising in the past. I hated it. It's torture for me. I don't "feel the burn” and I don't get any kind of endorphin rush. It's just painful and very much not fun.

So, I could make all these changes to my life, and I'd be living an unpleasant and miserable existence. And you know what the magic calculator told me that would gain me? A whole five years.

Whoopee. Thanks, but no thanks.

Incidentally, the same calculator predicted that Paula will live forever. Well, not really, just to something like 104. Pretty much amounts to the same thing; it was clear that she had gone off the end of the scale and pegged the meter at “11.” The reason we know that is that just for jollies we called up her most significant life- shortening risk factors-- the program solemnly pronounced it was her pattern of DUIs.

She doesn't drink, either.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Ed Buziak said, "I should add... regular sex is very beneficial too, and at 69 I have more women friends than when I was a teenager!"

(Channeling his best When Harry Met Sally)...I'll have what Ed's having!! :-)"

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