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Sunday, May 2, 2004



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Live long


About 18 months ago I suffered my worst surfing injury in four decades. While paddling out in 6-foot North Shore surf, I tried pushing through a wave when it sucked me over with the curl, pulling the board from my hands. The submerged tail of the board shot upward, ramming my upper right thigh with such impact I nearly vomited underwater. I felt something tear.

Then the board's nose swung around, hitting me above my right eye, opening a gash that required eight stitches.

A couple of surfers advised that I head in because my blood was going to attract sharks.

My timing that dawn was way off. I felt woozy from the start; paddling out took monumental effort. I didn't sit on my board so much as slouch over it. I had never felt so vulnerable in the ocean, but at 58, I was in denial about my age, my health and why the accident happened.

For months I had been staying up late at night, watching TV, drinking too much wine, exercising only weekly and on those few occasions when I went surfing, I cut my sessions short due to fatigue. The night before the accident saw a repeat of self-indulgence.

The emergency room doctor told me that I "probably" would have lost my eye if I had taken the strike a quarter inch lower. He was more concerned about the "super contusion" on my thigh, with its 4-inch indentation, and muscle tears that had me on crutches for weeks.

I recovered physically but, emotionally, it kept me out of the water for a long time. I was scared, doubting my abilities, my judgment.

My sedentary lifestyle accelerated arthritic pain in an already damaged knee, which made walking painful and running impossible. Examinations showed an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

A friend once said that a weight gain of only one pound a year -- which didn't seem unreasonable -- in 30 years adds up to being 30 pounds heavier. I surpassed that.

"It's going to continue until you take preventive steps because your metabolism slows as you age," Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys told me in an interview last year. "You may never surf better than you do today and you have to work to keep it at this level."

By cutting back on wine to a few glasses a month, Johnson said he lost 25 pounds in a year. I didn't like hearing that about my drink of choice.

Calories in wine are directly related to alcohol content. Take the percentage of alcohol, multiply that by the number of ounces you drink, and multiply that by 1.6. A 5-percent alcohol wine, in a 5-ounce serving, translates to 5 x 5 x 1.6 = 40 calories.

For a 3.5-ounce glass of wine, which is what many consider "one glass," the alcohol provides about 80 calories. The calories in wine come solely from the alcohol. There are zero grams of fat and saturated fats.

According to a U.S. Surgeon General's report on Nutrition and Health, 75 percent of cardiovascular disease, 60 percent of women's cancers, and 40 percent of men's cancers are related to nutrition and diet. Many of the deaths can be avoided if we take proper care of our health.

Life expectancy in the United States is at its highest rate ever -- 77.4 years in 2002; if you're my age, that's not far away. I want to add at least 10 years to that.

While longevity -- good-aging genes -- runs in families, heredity is not the only factor that determines life span. According to research, genes account for no more than one-third of the mix. Lifestyle and environment play a role as well.

* * *

So here's a reminder of how to extend your life:

1. Eat healthy food; at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Total fat content: 30 percent maximum of daily calories; cholesterol intake: under 300 mg. Half a raw onion a day raises HDL (good) cholesterol an average of 25 percent in most people with cholesterol problems. You are two to three times more susceptible to stomach cancer if you do not eat fruits and veggies. Eating one banana a day provides the extra 400 milligrams of potassium to reduce the chance of stroke by 40 percent.

2. Eat less and live longer.

3. Don't smoke. Duh!

4. Exercise daily. Just 15 minutes of walking will help, but aim for 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Adults should expend 2,000 to 3,000 calories each week in exercise by brisk walking, jogging, or any other intense physical activity. Regular weightlifting works to strengthen legs, arms and trunk.

5. Drink at least eight glass of water daily.

6. Moderate your alcohol intake. Alcohol's effects magnify with age. Ouch!

7. Visit your doctor at least once a year for a complete checkup on blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and liver function. He or she will be able to make recommendations to improve your health.

8. Don't ignore supplements of vitamins and minerals, some of which have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related disease. But again, check with a physician before starting any program.

9. "Social support" is a major factor in individual health on par with the more commonly accepted biological factors of aging. Your social connection -- family members, friends, neighbors -- help to make life less stressful. Research suggests that people who build and maintain relationships often are healthier and seem to recover from illness faster. Social connections may ward off depression and seem to boost the body's immune system.

In fact, having a spouse can be a life saver. Studies have shown that marriage generally improves both partners' financial situation, and the better your socioeconomic status, the better your health.

And, according to a New England Centenarian Study, for men, being married provides a survival advantage because being married inspires them to make safer lifestyle choices. Bungee jumping or surfing Jaws tend to fall off the priority list when you're married.

10. Laughter: You've probably heard the expression, "Laughter is the best medicine." Laughter increases the body's ability to produce and release a bacteria- and virus-fighting agent known as salivary immunoglobin A. Having the ability to laugh at your own mistakes is also a good way to lower blood pressure and fight stress. Research has also shown that when we laugh, we tend to do more of the things that help us connect with others.

11. Have a positive attitude. Research suggests a positive view of aging can lead to a longer, healthier, more productive life.

12. Control stress. Over time, stress increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

13. Nurture your spirit. No matter what you call your source of inspiration, it's important to nurture it.


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4-day Maui festival
promotes wellness


LifeFest Kapalua

Featuring Dr. Andrew Weil

Where: Kapalua Resort

When: Sept. 23-26

Cost: A Kapalua Power Pass is $345 and includes all general session lectures and panels, the Celebrity Power Walk and Hale 'Aina culinary reception.

Information: 800-KAPALUA or online at www.lifefestkapalua.com; e-mail lifefest@kapaluamaui.com

To learn more about being healthy for life, LifeFest Kapalua on Maui in September will feature four days of lectures, panels and workshops led by some of the most renowned wellness authorities in the United States and Hawaii, including Dr. Andrew Weil.

The event is designed for the health-conscious and combines programs to educate the mind, rejuvenate the spirit, encourage physical fitness and highlight indigenous cultural practices. Also featured will be the island's largest "Fit for Life" Health Expo, a Celebrity Power Walk benefiting MS, a long-distance Hawaiian canoe race, the Hale 'Aina gala culinary event, a continuing education program for health professionals and other health, fitness and wellness-related activities.

Dr. Andrew Weil is a clinical professional of internal medicine as well as the founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona's Health Sciences Center in Tucson.

He is internationally recognized as an expert on medicinal herbs, mind-body interactions and integrative medicine who has appeared frequently on "Larry King Live" and "Oprah," and has hosted his own PBS TV specials. He is also the author of eight books, including the national best sellers "Spontaneous Healing," "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health" and "Eating Well for Optimum Health."



ABOUT TODAY'S PACKAGE


Magazine fronts are full of cover lines promising the same things every month. You'd think all we care about is how to be rich, thin, unstressed and beautiful.

This week, we attempt to answer life's most perplexing questions, which will free us to pursue more serious thoughts.

Here comes the disclaimer: We do not promise that any of the methods and practices contained within this issue will work universally. They are guidelines. As always, when seeking answers and advice, consult experts who can analyze your particular situation and come up with a custom solution.


ILLUSTRATIONS BY KIP AOKI




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