Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Study: Live To Be 85 With Weight Loss, Lower Triglycerides, And Getting Married

Dr. Bradley Willcox believes he has found the secrets to living longer

We all want to live a long and healthy life, don't we? That why books like this one seem to attract people's attention. Well, this Washington Post story outlines a new study today that tells you exactly what you need to do to live to be 85 or longer. Are you interested?

Lead researcher Dr. Bradley Willcox from the independent, non-profit Honululu, Hawaii-based Pacific Health Research Institute and his team observed 5,820 Japanese-American men from the island of Oahu with an average age of 54 when the study began and they were tracked for as many as four decades (1965-2005). Their health was regularly monitored at a series of examinations by the researchers.

Dr. Willcox and his team used the following nine major health risk factors during their study to measure their impact on the longevity of the men who were being studied:

1. Being overweight with a BMI of 25 or higher
2. Having high blood sugar, a precursor to diabetes
3. Having high triglyceride levels, a precursor to heart disease
4. Having high blood pressure
5. Having low grip strength by exerting 86 pounds of pressure or less
6. Being a smoker
7. Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks daily
8. Being a high school dropout
9. Never getting married

In all, 58 percent (or 3,369) of the study participants deceased before they reached the age of 85. While the remaining 42 percent (or 2,451) of the study participants simply made it to that age, a total of 11 percent (or 655) of the original study participants were able to attain "exceptional survival" status by reaching the ripe old age of 85 years old without having any mental or physical problems to speak of, including the absence of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, Parkinson's disease and diabetes, conditions typical of the elderly.

What the researchers found was those study participants who did not exhibit any of those nine major risk factors for disease in their 50s were 70 percent more likely of making it to 85 and a 55 percent chance of reaching that golden age free of mental or physical ailments.

On the other hand, the study participants who had six or more of those conditions when they were in their 50s only had a 22 percent chance of even living long enough to reach 85 and a mere single digit chance of making it to that coveted "exceptional survival" phase.

"It is important to be physically robust in midlife," the researchers wrote about the study. "This is consistent with theories of aging that suggest that better-built organisms last longer and that physiological reserve is an important determinant of survival."

Behavioral modification in terms of our health seems to make a difference in how long we live, Dr. Willcox explained.

"There appears to be a lot we can do about modifying our risk and increasing the odds for aging more healthfully," he said. "It's good news because it really gives you something to zero in on if we want to be healthy at older age."

The results of his study, which was paid for with grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Hawaii Community Foundation. were published in the November 15, 2006 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

With advancements in medicine and health technology these days, people are living longer than they ever have before. But that doesn't mean we should stop striving to do those things that we can to extend our lives and remain healthy for as long as possible. My wife Christine had a grandfather a few years ago who was very active all the way until his untimely death at the age of 81 due to internal bleeding in his prostate. Other than that, the man was as vibrant as any young whooper snapper half his age still working long past "retirement" age!

So our direct charge from this study is to do those things that we can to prevent the risk factors from robbing us of our life before it's our time to go. The good thing for people like me in my mid-30s is I've still got 20 years to figure it all out (although I think I've got a pretty good grasp on it now after losing close to 200 pounds the past few years thanks to my low-carb lifestyle). Others may not have that luxury, though, as they are already at or quickly approaching mid-life.

The researchers gave their own advice about what people should do.

"We have identified several potentially important risk factors for healthy survival in a large group of middle-aged men. These risk factors can be easily measured in clinical settings and are, for the most part, modifiable. This study suggests that common approaches that target multiple risk factors simultaneously, such as avoidance of smoking or hypertension, and approaches that enhance insulin sensitivity, such as maintaining a lean body weight, may improve the probability of better health at older ages. This may be especially important for men, few of whom survive to oldest-old age."

Okay, it's one thing to just say change, but HOW?! Let me attempt to answer that for each of the nine major health risk factors that Dr. Willcox and his team used in this study:

1. Being overweight with a BMI of 25 or higher

You should know my answer to this. Other than the fact that I think BMI is bunk, if you need to lose weight then you need to make up your mind you want to lose weight, find a plan that works for you, implement that plan exactly as prescribed and then keep doing it for the rest of your life. For me, livin' la vida low-carb is the only thing that has ever worked for me. This is an essential part of getting your health under control, so make this your priority above everything else.

2. Having high blood sugar, a precursor to diabetes

High blood glucose levels have been shown to have very serious consequences on your health, not the least of which is diabetes. Breaking your addiction to sugar and other refined carbohydrates will stabilize your blood sugar and keep you happy and healthy for many years to come. Your body doesn't need sugar anyway, so you can live without it.

3. Having high triglyceride levels, a precursor to heart disease

Another perk of the low-carb lifestyle is miniscule triglycerides. Before my low-carb lifestyle, my number was in the 300s. Now it's around 40-50. You can't argue with results like this!

4. Having high blood pressure

Losing weight helps with this as well as reducing stress and cutting down on sodium for people like me who are salt-sensitive.

5. Having low grip strength by exerting 86 pounds of pressure or less

Working out is a great way to keep your strength up as you seek to remain fit into your golden years. I commit to going to the gym almost every single day and I don't regret that decision one bit. I only hope to have the same vigor when I reach 50, 60, 70, and yes 85!

6. Being a smoker

My advice--DON'T DO IT! I've never seen the point of puffing something into your mouth that can lead to cancer. Stupid!

7. Drinking three or more alcoholic drinks daily

My advice again--DON'T DO THIS EITHER! While the "buzz" you get from alcohol may be fun, you are only dehydrating your body and killing brain cells with each swig. Stay smart, don't drink!

8. Being a high school dropout

Well, it goes without saying that having a good education is important for a lot of reasons because it can help you make better choices. While that is not universally true for everyone, those who finish high school, college and graduate school put themselves in a position to live comfortably enough to lead a healthy life.

9. Never getting married

This was quite an interesting, seemingly non-health-related risk factor, but I can see how it would come into play. Now that I'm in my 12th year of marriage to my beautiful bride Christine, I value the health benefit of having a mate. She's not only my lover and confidant, but she's my best friend. The struggles, the pain, the joy, and the celebrations are all shared by both of us as we have commited ourselves to God and to each other. That's something single people will never benefit from and it looks like it can have an effect on their longevity, too. What better reason to go FALL IN LOVE, eh? :D

So there you go! Get those 9 things in order and you are well on your way to living to be a healthy 85-year old! I plan on getting there as a 50-year survivor of the Atkins diet. Hee hee! We're gonna show them low-fatties yet. Long live those of us who are livin' la vida low-carb. We'll be talking about the good old days well into the future, won't we? :)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

See if you can find a study that just looked at women.

11/16/2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Good advice I think!!!

Prior to low carb my triglycerides were "off the chart", which I was told was over 700. Last checked, after a not so low carb meal they were under 150.

As for being married? Tried that that enough? LOL

11/16/2006 8:00 PM  

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