One more way to boost your chance of a longer, younger life
In 1922, life expectancy in the U.S. was 54.4 years for white men and 45.4 years for Black men; for women, it was 56.6 years and 45.2 years, respectively. Now it’s 74.4 and 68.2 for white and Black men and 79.9 and 75.1 for white and Black women. It’s a dramatic improvement for everyone — although the difference between races is still terrible, because it’s predominately a product of the health impacts of racism, demographics and socioeconomic disadvantages. But, everyone may see their gains cut short this winter — if they don’t get their bivalent booster.
According to a Commonwealth Fund analysis, in the first week of October, about 68 percent of the U.S. population had been vaccinated, but fewer than 50 percent of fully vaccinated people have gotten a booster and only 36 percent of those age 50-plus have had a second booster.
Why does it matter? Their research shows that if 80 percent of folks eligible to receive the booster got one, it would prevent 90,000 deaths and over 900,000 hospitalizations. But, if booster rates remain at the current level, then there’s the risk of a winter surge in cases that leads to 16,000 hospitalizations and 1,200 deaths every day by March 2023.
It can be challenging to make life-enhancing, life-extending changes — quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthfully. But getting a booster? That’s about as easy as it gets. So, go to vaccines.gov and click on “find COVID-19 vaccines.” It will let you know where the free shot is available in your zip code.
The power of timed eating to prevent obesity and heart disease
Over the years, notable personalities have disagreed about how to think about and manage time. Oscar Wilde wrote: “Punctuality is the thief of time.” Shakespeare advocated punctuality on a whole new level: “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Clearly, there are many ways to abuse or use time — but recent research shows that some ways are better for your health than others.
One recent study in Cell Metabolism reveals that eating late (say, after 8 p.m.) fuels obesity — even if you don’t overeat or eat unhealthy foods. That’s because those calories get burned at a slower rate (even while you’re awake) and your adipose tissue is greedier for calories, so you store more as fat. Another study in the same journal found that restricting your eating to a 10-hour window makes a big difference in the size of very low-density lipoproteins (V-LDL) circulating in your blood — they become larger, which is good. When they are small, they weasel into the walls of your arteries causing heart woes. For folks at risk for cardiovascular disease, the 10-hour eating window also lowered their A1c and blood pressure.
I’m always delighted to see research confirm what I have been saying all along: that you should eat early, consume more calories before 2 p.m. than after, and stop eating by 6 or 7 o’clock. My books, “What to Eat When” and the “What to Eat When Cookbook,” will show you how to have a good time with the well-timed plan they lay out for you.
Not-so-sweet news about the ‘healthy’ food label
There’s a strawberry yogurt — a supposedly “healthy” food — that’s loaded with 13 grams of added sugar per serving. White bread and highly sweetened cereal have also been allowed to be labeled “healthy” under existing Food and Drug Administration regulations. But water, avocados, nuts and seeds, higher fat fish, such as salmon, and certain oils have been denied the right to declare they’re “healthy.”
What? You might as well decide that up is down, left is right, and night is day.
The FDA established that ridiculous definition of “healthy food” in 1994, allowing manufacturers to add the word “healthy” to products containing a limited amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and 10 percent of the daily value of at least one of the following: vitamin A, and C, the minerals calcium and iron, and protein or fiber.
But finally, the FDA has proposed a new definition for “healthy” foods. Shifting from having NO restrictions on added sugars, “healthy” food will be allowed to contain no more than 2.5 grams (half a teaspoon) per serving for most products. (I think NO ADDED SUGARS should be allowed!) Sodium will be restricted to 230 milligrams per serving; there are limits on saturated fat and the existence of healthy fats (olive oil, omega-3s, etc.) is acknowledged.
The FDA says these new standards may appear on food labels next year. In the meantime, keep reading the nutrition labels and dodge all added sugars and limit saturated fats as you boost your nutrition by choosing great-for-you healthy fats, unprocessed plants and grains.
Gene blues? You can protect yourself from cancer
Experts say that your new blue jeans will expand by up to an inch and a half, if you wear them a lot for several months. That can play out two ways: They may change to suit your shape, becoming more comfortable and making you look better or, if not cared for, they can become out of shape and tattered.
Your genes can do the same thing — become positively reshaped because of smart daily habits (healthy food, consistent exercise, stress management, restful sleep), or be changed so that they fuel your risk for serious health problems. Those changes in your genes involve switching them on or off, and it’s called epigenetics.
You can control about 80 percent of which genes are on or off by your life choices — and that can change your cancer risk. One study found that guys can turn off genes that increase their risk for prostate cancer by adopting an intensive nutritional upgrade, as well as not smoking, managing stress and getting consistent exercise. The same approaches reduce the risk for colon and breast cancers.
Another new study found that chronically unmanaged stress from poor physical and emotional lifestyle choices, such as lack of exercise, poor sleep, untreated depression/anxiety, and lousy nutrition, causes a 28 percent increase in the risk of dying from cancer compared to someone the same age without chronically unmanaged stress. Want help turning on and off the genes that fuel a cancer-resistant, healthier you? Check out the program in my book “The Great Age Reboot.”
New technology — and smart life choices — are fueling longevity
In 2021, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted 327,798 utility patents, with U.S. companies extending their ability to use artificial intelligence and quantum computing to explore and solve problems, such as managing climate change and surviving natural disasters, in a way that standard computers could not.
Amazing inventions are also becoming available that will change how you protect your body from disease and extend your lifespan. Take the new, fully automated bionic pancreas that researchers from the Diabetes Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital tested recently on 219 patients with Type 1 diabetes. This amazing gizmo makes all dose decisions and delivers insulin autonomously. Over a 13-week trial, participants using the bionic pancreas saw their A1cs drop from 7.9 percent to 7.3 percent, while the study’s control group held steady at 7.7 percent.
Advances in technology, like this “pancreas,” are becoming a reality and will change everyday life. And, when they’re combined with smart lifestyle choices (you know that drill), I believe you’ll soon be able to a feel 40 when you are 90; and, be an active 75 when you’re well over 120. As I explain in “The Great Age Reboot,” you can harness these lifestyle and technological powers for a younger, healthier, longer life.
The book offers a “6 normals + 2 plan” (stress management; restoring a healthy weight, LDL level, blood pressure and glucose level; avoiding all smoke; plus having regular medical checkups and recommended vaccinations). That can launch your quantum leap to a longer, healthier life! So, get inventive with your future today.
Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.
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