I miss my dad. He was a great man who, at the age of 82, died too early. He had a difficult childhood, to say the least, and that probably had something to do with it. Growing up during the Great Depression, Dad was forced to leave school after the 8th grade; he was needed at home to help provide for the family. His mom, a single mother, had several hungry mouths to feed. It was an era when finding enough food each day was a challenge. Circumstances demanded hard work just to survive.
That upbringing helped create a determined, strong, and capable man. Forged by his early experiences, he became successful, truly “self-made,” even achieving his life-long dream of being a rancher—with his own land, cattle, and thoroughbred horses. His strength, independence, and apparent invincibility were things I always admired. But, to my dismay, I was to learn that Dad wasn’t invincible…
One day while I was still in junior high, my parents and I prepared to travel to “the city”—always an adventure for a ranch kid. As we were opening the car doors, my dad grabbed his chest and bent forward. The look of panic on his face was terrifying. “It’s my heart,” he said in a voice filled with anguish. I had never seen my dad overwhelmed by anything, including physical pain. We all knew he had seen his doctor for similar symptoms and had been prescribed nitroglycerin tablets, which he carried with him. He put one under his tongue and got into the car to sit. After a few minutes the crisis had passed but the anxiety, for all of us, persisted.
Those episodes of chest pain continued over Dad’s remaining years on earth. Each time, I’d wonder, Is this the end, relieved when the answer was, No, not yet. But eventually my dad’s coronary heart disease would take his life. What I didn’t know then was that it was unnecessary. His heart disease could have been prevented.
The reality of life-threatening diseases, like heart disease, became part of my everyday life as a physician. My first job was working in a busy emergency room where patients were regularly brought in at or near death. I saw fast deaths, slow deaths, natural deaths, violent deaths, intentional deaths, and, most disturbingly, very unnecessary “early” deaths. It left me with a passion to help prevent death, especially early death.
After many years of observation, study, and reflection, I am convinced that the victims of unnecessary early death in America most often get there by following 3 “simple” practices, a perfect recipe to shorten life expectancy. Read on to learn how you, too, can shorten your life (or, better yet, use this information to lengthen it!).
Practice #1. Sit still. You see, people who spend only 8 minutes (or less) a day engaged in fitness activities die 6.2 years early.
Americans know they should be more active, so why aren’t they? “No time for it!” is the common excuse. Yet, research clearly shows that when you add a little more activity to your day, such as light jogging or fitness walking—as little as even 9 minutes—you live 6.2 years longer!
Practice #2. Ignore the scale and gain weight. You will double your risk of early death!
Americans, on average, gain 30 extra pounds during adulthood. Simply by gaining 1 pound a year from the age of 20 on, you will be 30 pounds overweight by age 50 and at risk of suffering the health consequences—heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke are the most common ones—and you will have doubled your risk of early death. The good news: You don’t have to let this happen. Maintain a trim, healthy weight and greatly increase your quality of life and chances for longevity.
Practice #3. Eat for the “high,” not for your health.
We know that sugar is “mood elevating” and causes a seductive, addictive “high.” We eat it for pleasure and to alleviate fatigue, stress, boredom, and loneliness. The problem: Sugar is deadly. Sugar increases the risks for cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. On the other hand, when you eat nutritious food, making conscious choices based on the health benefits, you reap the rewards of a body functioning at its best.
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My dad was a victim of heart disease—a condition we now know is preventable. Had the medical and nutrition knowledge of his time been what it is today, he could have made a few simple lifestyle changes and perhaps still be with us. After struggling with chest pain for more than 25 years, he finally agreed to cardiac bypass surgery. During the operation, pieces of calcium in his arteries broke loose and traveled to his brain, causing a stroke. The end was not far off.
Now that you understand how a few basic habits can dramatically affect your life expectancy, ask yourself:
- Will I be active for at least 9 minutes per day?
- Will I control my weight and get help if I gain 20+ lbs as an adult?
- Will I choose foods based on health rather than an emotional “high”?
Join me and pursue optimum health. You can do it. The benefit: a good long life! Don’t be a victim of unnecessary early death like my dad. You are precious. We want you to stick around!