I'm pretty healthy for a guy my age (65). This blog was first posted three years back, and my overall health has been stable. In fact, my Saturday bicycle workout has grown to an average of 30 miles, from around 18, and my weekday run/walk workouts are two afternoons, rather than one. Still holding down my machinist job, also.
Let me start off by warning you to take everything that follows with a grain of salt. I'm no doctor (though I read what doctors write), not a famous personage (though my real name is the same as a well-known writer), not even an exceptional athlete.
Let me start off by warning you to take everything that follows with a grain of salt. I'm no doctor (though I read what doctors write), not a famous personage (though my real name is the same as a well-known writer), not even an exceptional athlete.
This last statement should be qualified. Some people may be impressed that I ran my only marathon at age 53, beating the time of my two younger training partners. Some running friends have called me the "energizer bunny". But plenty of older people also finish marathons. Some may think it good that I bicycle at least 30 miles each week. Rabid cyclists would consider this puny, though perhaps not so many who are my current age, 64. It's all relative, though. A local guy got recent publicity as he set off on a fundraising bike ride across the U.S., at age 68. Another local holds national bicycling records for guys in their 80's and 90's (he's currently 94!).
Anyhow, some of this blog is just restatement of health advice that is already widespread. Maybe the way I state it will grab you, more than the government version. Take it as just one more validation. Other tidbits on this blog are a bit quirkier, based solely on my personal observations and logical conclusions. They are probably not unique, and also more problematic. Your body is different than mine. Please use my units of data to reach your own plan for good health.
He jumps right on the bandwagon! Weight loss is not my main concern. My metabolism has always leaned towards skinny. There are a few more pounds than on the high school bod, and a couple more inches on the waistline. Still, I have some pairs of trousers that I have worn for 25 years.Nonetheless, let me offer some suggestions that you may not have heard, or not in so many words.
First, vanity is your friend. Those of us with huge egos have an advantage, here, but everyone would rather look better. In our master bedroom, over the sink, is a four-foot-square mirror. It came with the house. You cannot hide from this puppy. Even skinny people look bad with a little pot belly (personal experience). If you got a big mirror, and looked in it (glasses on!), this could be a big incentive to control your weight.
Second, forget vanity; the main reason to control your weight is good health. How can so many people who gave up smoking to avoid the myriad consequences, ignor all the downsides to being heavy?
Third, keep it moving. I refer here to digestion. If your food moves slowly through your system, more of the nutrients (including those bad ones you can't resist) get layered onto your frame, including the fatty layers. This is a benefit of exercise you may not have thought of--it improves regularity. If you slug down a big evening meal, followed by ten hours of couch-potato-ism and sleep, weight gain is almost assured. This is also another reason for all that dietary fiber they keep recommending.
Fourth, I quote from a book on how men can avoid big bellies: "The bathroom scale is your worst enemy."
This takes some explaining. Imagine a halfback in pro football, shaped almost perfectly. Then imagine someone the same height and weight, out of shape and resembling a large pear. For their height, a scale would declare them both "overweight". Clearly, the one whose weight is mostly muscle, is at a decided fitness advantage. If you embark on a diet/workout program, and the weight loss is less than hoped, it could be that you are shedding fat while adding muscle mass.
Remember this, the next time some fitness zealot recommends adding exercise to your diet regimen. Also, remember this little fact: muscle burns calories, even while you're asleep.
After all this anti-fat preaching, let me offer this little poem that my mother wrote many years ago:
IT'S ME, LORD
I like to see a person
Who's happy in his skin
And with the bones
He finds there.
A terrier of a man
Straining to be a tiger,
Makes me look away.
A small man,
In tune with himself,
I can watch for hours.
A stork of a woman
With sparrow instincts
Hunkers through life, defeated.
A large woman,
Easy in her vastness,
Is like coming home.
This is something I can claim familiarity with. I first "threw my back out" in my early twenties. As a guy who grew up on the farm, and played football and ran track in high school, I was totally flummoxed that just bending down to pick up portable typewriter could lay me up in bed for a day or two.
If this is something that affects you, you have been handed the little 'back care' pamphlet several times. It is all good advice. Follow it. Also, keep reading about back care. There are many books about it, and some are written by surgeons with great professional insight.
I say the preceding because, in my sixties, my back gives me less grievance than in my twenties. Arthritis is now a bigger issue than the lower back pain associated with abusing my muscles.
I'll try to distill decades of reading and experimenting into four concise recommendations.
Don't bend from the waist. Ever. As one back surgeon put it in his book, "Don't even bend over to pick up a feather." Of course, some people can do this a million times without ill effect. If you have frequent lower back pain, you aren't one of them.
Admittedly, this is almost impossible to train yourself out of. It's a cultural thing; people who squat to lift things are some poor immigrant stock who don't speak good. They also probably can't afford to lie in bed much. We can make up for our own cultural backwardness by wearing a back brace when we are doing activity that has been shown to be harmful to our backs. It makes it harder to bend from the waist.
Next, do exercises to keep your spine more flexible. This was the main advice in another back surgeon's book. For example, you could stand with your arms straight out to your sides, then twist your trunk as far as you can rotate, while following your leading hand with your eyes; then rotate the other way. Often, when I do this, after tiring my back, I feel a little click as vertebrae fall into place. You could try the 'weight lifters' stretch. Down on the floor on hands and knees, you stretch one arm as far forward as you can, while stretching the opposite leg as far back as possible. Again, reverse. This seems more productive if I stretch my arm and leg at an angle.
The basic principle is, when you twist your back like this, it has to pop everything back into alignment. Then, when you twist your back in the normal course of life, it's more prepared for the motion.
The following exercise might damage your back. I only developed it after many reps of other stretches. I call it 'self chiropractic'. Lie flat on your back on the floor. Lift one knee towards your chest. Hook your opposite elbow under the knee, and try to bring your knee to your shoulder. If you succeed, you're a freak. If you wind up in the hospital, I warned you. Otherwise, switch to the other knee, elbow, and shoulder. Five reps, each side, is my standard, every other day.
Next, develop those muscles that either support the back, or do work that your back otherwise has to do. The abs are important, here. I do modified sit-ups, with my lower legs hooked over the top of the bed mattress (back on the floor, obviously--soft surfaces are not good for back exercises). There are, of course, many other approaches. I noticed, when I was an addicted runner, that running seemed to tighten the abs.
The hamstring muscles, also, can do much more than we usually call on them for. One way to develop them is, again, lie flat on your back. Flex your feet (not just your toes) away from you. The hamstrings are those things in your butt that you should feel flexing, when you do this right. Do a whole bunch of reps.
A bonus of these exercises is, they make it easier to lift things with your legs.
Finally, think about good posture. In the days of frequent lower back pain, I slouched when I sat. Slouched when I drove. Slouched alot, just standing around. There are a lot of Marines in our town. The back doctors say that their posture is a bit extremely vertical, but they are a good reminder. Bad posture puts your lower back in a bind.
In fact, try not to sit much. It is very unnatural. No, I do not live in the real world. I work in a machine shop. We stand almost eight hours each work day. But (except for stupid lifting episodes at work), I have felt more back pain from extended bouts of sitting (e.g., driving) than for a typical day of work.
There has been some recent research that indicates that, for some chronic sufferers of back pain, vigorous exercise can bring significant relief. This seems to validate some of my guesses on this.
Those times when I threw my back out, I sometimes went to a chiropractor for adjustment, right away. It seemed to help. The pain disappeared more quickly, though not immediately.
Everything I've read, not written by chiropractors, says that this is the extent of what research has verified: A chiropractic adjustment can shorten the recovery time. I know a couple of folks who have returned to chiropractors for their recommended long-term treatment for chronic pain. They have both felt ripped-off.
HAIR AND BALDING
One friend who ran the marathon with me (see above), once commented that, perhaps, the best approach to hair loss was not to disturb your scalp. I think that this approach is comparable to the discredited idea that long bed rest is a good idea, following a back 'incident'.
At age 65, my hair is thinning at the crown, but no true 'bald spot' has appeared. Is this better than average? I don't know. Looking at my buddy's bald spot, it seems I'm doing alright, but everyone is different. I have no objective validation for the following maverick ideas about slowing down the balding process.
We can begin, however, with an objective fact about balding. It isn't all about hair loss. We are losing hair all our lives long. Balding is about the lost hair not being replaced. This happens when the hair roots aren't being nourished enough by the scalp they're occupying, and can't push up new hairs. Since blood circulation in our scalps typically deteriorates with aging, baldness results. I know, there's some mystery with hormones, too, but I know nothing about this.
You already knew this, if you have read the news reports on how Rogaine (c) works. Rogaine irritates your scalp, basically, which stimulates blood flow.
Now, it happens that I have natural 'Rogaine'. About twenty-five years past, I was working on a twenty-pound block of steel that flew out of the lathe, hit my skull, and spun through the wall behind me. I emerged from surgery and rehab with a chunk of acrylic covering the hole, and a case of seborrhic dermatitis. This is an incurable fungus that irritates the scalp, causing itchiness and bad dandruff. If you shampoo daily with special medicated stuff (has to include selenium sulfate), you can mostly control the symptoms.
The logical conclusion is that constant irritation of the scalp by the dermatitis , coupled with daily working the scalp in the shower, might be slowing the balding process.
If you buy this, there are other approaches (most of which I am trying). For instance, some hair dressers who used to cut my hair, followed the hair cut with several minutes of an electric massage of the scalp. Or, how about using a brush on your hair, instead of just a comb. Women mostly use brushes, women don't go bald as quickly. I know, they say it's hormones, but you gotta wonder. Or, you could just massage your scalp several times each day, concentrating on the Male Pattern Baldness problem spots. Actually, I use my fingers instead of an electric massager.
Seems that this is maybe another reason to exercise. If you improve the flow of blood throughout your bod, some of it's got to reach your scalp. If you want to research the incident of baldness among professional althletes, go for it.
HEART ATTACKS AND STROKE
None of the following health tips will differ much from what all the experts have been telling you. As stated at the start of this blog, this is just more validation for the common wisdom.
I have relatively low blood pressure, and decent blood-cholesterol levels, and there isn't a family history of heart problems. Or wasn't, until my father suffered his first heart attack in his mid-fifties.
My father, who went from machinist to army officer to farmer, always seemed the picture of vigorous good health to me. His heart attack was a huge surprise.
What triggered the attack was apparently some unusual exertion during a repair job on the family water reservoir. Still, why hadn't his heart been up to the task? Why had his arteries been so clogged?
Between the doctor and my parents, some contributing factors were identified. My dad had always been a "meat and potatoes' kind of eater (mostly hamburger, back when it was cheap). Although he worked hard on the farm, it wasn't usually 'aerobic' exercise, getting his heart pumping hard for sustained periods of time. We raised chickens, sold the eggs. He liked extra salt on his food, which exacerbated a chronic problem with blood pressure (not critically high, but not good).
After his heart attack, my parents (Mom, especially) went to work on these factors. A change in diet to low-fat, low-salt foods was instituted. Dad commented, after a couple of years, that he no longer found extra salt very appetizing. He took up long walks and some bicycling, on a regular basis.
My dad lived to eighty-eight. He finally succumbed to congestive heart failure, which is not the same as cardio-vascular disease, and he got maybe three extra decades of life to enjoy. My mom, at 95, is still living independently. She has always watched her diet.
Now, let's go back to that surprise I got from my dad's heart crisis. I was in my mid-twenties. This was one time when I learned 'from the other fellow's mistakes'. As much as possible, I cut most red meat from my diet. Ate more fish. Never liked extra salt, so this was not a problem (though most processed food is over-salty).
More exercise wasn't an immediate issue. I was in the midst of my (brief) Army career, and had been physically active most years to then. But later, when I began feeling less fit, this also got some attention.
Today, my primary rule of diet is simple. Since most problems with fat and salt seem to come from meat, I limit meat intake to the evening meal. Here in California, we have developed a term for those who are partially, but not totally, vegetarian: 'flexarian'. This eliminates some of the fattiest foods, such as breakfast bacon and processed lunch meats.
I don't totally eschew red meat, but try to emphasize poultry and fish. Turkey, by the by, tends to contain far less fat per volume than chicken. Some fish is better than others; fish at the top of the food chain (including tuna) may have too much mercury. Here's a recipe for ceviche that I picked up in the steel mill: shred a can of sardines or whiting fish. Add salsa, chopped tomato, onion, lemon juice, and cilantro. Or just salsa. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.
Another arm of heart care is, of course, exercise. This needs its own heading.
MAKING EXERCISE FUN
Vigorous exercise is good for shedding fat. It's good for your heart. It makes you look good. And, believe it or not, it makes you FEEL good!
The first day? No. The second day? No. The third day? Are you kidding me? That's when the muscles really start feeling sore.
But, make it through that first week, and you will start to feel the difference. After a couple of weeks of significantly increased physical activity, you are almost guaranteed to see the difference, as well. This assertion is based on anecdotal evidence of many folks.
So, what's the secret of making it through that first week? Find something that (other than the muscle pain) you find enjoyable. Or, to aim slightly lower, that you can tolerate enough to do regularly.
I enjoyed running, before joint discomfort led to bicycling. Many people don't enjoy either. There are many forms of 'working out' that have an aerobic benefit. Keep trying until you find one that, after the intial break-in period, is still tolerable. To put it another way, don't give up on exercise as a concept, because you think it's beyond you. Have you tried the elyptical training machine? I have no idea what pilates are.
The couple of buddies who bicycle with me, on Saturday, aren't really bicyclists. One is more of a swimmer. The other is more of a brisk walker. They are still fit. The fact that we bicycle together is a second 'secret' of maintaining an exercise regimen. Try to find other folks to exercise with. Weight Watchers (c), AA, and other groups use the magic of social influence to keep participants involved. In exercise, it is a great substitute for personal will-power.
It's also a treat. This might be a third secret: reward yourself for exercising. I personally don't wear a personal music device while bicycling (there's a certain danger factor), but it makes sense for many people. The larger bicycling groups in San Diego almost all stop for a snack, a meal, or doughnuts sometime in their rides. You have to be careful;, here. You may not be burning as many calories as you think, during your workout. My group of buddies and I always take a coffee stop at a certain famous Seattle-based retailer, whose shops are everywhere.
The big secret to a successful exercise program is: make it a habit. All the other issues: finding something you can keep with, finding a group (even just a buddy), rewarding yourself for good behavior, are all aimed at the goal of creating a lifestyle change. I don't exercise vigorously every day; your muscles need 48 hours of rest to recover and start getting stronger. But if I can't get out for an extended period, I really miss it. Even if I just don't feel inspired to begin a workout, it starts to feel good once it begins. This is a positive habit.
Finally, consider 'cross training'. This is the practice of combining several different approaches to aerobic exercise in each week's schedule. Because of some developing tendonitis, I am now limiting my cycling. Running and walking are my midweek workouts.
It all began in childhood. The family doctor (Army-trained) gave me a blood test. He had already (he said) detected a heart murmur, and after the tests came back, he declared that I would have chronic anemia for life. I needed to pop an iron supplement each and every day. I followed this advice.
Since then, I have played organized football (high school), been a distance runner and bicyclist, and exerted myself on many other occasions, without my heart complaining. In recent years (spurred by my father's need awhile back), I have also made many donations of blood.
So, perhaps the iron pills have been a wonder. Or, perhaps, the doctor's prognosis was suspect. No one else has definitely detected a heart murmur. It has been suggested that the 'old school' approach to analyzing blood was to compare the number of red cells to white cells for a given blood volume. I've been told a couple of times that my white-cell count is unusually high. This might look like anemia.
Still, I pop a (very small) iron supplement each day.
It doesn't end there! I'll just list and explain the various vitamin, mineral, and other supplements I use regularly, and you can draw your own conclusions. Each body has its own requirements (which is why multi-vitamins, or multi-symptom medical remedies, are so problematic).
Decades ago, Linus Pauling, a Nobel-Prize-winning physicist (but not a dietitian or medical doctor) proposed that extra doses of vitamin C was benficial for health. He based this on studies of different societies, which seemed to show that those cultures where natural sources of vitamin C were widely consumed, seemed to have healthier populations, in general.
Pauling's thesis was lambasted from all sides. No link between extra intake of C and good health has been clearly demonstrated by other scientific study. But this was the New Age, and didn't our mothers encourage us to eat citrus for good health? Worked for me.
I took up to four grams per day, until a couple of studies established that, beyond 2.5 grams each day, our bodies excrete the excess C. Still, I take 2 grams a day. It has been shown that, if you take vitamin C regularly, and then stop, you are more subject to viral infection. This seems like back-handed validation of the habit. Often, I'm the only one in our house (population currently five) who doesn't get whatever virus is going 'round.
Of course, if you take vitamin C, the B vitamins help it metabolize. I take a B-50 pill, as they're called, each day also. The B-complex vitamins have been shown to have other benefits, themselves, such as moderating mood swings (it's a therapy for autism).
Let's see,, what's next? Oh, yeah. Years ago I cut milk and eggs (except as incidental ingredients) from my diet, thinking food allergies might be causing the frequent nasal congestion I was experiencing Probably by coincidence, this worked. I still have a cup of yogurt every other day, for calcium (the yogurt micro-organisms have eaten most of the allergens). Cheese, in moderation, is also in the diet.
I had been taking a calcium pill, until recently. Recent studies have linked calcium supplements to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Since artificial intake of calcium (that is, simple calcium pills) has not been demonstrated as a defense against osteoporosis, why bother?
Did I mention the symptoms of arthritis I've experienced? A 1000-mg capsule of glucosamine completely deals with that. It's hard to find gluscosamine in such 'small' doses now, and not combined with condroitin, shark cartilage, whatever. But 'moderation in all things' seems sensible.
The next item on the list is a bit embarrassing. A couple of the 'New Age' communes have suggested that, if your hair is turning white, you may need to increase your consumption of zinc. This is, of course, snake oil, but what the heck? Zinc is supposed to have some good effect on the immune system, anyhow. Zinc goes down, every other day, with the iron. My hair, by the by, is still turning white (but much more slowly than some acquaintances).
There is, maybe, another reason for zinc supplements. My mother is taking a pill that is designed to slow the development of her moderate macular degeneration (eyes). One of its principle ingredients is zinc .
Just two more items, if you've made it this far. I know I need more fiber in my diet, despite following government guidelines on consumption of fruits, veggies, etc. There is a problem with a part of my alimentary system that I will not reveal here, but fiber supplements have helped.. The generic pysllium husk powder from the warehouse stores is inexpensive. No excessive flatulence, so far.
Many American men need more protein in their diet (if they have moved beyond meat-and-potatoes, I guess). It is hard to find convenient, portable vegetarian lunch items with much protein. That is, if you don't want to eat beans every day. So, each moring, I mix a measure of protein powder, with two teapoons of fiber supplements, in a glass of water or juice. El Cheapo tip: you can buy soluble soy protein, in bulk, in some natural-food stores.
So, there you have it: C, B, iron, zinc, glucosamine, fiber, and protein powder. I am a certified New Age pill popper.
An attentive reader might ask, at this points, "No vitamin D?" After all, the D supplement in our milk is missing in my diet. Well, supposedly, exposure to direct sunlight for a moderate period each day will allow your body to generate its own vitamin D. In my last blood work-up, though, the D level was down. My doctor prescribed D tabs, which I added to the above list.
I've been told, during the physical evaluation at the HMO, that not taking any prescribed medication is pretty good for my age. In that context, all those supplements are not expensive.
OOPS. Forgot probably the most closely-followed health revelation of our time: alcohol can be good for your heart! You know: studies have found that folks who drink regularly, in moderation, seem to have healthier hearts.
Where did they find these people? ONE drink, each day? There are plenty of people such as myself, who hardly touch alcohol, and have a low tolerance. On the other hand, I know several individuals whose doctors have told them to stop drinking a six-pack (or more) every afternoon.
Anyway, for me to down a beer, glass of wine, or shot of hard liquor each day, would be a gross increase in my alcohol consumption. Still, a health heart is important, especially since my dad's attack, so I tried a compromise. Every other day, I had one small drink.
What about baby aspirin therapy, to keep the blood thinner? Although some "experts" had opined that aspirin therapy might improve cardiac health for all middle-age men, the Mayo Clinic comes out on the side of caution. Only those with "increased risk" of heart problems, especially those who have already suffered an attack or stroke, should consider aspirin therapy. Still, I tried it.
Now, NO MORE REGULAR BEER OR ASPIRIN. My gums started to bleed. Guess my blood is thin enough.
I began wearing reading glasses about eight years ago. I had been taking a class on Physiology, and the instructor was discussing eye conditions. He said that the condition of far-sightedness (opposite of near-sightedness) was actually rare.
Yours truly asked for clarification. I noted that I still saw things clearly at a distance, but reading was getting a little fuzzy. Was this 'far-sightedness'? Of course not; he replied that this was 'presbyopia'.
Presbyopia, Latin for 'old eyes', is what those of us who use reading glasses have. The lenses of the eyes, so flexible and easily focused in our youth, get stiff with age. After awhile, our eye muscle can no longer focus the nearby images (e.g. print) on our retinas.
This condition, for me, is closely linked to the level of ambient lighting. Eating lunch, outside in daylight, I can still read normal-sized print without the reading glasses which are so necessary, indoors.
I am convinced that your eyes can be exercised in such a way as to, if not prevent, at least ameliorate the effects of the hardening of the eyes' lenses.
Various products are marketed for this purpose. The basic approach is "focus near, focus far'. That is to say, take some time each day to focus your eye on something nearby, then something further away. Repeat this for many repetitions. Who knows what affect this has, on either the muscles of the eye, the shape of the eye, whatever? As I say, I can still read in daylight, without glasses.
My current practice is utter simplicity: I wear bifocals eight hours each weekday. As related earlier, I make my living as a machinist. Some of what we do (mostly, measuring parts with precision instruments) requires good close-up vision. Some of the job requires focusing on more distant objects, such as the controls of the machine tools. My eyes thus switch back and forth from the near (with the small lens of the eyeglasses) to the far (with the balance of the eyeglasses).
It is, of course, the most far-flung supposition to suggest that the exercise that my eyes are receiving is slowing the deterioration of my vision. Sounds good, though. My reading glasses are curently +2.25. By the way, 99-cent stores (c.
?) have quite adequate reading glasses.
This is not an personal health tip. It has to do with the health of the entire population.
Back in the 1970's, I worked for several years at the US Steel South Works mill, in Chicago. I was a low-level activist in the Steelworkers Union. They sent me to a hearing where the Environmental Protection Agency was going to summarize the results of some studies that the EPA had done, on carbon-monoxide emmisions from the mill.
CO was known to us steelworkers as a deadly hazard. The two main things that make it dangerous are (1) it is a heavy component of the atmosphere, so it tends to pool in low places, and (2) the body can't distinguish it easily from pure oxygen. If you are breathing it in concentrated amounts, the blood going to your brain will be full of it, and the brain will shut down. Lying unconscious in a CO environment, your entire body will also shut down. This has happened to numerous steelworkers, especially those working in the obsolete blast furnaces that helped make the U.S. steel industry non-competitive. While I was at South Works, at least a couple of guys were found unconscious (but thankfully, not dead) in a tunnel leading from the furnace.
Why is this important to your health, assuming you are not a steelworker (these days, in the U.S. a pretty safe assumption)? Let me tell you about the findings of the EPA study I mentioned, above: the highest levels of CO in the air, by far, were found, not in the immediate vicinity of the steel mill, but a mile or more away, in a residential neighborhood that was located under one of Chicago's elevated motorways. The researchers found CO levels that were four times what OSHA was allowing for workplace exposure. Their conclusion was that the steel mill was not such a big problem.
I don't recall that they, themselves , blamed the vehicle emissions for the dangerous atmosphere that these Chicagoans were living in. It seemed a logical conclusion to me.
Ever since, I have been aghast at these findings. So, if we live in a low area in the neighborhood of considerable vehicle traffic, are we, ipso facto, breathing elevated levels of CO? Are our brains trying to operate on fakie oxygen?
It has become a big issue to get carbon-monoxide detectors to discover whether the basement of your house is filling with CO from 'bad soil'. Oh, did I mention that it is colorless and odorless? I think it is more likely that excess CO, where found, is that element of the ever-present smog that is most heavy, thus most likely to pool in your basement.
I work in a scientific environment, and I have asked indivduals who should know (such as those specializing in carbon Di-oxide in the atmosphere), whether generalized exposure to CO in our environment is on anyone's radar screen. So far, no alarm. I also did a haphazard Web search, with little result.
You realize this is the stuff of a gigantic conspiracy theory. Exposure to excess CO compromises mental activity in many Americans, lowers academic performance, effects mood......
I just throw this out as food for thought. Anyone with more scientific data on this issue should be creating a movement. Contact me; I'm no leader, but I could be a troop.
For myself, I have resolved to never inhabit a house or apartment that is compromised by its location, vis-a-vis nearby traffic. We currently live at the top of a hill, and prevailing winds blow towards the nearest arterial avenue.
No, I don't seem to have these. But I work with a guy who doesn't have one. That's because he was diagnosed, maybe six years ago, with prostate cancer. It wasn't one of those slow-growing types that will only kill you after you're already dead. The best approach, he was told, was just to take it out. So they did.
He's doing pretty well, now. Still, there are some difficulties associated with not having a prostate, which any adult who's been paying attention knows about. And, he's fond of telling me just how high a percentage of older men will have some type of problem with this organ. As it happens, the natural father of my stepkids is battling prostate cancer, right now.
Do I have any advice? Well, the experts recently pointed out that the prostate is fond of selenium, one of those trace elements that we probably are deficient in. One thing that has selenium is the Brazil nut. They suggested that eating two Brazil nuts each day might give some protection from prostate problems. Unfortunately, this was published before their controlled study was complete, which didn't support their recommendation. I do have one Brazil nut each day, just on the off chance.
A swollen prostate is linked to problems with urination, but this isn't because the gland has any direct involvement in urinating. It just happens to be sort of wrapped around the urethra, which does control the flow. Mostly, the prostate is responsibile for making part of the fluid that we ejaculate during sex.
What if we aren't engaged in sexual activity? From a course in human sexuality I a few years back, I learned that, if there is no other debilitating physical condition, our bodies can continue to enjoy intercourse into our seventies. Of course, just because its physically possible, doesn't mean it's happening, for any of a myriad of reasons.
A number of cultures consider this unhealthy for the man. Atrophy. That's what happens to other parts of our bodies, if they don't get used. It seems logical to suppose that this could also happen to our prostate gland, with disuse.
I was certain that I remembered that a Surgeon General of the U.S. had, at one time, suggested masturbation as a good thing to delay prostate problems. This is one time when I did active Web research for this blog, and I couldn't find a citation. Two Surgeon Generals, have, though, come out in favor of masturbation. The first,, because the AIDS epidemic was just getting publicity, and he thought that people might be able to avoid the widespread transmission of the disease (or any STD) by relieving their own sexual tensions. The second S.G. was all for including masturbation in the sex education curriculum in the schools. She resigned, soon after this statement.
I haven't found any medical support, yet, for the idea that men might keep their prostates healthy through at least occasional masturbation. I certainly would not recommend it as an alternative to taking care of your responsibility to a wife or other life partner. But, it seems reasonable to suppose, as I have said, that an organ that doesn't get utilized, might just sit there and get mushy.
Let me summarize what I'm going to lay on you, here: eat more nuts.
Long life is less important to me, as a health issue, than enjoying the life we are experiencing, in the moment. Still, if life is okay, why not do what we can to extend it?
A couple of years back, National Geographic Magazine (c) published an article on three communities on our globe, in which the population enjoyed longer-than-average life spans. That is to say, living to 100 years was not unusual.
One community was a region in a mountainous rural part of Greece. The people ate fresh food they raised themselves, breathed unpolluted air, and generally led physically challenging lives doing things such as herding goats up and down mountains. Conclusions: eat healthy, breathe clean air, and get plenty of exercise. No news, there.
A second place of long life was the Japanese section of Okinawa. The folks there ate a lot of fish and fresh produce, and prided themselves on keeping active in recreational sports, well into old age. Lesson: eat healthy, and don't stop moving. Not news.
The third community? Loma Portal, California. This neighborhood was founded by a group of Seventh-Day Adventists, and mostly that's who lives there. The Adventist church encourages vegetarianism, though it apparently isn't required of members. The only things the author could parse out of their lifestyles were: many of them spent a significant time in service to community and church, and they seemed to eat a lot of nuts.
I think service to others is a very commendable thing, and I have (for long periods of my life) been active in social movements and/or church. But it's unlikely that anyone will decide to get 'outside themselves' as a health measure. It's a bit deeper than that. But anyone can eat nuts. So, besides the two Brazil nuts, I eat a handful of peanuts every day. Peanuts are cheap, although my wife points out that, technically, they are a legume rather than a nut. I wonder if they know that, in Loma Portal. That is, actually, an area where they harvest a whole lot of almonds.
GNASHING OF TEETH
My first wife, on our first date, told me that she was relieved to find that I didn't have false teeth.
My teeth are at pretty much the same height, all along the rows. That is to say, they look like dentures used to, before the manufacturers realized that it might be politic if, for example, the canines were a bit longer.
The cause of natural teeth being even, as those of you who share this condition know, is braxism. That is the unconscious habit of gritting or grinding your teeth. Sort of like 'restless leg syndrome', I guess, in another guise. It usually happens in the depths of sleep. It doesn't disturb your sleep, necessarily, but it might disturb a bed partner.
I asked the dentist years ago, whether it might be good to wear some sort of protective mouth guard at night. My dentists have always been hesitant to recommend such a move. The professional wisdom appears to be that the patient will stop, once the teeth have been worn down to the nerves.
This is a poor approach. My current wife, after waking to the sound of my tooth-gnashing too often, bought me a mouth guard.
Now, my dentist insists that I continue to wear this device. It became apparent to him that my jaw muscles were over-developed from the braxism, and that without the nightly mouth-guard, I'd just keep destroying my teeth.
If you are a 'braxist', then, I'd recommend investing in a night-time oral protective device. It is easy to get used to, and there are a couple of (slightly different) products on the market.
DON'T WASH YOUR FACE WITH SOAP
In the late 1960's, a book was published entitled "Our Bodies, Ourselves." It was a compilation of health and 'beauty' advice for women, and an outgrowth of the women's lib movement.
Having a wife who was majorly into women's rights, I read much of this tome. Much of the content was a reaction to the merry-go-round of traditional cosmetic flimfam being foisted on American womanhood. Stuff was marketed that would make your skin less oily, then more stuff that would restore the 'natural' oils to your dry skin.
So, said the books' authors, never wash your face with soap. The skin's natural oils were valuable in protecting the outer layers of facial skin from damage. Just use water.
This makes sense. For men, as well as women.
GET A (MEANINGFUL) LIFE
There are certain social and attitudinal things that have, seems to me, a correlation with both good and healthy life.
E.g., having a friend or two to work with can make an exercise program easier and more effective (it's easier to push yourself when you're not alone). In general, having friends and family to go though life with can be beneficial, such as when dealing with health challenges.
It is needful to point this out, when dealing with American males. Studies indicate that many of us don't take the time to maintain close friendships.
Again, I will demonstrate this truism with the negative side. Those folks who are addicted to substance abuse (drinking, drugs, smoking, whatever) are advised to find a new circle of friends. All positive lifestyle changes are more difficult, if your social environment works against you.
I have read the results of several studies, dealing with how well individuals recover from, say, difficult surgery, or the threat of cancer. A positive factor always seems to be having friends and family to cheer you on.
Another helpful attribute is a positive self-image. Some surgeons have written books about this. If you are self-assertive, strive to think positive, that sort of thing, you recover more quickly and are likely to have a better long-term outlook.
Can you change your personality? In the middle of a health crisis might not be the most realistic time to deal with a lack of positive self-image. If you work at it now, maybe it could help, later.
I am not just self-confident. I am arrogant. I pray about this; still my health also seems relatively good.
A third factor is religious faith. Researchers with a scientific agenda, cannot deny the correlation between being a 'believer' and good health outcomes.
Certainly, believers die. Some of us are less worried about death, believing in the possibility of an
'afterlife'. But just as certainly, believers can experience miracle cures and unexplained remissions.
On a more mundane level, if you believe in something that makes life seem meaningful, you seem to hold on to life more enthusiastically. Maybe just as important, you can exit life with more dignity.
In the interest of honesty, I have to disclose something that seems to be an exception to the rule. My own father, who I always considered a grand guy and great dad, was not a religious believer. Yet, at the end of his life, dying of congestive heart failure, and relying on me to help with the most basic things, he seemed full of dignity. All I can say is, who are we to judge one another?
EVERYTHING IN moderation
If you have read this blog to this point (poor reader), you realize that I've done many little things to tweak my existence to the healthy side. I feel, though, that I haven't been a victim of fad, or that any of these healthy habits have interfered with work or family relations.This has not always been the case. A Baby Boomer, I let my life be swept up by the '60's. Things got pretty radical. Family, friendship, and self-preservation got short shrift.
It's true that many good activities can sweep one up in enthusiastic response. Also, some persons seem born with an excessive energy that can only be expressed in dramatic fashion.
Still, a moderate lifestyle seems (from my older perspective) to have merit. I think that Confucius (or whoever first intoned this moderation thing) might be applied to healthy life practices.
How about a 'for example'? One of my bicycling buddies is a recovering alcoholic. Other (more positive) aspects of his life seem to reflect an addictive tendency. Early in our bicycling adventures, he was eager for us to sign up for a fifty-miler in the local mountains. "Look," he said, "the last twenty miles are mostly downhill." I had to gently point out that this meant that the first thirty miles were mostly uphill. At altitude. We were SO not trained for this.
What's wrong with getting a little crazy like this? In the case of an exercise program, it can lead to injuries or fatigue that totally puts you on the sideline for awhile. In the case of a healthy diet, it can result in following some unproductive fad. It's quite possible that blue-green algae is a wonderful thing to consume. I think it is certain that, if you eat too much of it, your health will suffer.
Have you noticed that those professionals who advocate regular exercise ( or any particular exercise) always add, "start slowly"? They have seen too many people burn-out or crash.
I am by no means claiming that my own moderate approach (semi-vegetarianism, for instance) is the only pathway to good health. I'm only saying, use your brain and good judgement.
If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.