[Paleopsych] Gerontology Research Group: Longevity for Dummies: How to Live Longer Than You Deserve

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Longevity for Dummies: How to Live Longer Than You Deserve
From: "L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D." <scoles at ucla.edu>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2005 22:46:21 -0800

To Members and Friends of the Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group:

Given that your parents have already decided your genomic fate, here's the 
humorous "Coles List" of 12 life-style rules to maximize your remaining 
longevity... -- Steve Coles

1. Never smoke cigarettes, a pipe, or cigars (even under special circumstances 
like when a proud new father hands out cigars for free). Do your best to avoid 
2nd-hand smoke.  I have held the black-stained lungs of smokers in my hands 
during surgery.  They look really ugly.  (Healthy lungs are pink.)  Also, it 
has not escaped our notice that many serious fires, in which innocent people 
are burned to death in a blazing building, are started by tobacco smoking and 
matches when the smoker falls asleep (often because they're dead drunk).

2. Eat a diet high in roughage: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in 
saturated fats.  Avoid trans-fats.  Eat fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) [4 - 5] x 
per week. Eat unsalted nuts. Consciously decrease salt intake to as close to 
zero as possible. Beverages: Make sure you have an adequate fluid intake 
whenever sweating profusely (with electrolytes added as needed). Drink one cup 
of coffee in the morning. Drink one cup of green tea at some point during the 
day. Avoid carbonated sodas.  Drink milk with meals;  Note: Boba Tea is not a 
drink, but a meal with lots of calories. EtOH: Drink 1 full glass of red (or 
white) wine of your choice (with a meal) every day, unless you've already had 
your quota of something stronger (gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, etc.).  Never drink 
more than two shots of alcohol at any one sitting.  A DUI looks terrible on 
your driving record, but late night accidents on the freeway may shorten one's 
life as much as an intentional suicide.

3. Supplements: If I could take only four supplements a day, here's what they'd 
be... (a) Standard Multi, with no iron; (b) Fish Oil caps x 2; (c) Co-Q10; (d) 
Magnesium. (See our Bridge Plan on this webpage for recommended doses and 
additional supplements that are good to have, but not really essential.)  Take 
an Aspirin every day if over 60.  Take Melatonin [1-3] mg each night before 
bedtime if over 40.

4. Maintain a healthy weight.  Check your BMI.  Diet as necessary, until you 
maintain a stable weight for several years.  (Prime Minister Sharon of Israel 
was looking for a stroke sooner or later at 350 pounds, no matter what else he 
did.)  Remember that our bodies were tuned for our ancestors who had to chase 
after their food rather than merely walk a few steps to the refrigerator during 
a TV-commercial break.

5. Exercise vigorously 1/2-hour per day: If you don't sweat, you're not cutting 
it.  Lift small weights (10#) with [40-50] reps per type of lift. When 
shopping, park far away from the store in a parking lot (on purpose) and slowly 
jog to the store.  If it's only one floor up, use the stairs, not the elevator. 
Never run a marathon; it's too tough on the joints. Never play in competitive 
team sports.  Professional athletes don't live longer than anyone else, and 
accumulated micro-trauma does build up. Inactivity (being a cough potato eating 
pizza and potato chips, while watching television for hours on end) leads to 
insulin insensitivity or Type-2 Diabetes, Cancer, turns your muscles to Jell-O 
(frailty and sarcopenia) and your brain to mush (short-term memory loss). 
Heart disease increases; the rate of strokes (undetectable microTIA's) 
increases; bones undergo osteoporosis and more easily fracture if you fall 
accidentally; depression increases; upper respiratory tract infections 
increase; urinary tract infections increase; sexual functions rust out while 
libido sags -- a tragic double hit.  So, probably, the single most important 
thing you can do for maximizing longevity is to get the right level of physical 
activity in one's life.

6.  Keep your immune system in tip-top shape.  It is a precious invisible 
asset, since it protects you from the ceaseless assault of pathogenic microbes: 
viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeast, amoebas, helminths, and assorted parasites 
carried by all types of vectors including insects (mosquitos, spiders, ticks) 
and animal hosts, or poorly-cooked meat, spoiled food, or water fouled by 
sewage. (If you don't believe me, take a course called Medical Microbiology 101 
just for fun, to learn about the extraordinary range of invisible creatures 
that silently crawl over your skin without your knowledge or permission. When 
revealed by an electron microscope, they're more varied than any Hollywood 
horror movie you've ever seen in your lifetime.)

7. Decrease Stress (e.g., elevated Cortisol in your blood for long periods due 
to continuous arguments with your spouse/significant-other, grief over the 
death of a loved one, loss of a job that you really liked, long commutes every 
day in heavy traffic; you know what I mean.) There are lots of unconscious 
stress conditions that should be identified early by the proper professional: 
marriage counselor, divorce lawyer, psychiatrist, as needed, but you must act 
to take advantage of them and not stay in an abusive relationship for very 
long, or your body will suffer the corrosive effects of chronically-elevated 
cortisol (that is trying to get you to "fight or flee" in the short term, but 
does you no good over the long term).  Try to stay out of debt. Never gamble 
more than you can afford to lose in a single day.  Never ever gamble at home on 
the Internet using a credit card.  Stay away from addictive drugs at all costs. 
Pain meds are appropriate for people who are really handicapped, at the end of 
life, or with a chronic condition.  Habitual crystal meth at rave parties is 
really going to burn you out fast, even if only indulged in on weekends. Never 
keep a loaded gun in your house. Never drive a car too fast under any 
circumstances unless you're in a chase scene in a movie where all contingencies 
have been premeditated.  Never pay attention to the nut-case who honks his horn 
in back of you while in heavy traffic.  Road rage kills even innocent 
bystanders. Advice for physicians: If you're ever paged on an airplane's PA 
system "Is there a doctor on-board?"  Don't raise your hand or press your call 
button.  There's very little that you can do anyway.  Never take a vacation at 
a place where you'll need to take another vacation as soon as you get back. 
Stay away from exotic travel locals or political hot-spots like Kabul or 
Baghdad.  Behave yourself at Christmas parties.  Spiritual: Go to the church, 
synagog, or mosque of your choice at least three or four times a year, so the 
elders know what you look like.  It may come in handy some day.  Intellectual 
stimulation: Keep your mind active. Solve puzzles, play chess, checkers, cards, 
computer games, whatever as a way to keep nimble.  Play an instrument; listen 
to good music.  Go to museums, go to movies, read a good newspaper every day, 
watch the History Channel from time to time.  Get a job that you like. Work for 
a charitable organization in your spare time. Teach children or become a 
mentor. Adopt a pet (cats, dogs, tropical fish, whatever).  Raise children. 
Take time to smell the roses.

8. Get 7+ hrs. sleep qhs.  Try to get up on Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays at 
the same time as normal for a weekday.

9. Germs and Oral Hygiene: Wash hands several times per day;  shower twice a 
day; use mouth wash four or five times throughout the day; brush teeth after 
every meal (when at home); use dental floss once a day; get a dental hygienist 
to clean your teeth professionally twice a year.

10. Engage in sex as often as possible, but always with a willing partner and 
obviously one who is STD(-), especially HIV(-).  If you're married, avoid extra 
marital relationships (otherwise known as "adultery"), if possible.  It's the 
cover-ups that get you into more trouble later. Standard adult pornography 
works for most people, but child pornography, of any sort, is absolutely 
forbidden.  Masturbate when alone for a long period of time to prevent rust 

11. If > 50 yo, get regular screening by a medial lab every year (Remember that 
the most common warning sign of a heart attack is death [secondary to an MI].) 
If your BP is too high (>140 and/or >90) you need to add some meds to your 
daily regimen... e.g., a beta blocker, an ACE Inhibitor, and/or a diuretic, 
under a doctor's supervision) to bring it down. Hypertension is a silent 
condition, and you won't know if you don't have it measured. If your 
Cholesterol is too high (>225), you ought to add a statin Rx.  Start with a 
generic first. Shop around until you find one that suits you, as you will be on 
it "for life."  Check your liver enzymes once a year. If your CBC counts are 
off, that will need to be fixed as well.

12. Men (and post-menopausal women) should donate blood regularly.  It's not 
just for the sake of the faceless people you may help along the way. It's for 
your own good, too.  Our blood-clotting machinery was tuned for a time when our 
hunter/gatherer ancestors got much more cuts and scrapes than we do in a modern 
civilization.  Quick clotting then is not compatible with maximizing your 
longevity today, as we get internal clotting problems instead.

         I put this quick list of 12 life-style interventions together in an 
hour or so.  If you knowingly fail to abide by any of the above rules and we 
find out, as a punishment, we'll send Martha Stewart to redecorate your house 
when you're not home.

Happy holidays,

Steve Coles

L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder
Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group
URL: http://www.grg.org
URL: http://www.bol.ucla.edu/~scoles
E-mail: scoles at ucla.edu

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