Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Three Tips for a Long Life
Fred (not his real name) is a bright, energetic, and optimistic 85 year old gentleman who lives every day to its fullest. Fifteen years ago he had heart bypass surgery. The surgery was successful, and he recovered quickly. Sadly, he spent the next ten years caring for his wife, who suffered a disabling stroke shortly after he returned home from the hospital. Fred never asked for help. He loved his wife dearly, and considered the role of caregiver to be not only his duty but also his privilege.
Now a widower, Fred lives an active life in a retirement community. He’s made lots of friends, and as one of only a handful of men, is amused to find himself in great demand. His heart consistently checks out healthy and strong, and his only real limitation is the arthritis that has caused his spine to bend, and his gait to slow.
The other day, while visiting me in the office, Fred told me that he has every intention of living at least 10 more years. His question: What three things can I do to give myself the best chance of making it that far? Fred takes just a few prescription medications, and his blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are perfect, so I had nothing to add to his medical regimen. He always keeps his appointments with me and with his internist. Of course, he’s never smoked. My advice to Fred was simple and direct:
- Choose a heart smart diet: Enjoy a Mediterranean diet, with foods as close to their natural state as possible. Eat plenty of fish and greens, and avoid processed foods. By doing so, you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and probably dementia as well.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise reduces heart attack, stroke, and dementia risk, and may even help to generate more tissue in the memory center of the brain.
- Keep your mind active: People who maintain healthy relationships and enjoy mentally challenging activities such as bridge and Sudoku keep their brains firing on all cylinders.
If you want to live a long and healthy life, there is no simple supplement or quick fix to take the place of a lifetime of smart choices. Although it’s best to treat your body well no matter what your age, research shows that it’s never too late to start.
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