I have mixed feelings about AARP, the powerful lobbying group that has millions of members, aged 50 and older.
AARP has seemingly yet to come across a big government program it hasn’t liked. But its position, reasonably enough, is that you have been forced to pay into entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare your whole life. So at this point, you need to make the most of those benefits—until things change, if ever.
And I do like how AARP offers science-based recommendations to its members.
That’s why I was intrigued when the March issue of the AARP Bulletin listed the organization’s top ways to improve longevity. I agree with most of these natural, common-sense approaches. But I also have some additions and clarifications, based on the latest science.
So I’ve come up with a Longevity List of my own. Along with eating a balanced, Mediterranean-style diet and getting regular, moderate exercise, here are my “Sweet 16” highly effective, scientifically demonstrated steps you can take to naturally increase your lifespan…starting today.
The supplement you can’t afford not to take…and the drug you should avoid at all costs
- Stay vital with vitamin D. It is no surprise that No. 1 on my list is getting more vitamin D. This wonder vitamin can help protect you against a whole host of chronic, age-related illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Of course, you can generate your own D from sun exposure, but that’s usually only adequate in the spring and summer for most Americans. Especially if you’re older, you should consider supplementation. Based on the latest science, I recommend 10,000 IU of vitamin D every day.
- Ditch the pain pills. Politicians across the country are finally raising the alarm about what I have been warning against for years—the epidemic regarding abuse of prescription and illegal opiate painkillers. These drugs are a leading cause of the unprecedented increase in death rates, specifically among (for the first time in history for any population group) middle-aged, middle-class white Americans.
But ironically, many of these same politicians are in favor of legalizing marijuana, which many experts in law enforcement insist is a gateway drug to more serious drug abuse—like opiate painkillers!
And if that weren’t bad enough, the FDA reported last year that common over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can increase your risk of heart attack and strokes—even after just a few weeks of use.1 And the risk increases the longer you take these NSAIDs.
So now that we’ve established the very real, very fatal dangers of pain pills—both prescription and over the counter—what are you supposed to do if you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from occasional or chronic pain?
The good news is there are effective ways to safely and naturally alleviate pain. I discuss them in my Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol (for more information or to enroll call 1-866-747-9421 and ask for order code EOV3T901).
Simple diet modifications make a big difference
- Stay away from the sweet stuff. It shouldn’t be any news to my readers that sugar kills. More than any other food or beverage ingredient you ingest.
This metabolic poison is a major culprit behind inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
That’s why I recommend you avoid anything that contains cane or table sugar (sucrose). But don’t be afraid of fructose—the natural sugar in fruits. Which leads me to…
- Go bananas for fruit. Everyone from your mother to your doctor tells you to eat your veggies. But there’s been a “false flag” when it comes to fruit—supposedly due to the presence of fructose, even though this natural fruit sugar in the food matrix doesn’t have the metabolic hazards that table sugar does.
For a century now, studies how shown both fruits and vegetables are associated with significantly reduced risks of chronic diseases. But it’s best for the fruit you eat to be fully ripe.
Letting fruits ripen at room temperature allows them to develop higher levels of disease-fighting nutrients and other constituents. And it helps keep the fruit out where you can see it, as a reminder to eat it anytime, and without having to bite into the cold. But…
- Don’t be afraid to freeze. When your favorite healthy fruits and vegetables are out of season, frozen foods can be a sound option.
In fact, frozen foods may actually keep their nutritional value better than fresh produce. But there is a “catch”: the produce must be frozen within a very specific window.
British researchers found that fresh produce can begin to lose nutrients within three days of being picked.2 But if fruits and vegetables are flash frozen immediately after they’re picked, they can retain their full nutrient composition. In fact, several studies have even found that frozen fruits and vegetables have higher vitamin C than fresh ones. I suspect that freezing causes loss of some moisture content, and the frozen produce has more concentrated vitamins by weight of water content.
Interestingly enough, the concept of flash freezing was actually pioneered nearly a century ago in my hometown near Gloucester, MA, by Clarence Birdseye. His technique was originally used for loads of fresh-caught fish brought into the harbor every day. His innate curiosity led him to use this technique on fruits and vegetables. Thanks to him, we can eat healthily year-round!
- Put your fork down. Eating less is some of the best dietary advice I can give you.
And I’m not just talking about managing your weight. Studies from around the world show that stopping eating when you feel about 80% full helps you live longer—even past age 100. How? Researchers believe that cutting calories reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance—which, of course, can substantially reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
But how can you tell when you’re 80% full? Eat slowly, and choose foods with bulk, like whole fruits and vegetables, and fish, that make you feel fuller sooner.
Toast to your health with these three beverage tips
- Drink up—at the cellular level. Of course, there’s nothing more fundamental to good health than staying adequately hydrated. But hydration “experts” don’t have the full story on how to stay hydrated, as I have been reporting for five years now.
That’s why I recommend you drink beverages that contain powdered extracts of rooibos, which I call aspal, or South African red bush. This herb helps hydrate you at the cellular level—which is key for the proper function of every cell in your body.
- Have an extra cup of joe. As I have reported before, the benefits of coffee consumption are so strong that researchers are now resorting to dissecting the effect of coffee on different parts of different organs. But the message is the same no matter how you parse it: Drinking three or four cups of coffee a day helps reduce your risk of cancer, dementia, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
In fact, a new, 16-year study of more than half a million people in 10 European countries found that men who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had 12% less risk of dying from any cause, compared to non-coffee drinkers. And women had 7% less risk.3
And in an earlier study of 200,000 American men and women, my colleague, Walter Willett, found that those who drank three to five cups of java per day had a 15% lower risk of dying compared to their non-coffee-drinking counterparts.4
Worried the caffeine in coffee will give you the jitters? Researchers report that coffee’s health effects are due to the plant’s bean itself rather than the caffeine. In other words, you’ll get benefits even if you drink naturally processed decaf.
And remember, one cup of coffee is 8 ounces. Keep in mind that when you order a “grande,” you are getting 16 ounces, or two cups. Or you can just brew your coffee at home and save the time, travel, cost, and barista attitude (and possibly bacterial contamination as well).
- Opt for full-fat dairy. I’ve written often about how fat gets a bad rap. Which is ridiculous, of course. We need fat to generate energy—including at a cellular level. And it’s vital for proper function of our brains and nerves, and to help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
So it makes sense that a variety of studies show that drinking whole, full-fat dairy (as opposed to low-fat dairy, or skim milk) can help prevent diseases that significantly impact your lifespan.
A study (conducted by my prolific colleague Dr. Willett) involved 3,333 men and women, and found that those who ate full-fat dairy, including milk, had a 50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.6
In another study from Sweden, researchers tracked the dairy consumption of about 3,500 men, ages 40 to 60, for 12 years. The researchers found that the men who consumed full-fat milk, butter, and cream were significantly less likely to become obese than men who rarely or never ate full-fat dairy.7
The longevity booster so simple, you can do it in your sleep—literally
- Get more than 6 hours of shut-eye a night. When it comes to sleep, six seems to be the magic minimum number.
A review of 15 studies, involving nearly 475,000 men and women, found that people who slept less than six hours a night were 12% more likely to die from all causes than people who got more shuteye.8
This might not seem like a big deal until you consider this: A 2014 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than a third (35 percent) of American adults get six or fewer hours of sleep a night.9
For tips on how to how to get a good night’s rest, check out my January 17 Daily Dispatch, titled, “5 sure-fire tips to improve sleep,” at www.DrMicozzi.com (click on the “Daily Dispatch” tab in the top menu).
Socialize your way to a longer life
- Take a walk (down the aisle). A number of studies show that getting—and staying—married can improve longevity. Especially in men.
In fact, the prestigious, long-term Framingham Heart Study found a 46% lower risk of death in married men compared to never-married men—even after taking major cardiovascular disease risk factors like age, body fat, smoking, blood pressure, and diabetes into account.10
Why? Well, among other things, marriage can help prevent loneliness, which leads me to…
- Make new friends—and keep the old. In a November 2016 Daily Dispatch (titled, “The surprising health risk factor deadlier than obesity”), I reported about a research review of more than 180,000 men and women that found that loneliness and social isolation increased the risk of heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%.
Other research shows that lack of social interactions can weaken the immune system and raise blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
And one review of 148 studies, involving almost 310,000 men and women, found that having ties to friends and family—including watching children and grandchildren—can cut your risk of dying in half.11
Even some “face time” on Facebook can help you live a surprising 14% longer, as long as it doesn’t supplant real interactions in person (as I reported in the February 3 Daily Dispatch: “Surprising connection found between online ‘friends’ and longevity”).
And don’t forget furry friends. A variety of studies show that caring for a pet—particularly a dog—can lower your stress levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and dementia.
- Keep the faith. Embracing your faith is another community activity, so it’s not surprising that research shows that attending religious services can help you live substantially longer, not to mention the spiritual benefits.
A recent study examined data from the Nurses’ Health Study, pioneered by Walt Willett at Harvard (again), found that women who attended religious services more than once a week were 33% less likely to die from any cause compared to their less-religious peers.12
And other research shows that attending weekly religious services can increase longevity in men and women by anywhere from four to
- Light the way. Falls are a major source of deaths.
And even if you survive a fall, but break a hip, research shows that mortality is markedly elevated over the next six months to one year—especially for men.13
So it makes sense that getting around safely in your home (where you typically spend the most time) is key to living longer.
That means having light bulbs that safely illuminate rooms, hallways, stairways, and closets. But sadly, the failed “long life” light bulbs mandated by the federal government in recent years don’t light areas until after they have “warmed up.” By which point you’ve probably already left the dimly lit, unsafe hallway, or stairway.
Of course, you can leave these bulbs on longer, or all of the time, but that causes you to use more electricity, not save it.
I once had to listen to some health bureaucrat from an international agency patiently explain that you simply need to plan ahead, every trip inside your home, and turn on the lights before you need them. But how does that work to save energy and “save the planet”?
Bottom line: They may mean “long life” for these dim bulbs (and long careers for the dim bulbs in the government bureaucracy), but they may not mean long life for you, the consumer.
Especially, because some of these “energy-saving” bulbs contain toxic mercury that the government forbids you to dispose. So once those “long life” bulbs actually burn out, you can never get rid of them.
You don’t really want your light bulbs to outlast you. Hopefully some sanity will be restored to these kinds of ridiculous regulations soon.
- Watch what’s right under your feet. Throw rugs are one of the top risks for slips and falls, sending about 38,000 older Americans to the hospital every year.14
If you must have rugs, put rubber mats underneath them. This will prolong the life of the rug, in addition to yours.
Better yet, banish rugs in favor of natural wood, tile, or stone floors. Wall-to-wall carpeting may help prevent falls, but it’s a key source of dirt, allergens, pollutants, and toxic chemicals that disperse throughout your home.
- Stay out of hospitals. Even conservative estimates, such as a 2016 study from Johns Hopkins, find that a quarter million deaths occur annually in hospitals from medical mistakes, wrong diagnoses, poor practice standards, and drug errors.15 This makes the modern U.S. hospital one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
In fact, some years back, while working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I performed an analysis for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, which then appeared as an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica, about U.S. military medicine during the Gulf War. I found that over the course of a year, the average American had a greater chance of dying from medical causes in a hospital than soldiers had of dying in combat zones in a war!
If you must go to the hospital, at least you are now out of the extreme danger zone in July and August. During these months, new, inexperienced physicians join the hospital staff, all at the same time. Meanwhile, senior doctors and other hospital staff schedule long summer vacations.
The harmful effects of these staffing disruptions on the well-being of patients even has a name—the “July effect,” as I reported in the June issue of Insider’s Cures. And I should know—it happened to my mother just last July 2016.
The sad fact is there is no real reason for doing things this way, except for the convenience of outdated academic schedules and traditions of medical training dating back to the 19th century.
Finally, one of the best ways to improve your health and well-being is to keep up to date on the latest scientific research and health information.
That’s what you are doing right now—and can continue doing every month with Insiders’ Cures…and every day with my Daily Dispatch. (If you’re not already receiving my Daily Dispatch emails, you can sign up on the home page of my website, www.DrMicozzi.com.)
1U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2015). FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm451800.htm
2Environmental Quality and Food Safety Research Unit; Department of Biological Sciences at University of Chester. “Antioxidants in Fresh and Frozen Fruit and Vegetables: Impact Study of Varying Storage Conditions.” Retrieved from: ttp://bfff.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Leatherhead-Chester-Antioxidant-Reports-2013.pdf
3“Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European Countries: A Multinational Cohort Study.” Ann Intern Med. 2017 Jul 11. [Epub ahead of print].
4“Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in 3 Large Prospective Cohorts.” Circulation. 2015 Dec 15;132(24):2305-15.
5“Intake of dairy foods and risk of Parkinson disease.” Neurology. 2017 Jul 4;89(1):46-52.
6“Circulating Biomarkers of Dairy Fat and Risk of Incident Diabetes Mellitus Among US Men and Women in Two Large Prospective Cohorts.” Circulation. 2016;CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018410.
7“High dairy fat intake related to less central obesity: a male cohort study with 12 years’ follow-up.” Scand J Prim Health Care. 2013 Jun;31(2):89-94.
8“Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies.” Eur Heart J. 2011 Jun;32(12):1484-92.
9American Heart Association. “Study sounds the snooze alarm for people with metabolic syndrome. 24 May 2017. http://news.heart.org/study-sounds-the-snooze-alarm-for-people-with-metabolic-syndrome/
10“Cardiovascular risk factors. Insights from Framingham Heart Study.” Rev Esp Cardiol. 2008 Mar;61(3):299-310.
11“Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review.” PLoS Med. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316.
12“Association of Religious Service Attendance With Mortality Among Women.” JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(6):777-785.
13“The 1-Year Mortality of Patients Treated in a Hip Fracture Program for Elders.” Geriatr Orthop Surg Rehabil. 2010 Sep; 1(1): 6–14.
14“Slipping and tripping: fall injuries in adults associated with rugs and carpets.” J Inj Violence Res. 2013 Jan; 5(1): 61–69.
15“Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US.” BMJ 2016;353:i2139.