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Protecting Your Longevity against Heart Disease and Cancer:

Emphasis on Diet and Exercise

 

Introduction

     There are no guarantees in life as we all know. But a good path to increase one’s longevity is to follow a prudent plan of healthy choices in the areas of diet (what to eat) and how best to exercise (what to do, activity wise).

Now most adults already are aware of these general statements, but often are not sure of exactly what healthy choices are, or how best to exercise. The purpose of this Blog is to more narrowly get specific as to answers needed, at least based on current research.

But there are three main obstacles to one’s desire to live a long life. Genetics is one, that is, what we inherit in our genes. The second biggest obstacle to a long life is disease. Many diseases can affect our lives but the two primary ones are Heart Disease and Cancer. A third obstacle to our success lies with the advertising industry. This later obstacle will be taken up in the final comments section of this Blog.

The following data sheds light on these diseases and comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

 

Heart Disease in the United States

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.

These statistics relate to a barrage of specific ailments under the heading of heart disease. They include:

Americans at Risk for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. As an aside, the risk factor of smoking is something people can absolutely control, if they want to. Here are some sobering statistics related to smoking:

Cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year. Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause the following.

 

  • More than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke)
  • 278,544 deaths annually among men (including deaths from secondhand smoke) 201,773 deaths annually among women (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

 

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer in the United States

  • In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.
  • The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.
  • The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 cases).
  • The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 deaths).
  • Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (196.8 per 100,000 men and 139.6 per 100,000 women). When comparing groups based on race/ethnicity and sex, cancer mortality is highest in African American men (239.9 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (88.3 per 100,000).
  • In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.
  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data).
  • In 2017, an estimated 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease.
  • Estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase as the population ages and cancer prevalence increases. Costs are also likely to increase as new, and often more expensive, treatments are adopted as standards of care.

Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer Worldwide

  • Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide.
  • 57% of new cancer cases in 2012 occurred in less developed regions of the world that include Central America and parts of Africa and Asia; 65% of cancer deaths also occurred in these regions.
  • The number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.

 

Healthy Food Choices

I’m not here to describe different types of recipes that would make use of the kinds of foods I’m about to suggest for a healthy diet. Instead I’ve chosen to describe the best foods to do three things: (1) help to prevent heart disease, (2) cancer, and (3) promote healthy living in general.

I’d like to point out what I discovered while doing research for this blog. I learned early on that some of the recommended foods in one area were identical to other areas as well. Here are the results of my research:

 

To Prevent Heart Disease

 

Leafy Green Vegetables

Whole Grains

Berries

Avocados

Fatty Fish and Fish Oil

Walnuts

Beans

Dark Chocolate

Tomatoes

Almonds

Seeds

Garlic

Olive Oil

Edamame

Green Tea

 

To Prevent Cancer

 

Spinach

Turmeric

Tomatoes

Onions and Leeks

Garlic

Watercress

Green Tea

Salmon

Water or a once in a while beer

Brazil Nuts

Walnuts

Beans

Dark Chocolate

 

Foods for a Healthy Life

 

Brightly colored fruit and vegetables

Dark Chocolate

Oily Fish

Green Tea

Olive oil

Garlic

Cranberries

The Coffee Bean

 

Best Foods for Longevity

 

All of the Above

 

Exercise

The following article was published in the Business Insider by Erin Brodwin, September 8, 2018. It’s my opinion that this article will cover the best plan of exercise for most people. I’ve been employing both cardio and weight training for some time now. Detective Hunter (played by Fred Dyer) used to say on the TV show Hunter in the 1990s—“Works for me.”

“2 forms of exercise are the best way to stave off the effects of aging — here’s how to incorporate them into your life Sep 8, 2018, 8:19 PM

If you’re searching for an all-natural way to lift your mood, preserve muscle tone, and protect your brain against the decline that comes with aging, look no further than the closest mirror.

One of the most powerful means of reaping these benefits is exercise — and in many cases, you already have everything you need to get it: a body.

As we age, two forms of exercise are the most important to focus on: aerobic exercise, or cardio, which gets your heart pumping and sweat flowing, and strength training, which helps keep aging muscles from dwindling over time.

And most of the time, they don’t require any fancy equipment or expensive classes.

Read on to find out how to incorporate both forms of fitness into your life.

Aerobic exercises like jogging may help reverse some heart damage from normal aging.

Many of us become less active as we age. Over time, this can lead some muscles in the heart to stiffen.

One of those at-risk muscles is in the left chamber of the heart, a section that plays a key role in supplying the body with freshly oxygenated blood.

A recent study split 53 adults into two groups, one of which did two years of supervised exercise four to five days a week while the other did yoga and balance exercises.

At the end of the study, published in January in the journal Circulation, the higher-intensity exercisers had seen significant improvements in their heart’s performance, suggesting that some stiffening in the heart can be prevented or even reversed with regular cardio.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,” Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern who wrote the study, said in a statement.

Walking, another form of cardio, could help reduce the risk of heart failure — a key contributor to heart disease.

Intense cardio activities like running or jogging aren’t the only types of movement that may have protective benefits for the heart as we age.

In a study published in September in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers took a look at the physical activity levels of nearly 140,000 women aged 50 to 79 and found surprisingly salient links between walking and a reduced risk of heart failure, a condition when the heart stops pumping blood as it should. Heart failure is a key contributor to heart disease, the US’ leading cause of death.

For their work, the researchers looked at data from a 14-year women’s health study that documented heart failure and exercise levels.

When the researchers dove deeper, they found that the women who walked regularly were 25% less likely to experience heart failure than their peers who didn’t exercise. In fact, for every extra 30-45 minutes a woman walked, her risk of a failed heart dropped an average of 9%, the scientists concluded.

This is pretty important from a public health standpoint, given the poor prognosis this type of heart failure has once it’s present,” Michael La Monte, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health, said in a statement.”

 

Strength-training moves like tai chi are best for preserving muscles from age-related decline.

Strength or resistance training can take many forms, but it typically involves a series of movements geared toward building or preserving muscle.

Tai chi, the Chinese martial art that combines a series of flowing movements, is one form of strength training. The exercise is performed slowly and gently, with a high degree of focus and attention paid to breathing deeply.

Since practitioners go at their own pace, tai chi is accessible for a wide variety of people, regardless of age or fitness level.

Tai chi “is particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,” I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a recent health report called “Starting to Exercise.”

There may be a powerful link between regular cardio, like swimming and walking, and a lower risk of dementia.

A study published in March in the journal Neurology suggested that women who were physically fit in middle age were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia — defined as a decline in memory severe enough to interfere with daily life — than their peers who were only moderately fit.

Starting in 1968, neuroscientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied 191 women whose average age was 50. First, they assessed their cardiovascular health using a cycling test and grouped them into three categories: fit, moderately fit, or unfit.

Over the next four decades, the researchers regularly screened the women for dementia. In that time, 32% of the unfit women and a quarter of the moderately fit women were diagnosed with the condition, while the rate was only 5% among the fit women.

However, the research showed only a link between fitness and decreased dementia risk — it did not prove that one caused the other. Still, it builds on several other studies that suggest a powerful tie between exercise and brain health.

Activities like cycling may also protect your immune system from some age-related decline.

For a small study published in March in the journal Aging Cell, researchers looked at 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79, comparing them with 75 people of a similar age who rarely or never exercised.

The cyclists were found to have more muscle mass and strength and lower levels of body fat and cholesterol than the sedentary adults.

The athletic adults also appeared to have healthier and younger-looking immune systems, at least when it came to an organ called the thymus that’s responsible for generating key immune cells called T cells.

In healthy people, the thymus begins to shrink and T-cell production starts to drop off at around age 20.

The study found that the thymus glands of the older cyclists looked as if they belonged to younger people — their bodies were producing just as many T cells as would be expected for a young person.

“We now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier,” Janet Lord, the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said in a statement.

Other types of strength training can include moves like planks and squats.

At its most basic, strength training involves using weight to create resistance against the pull of gravity. That weight can be your own body, elastic bands, free weights like barbells or dumbbells, or weighted ankle cuffs.

Research suggests you can use heavy weights for fewer reps or lighter weights for more reps to build stronger, more sturdy muscles.

Chris Jordan, the exercise physiologist who came up with the viral seven-minute workout — officially called the Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout — told Business Insider that healthy adults should incorporate resistance training on two or three of the four or five days a week they work out.

Cardio workouts may also improve the look and feel of your skin.

A study from researchers at McMaster University found that people over 40 who regularly did cardio tended to have healthier skin than their sedentary peers. The overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was more comparable to that of 20- to 30-year-olds.

It’s not yet clear why our workouts appear to play a role in skin health, but the researchers found elevated levels of a substance critical to cell health called IL-15 in skin samples of participants after exercise — perhaps shedding light on why cardio can improve the look of our skin.

Aerobic workouts may guard against age-related decline because of reduced brain connectivity.

As we age, the brain — like any other organ — begins to work less efficiently, so signs of decline start to surface. Our memory might not be quite as sharp as it once was, for example.

But older people who develop Alzheimer’s disease often first enter a stage known as mild cognitive impairment, which involves more serious problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

A study published in May looked at adults with MCI between the ages of 60 and 88 and had them walk for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks.

The researchers found strengthened connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. That development, they said, “may possibly increase cognitive reserve” — but more studies are needed.

Cardio may also be tied to increases in the size of brain areas linked to memory, but more research is needed.

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A study of older women with MCI found a tie between aerobic exercise and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

For the study, 86 women between 70 and 80 years old with MCI were randomly assigned to do one of three types of training twice a week for six months: aerobic (like walking and swimming), resistance (like weight lifting), or balance.

Only the women in the aerobic group were found to have significant increases in hippocampal volume, but more studies are needed to determine what effect this has on cognitive performance.”

 

Final Comments

 

Most people know what is needed to promote the probability of living a long life. However, it takes a real commitment and motivation to make it happen. But even people who have the best of intentions fall off the health wagon from time to time. That’s normal human behavior. Most people blame themselves for failure to be perfect in diet and exercise. However, don’t beat yourself up too much over occasionally being less than perfect. I say this because you and everyone else trying to improve their health have an enemy out there. As I mentioned at the beginning of my Blog there are many obstacles to your success beyond your own occasional lapses in motivation.

One significant obstacle relates to the business and advertising industry. It appears that the constant onslaught of advertisers and commercial entities, whose motives are to sell products and make money, try to promote to consumers that their products are good for them no matter how fattening or injurious to our health they might actually be.

Commercials on TV have a choke hold over all of us. As a defense mechanism, I make regular use of my TV remote to pass over commercials. Try taping your programs in advance so you can later run through the commercials without listening to them. Granted, some commercials can be very entertaining but most don’t deserve any attention at all since most advertisers are just “bullshit” artists. Like a thief they just want to remove that wad of cash from your wallet or bank account. Your health and well-being at best would be lucky to be a tertiary concern to the advertising industry. In reality, it’s not even an afterthought!

Culture and society often works at cross purposes. That is the reality for now. This only makes it even harder for you to succeed in living a long life. I say best of luck to you in overcoming obstacles in your efforts to live a healthy life and, indeed, a long life.

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