Health: 20 ways to live longer

by Dr. Willie T. Ong

One of my earliest articles was about the “20 strategies to live longer.” I was asked by many readers to reproduce for them these tips. Now, I think it’s a good time to update these lifesaving strategies. Let’s start from number 20, as we count down the top 20 ways to live longer.


20. Be more relaxed and less stressed. One sure way to get a heart attack is to have a workaholic, perfectionist, and stubborn personality, the so-called “Type A” personality. In contrast, the “Type B” personality is a more relaxed, less time-conscious, and less driven person. Type B personalities are able to adapt to problems and are less stress-prone.

19. Check your vitamins and supplements. Vitamins can help fill up the gaps in our diet, especially if we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. You may take a multivitamin daily, especially if you feel weak or tired.

18. Pray (in addition to seeking medical care). In a study of cancer patients, those who confronted their illness through positive thinking, medicines, and prayers, actually lived longer.

17. Read up on your disease. Dr. Joslin, a world-renowned diabetes expert, believes that the educated patient lives longer.

16. Get vaccinated. Vaccines are the thinking man’s strategy to prevent disease and live longer. Consider vaccines for hepatitis B, flu, rabies, tetanus, and pneumonia. These are all serious illnesses preventable by a simple vaccine.

15. Limit or avoid alcohol intake. “Drinking in moderation” is a much-abused phrase. Too much alcohol intake can cause a multitude of problems, such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, stomach ulcers, oral cancers, brain damage, dementia, nerve damage, and vehicular accidents.

14. Do charity work. In a study involving 3,617 respondents and conducted by Prof. Peggy Thoits of the Vanderbilt University, those who volunteered and helped other people had higher levels of happiness and self-esteem, and better physical health. Helping others has always been the best stress reliever and anti-depressant.

stethoscope13. Find a good doctor. A good doctor can help you live longer. Your doctors’ job is to guide you on your checkups, such as laboratory tests, cancer screening tests, and schedule for vaccines.

12. Exercise moderately. Moderate exercise has been proven to prevent diabetes, maintain body weight, and lessen the pain of arthritis. Exercise a minimum of three times a week. If you plan to enroll in a gym, get a doctor’s clearance first. Try to avoid high-impact exercises like basketball and badminton as you grow older. Swimming and brisk walking are excellent exercises.

11. Marry. Statistics show that, on the average, married persons live longer, probably because they find fulfillment in their spouse and kids. However, don’t feel bad if you’re single. Single individuals can compensate by having a large support group of family and friends.

10. Be a positive thinker. Train your mind to think positively. Believe you’ll beat your disease and you can. To learn more about positive thinking, you may check out any of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s affordable books.

9. Consider statin drugs for high cholesterol. The statins are one of the best drugs in medicine. Since the 1990s, the drug’s benefits for patients with high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes have been proven time and again in dozens of clinical trials. Ask your doctor if you need to take these drugs.

8. Live a less risky lifestyle. Young people should be educated on the dangers of practicing unsafe sex, having multiple partners, and taking illicit drugs. Limit your risks, avoid accidents, and live longer.

7. Be financially wise. People with lower incomes are afflicted with more diseases like tuberculosis, infectious diseases, malnutrition, and even heart disease. The poor usually have no means to get a checkup or to buy medicines. Learn to save some money for your emergency medical needs.

6. Consider aspirin. Aspirin has been proven to help patients with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high cholesterol. Lately, studies show that aspirin may prevent some bowel cancers. The only precaution with aspirin is that it may cause an upset stomach or an ulcer. That is why we advise patients to take aspirin after meals.

fish5. Eat fruits and oily fish. Nature’s healthiest fruits include bananas, carrots, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin B6, and folic acid. Likewise, tomatoes have high amounts of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lycopene. Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are teeming with healthy vitamin C.

4. Eat green leafy vegetables. Vegetables are beneficial for people with heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, bowel problems, and various cancers. Vegetables are also excellent diet foods because they’re low in fat and high in fiber. Locally, we have cabbage, pechay, kangkong, camote tops (talbos), and spinach.

3. Lose weight, if overweight. Being obese is associated with all sorts of diseases, like arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. If you’re 20 pounds overweight, then it’s like carrying a 20-pound chair tied around your back all day. Shed off excess weight and feel better.

2. Take medicines for high blood pressure and diabetes. Studies show that when a patient with severe high blood pressure takes his maintenance medicines, he may live 10 years longer. With regard to diabetes, studies show that the more doctors bring down the blood sugar to normal levels (fasting blood sugar of less than 100 mg/dl), the greater is the health benefit. These are really life-saving medicines.

1. Stop smoking. There are over 70,000 scientific articles to prove that smoking damages the heart, lungs, esophagus, stomach, bowels, prostate, and predisposes one to all kinds of cancers. What is worse is that smokers actually hurt the non-smokers around them by letting them inhale the toxic fumes. So, what’s the best way to live longer? Don’t smoke, period. It will save you from so much heartache and pain.

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