In nine months, I turn 70. I often ask myself, why am I so healthy? I feel so full of energy and able to do as much as or more than I did at age 40.
My secret, I believe, is that I mostly eat right. I am overweight but not obese — no matter how hard I try, this is the best I am going to do — and I walk my dog briskly seven days a week for about 30 minutes.
I am very hopeful about the future and the plenty of opportunities available to make work and days interesting and exciting, with the sense that I can continue to make a difference. I will never retire.
Most importantly, I give love and respect to and receive it from the many individuals I work with daily and for whom I have great affection. I strive to be successful as a physician by genuinely and truly loving my patients.
I work particularly hard on those who are the most difficult to love — the ones who never get better, question your every suggestion, are often rude and usually frustrated.
These are the patients who are doctor shoppers and more than anyone else need someone who will never give up on them.
No question, love is the key to happiness, health and longevity. It exists in many forms: in our faith, the love we have for our patients, students, workers and friends.
Love is a powerful health tonic. And an important new study shows if you want to live long and live well, do not be a curmudgeon.
People who are kind, loving, considerate, laugh a lot and are friendly to everyone are twice as likely to make it to the ripe old age of 100. Do not bottle up your feelings and if possible, do not speak ill of others.
These personality traits may well be genetic — the most powerful predictor of living to 100 is the ages at which your parents died. Being sweet, kind, good and living long may all be gifts inherited from your parents. But if you are difficult to get along with, seek help and try to change. Your life will be better and may be longer.
Love people, love life, love your work, be a kind and good person and longevity is all but assured. But people with all these wonderful attributes can lose much and become lonely. And new research in the Archives of Internal Medicine documents the powerful negative effects of loneliness.
For example, in a study of 45,000 people who had a heart attack, patients who lived alone were 24 percent more likely to die during a four-year follow-up period than those who lived with a spouse or a roommate.
But living alone does not mean that you are lonely. Many people are perfectly content to be by themselves, love their own company and cope well. However, those individuals who reported that they were lonely were 46 percent more likely to die than those who did not say they were lonely.
Lonely people are far more likely to be depressed, be sedentary, eat poorly and have poor health habits such as smoking or drinking. It is not surprising, therefore, that life expectancy is reduced.
Any man in a long-standing, loving and intimate relationship has a 50 percent chance of living 10 years longer than a man living alone.
Women benefit from such a relationship as well, but only by three years. Married men are more likely to have medical checkups, wear a seat belt, drink in moderation, be compliant with medications, eat right and exercise. And if the woman dies before her husband, he has a 30 percent chance of death within a year.
Studies also indicate that the happier the marriage, the more quickly the widower remarries. By contrast, many women state that they were married to the best partner and no other man could ever match up.
My advice, however, is to remember that as we grow older, loneliness becomes a threat and companionship, or sometimes more, is definitely a tonic for a longer and better life.
Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. More information is available at: www.drdavidhealth.com
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