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Since the Year Dot there have been billions of articles, pamphlets, books, documentaries, Internet web sites, and other personal opinions that instruct you in how to be a healthier you. Over the millennia, all and sundry collectively have apparently achieved positive results – the average human lifespan keeps on keeping on increasing. No doubt each and every person has their own personal best way or philosophy of maintaining their health, and won’t hesitate to pass on their secrets to everyone else!

Yes indeed, everybody and their grandmother has THE solution to a healthy lifestyle and longevity. My dear old departed grandmother’s sole piece of advice to me as a child was to chew 32 chews with every bite of food. Even then I thought that was just about the dumbest piece of advice I’d ever received, and still do – no offence grandma. However, she lived to a ripe old age of 78 (that’s not a bad innings), so what do I know? I doubt I’ll make it that far. Anyway, different strokes for different folks, that’s my motto or philosophy. But as grandma had her go, here is mine, and forget the 32 chews!

Aspirin: There are lots of studies that suggest the common aspirin tablet has a mostly beneficial aspect to the average person if taken once a day or several times a week. However, not all people react positively to aspirin, and in some people can cause unwanted side effects like bleeding ulcers. See your medical practitioner first before taking an aspirin a day, but overall the vast majority of the population will benefit, not so much from the apple-a-day, but the aspirin-a-day.

Calcium: There are lots of trace elements essential to health, in this case having good solid bones that won’t crumble to dust in your maturing years. That something is calcium, most often found in dairy products. I get my daily dose from a cheese fix, but other dairy products are available. Don’t like dairy products? Well, one can buy over-the-counter calcium supplements instead.

Companion animals: Own a pet(s). Pet-a-puss! Lots of studies have suggested that having little something else in your life to focus on, something that can focus back on you – provide reinforcement to your attention – is beneficial to your state of mind, and mind influences the state of the health of the body. Translated, that something else is an animal companion (on the assumption that by the time health becomes an issue, that other ‘pet’, your kids, are no longer that something else in your day-to-day life; they are no longer your dependents. Companion animals however will forever and a day be dependent on you. So, not only will you thank the animal; the animal will thank you for being a loving guardian and looking after its welfare.

Dietary sins: There are about four of these with both pluses and minuses attached. 1) Alcohol provides calories, but empty (non-nutritional) calories. However, studies suggest that some alcohol is beneficial to mind and body. 2) Salt doesn’t provide any calories, and some salt is essential to a well functioning body, but too much can cause problems with blood pressure, etc. 3) Fats are high in calories, but also provide some essential nutrition; 4) Sugar, like alcohol, provides lots of empty calories. Since you need calories, sugar can have a positive role to play, but too much – well, a moment on the lips; forever on the hips.

It’s probably not likely for anyone to go the minimum route on all four ‘sins’. I say indulge in a reasonable way in two out of four that most appeal; absolute minimums on the other two. I personally take alcohol over sugar products; salt over fat, so I have a relatively large high alcohol, high salt diet, but I’ve nearly eliminated fat and sugar. Life’s too short to try for dietary perfection unless you’re content with a minimum sugar, fat, alcohol and salt diet. You’ve got to strike a balance between what you like, and what’s good for you.

Exercise: Experts suggest that everyone get a minimum of a half-hour of mild exercise/day. That’s real easy if you like walking, cycling, swimming, golf, or a host of other physical activities. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a jogger smile while running! If you don’t, like jogging, etc., then I suggest combining a half-hour of mild exercise while doing something else, accomplishing something else, that’s overall constructive at the same time as a substitute, something that you’re going to have to do anyway. That could be vigorous workout at housework; a half-hour of gardening; or, in my case, a half-hour walk, but to the store and back to buy the daily groceries or get other shopping done. Two birds with one stone.

Genetics: It helps if you have a good genetic heritage. Actually you have no control over that, but by knowing the strengths, weaknesses, risks, and what did in your ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc.) you can take appropriate lifestyle steps to minimize your risk of going down life’s gurgler the same way.

Gums: I heard a long time ago that it was just as important to brush your gums as your teeth; a kind of massage for them, which probably helps to stimulate the blood flow through them and keep them healthy. Healthy gums make for better teeth. It sure ain’t because gums get cavities and need fillings! Anyway, I’ve adopted the practice and still have all my teeth firmly in place.

Hobbies: If you sit around the house bored out of your skull, that’s not good for your mental state which in turn has an effect on your physical well being. Hobbies help stimulate the mind, and everyone should have a hobby – actually several in case one loses its appeal for a while or peters out for one reason or another. One shouldn’t of course be weather dependent. I hear that mind games like chess or crossword puzzles or solving paradoxes or figuring out whodunits are especially useful for older, less able to be active, seniors. Hobbies don’t have to be expensive, though that’s between you and your bank manager if your hobby is collecting Rembrandts!

Iron: Iron is another one of those other trace elements that are essential to life and limb – okay, not so much a limb; rather in this case healthy blood. Foods rich in iron aren’t my thing, so I take an iron tablet as a dietary supplement. That works for me. But if you like lots of liver and spinach, you’re doing okay in the iron department.

Lifespan: I read a long time ago that two geographical regions had the longest and healthiest life-spans for their residents – The Japanese and those surrounding the Mediterranean region. In the former case, it was due to a diet high in fish. In the later case, it was due to a diet high in tomatoes. Both fish (and fish oils) and tomatoes apparently have positive values when it comes to contributing to overall healthy benefits.

Music: Music soothes the savage beast. Translated, listening to your favourite music has positive effects on your mental state; a positive mental state translates into a positive physical state – mind over matter. A happy mind makes for a healthy body.

Organics: Eating organic foods are healthy eating right? Well, labelling something as ‘organic’ is just a PR rip-off designed to separate more of your money from you than you would otherwise pay for the same product but without the ‘organic’ label. One shop owner proudly displayed meat labelled with the word ‘organic’. I asked him to show me his range of presumably cheaper inorganic meats and of course he couldn’t since there is no such thing. All meat is organic. But the absolute height of idiocy was seeing a display of bottled water labelled ‘organic’. Now since does water contain the element carbon, which is what the word organic means, or should mean, as in organic chemistry – the chemistry of carbon compounds? And bottled water is another total rip-off. Tap water is just as good, cheaper and there’s no plastic bottles left over littering up the landscape. Actually, when my cats are faced with a choice of fresh tap water in their water bowl, or a rainwater puddle to drink out off, wild water wins hands down. Wild animals do very nicely drinking water that’s far less pure than what comes out of your kitchen or bathroom tap.

Purpose in life: You really need a reason(s) to get out of bed in the morning – some purpose in life. If you have no really real reason to get out of bed in the morning, you’ll vegetate. You may hate to get out of bed in the morning, but if you have a real reason to, a purpose, a responsibility to something above and beyond yourself, you’ll do it. There’s 101 plus purposes you could adopt as your own – charity work for one.

Sleep: Sleep is a very important part of our lifestyle. Much like oxygen and food and water, you can’t go on very long without it. And different people require differing amounts of sleep per day. However, as your time left on Earth as a living, breathing entity gets less and less; it’s seemingly a waste to spend one third or thereabouts of what’s left to you in limbo – asleep. You have personally got to decide for yourself a trade-off between quality of life remaining (lots of sleep; fully rested) and quantity of life (bugger sleep, live life 24/7/52) that’s left to you.

Smoking: Don’t smoke. Smoking is about as unnatural act as you can do and there is no shortage of nasties that are linked with smoking.

Stress: We all have to deal with stress to some degree or other. Mother Nature, fellow humans, politicians, and the tax man all throw curveballs at us 24/7/52. I’m sure even the world’s richest human; dictators, presidents and prime ministers, the British Royal Family; and associated pampered upper-crusts have to deal with some stress now and again. No one is ever stress-free all the time. Surprisingly, some stress is beneficial. It keeps you focused and on your toes. Too much stress stresses the mind too much which has an effect on the rest of the body – ulcers if nothing else. The only advice I have is plan ahead where possible to minimise or deflect future stressful situations; and try not to worry over those things you have absolutely no control over. It also helps if you have a friendly shoulder to cry on!

Thinning your blood: An ancient remedy for whatever ailed you was often to have leeches attached to your skin and having some of the blood sucked out of you. Apparently that had positive results in many cases. I’m not going to advocate you attach leeches to you, but there is one way to thin your blood, obviously beneficial to you, and also to others, and that’s to donate blood on a regular base if eligible. Losing 500 ml of your blood every 12 weeks doesn’t harm you one jot. Not everyone can donate of course – an aspirin a day can accomplish a bit of thinning as well or as an alternative.

Variety is the spice of life: Don’t stick yourself in a total rut, even if routine is comfortable. Vary your daily routine or diet, even if just a little, so as to experience something new. If the one-off experiment flubs, well nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can then try something else. If you can’t find one tiny variation to your normal routine or diet per week, you’re not trying hard enough.

Waste products: Unfortunately, the very process of living means that your body has to intake various chemicals, process them, and eliminate the unwanted residues – waste products. There are four ways the body eliminates or gets rid of waste products – sweating, exhaling, urine and faeces. You don’t have any real control over exhaling – mainly carbon dioxide. You have relatively little control over sweating, which mainly eliminates salt from your system (which is not always good; your body needs some salt); you also don’t have much of a say in your more solid wastes. However, you can have some control over all those waste products that build up but ultimately get eliminated in your urine. You don’t want those waste products hanging around any longer than necessary. You can drink water, or products/foods that contain a lot of water. Extra water has to be eliminated, and along with it those other waste products that have accumulated. So, drinking lots of liquids, or eating foods which contain a lot of water like pasta, eliminates waste products building up in your blood stream that much faster. Good riddance to bad rubbish that does you no good while inside of you.

Weight loss: There is one and only one way to lose weight. You have to burn more calories than you ingest. Say you need 2000 calories/day but want to lose weight. Most people go on a crash diet of say 500 calories/day and they are miserable. My solution is to ingest 1800 calories. Sure, weight loss will take longer, but because there’s hardly any real pain, it’s sustainable and you eventually achieve your goal. The other alternative is to keep ingesting your quota of 2000 calories, but start to burn off 2200 calories/day – like getting a bit more exercise. Then too, you could both eat just a little bit less; exercise just a little bit more. Rome wasn’t built in a day; weight loss isn’t a one-day affair either. Think long term.

Finally, for a happy healthy life, empty what’s full; fill what’s empty; scratch where it itches.

P.S. Essays like this are all well and good, but they are no substitute for consulting your favourite heath professional/medical practitioner for spot-on up-close-and-personal advice that conforms to your specific needs.

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