Give a real Diwali gift to your loved ones – Extending life

As Diwali and other seasonal holidays are dawning upon us, I would like to share with you a synthesis of what I have found from various medical and nutritional sources, and anecdotes about extending human lifespan. It is expressed in the following five pieces of advice. A good bunch of it had come years ago from the American Medical Association as a summation of what its members had been recommending. Here are these five things doing which, according to the AMA, could extend your life by up to 10 years. Doing any three of these, which most people do or can easily do, could add up to 5 years to your life.

  1. An overnight sleep for 8 hours — not 7, not 9.

The room where you sleep should be dark and quiet, as that will give your body and brain a good rest. Some suggest that sleeping is more important than eating. For example, when growing up as children, my grandmother will never let my mother wake up any of us who had gone to sleep hungry. She would say that sleeping hungry is better than waking up, eating and then going to sleep.

  1. When you eat is very important.

What you eat is well-narrated and well known, but when you eat is even more important. The timings of your meals should be set. You should eat at regular hours.

The most important meal of the day is your breakfast. This is your meal after having fasted for about 10 to 12 hours. It should be very nutritious to help you replenish what you expended during the night. Some examples of what it should include are a slice or two of whole wheat bread, some cereal, preferably with milk—maybe whole milk, banana, and orange juice. See that it does not include meat, cold cuts, or lamb chops, etc. It also does not include coffee or tea. Remember, the worst morning drink is an alcoholic drink. Soda or carbonated drinks come next.

It may be my bias. My recommendation is a lacto-vegetarian diet. I have been a vegetarian, which I learned from my mother and my grandmothers, from both sides of my parental families. Almost as I entered my adulthood, I became a vegetarian and have kept it for all my life—no meat, no chicken, no fish, no egg, etc. I drink whole milk and eat homemade whole-milk yogurt almost every day. I believe that becoming a vegetarian was the best decision of my life.

  1. Some physical exercise—activity—is essential for life-extension for everyone.

It does not have to be heavy, may not even be jogging. The easiest and very effective exercise is walking, maybe, brisk walking if you can. A 20-30 minute walk at least three times a week may be enough for a normal healthy person unless one may be doing more or different exercises. However, other exercises are not essential for someone who is enjoying a normal healthy life without any physical condition. While moderate exercise strengthens your bones, heavy exercises can wear out your joints, etc., cutting their expected life and function.

  1. No smoking, or any kind of substance abuse.

In fact, nicotine that is added to tobacco to turn it into smokes is an addictive legalized drug. The other two legalized drugs are alcohol and caffeine. Caffeine has a negative effect on brain development, especially of the young.        

  1. If you drink alcohol, drink moderately.

Moderate drinking is five drinks a week—all kinds of alcoholic drinks–wine, beer, whiskey, etc, included. There is no proven benefit of drinking. Drink only because you enjoy drinking, not because it will do you any good. Some research finds that consuming even a drop of alcohol could cause harm to the human body, especially that of an expectant mother. After two drinks for men and one for women, the harm that comes from drinking alcohol is much higher and difficult to mitigate.

Remember, we do not live for us. We live for others whose lives will be doomed if we departed this earth. Practice these tips and extend your life for them. This will be your best gift to your loved-ones for this Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other celebration you make during this part of the year, or any other day of the year. They will thank you and relish it for as long as you live.

The author is a Professor of Management at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. ([email protected]).  

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