When we heard recently that 77-year-old snowbird Guy Gentile had stuck to his walking routine for 6,575 straight days, covering 13,150 miles, we were impressed! Seems what keeps Guy going is never using anything as an excuse to stay home. Plus, he sets goals: At first he wanted to walk for as many consecutive days as Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games; now his ambition is to keep walking daily until his oldest grandson’s 50th birthday in 2037, when Guy will be 100.
You know we love walking — 10,000 steps daily. But to really protect your health, use these Five Steps to Great Health. They’ll help you dodge depression, diabetes, dementia, cancer and cardiovascular problems, plus a whole roster of other wear-you-down, shorten-your-life health challenges.
You want to combine No. 1 Walking with:
No. 2 Strength training: Use barbells or stretch bands for a minimum of 30 minutes, two to three days a week.
No. 3 Smart nutrition: Eliminate red meat, trans fats, added sugars and syrups, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole; take 900 mg of omega-3 DHA daily; and ask your doctor about taking a low-dose aspirin daily, with half a glass warm water before and after.
No. 4 Emotional connections: Stay close to friends and family; care for others; and nurture healthy sexual relationships.
No. 5 Stress and sleep control: Meditate daily, and get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly.
And whether you’ve already taken those steps to better health, we bet you’d like to know just how healthy you are right now and where you can make improvements.
Fortunately, there are three “no doctor required” tests that assess your health-related habits and health status. And they really work, because, as we’ve long said, your habits really do control your genes and how well and how long you live.
The Framingham Study (running, with updates and new participants, since 1948) established the reliability of using info on your blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity and blood lipids, as well as psychosocial issues (love, sex, family, work, etc.) to predict your risk of death from heart disease. And its Heart Health Test (cvdrisk.nhlbi.nih.gov) has long been the go-to self-check.
Now a new study, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, explores such tests’ usefulness. University of California San Diego researchers looked at the Framingham Heart Health Test and the 93-question RealAge Test (www.sharecare.com/realagetest) created by Dr. Roizen. They correlated the RealAge test results from a subset of takers with California Department of Public Health death records and found that if the RealAge Test said your RealAge was 35 (even if you were actually 50), your risk of dying was equal to a 35-year-old’s. And it identified a person’s mortality risk more accurately than the Framingham test. (Full disclosure: Dr. Roizen is a member of Sharecare’s advisory board.)
Want an even faster way to get a snapshot of your health? Measure your waist circumference by placing a tape measure at belly button level. Belly fat is super-inflammatory and a trigger for cardiovascular problems, heart attack, insulin resistance, diabetes, cognitive problems, sexual dysfunction and more. Even normal-weight women with a waist of 35 or more inches triple their risk of death from heart disease. So, gals, aim for a waist circumference of less than 35 inches; guys less than 40.
Then there’s one more test. It takes a doctor, but we recommend it. Have a high sensitivity C-reactive protein blood test. It measures your level of bodywide inflammation. A reading of 1.0 to 3.0 mg/L indicates average risk for inflammation-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes and dementia; above 3.0 indicates that you’re at high risk for developing those health problems even if you’re otherwise healthy and your lousy LDL cholesterol level is OK.
Next steps: When you get your results from any of these tests, you want to sit down with your doctor and make a plan to reduce your health risks using a combination of the Five Steps to Great Health and whatever medications and treatments are recommended. With that knowledge, and the stick-to-it spirit of Guy, you can change your future!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.