Chasing Life

Chasing Life by Sanjay Gupta, the famed chief medical correspondent of CNN whose face was plastered all over our tube when the US armed forces entered Iraq. Certainly a very charming surgeon out of Atlanta, he has decided to follow the path taken by folks like Dr Weil and Dr Chopra. His new book, Chasing Life (Warner Wellness $24.99) declares that it reports “new discoveries in the search for immortality to help you age less today.” You have two choices; read the 45 tips given in his book and listed below or buy the book and read more about these tips. Whereas Gupta is well-connected with the new world of science, there is absolutely nothing in here that can be called new. I will deconstruct this book by first understanding longevity. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the average life expectancy of Americans was around 65 years if we exclude those early childhood totally preventable diseases; those diseases gone today, the average American lives about 10-12 years longer, a full century later. These data are a gold mine for statisticians; if we take out accidental deaths (due to poor quality of home designs or tools or whatever) and a few other factors (like lack of sewerage system), we will surprise ourselves that there has been no real increase in the life expectancy over the past century. If wearing seat belt reduced traffic deaths and added to average life expectancy, this is not a tribute to a healthy body, perhaps to a healthy brain that pays attention.

Despite the thesis that I just presented, man’s yearning for the fountain of youth remains a universal passion. Some find it in certain kinds of foods, others in punishing their bodies and still others in repeated middle-age crises. The bottom line is that there is no fountain of youth that will prolong our lives. We are, like almost all other species, program to self-destruct, a process that begins at birth. This is a programmed event in our genes that has taken millions of years to evolve; if we think we can turn the clock within a time as short as our lifetime, we just do not understand genetics and time-space coordinate of Einstein. This brings us to the question why do we continue to hunt for means to longevity; life is dear, life is pleasure, life is beautiful—if one can give three reasons—we all want to live longer, to feel the great sensation of inhaling the aroma of freshly brewed coffee while reading NY Times at the local Starbucks. So, when we speak of longevity, we are actually talking about prolonging those moments of pleasure that we so get used to. Why then we do not talk about the pleasure part of life more than we talk about the length of time we want at our disposal. How often we draw lines through those dots that add up to our happiness, examining our inner self to discover what really makes us happy. Puritanism aside, this is not too difficult an exercise, provided to put aside all those books we have stacked up on how to eat healthy, exercise, and lose weight. Once we are able to focus on what makes us really happy, we can then plan our remaining days of life (and they are numbered whether you read Gupta’s book or not), to be happier. That is the bottom life in chasing life, not trying incessantly to do things we can not or would not; the pleasure of gluttony, lethargy and sloth are remarkably awarding.

And how here is what Dr Sanjay Gupta teaches you. 
1. Remember hara hachi bu—push back from table before you are full
2. Eat only until you are 80% full
3. Find water-rich foods
4. Less burger and more lettuce
5. Slow down: Your brain needs a few minutes to signal you are full
6. Eat a bigger breakfast; you’ll eat less the rest of the day
7. Eat less, and you may live more
8. Remember the essential vitamins you need every day
9. There is no fountain of youth. Beware the product that says it will make you younger
10. Go to the source, not the supplement. There is no substitute for a diet filled with fruits and vegetables.
11. Stay away from human growth hormone. The potential for harm outweighs any potential benefit.
12. Depending on your age, your race, and where you live, you might consider taking vitamin D supplement.
13. Discover the unlikely elixirs. Dark chocolate, red wine, and coffee may extend life.
14. Just because something is natural, it is not guaranteed to be safe.
15. Surprise your body every day. Try a new exercise.
16. Push the limits. Chasing life is hard work. Challenge yourself with some strenuous exercise.
17. Make sure to do upper-body training now. It may add years to your life.
18. Stretch. Stretching should take as much time as the rest of your workout. Your body will thank you.
19. Exercise daily. Don’t have time for a workout? Then take stairs, park farther away, rake the leaves, or vacuum
20. Exercise your brain in different ways. Find problems that you have difficulty solving. The more you challenge your kind the better.
21. Exercise your body; it helps your brain.
22. Stay social and enjoy spirited discussions.
23. Even if you are an old dog, learn a new trick—the more you learn, the more you protect your mind.
24. Make sure you get enough “brain food,” including fish oil, vitamin E and B, and folic acid.
25. Add the spice turmeric to your diet—it may ward off Alzheimer’s.
26. Regular screening and early detection are the best ways to never hear the word cancer.
27. Don’t ignore symptoms. Pick up the phone and call your doctor.
28. Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
29. Separate fact from myth. Get the details on Teflon, beef, cell phones, artificial sweeteners, and plastics.
30. Know the nine controllable cancer risk factors—you can lower your risks. [smoking, alcohol, obesity, inactivity, a diet with too few fruits and vegetables, unsafe sex, urban air pollution, indoor smoke from household fuels, contaminated injection in health-care settings].
31. Exercise more and cut down on fat, salt and animal products.
32. Help protect your telomeres by lowering your stress levels.
33. Get rid of that apple-shaped midsection
34. Visit your doctor armed with knowledge. Know your family history and the tests you may need to detect heart disease and diabetes.
35. If you cholesterol is out of control, strongly consider switching to a healthier diet (that includes blueberries, tomatoes, okra, and eggplant) and a statin medication.
36. Get plenty of sleep. It will help you lose weight.
37. Eat smarter. Increase the amount of “power foods” in your diet.
38. A little weight training could provide big results—and great abs.
39. Know your CRP(C-reactive protein) levels—it’s more important than you may think.
40. Practice optimism. It can help you have a longer life.
41. Spend a few minutes every day relaxing or meditating. A few deep breaths can do wonders.
42. Allow your mind to slow down and wander several times a day.
43. Avoid stress; try an attitude adjustment.
44. Ask yourself how old you would be if you didn’t know how old you were.
45. If you are depressed, get treated. It will be good for your mind and your body.