Did you know that as soon as you think about eating, even before you see or smell food, your body begins secreting the hormone insulin? And did you know that you need insulin (which your pancreas makes) to “unlock or open the doors” to your body’s 30 trillion or so cells so they can receive sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat? The problem, however, is too much insulin keeps the doors open, and your cells wind up storing glucose for future use. And I know you know what that means for most of us: fat. The solution? Quit thinking about the pie, and start thinking about the leafy green vegetables you really should be eating.

OK, so it might be a little more complicated than that, but not much. Insulin keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). I’m going to address this in much greater detail in a future post, so while you wait patiently, just pass on the next piece of pecan pie, no matter how good it looks/smells or how nicely it speaks to you. Your pancreas (and the rest of you) will love you for it.

In the meantime, let’s talk about another kind of pie; the pie of living longer, living healthier. Now I’m sure you do the same thing as me when someone close has a heart attack, is diagnosed with diabetes, or cancer, or something else that impairs or even ends their life. You hurt. You get angry. You want to do something. You want to avoid the same fate.

pie-chart

Just a few weeks ago a very good friend (age 65) experienced a heart attack. Luckily his sweetheart acted fast and rushed him to the hospital. Had she not acted quickly, this story would have a very different ending. As it turns out, there was a 99% blockage of his left anterior descending artery. This is called a “widow-maker” for obvious reasons. Here is a good article explaining exactly what this is and how it is dealt with. We’re very grateful for the medical experts and technology that saved his life, and we’re looking forward to seeing them both soon.

So my friend escaped the jaws of death and now stands a chance of living closer to our national average of 78.8 years. By the way, our country now ranks #37 in the world on longevity. Life is good; no wait, life is wonderful! But in my humble opinion, 78.8 is not enough. What’s wrong with 88 years, which is the well documented average life span for Seventh-Day Adventists? Or 100 years, which is the lifespan of those who live in the Blue Zones around the world. Think about this for a second: who wants to work their arse off for 40 or 45 years, save their money, plan a great future, and then miss it entirely?

See that pie above? The colorful one with the 5 pieces? OK, so it doesn’t smell or look as good as the pecan one, but it will get you a lot closer to a long and healthy life than the one filled with cherries and a third-pound of sugar. And do you see the red piece on the right side that looks like it might be about a quarter of the entire pie? That red piece is important, because according to some research, that piece of pie represents the genetic component that determines how long and how healthily you will live. This article from Scientific American titled: Live Long and Proper: Genetic Factors Associated with Increased Longevity Identified says this: “A person’s life span is thought to be largely determined by the combined effects of genetics and environmental factors. Twin studies, however, suggest genetics only account for approximately 20 to 30 percent of an individual’s chance of surviving to age 85.” So what accounts for the other 70-80%?

There’s no doubt if you life a long and healthy life, your family history and genetics will have played an important role. But listen up my friend: this is your bus, and you’re the driver. Whether or not you have good genes or a family history of good health and longevity, here’s your 70-80% improvement plan:

  • Eat better. Don’t act like you don’t know what that means: cut out the salt, sugar, processed food, oil, soda, excess alcohol, excess meat, donuts, cakes, chips, cookies, simple carbs, blah, blah, blah
  • Move your body: walk, run, swim, golf, dance, do yoga, have sex, ride your bike, play ball, lift weights
  • Get rid of the toxins in your home and your personal grooming products. We discussed this a few weeks ago here
  • Reduce stress. If you don’t know how, get “The Myth of Stress” by Andrew Bernstein 
  • Get more sleep
  • Drink more water (and throw in some apple cider vinegar to help your pH levels)
  • Increase your daily fiber
  • Take a high-quality probiotic. We talked about this before too
  • Take high-quality vitamin supplements. Not from Wal-Mart or Costco. If you don’t know which ones, ask me
  • Make good choices. If you don’t know which ones, ask your mom, or your grandmother

For some reason, most people seem to think living longer and living healthier is complicated, or somehow beyond their reach. It’s not. And I hope I wasn’t too blunt. But sometimes blunt works pretty good. Like when your doctor says, “Quit eating so much cherry, blueberry, pumpkin, apple, coconut creme, banana creme, blackberry, cheesecake, peach, and pecan pie! You’re going to explode and die!”

Like Spock used to say: “Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!” Oh wait, that was Bones. Bones would have said, “Dammit Jim, you’re a Star Fleet Captain – eat healthy so you can stay out of sick bay and ‘Live Long and Prosper,’ like your green-blooded Vulcan friend always says.”

Dr. Hank