How sex, dental floss and belly laughs can make a good life great.
Dr Mehmet Oz, Men's Health
My patients are among my best teachers. They’ve taught me how to communicate clearly – and how to live a better life. I’ve seen that once people are emotionally involved, change happens quickly, especially if they feel that their behaviour is letting loved ones down. Large-scale change seems daunting. We want simple routines that we can automatically follow. Adopt some of the steps here, which anyone can do, and you will like your life more in just a couple of weeks. And you’ll live longer. Try them – they work for me.
1 Laugh often
Laughing not only eases stress, promotes social bonding and lowers blood pressure, it may also boost your immune system. So bring some humour into your life, whether it’s through friends or even a new TV show.
2 Don’t skip breakfast
Fibre in the morning means less hunger late in the afternoon, when you’re most likely to feel tired and gorge yourself on sugar. My morning dose comes from steel-cut oatmeal, usually mixed with raisins, walnuts and flaxseed oil. An early start on eating also keeps your metabolism more active throughout the day; breakfast eaters are thinner than people who just rush out the door.
3 Hit the sack
Late night comedy is often the funniest, but it’s not worth the strain on your system. Seven hours of sleep a night not only helps you live longer, but also lowers your stress, sharpens your memory and reduces cravings for trouser-splitting foods. Set a bedtime and stick to it. My target is 10.30pm. I record the late shows and then watch them the next day as I pedal a stationary bike.
4 Admire your work
Don’t be so trigger happy with the flusher. Turn around and take a look at your poo, which speaks volumes about your gut and overall health. Poo should be smooth and S-shaped, like your colon. If it comes out too lumpy, or drops into the bowl like marbles, you’re constipated. Increase your fibre and water intake. This happens to me when I travel, so I fibre-load before a trip to avoid getting irritable.
5 Taste the colours
Foods with bright, rich colours are more than just nice to look at. They’re also packed with flavonoids and carotenoids, powerful compounds that bind the damaging free radicals in your body, lowering inflammation. (Sadly, Smarties do not count.) Eat nine fistfuls of colourful fruits and vegetables each day and you’ll reap the benefits without having to give up other foods. Whenever I shop the fruit and veg aisle, I’m reminded that these foods are often more powerful than the drugs sold in pharmacies. My favourites are rocket and blueberries.
6 Don’t pamper your bad back
Even if you’re hunched over in agony, taking to your bed will only make a bad back worse. The latest research shows that bed rest weakens back muscles and prolongs the suffering. Married men may suffer more than single men because of all the pampering. I used to love milking the care from my wife Lisa, but the best solution is to get up, take a pain reliever and be a soldier.
7 Go green
I drink green tea three times a day. It’s packed with heart-boosting and cancer stopping polyphenols. (These beneficial chemicals are lost when it’s fermented.) Green tea also delivers a boost of alertness, and can even fight dandruff, although only if you pour it directly onto your scalp. (It’s probably a good idea to let it cool down first.)
8 Take a deep belly breath
Do this anywhere, anytime. Push out your bellows and suck air through your nose until your lungs are full. They’ll fill with nitric oxide, a chemical found in the back of your nose that opens up bloodvessels. The dose of oxygen will make you feel happier and more alert. This is my secret technique for calming down before a show or a tough stitch in the operating room.
9 Brushing is not enough
If you plan to spend your later years eating more than yoghurt and stewed apples, invest in some floss. No matter how thoroughly or long you brush your teeth, you’re missing a good portion of their total surface. That’s like washing one armpit after a workout. But the dangers of skipping floss go beyond hygiene: the bacteria that linger can increase your risk of heart disease.
10 Avoid fad diets
The secret to weight loss is not to avoid carbs, fats, yellow foods, solid foods or foods that start with the letter G. The real trick is to lower your daily intake by about 420kJ. You’ll hardly notice, but it’ll add up to a loss of over 4.5kg in a year. Kilojoule restriction has been shown to lengthen life (in rats and monkeys). I cut back once a year to reset my appetite and taste buds. Healthy food tastes great afterwards. Frankly, any food would.
11 Don’t be an island
Ever wonder why women live longer than men do? One major reason: they form tight networks and actually talk about their problems. If you face life’s stresses alone, you will make yourself older. Bankruptcy, for example, causes enough stress to wreak havoc on your body. With another person’s love and support, that inner ageing can be reduced.
12 Sweat till you’re wet
If you can work up a sweat for just one hour a week, you’ll enjoy a range of benefits: reduced risk of heart attack, better mood and lower blood pressure. I like interval training on the elliptical, with 15 pull-ups and 15 dips every 10 minutes. Your muscles will become more efficient, so you’ll have more stamina for more enjoyable activities that also work up a sweat.
13 Lose the beer belly
Most men fasten their belts below their waists. It’s just another way of avoiding the truth about that gut. Grab a tape measure and put it around your body at the level of your belly button. That number should be less than half your height. So for my 1.8m frame, I need to keep my waist under 92cm. If avoiding heart attacks and diabetes isn’t enough motivation to eliminate that gut, consider this: for every point your body mass index is over 25, your testosterone drops three percent, which isn’t very manly.
14 Join a yoga class
Yoga is the most important exercise of my daily routine. Being surrounded by beautiful women in spandex should be reason enough for you to join a class, but if you need more motivation, consider this: yoga eases stress, lowers blood pressure, slows heart rates and increases flexibility. And there’s nothing mystical about it. Loosening your muscles will make them more adaptable, so you may be less likely to injure yourself playing sports. Sure, some of the poses may look ridiculous, but that’s for a reason you’ll learn quickly enough. Yoga can reach and work muscles that are ignored during routine sports and daily life. My favourite manoeuvre is the sun salutation.
For 7 easy yoga Postures to get you started click here
15 Be a smart patient
Your doctor can help keep you in good health, but the responsibility ultimately falls on you. Seek a second opinion before undergoing any procedure, because 30% of the time, that opinion will change the diagnosis or plan. Keep a written medical history, and educate yourself about any family problems, even if that means calling your creepy uncle. You might even consider signing onto Microsoft HealthVault or Google Health, so your files are accessible in case you find yourself in trouble away from home.
16 Add some weights
Just 30 minutes twice a week spent lifting weights can build significant muscle mass. What’s more, working all that muscle burns tons of kilojoules, making it a great way to lose your gut, too. Don’t have weights? Try lifting yourself: pull-ups are the most valuable muscle-building exercises I do. Pull-ups work the back, pecs, arms and belly all at once. And since you’re lifting yourself, you’ll think twice before eating that pie, because you’ll just have to lift it later. A simple set-up in a door frame is convenient and inexpensive.
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17 Have as much sex as possible
If a 50-something man could have sex 700 times a year, the exercise and stress reduction would make him look and feel years younger. I wouldn’t recommend quitting your day job in order to hit that number – but what’s the harm in trying? The next time your loved one says she has a headache, tell her she’s literally killing you. It works for me.
18 Grab your nuts
Nuts are among the best sources of healthy fats and protein around. I keep a bag of walnuts in my fridge and use their massive dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boost my brainpower while I see patients. Half a handful eaten about 30 minutes before a meal will temper your appetite and help you avoid the drive-through.
19. No seriously, grab your nuts
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men in the 15-to-35 age group, but it’s usually curable if it’s caught early enough. I strongly urge you to grab your testicles. Check them for bumps at least once a month. Each testicle should feel smooth and slightly soft, and one should hang slightly lower than the other, like two avocados (which, in Aztec, actually means “testicles”) growing on a tree.
20 Know your numbers and then aim lower
Take the part of your brain dedicated to your pizza delivery’s phone number and reassign it to your heart’s vital signs. These include blood pressure (which ideally should be below 115 over 75), LDL cholesterol (under 2.56mmol/l), resting heart rate (under 70) and fasting blood sugar (under 5.5mmol/l). If your numbers aren’t ideal, change your diet until they improve.
21 Learn to cook
Think you know how much butter goes into those mashed potatoes at a restaurant? You’re probably off by half. If you can cook, you not only save money but also gain control over what goes into your meals. Plus, for most women, a man who knows how to cook is as sexy as one who stars in movies. I have trouble boiling water. Thankfully, I’m already married.
22 Do your penis a favour and step on the treadmill
Men who exercise enough to burn 836kJ a day significantly lower their chances of impotence. That’s because impotence often has the same cause as heart attacks: blocked arteries. Your penis is like a dipstick for your arteries, so check it. If you’re interested in keeping it up later in life, lace up your running shoes now.
23 Some pills should be popped
Indoor life gives man protection from the elements and the ability to watch So You Think You Can Dance? in private. Unfortunately, roughly half of us are deficient in vitamin D which the sun is a major source. This crucial vitamin may aid in fighting cancer, diabetes and heart disease. I take a 1 000IU supplement each morning.
24 Hit the dance floor
Crosswords and card games aren’t the only way to keep your brain razor sharp. It turns out that any kind of dancing with complex moves is stimulating enough to give your neurons a workout. Even the simplest moves provide some physical exercise. So don’t be such a wallflower on your next night out. As a bonus, dancing may help you with tip No. 17.
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