Thursday, April 24, 2008

How to life longer: drink more mugwort.

This article made me laugh out loud this morning. I tried the test myself. It promised (!) me many more healthy years, but said I should be less depressed, eat more vegetables, start drinking, and get married.

What I'm eating this morning: last year's matzah.

Extracts from
How to Live Longer Without Really Trying
by Michelle Slatalla for the New York Times, April 24, 2008

My neighbor Bruce has the healthiest lifestyle on the block. He eats small portions and skips dessert. He walks to work. His hobbies — coaching Little League, riding his bike and taking his dog on hikes — all involve getting wholesome, fresh air.

This behavior drives my husband, who has the least healthy lifestyle on the block, crazy. "You're going to be so lonely living forever," he yells at Bruce from our balcony, where we drink beer. "All the interesting people will be dead."

"Yeah, good luck with that," I chime in to show support for my husband (and Anchor Steam).

According to a new book ["The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest"] ... all I need to do to extend my life is follow a few of their simple secrets.

Eat less. Make family a priority. Banish stress. I figured it should be no problem ... Of course, I was not going to be able to work a nightly glass of mugwort sake into my diet as easily as an Okinawan. Or spend the whole day hiking uphill like a Sardinian shepherd.

Mr. Buettner recommends getting started by visiting to take a test called the Vitality Compass. Answer 35 questions, and voilà, it calculates your life expectancy. I felt healthier already. Two minutes later, I received (sort of) good news.

"You are in the Blue Zone!" the Web site told me, adding that my biological age is 40, which is better than both my real age (46) and my Wii Fit age (49), but not nearly as young as the age I would like to look (23).

But then the results took a dark turn.

My life expectancy: 95.2. My healthy life expectancy: 83.9.

While 12 years of decline was bad news for me, it would be even more of a blow to my children, who already have been warned that they won't inherit my jewelry if they put me in a nursing home.

"The challenge now is to try to get people to use [Blue Zone information] to change behavior. Most of us know what we ought to do, but have a hard time doing it."

I suffered an immediate setback. Two suggestions — get more rigorous exercise and eat less — made me hungry.

A few Mint Milano cookies later, I returned to my desk determined to improve. I e-mailed my tennis doubles partner ...

She wrote back, with suggested training sessions and gossip about the latest team scandals, which sidetracked me until my fingers had gotten such a rigorous typing "workout" that I was ready to move on to the next suggestion: avoid salt.

To accomplish this, I sat at my desk awhile, eating nothing, until I figured enough time had passed to allow me to check off the no-salt suggestion.

Next: eat more fruit. A Google search for salty fruit yielded 456,000 results. I settled quickly on something delicious called Sweet-n-Salty Fruit-n-Nut Honey Lace Brittle. Was that so hard?

After printing out the recipe, I moved on to the next suggestion: drink red wine. "When it comes to drinking any spirits, a woman should have a drink a day and maybe two, unless pregnant ... those who drink a little outlive those who don't."

"I am thinking of trying to be more likable, as page 259 of your book suggests," I said. "But how does that help?"

"If you're likable, you're likely to have a better social network, and even get better health care at the doctor's office because the people who take your blood pressure will do a better job," he said.

Pray tell, how to become more likable? "Be interested, not just interesting," he said. "Likable people tend to ask you a question about yourself instead of just talking about themselves."

Taking his advice, I changed my Facebook status to say, "Michelle is wondering what YOU are thinking."


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