Healthy Living


For the health-inclined and for those who celebrate mastery of the obvious as the key ingredient of wellness, the story of public health guru, Dr. Lester Breslow, shines like a beacon.

As reported this weekend in the NYTimes, the scientist that linked healthy habits to living longer dies (at home) at age 97.

Dr. Breslow’s gems include:

  • “In the long run, housing may be more important than hospitals to health.”
  • “A 60-year-old who followed the seven recommended behaviors would be as healthy as a 30-year-old who followed fewer than three.”
  • (Circa 1964) “Do not smoke; drink in moderation; sleep seven to eight hours; exercise at least moderately; eat regular meals; maintain a moderate weight; eat breakfast.”

In the same week that reports, to seeming surprise, that Americans walk far too little, the message of those who live long and well resonates strongly.

The last line in the Times piece sums up the simplicity:

Dr. Breslow himself did not smoke or drink. He walked regularly, practiced moderation in all things and enjoyed tending his vegetable garden.

Not mentioned in the story was the non-quantifiable effect of a life’s work devoted to helping fellow mankind. What of the cumulative benefits of striving to make life better for others? Such is hard to measure, but surely anti-inflammatory in the long-term.

The naysayers, the free-spirited, many smokers, and the like, are often heard citing the former KY Colonel, Hunter Thompson, who famously opined that one should go skidding into the grave totally used up—not quietly next to a vegetable garden in southern California. Okay, I hear you. I ride mountain bikes.

Two thoughts come to mind–call them lessons from the real world of medicine: one is that many do in fact skid wildly at the end of life. The problem of course is that those who turn a blind-eye to Dr. Breslow’s obviousness earlier in life don’t always skid painlessly into the abyss. Not infrequently, they are dragged over rocks and gravel before that final drop. Think smoking-related cancer, obesity-related diabetic complications and sedentary-induced failures of the skeleton and brain.

Second, and most obviously, those who are living life to the fullest almost always want it to continue.

Choices. Oh, the many choices we make.