Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100“
Your healthy lifestyle
Oh good, lifestyle advice. We all love to be told what to do, if only so that we can feel appropriately virtuous when it’s what we would do anyway.
91 Don’t shield yourself from the sun’s rays
The sun is our best source of vital vitamin D, which to protect against numerous diseases and conditions. Most of us in the northern climes are vitamin D-deficient. Opt instead for sensible sun exposure by supplementing with antioxidants like selenium, lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E, which offer natural sun protection without the need for potentially harmful chemical sunscreens.
One of the most baffling things about WDDTY is that they tell you things like WiFi cause cancer (which they don’t) then promote not only exposure to the sun (which irrefutably does cause cancer), but unprotected exposure, asserting (falsely) that sunscreens cause cancer.
In fact, that the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Francisca Fusco MD tells you exactly why doctors don’t tell you that sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D or that sunscreen causes cancer: it’s utter bollocks. Dangerous bollocks at that.
92 Get at least seven hours of sleep
This amount of sleep may “significantly” reduce your risk of cancer, says recent research.60 Lack of sleep alters insulin levels, contributing to overweight and even diabetes. Seven hours seems about right while nine is too much; women sleeping more than this have the highest risk of stroke.
Reference 60: Cancer. 2011 Feb 15;117(4):841-7. Short duration of sleep increases risk of colorectal adenoma. Thompson CL, Larkin EK, Patel S, Berger NA, Redline S, Li L.
All together now: Correlation is not causation. How do you know that those who sleep less are not rampant caffeine addicts? How do you know they’re not heavy drinkers? Alcohol intoxication seriously impacts quality of sleep, after all.
The answer is, you don’t, and you certainly don’t from a study whose 95% CI is 1.05-2.06, meaning that either it makes no difference or it doubles your risk. The study is underpowered to draw any firm conclusion about a causal link.
WDDTY did suggest that a lie in could cure diabetes. If that’s the level of rigour at play here, then perhaps it explains the sloppiness of the argument.
93 Ensure you are breathing through your nose
Breathing incorrectly can contribute to asthma,61 and even attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD)-spectrum problems. If you aren’t breathing correctly, try the Buteyko Breathing Technique or the breathing exercises (pranayama) practised in yoga.62
Reference 61: BMJ, 2001; 322: 1098–100 Prevalence of dysfunctional breathing in patients treated for asthma in primary care: cross sectional survey Mike Thomas, general practitioner, R K McKinley, senior lecturer, Elaine Freeman, primary care research coordinator, and Chris Foy, medical statistician.
Reference 62a: J Asthma, 2000; 37: 557–64; A clinical trial of the Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthma as taught by a video. Opat AJ, Cohen MM, Bailey MJ, Abramson MJ.
Reference 62b: J Asthma, 1991; 28: 437–42 Effect of yoga training on exercise tolerance in adolescents with childhood asthma. Jain SC, Rai L, Valecha A, Jha UK, Bhatnagar SO, Ram K.
The first reference concludes:
About a third of women and a fifth of men had scores suggestive of dysfunctional breathing. Although further studies are needed to confirm the validity of this screening tool and these findings, these prevalences suggest scope for therapeutic intervention and may explain the anecdotal success of the Buteyko method of treating asthma.
This qualifies as blindingly obvious, as does the second paper, because bronchospasm is self-reinforcing: teaching breathing techniques that help recover normal breathing rhythm, will minimise the symptoms of bronchospasm. But Buteyko does not claim to be merely palliative, it claims to cure asthma. The second reference shows this not to be the case – there are improvements in quality of life and reduced bronchodilator use, but no evidence of cure.
Wait, isn’t it medicine that’s only supposed to treat the symptoms?
Here’s what Asthma UK say:
- There has been little research published in medical journals about the Buteyko technique. This makes detailed comment difficult.
- A Cochrane Review of breathing exercises found no improvement in lung function. However, four clincial trials have suggested that breathing exercises can lead to a reduction in asthma symptoms and reduced use of a reliever inhaler.
- In 2003 (Cooper et al) Asthma UK funded research into the clinical effectiveness of the BBT as a complementary addition to conventional asthma treatment. This study showed that for some people with asthma, the use of the BBT helped to reduce their asthma symptoms and to reduce their use of reliever inhaler; although no effect on the underlying condition itself was found.
- The BBT may help people with asthma to feel more in control of their breathing and may be worth trying for those who are willing to give it a try and commit the time required to learn the technique.
- More research is needed to identify if certain people with asthma benefit more than others.
- BBT can be expensive and this should be taken into account when considering it as an option.
- Yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline that uses a variety of postures and breathing techniques to help to increase fitness and aid relaxation.
- One aspect of yoga, Pranayama uses breathing exercises, and has been studied with regard to asthma. These breathing exercises were found to be beneficial, with participants showing fewer asthma attacks and a higher tolerance to certain triggers.
- Simple relaxation techniques, which do not incorporate the philosophical aspects of yoga, have also been shown to have some benefit.
- It’s uncertain whether yoga and breathing exercises help asthma by reducing stress (which can be a trigger) or by other physical effects. More research is needed to establish this.
So, breathing techniques help the symptoms of bronchospasm, it probably doesn’t matter much which one you use, in both cases you’re dealing with “brands” that have a side-order of claptrap so go in with your eyes open and don’t succumb to the usual woo.
Remember that the appeal to tradition is fallacious, that starting with a treatment and then generating evidence to support your business is always a red flag, and never give your money to anyone unless they can prove they are fully qualified with proper degrees from accredited colleges.
Especially if you’re a woman, walking at even a moderate pace (3 miles per hour) provides every benefit that running does for staving off degenerative diseases and cardiovascular events. Power walking will even burn more calories than running at a similar speed with no harmful effects on your joint cartilage. Use a Swiss ball to work your ‘core’—the muscles of the trunk, front and back—as this will strengthen the abdominal muscles that support the spine, hip and buttocks. Opt for free weights over machines, which are less effective for strengthening the body holistically.
Free weights also carry a higher probability of injury, because they are less controlled in the axis of movement and have no mechanism to control release on muscle failure.
Here’s a simple and easy fact about exercise: the type you enjoy most is the type you will keep up. Running, walking, rowing, cycling, on crosstrainer, climber, stationary bike or treadmill, on the road or on singletrack. Whatever you enjoy, you will be motivated to do.
The single best piece of advice is probably to exercise as part of a group who have healthy attitudes to their bodies and what they want to achieve. A cycling club, or a group of ladies who meet for half an hour on the treadmill followed by a skinny latte. Whatever gives you pleasure.
Regardless, this advice is precisely what your doctor will tell you.
95 Sleep in the very dark dark
Too much light at night interrupts our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our internal sleep–wake cycle; working at night and sleeping in a too-bright bedroom have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.63 Get yourself a sleep mask or blackout curtains, particularly for the bright summer months.
Reference 63: J Natl Cancer Inst, 2001; 93: 1557–62 Night shift work, light at night, and risk of breast cancer. Davis S, Mirick DK, Stevens RG.
Yes, night shift work adversely affects your health. Remember to thank the nurses and juniors and buy them biscuits and chocolate next time you’re in a hospital, they do it for you. Now what does the study actually say?
RESULTS: Breast cancer risk was increased among subjects who frequently did not sleep during the period of the night when melatonin levels are typically at their highest (OR = 1.14 for each night per week; 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.28). Risk did not increase with interrupted sleep accompanied by turning on a light. There was an indication of increased risk among subjects with the brightest bedrooms. Graveyard shiftwork was associated with increased breast cancer risk (OR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.0 to 2.5), with a trend of increased risk with increasing years and with more hours per week of graveyard shiftwork (P =.02, Wald chi-squared test).
CONCLUSION: The results of this study provide evidence that indicators of exposure to light at night may be associated with the risk of developing breast cancer.
That was in 2001, over time the evidence that prolonged night shift work is associated with higher cancer risk has firmed up. Sleep masks and blackout curtains? Not so much. These studies refer to long-term shift workers (nurses, in fact) and don’t establish any causal link between levels of darkness in normal sleep and cancer.
96 Seek out the new
Keep your brain active, stay curious and maintain goals—even physical ones. Routine is not only deadening to the senses, but can actually make us ill. According to Bowling Green State University psychologist Jaak Panksepp, one of the most important basic human instincts is the ‘seeking’ mode, a nature that remains intensely engaged in the search or the puzzle, or is simply curious about what’s new. Every study of longevity shows that those who live to a ripe old age set themselves goals and stay curious. An interest in new things and change and, most of all, a “pioneering spirit” seemed to be the longevity elixir of a group of long-lived Civil War nurses.64 Vary your activities and ensure that you engage in ones that involve problem-solving.
Reference 64: Nurs Forum, 1991; 26: 9–16 New Surprises in Very Old Places: Civil War Nurse Leaders and Longevity, Wendy Woodward
Just when you think the Weird has peaked…
While the average woman in the U.S. Civil War times lived to the age of about 40, a group of 17 extraordinary nurses–including Louisa Mae Alcott, Dorothea Dix, and Clara Barton–survived to much older ages. A variety of possible reasons, from social and marital status to altruism and religion, is explored. More than any tangible factor, however, the presence of a “pioneering spirit” seems to be at the root of their longevity.
Is this genuinely the best source supporting this claim?
97 Love your work; work to serve
Don’t settle for anything less than work that makes your heart sing, and do it with gusto. People at peace with their lives and life’s work live longer than those at war with the world. One of the most fulfilling types of work is living a life of service to others.
Doctors, for instance? Oh, wait…
We hope our public service in debunking WDDTY’s egregious nonsense will indeed confer long life, but we don’t put money on it because the actual evidence for positive attitude making the blindest bit of difference is pretty thin.
If you live to be 100, you’re likely to be pretty chipper about it, but you can be the Duracell Bunny and still die aged 30 from a heart attack.
98 Find your tribe
Various studies have revealed that the root emotions of stress are a sense of helplessness and loneliness, and anything that can help re-establish connections—with family, with the community, with God—is a potent healer. Joining just one group this year will halve your chances of dying; connecting also protects against heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have a close community, then assemble one either through your church, or through work or leisure organizations. Meet and share regularly.
A classic confusion of correlation with causation. Does going to church make you live longer? It would be nice to think so, but nobody has successfully unpicked this from a general attitude of acceptance of the world, rather than perpetual angst.
Oh, we believe chocolate works as well. Also probably gardening, certainly cycling, and who knows what else. It’s likely that anything that gets you out of the house and makes you happy, works. Which doesn’t explain the longevity of Victor MeldrewW, and although it’s definitely true that Tom Good has outlived Jerry Leadbetter, we reckon Margot Leadbetter is wearing the years more gracefully than Barbara Good.
99 Erase your old inner emotional tapes
Try one of the new energy psychology methods like Thought Field Therapy (TFT) or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), both of which are ‘needlefree’ forms of acupuncture in which the therapist or patient ‘taps’ on various meridians of the body while making a series of statements. In one study of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress—considered extremely difficult to treat—TFT reduced such stress by more than half.65
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Reference 65: Traumatology, 1999; 5: 1, article 4 – reference unclear (see contents)
This kind of bullshit makes professionals who deal with PTSD very angry. There is an immense body of research into PTSD, much of it centred on combat veterans. CBT and other techniques have an effect, as does EMDR, but it is a complex and long-lived disorder that is likely to require a lot of intensive effort from well-trained professionals.
Emotional Freedom TechniqueW is also purest hogwash.
Both are practised mainly by hippy-dippy New-Age quacks who believe that the body is regulated by the flow of an empirically unverifiable life force whose balance is vitally affected by meridians and acupoints that have no known associated biological structures.
The evidence that these points exist is, to put it mildly, not compelling. Nobody has yet succeeded in proving that tapping them (or sticking needles in them or anything else) has any differential effect over doing the same thing in the “wrong” place. Oh, and Chinese and Japanese versions are different, so if you’re a Chinese and get sick in Japan, be sure to let them know.
100 Cultivate a readiness to empathize and forgive
One of the greatest antidotes to stress is heartfelt forgiveness and empathy. Learning to forgive can help overcome depression and stress.66 Gratitude and generosity are powerful, health-promoting game changers.
Reference 66: Explore [NY], 2006; 2: 498–508 Positive emotional change: mediating effects of forgiveness and spirituality. Levenson MR, Aldwin CM, Yancura L.
Opinion masquerading as fact, basically pure new-age hogwash. But what the hell, to err is human, to forgive divine. However, it does require that the sinner first repents. When WDDTY apologises for some of its egregious errors, we’ll start to forgive them for their decades long anti-health crusade.