Chapter by Chapter Reactions to The Longevity Prescription by M.D. Robert N. Butler.

I am participating in a chapter by chapter discussion of Dr. Robert Butler's Book The Longevity Prescription on Ronni Bennett's Blog Time Goes By. The Longevity Prescription has a chapter devoted to each of Dr Butler's nine longevity prescriptions. I discussed the introduction in my last blog post but I think I will put my reactions to each chapter in this one blog post, adding to it as I read.

In the introduction to The Longevity Prescription Butler quotes Jonathan Swift, "Every man desires to live long; but no man would be old." Butler says that the aim of his book is to "offer the best strategies to live long and to live well." I want to live a long life but I also wan to be healthy and vital for as long as possible.

Prescription I – Maintain Mental Vitality

The first encouraging thing I learned in  is that although mental decline is most people's biggest fear it may not happen as much as we think.

"A number of studies have demonstrated that this decline is neither inevitable nor as severe as many people think. About 80 percent of older people report memory loss – but testing has found that such subjective reports are overstated. It appears that our fear of a fading memory exaggerates real but minor memory loss"

For me maintaining mental vitality is the most important aspect of living not just a long life but a long life lived well. I was very encouraged to learn that the idea of use it or lose applies to the brain too.

"The message is clear: You can take responsibility for keeping your brain in optimal condition."

"Momentum is gathering behind the notion that the use-it-or-lose-it rule applies to the brain just as it does to the musculoskeletal system."

I was discussing this with Duke and some friends last night and they rightly pointed out that we know of several people who did all the right things to maintain mental vitality but they still succumbed to Alzheimer's .

"This ailment has become the fear of many aging people, not least because of its prevalence: Roughly one in twenty Americans over sixty-five is affected, and the number rises to more like one in three after age eighty."

Butler says that although there are promising avenues of research into treatment and avoidance of Alzheimer's.

"However, living a healthy lifestyle is the best we can do at present to decrease our odds of getting Alzheimer’s.

My take away from reading Prescription I is that I can look at many of my activities like learning Spanish, writing this blog, and creating a podcast as ""Cognitive Calisthenics to exercise the reserve
capacity of my brain and its ability to integrate newly acquired knowledge".

I also need to think about regularly connecting with other people to take me out of old patterns. Apparently this may even promote brain growth. It is easy to settle into the familiar and regular but I think I will make this more of conscious goal in the future.

Ronni Bennett who I mentioned above is having a meet up her blogging community on October 9 in Portland and Duke and I are planning to go. I suspect that in general traveling is a good way to get out of my old patterns and meet new people.

Prescription II – Nurture your Relationships

I recently overheard a conversation at the senior living facility where my Father lives about how certain people weren't getting enough interaction with other people. I don't think my Dad would mind me saying he has never been a joiner. He can be a very gregarious person but he really dislikes socializing being forced on him. I can appreciate this and would never want to be forced to socialize.

On the other hand making social interaction an important part of my life makes sense to me .I am fairly introverted but I do have a wonderful husband and some really wonderful friends. Butler says:

"In adults, it is much the same: To thrive throughout life, we benefit from attachments, whether you call it love, friendship, empathy, or bonding. Those connections can add great richness."

He also says:

"As a physician, I find it gratifying—and a little surprising—that it is a statistical fact that a good marriage at age fifty is a better predictor of good health at age eighty"

I really appreciate how precious my wonderful marriage is on many levels.There can be no doubt it is good for my health.

I also know how important my friends are. Although I already knew it the importance of nurturing my current friendship and of making new friends is always something that it is good to be reminded of.

Prescription III – Seek Essential Sleep

While it is  intuitively obvious that getting enough sleep is a good idea. I did not realize how important it is for good health. To quote Dr Butler "Poor sleeping habits have been linked to the genesis of disease."

Interestingly enough Butler also says "The old Dogma that poor sleep is an inevitable part of aging is simply not true: Age in itself is not a predictor of insomnia".

I am very lucky in that I have never had problems sleeping and I can pretty much correlate my occasional bad nights sleep with drinking.

Prescription IV – Set Stress Aside

As with getting enough sleep, I think it is obvious that stress is bad for one's health and even impacts one's ability to think clearly.

Being a worrier tends to run in my family but I think I am pretty good at defusing stress. There is no doubt that retiring has helped a a  lot. Sometimes I do have to remind myself that I don't need to try to make everyone happy.

One thing that Dr Butler discussed in this chapter was the restorative effect of contact with the natural world. I have often said that nature is good for the soul. I just feel better when I get outside and enjoy the natural beauty of my surroundings. I was really please to see this positive influence discussed.

Another suggestion that Dr Butler had was to "Keep flowers around". He says that "A study at Kansas State University gave women a five minute typing assignment; researchers found that those who worked with a bouquet of flowers at hand outperformed those with no flowers." I love flowers but I don't usually have them at home. I'm going to add that to my short list of things to change

One of the commenters on Ronni's post about this chapter of the Longevity Prescription mentioned "escape-reading" as a stress relieving strategy. It reminded me of how helpful reading has been at very high stress times in my life. It is amazing to me how much less reading I do now that my life is less stressful.

Prescription V – Connect with your Community

In Prescription II: Nurture Your Relationships Butler talked about our closest relationships like family and dear friends. In this chapter he discuss what he describes as "that larger sense of connectedness we get from relationships that are more distant."

I don't think I have ever really separated the two but I find this an interesting way to think about connections. Butler calls it a connection with life or a connection with the world.

Butler also says that "having a purpose in life is in itself life-giving. He talks about people who find retirement depressing. " His strategies to avoid this include a second career of volunteering, neither of which I want to do right now.

Butler does acknowledge "Not that traditional retirement is not the right model for many people. For people who are able to do what they genuinely enjoy doing on their terms, retirement can make them happy and occupied. There is nothing politically incorrect about saying Ï'm retired and having a ball." On the whole that's me. Although I do think that I should perhaps work more on this blog. I seem to have been letting it falter lately and I have been meaning to write a post about why I blog to help me think about it.

Butler also talks about the "Society of cyberspace"" . This is discussed at length by Ronnie Bennett in her Time Goes By Blog and in the comments on the post about this chapter. It is pretty amazing what a vibrant community Ronni has built at Time Goes By.

"Ronni says "Alone does not necessarily mean lonely and the degree to which we need others varies widely."I think that is very true.

This chapter has definitely given me something to think about.

Prescription VI – Live the Active Life

Prescription VII – Eat Your Way to Health

Prescription VIII – Practice Prevention

Prescription IX – Stay with the Strategy

As I started writing my reactions to each of Dr Butler's prescription I came up with the idea to create a short list of reminders to carry with me in my purse and on my iPod. Here is my list of resolutions so far. I'll add to it as I go along.

Resolutions

  1. Stimulate my brain
  2. Seek out new experiences
  3. make healthy life style choices – fruits and vegetables, exercise, no extra weight, limited alcohol
  4. nurture my friendships
  5. make new friends
  6. Keep flowers around

The Longevity Prescription by M.D. Robert N. Butler

" I am aging. Let's not deny that we are aging. Let's deal with it, accept it, and use it."

The blog I read first every day is Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By – what it's really like to get older. I have interviewed Ronni on my podcast and I am a part of the community of elders that she has created. You may have noticed that I have a proud ElderBlogger"" badge in the right hand column of my blog. I got the badge from Ronni.

DSC_2474  Recently Ronni did a blog post suggesting that we have a discussion - virtual, online, chapter by chapter of Dr. Robert N. Butler's book,The Longevity Prescription: The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life. I responded enthusiastically. A couple of days ago she posted her discussion of the introduction to The Longevity Prescription. This post is my response to Ronni's posting, to the discussion in the comments on her blog, and to my reading of the introduction of The Longevity Prescription.

I really like and agree with the theme of  the introduction.

"To a surprising degree, aging is a state of mind. People who take a preventive approach to their health tend to stay young."

The introduction includes a test with 25 questions that you answer on a scale of 1-3 to come up with your Longevity index. My score of 63 at least partly reflects that I tend to be an optimist. A longevity index of 63 is pretty good but according to Butler there are still some changes I can make to "help enhance its quality".

Butler challenges the reader (me) to come up with five things I can change to increase my chances of longevity.

  1. Lose weight. – My BMI is around 35 and it should be move like 25.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables – Sometimes I do sometimes I don't. It doesn't come naturally to me. My goal is to at least have two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day
  3. Walk at least a mile every day –  Although I am fairly active it is easy for me to go for weeks with very little exercise.
  4. Start taking a daily multivitamin and low dose aspirin
  5. Watch my alcohol input – no more than 14 drinks per month.  It would be very easy for Duke and I to share a bottle of wine every night. The calories alone make this a bad idea. 

The Longevity Prescription is divided into 8 chapters each about a different prescription. Each prescription has strategies for achieving the prescription. I'll go into more detail about my thoughts for improving in each area and my questions about the validity of the prescriptions when we discuss that chapter.

One of the questions that I have been pondering since stating to read The Longevity Prescription is whether questioning the validity of a prescription is simply denial or is it reasonable to doubt some of these ideas. Doctor Butler documents the studies that have been done in each area The discussion in the Time Goes By blog comments has included several questions about whether it is really important to make new friends and to go out to socialize multiple times a week. Another question I wonder about is whether I really have to stop at one glass of wine a night? I do like my wine.

"The takeaway message? More than a little of your long-term health is very much up to you."

The goal is to "increase our chances of remaining healthy longer." what is referred to by Dr Butler as Compression of Morbidity.  To to not only live longer but to be healthy longer.

I like the idea of living a long life but even more I like the idea of that life being a healthy, active and interesting. I think what I like most about The Longevity Prescription so far is that Dr Butler takes an upbeat positive approach.  I learned something new about how I can improve the likelihood that my life will not only be longer but also better.

There is one thing  missing from this post. I don't think I have really added anything new or elucidating to the discussion that has already occurred. I'll continue to participate in the on line book club discussion and pondering how best to contribute to the discussion.

Learning to speak Spanish – The Language Hacking Guide by Benny Lewis

Duke and I spent two weeks traveling in Mexico in 2007. Duke is fluent in Spanish and his ability to really communicate made our trip so much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Ever since then I have been working on learning Spanish. I want to speak Spanish fluently.

I've worked my way  through Madrigal's Magical Key to Spanish by Margaret Madrigal, I'm listening to and practicing with the Coffee Break Spanish and Showtime Spanish Podcasts produced by the Radio Lingua Network. I downloaded the Flashcards Deluxe app to my iPod Touch. I've set it to use a spaced repetition system and I've created several decks of Spanish flash cards that I practice with.  As I discussed in a previous post I am using Mango Languages on the Washoe County library web site and I like it a lot.

In spite of studying a lot for three years I still don't really speak Spanish. It is just like the four years of French I studied in high school. Even though I know a lot of the language I can not really speak it or communicate in it.

LHGRecently I bought The Language Hacking Guide by Benny Lewis. It is an ebook and included interviews, worksheets and translations.  To quote Benny's web site:

"The Language Hacking Guide explains exactly what you need to do to speak a language quickly. Rather than read through the guide to find out my one major ‘secret’, I can tell you right now. You need to speak the language from day one."

I think I really knew that the only way to speak and understand Spanish is to start speaking it. But that is really hard for me.  I don't like to appear foolish. I like to be right and I am very bad at asking for help or asking to be corrected. I am definitely not an extrovert.

The Language Hacking Guide convinced me. Benny's positive enthusiastic style and advice got me over the hump. 

Part one of The Language Hacking Guide is about Mentality. Benny says that although a goal like - I want ot learn to speak and understand Spanish is fine you really have ot have short term aims. So that is what I am working on. My goals so far are not really specific enough but I am speaking Spanish more with Duke and I think I am making some progress.

Benny also urges learners to have a language log to document progress and to share the struggle. So one  of my gaols will be to post regular updates on my progress here on this blog. I've added a Learning Spanish category to my category list on the left.

If you are interested in Benny's approach go to Benny's Fluent in Three Months web site. There you can sign up for his weekly language hacking tips.

If any of you reading this have any suggestions for how to learn to speak Spanish I would really appreciate your input and of course I appreciate your cheer leading. Thanks in advance.

 

 

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee

I always am reading at least two books at a time. One on my Kindle and one in standard book form. This way if the Kindle battery dies or I am on an airplane taking off I still have a book to read. Yellow Lighted Bookshop is available in a Kindle edition but I borrowed my reading copy from my daughter.

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The Yellow – Lighted Bookshop A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee is a wonderful book .It describes book stores, their history and the book selling business. I love book stores! Buzbee knows and describes many San Francisco Bay Area bookstores that I know and love. Many of these bookstores like a Clean Well Lighted Place for Books are no longer around but just thinking about them brings back fond memories.

John Tyler, The Accidental President by Edward P Crapol

A few days ago I finished reading John Tyler, The Accidental President by Edward P. Crapol. I have set myself a goal to read a biography of each American president. The list of the books I have read so far is here. 

John Tyler was the 10th American President. He served from 1841 to 1845. He was the first person to become president as a result of the death of the President. When William Henry Harrison died there was controversy about whether Tyler should actually become president or should just be designated as acting. His adversaries referred to him as “His Accidency”.

This biography focuses on what Crapol describes as ” Tyler’s mystical faith in America’s national destiny and closely examines  his life-long commitment to territorial expansion as the means to preserve the  Union as a slave holding republic.”

Crapol describes Tyler as: having “the stigma of being the nation’s only traitor president, a distinction lie gained from his support for secession  and the Confederacy.”

During Tyler’s presidency there was a horrible accident when a cannon exploded during a party on a boat near Washington.  Crapol says “To have a secretary of state, a secretary of the navy, a high-ranking  naval officer, and two other well-known public men perish in a single misadventure   was unprecedented in the nation’s history and remains the case  to the present day.”

Tyler was probably proudest of the significant roll he played in bringing Texas into the union. There were many opponents to annexation of Texas and Tyler worked both secretly and openly to make Texas a state.  Texas did not actually get admitted to the union until after Tyler was defeated in 1844.

I found Crapol’s biography of John Tyler very interesting but I wished he had talked more about Tyler’s background and his personal life. I would have liked to know a little more about Tyler’s wives and his relationships with them.

In preparation for this post I reviewed John Tyler’s Wikipedia article and I was surprised to learn that Tyler had 15 children! I don’t recall ever reading this in Crapol’s biography.

When I use my Kindle to search John Tyler, The Accidental President for references to Leticia, the name of Tyler’s first wife, I found only 5 references in the whole book. This absence of almost any reference to Tyler’s personal life made me feel like I only got half the story.

John Tyler

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

On our road trip I finished reading
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
and I am adding it to my
list of books completed in 2010
.

I saw the movie Blind Side
with Sandra Bullock and I really enjoyed it. I assumed that it probably
wasn't worth reading the book since I already knew the story. But as
happens to me a lot, I enjoyed the book even more than the movie. I am a
fan of Michael Lewis' writing. His
baseball book, Moneyball
, is one of my favorite books.

The
Blind Side is a very readable book, it gives you the real story of
Michael Oher but it also educates you about football, college athletics, recruiting, and everything a poor black kid from an inner city slum faces in life. It is impossible to overstate how disadvantaged Michael
Oher was. The Blind Side really makes you think about our society,
poverty and of course football. I highly recommend this book. I am putting Lewis' most recent book on my to read list.

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9800 Savage Road by M.E. Harrigan

In the fall of 1973 I was a senior at Iowa State University
finishing up my degree in Computer Science. Several times a week I went to the
placement office and signed up for interviews with companies who were coming on
campus to interview. After the on campus interviews I was sometimes called for
follow up interviews at the company’s headquarters. It was a heady experience flying
all over the U.S. imagining myself living and working in the city I was interviewing in.   Probably the most unusual
interview I had was a two day interview in Baltimore with the National Security
Agency.
NSA does super secret work figuring out foreign signals intelligence.

The interviewers couldn’t tell me what I would be working on
and part of the interview process was taking 
a lie detector test. Unfortunately they had to get me a security
clearance before they could offer me a job and they told me it would be several
months before I could get a job offer. I had been working at Boeing in Seattle
for three or four months when I finally got their job offer. I’ve always kind of
wished I had gone to work for them.

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This is my draft security clearance application. I occasionally pull it out if I wan to remember one of the many addresses I had as a child.

004

I just finished reading 9800 Savage Road by M.E. Harrigan.  
Harrigan worked for NSA for thirty seven years. 9800 Savage Road is her first novel and it was
great. It was a story of  espionage and murder inside the NSA complex and in Afghanistan. It was full of suspense and very believable. I could easily imagine myself in the middle of what was going on. I don't think anyone has ever written a story set inside the NSA which makes the book even more interesting.

I would highly recommend it.