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Longevity: Do I have the secret?

By: Dr. W. Gifford-Jones

 | Feb 20, 2014 - 11:40 AM |

This month of my 90th birthday, a reader asks, “I like your way of speaking and getting the message across. You sure are witty and energetic. It does not sound like you’re in a “Home”. So, what’s the secret of your longevity? I’m sure other readers wouldn’t mind knowing.”

It’s been said it’s better to be lucky than good. I was lucky to inherit the longevity gene. This is the best start any parent can give. And I was lucky to have parents who taught me not to spend it foolishly.

I’ve been lucky to like what I do. At an early age, I had a single-minded passion to be a doctor. Hell would have had to freeze over to stop me from accomplishing it. Being accepted at The Harvard Medical School put the icing on the cake.

I’ve been lucky to inherit the gene of “thinness” which decreases the risk of obesity and its related problems, such as Type 2 diabetes. But I also step on the scale every day. My diet isn’t perfect, but it avoids excessive fats, sugar, processed flour, and it concentrates on fibre.

I’ve been lucky to have the privilege of not being forced to retire. My plan is to do this 10 years after I’m dead. Being inactive physically and mentally slowly kills people.

I had the lucky break of becoming a journalist that allowed me to interview Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling, among others. He believed humans need high doses of vitamin C and lysine to wipe out coronary death. I’m convinced that without this knowledge, I probably would not have survived to this age. See my website www.docgiff.com to see what other vitamins and minerals I take.

Early in my medical career, I realized that Pogo was right when he said, “We have identified the enemy and the enemy is us.” So I haven’t succumbed to the North American habit of popping a pill for every ache and pain, thus causing liver and kidney damage. This household has never even had an over-the-counter painkiller on its bathroom shelves.

Fortunately I realized that radiation therapy has been overused, so I have limited my radiation exposure to CT scans, chest and dental X-rays, unless absolutely needed. Nor do I believe in the current fad of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Rather, for 16 years I have used high doses of vitamin C and lysine to keep my arteries open.

I’ve followed Sir William Osler’s advice that, “alcohol for the elderly is what milk is for the young.” I believe, as we age, alcohol in moderation is possibly the best therapy invented. It lowers blood cholesterol, helps oil the blood, decreasing the risk of blood clot, and is a great relaxant after a busy day.

I’ve never underestimated the value of laughter. A sense of humour never killed anyone. And it maintains your sanity when you see the lack of common sense in today’s medicine, politics and financial matters.

Napoleon Bonaparte, when wondering who to promote to general in his army, once asked his officers, “Is he lucky?” In war or peace, Russian roulette often decides who reaches the senior years.

So has all this brought me to my 90th year? I’m not in a “home” yet, but I have no delusions about luck. Sooner or later, it gives out. As Stein’s Law says, “If something can’t go on forever it has to stop. It’s just a matter of when.” And Stein’s law always wins.

As for how I want life to end, I hope it ends suddenly. But more and more of us are coming to a slow, miserable, agonizing end. Due to an aging population many people are developing Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases that make the end of life a living hell.

I recently read where an asinine Canadian judge and nursing home both refused to honour what any sane person would consider a reasonable Living Will.

They rejected it, allowing the patient’s suffering to continue. There should be a special place in hell for such judges. Next week, I’ll tell you what I have done to avoid this and why we should all get mad as hell.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones (Dr. Ken Walker) has published a weekly medical column in Canada for the past 30 years. Visit his website docgiff.com and send comments to [email protected].

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