Everyone wants to live a long, happy and healthy life, and there are certain things you can do that will help you accomplish that goal. But determining what’s right for you, and what’s a waste of your time and money is often very difficult. Throughout this book we’ve provided you with the information you need to make good health choices, but more than that we’ve attempted to give the foundation you need to become an educated health consumer. Both Alan and I hope that now you’ll be able to read or hear stories about the latest medical discoveries, advances, and studies and know what’s good for you but also know what is simply hype. We want you to navigate through these complicated waters of scientific news with confidence and skill. When I’m asked about my own lifestyle I explain that I lead an “aced life.” That’s a mnemonic I’ve created to describe what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle. The “A” is for aspirin and alcohol, “C” is for caffeinated coffee, “E” is for exercise, and “D” is for vitamin D3. The “L” is for laughter, “I” is to go inward, in my case, to meditate, “F” is fish or fish oil for the omega- 3, and “E” is for empathy. If you do all those things, you’re leading an “aced life.”
And when I do tell that to people, I always remember to add, “Please, don’t go nuts remembering this mnemonic”— a good way to remind myself to have a few nuts.
Both Alan and I try to lead aced lives, although in certain respects we fall short. On a regular basis I get up at 4:30 in the morning and meditate for 45 minutes. The only supplement I take is vitamin D3, and I take 1,000 IU of it with my morning low- dose aspirin. I also keep two regular aspirin readily accessible in my home, my car, my office, and even in my golf bag. While I’m not at high risk for a heart attack I carry these aspirin as my insurance policy. Should I have a heart problem or be with someone who suffers a heart attack or stroke, I know those two aspirin might save a life.
I exercise three or four times a week. Generally I meet two of my closest friends at the gym at 6:45 a.m. The buddy system is valuable to me because like most people, half the time I don’t feel like exercising and if I were on my own I probably could talk myself out of it, but knowing my friends are waiting for me is the incentive I need to get to the gym. On the way to the gym I’ll stop for my first cup of regular coffee.
After exercising and showering I’ll stop for a second cup of coffee. I average about three or four cups a day, with the final cup no later than 4:00 p.m., otherwise I would have difficulty falling asleep. I have a small refrigerator in my office in which I keep water, some carrots, and some nuts. I always have a handful of walnuts or almonds a half hour or so before lunch.
I walk as much as possible during the day, often choosing to take the stairs rather than an escalator. I eat my fruit and vegetables. I will eat fish at least once or twice a week and I avoid eating red meat at least five days a week.
I believe it is important to spend time with friends and my wife and I make a point of celebrating even small things with the people whose company we enjoy. I have friends who can make me laugh, sometimes even just being around them makes me laugh. I also have hobbies: I read, I attend concerts, I travel extensively and have been to 80 countries, and I play golf. Or as golfers understand, I attempt to play golf. In the evenings, when possible, I will meditate again. That’s about half the time. When I meditate I do it for about 20 minutes, and if I have been successful in meditating twice during a day I find six hours of sleep is generally sufficient for me.
The final thing I try very hard to do on a daily basis is practice kindness. I do this consciously, although I think that by nature I am a kind person, because my parents were incredibly kind people. I live by the words of the Dalai Lama, who said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Alan follows a somewhat similar pattern. In the mornings he takes aspirin. Like me, for a time he took a statin, Lipitor, but both of us had to stop because it caused significant muscle cramps. That is not a particularly common side effect, but it has affected both of us. He doesn’t carry aspirin with him, he told me, because he is only 48 years old. I asked him what he would do if he was with someone who is likely having a heart attack— and he decided he would begin carrying aspirin with him.
Alan exercises at least four times a week on an elliptical machine in his home, and two or three times a week he also works with light weights to increase his upper body strength. When possible, he’ll also do about 15 minutes of yoga in the evening. He did try meditating, but unfortunately he usually falls asleep. At my urging he may try it again. Also like me, Alan only needs about six and a half hours sleep. Both of us probably should get a bit more, but we also understand the pace of daily life.
Alan drinks between three and four cups of caffeinated regular coffee or espresso daily. He’s a cardiologist so he understands the importance of exercise and walks as much as possible. Alan admits he “avoids aluminum like the plague, irrationally.” His children get vaccinated.
He doesn’t take vitamin D3 because he makes sure to spend a reasonable amount of time in the sunshine. His job brings him to Florida on a somewhat regular basis, so even in the winter he does get sufficient exposure to sunlight.
Unlike me, Alan is absolutely focused on eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A serving is about a half cup, so an apple is about two cups. He will go out of his way to get his nine servings. He doesn’t count juice, by the way, although he admits, “I don’t know why. There’s no data to support that.” He rarely snacks between meals, and he always has some nuts as what he calls a “tag- on.” He might have a handful of nuts with eggs on toast for breakfast or add them to his dessert at night— but he will have some healthy nuts every day. And like me, he will have a glass of wine with his dinner, four or five nights a week. He favors red wine, but that’s simply a taste issue. Both of us are privileged to be actively involved in the world of medicine and healing. It is something we cherish dearly. We are also fortunate that when we read or hear about an advance in medicine we’re able to speak with colleagues, who often are renowned experts, to find out for ourselves the real meaning behind the story. There is no single way to have the healthiest possible lifestyle.
Certainly no one really expects you to change your daily schedule to incorporate every one of those suggestions that appear to make good health sense. That’s just not possible. But we hope you will take this information we’ve presented and find ways to apply it to your own life. And most important, the next time you’re waiting in a supermarket checkout line and see provocative headlines, or you’re reading the latest health newsletter, or lying in bed watching the news and you learn about something that might make a difference in your health or that of your loved ones, you’ll ask the right questions and make the proper decisions.