Monthly Archives: March 2008

15 Simple Tips to Help You Live to 100


by Susan Jacobs

A study conducted by Boston University shows that the fastest growing area of the American population is the centenarian community (i.e., those who are 100 years of age or older). The second largest growing area is people who are 85 years or older. In other words, you have a great chance to live a very long time in this modern society.

Even more interesting is the sheer magnitude of older citizens. There are approximately 40,000 centenarians living in the United States. Incidentally, 85% of them are women.

How does one make it to the ripe old age of 100? Each centenarian who is asked that question has a different answer. Some say they had a glass of brandy every night, others say they never drank a drop in their life. Some swear by the bacon they eat for breakfast, others are strict vegetarians.

No, there isn’t a magic formula for living forever (though avoiding bull riding and base jumping certainly helps). However, there are proven methods to greatly increase our chances of longevity. Below, I have compiled 15 simple tips to help you make it to 100 years of age:

1. Drink no less than 8 glasses of water a day, though you should preferably have even more than that.
2. Take a multivitamin that is appropriate to your age and gender.
3. Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, it’s never too late to quit and increase your odds of living a long time.
4. Avoid drinking alcohol to excess.
5. If you have no regular exercise regiment, start one. If you hate to exercise, take up a fun activity like swimming.
6. Settle down in a low-crime neighborhood, perhaps in the countryside.
7. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
8. Eat a balanced diet that is high in fiber.
9. Change careers if you have a very stressful job.
10. If you are a thrill seeker, live vicariously through books or films, rather than participating in dangerous activities.
11. Always practice safe sex.
12. Wear your seatbelt and drive defensively.
13. Surround yourself with only supportive friends and family.
14. Make time for the hobbies you love the most, particularly if they reduce your stress level.
15. Don’t short-change yourself in the sleep department, as sleep deprivation can lead to a host of problems.

Will the tips above guarantee a long life? Barring an unfortunate accident, they can certainly help. No one can predict how one’s body will age. However, being healthy in body, mind and spirit will not only increase a person’s chances of living a long time, it will make the life they do have a very good one.

about the author:

Susan Jacobs is a part-time teacher, as well as a regular contributor for NOEDb, a site for learning about and selecting an online nursing degree program. Susan invites your comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address susan.jacobs45@gmail.com .

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In This Political Season, Health Care Reform is a Business Issue


by John Hammergren

It would be easy, in this long run of important presidential primaries, to be convinced that the problems we have with our health care system can only be resolved through government action and the political process. After all, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have each made health care reform a central issue of their campaigns. Political races are all about emphasizing stark differences between positions. But I am encouraged by how much today’s political leaders recognize that our health care crisis – despite that word “care” – is fundamentally a business problem.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of those politicians who understands the urgency for reform. The health care company I lead, McKesson Corporation, turned 175 years old this year. To help us celebrate that proud milestone, Governor Schwarzenegger spoke passionately and convincingly about the opportunities we have before us to bring the health care industry to another level of excellence.

I believe he’s right. Historically, every twenty years or so, we have a debate in this country about health care reform. So what’s different now? We’ve enjoyed incredible advances in medical practice and technology over the last few decades. That’s one reason why overall costs have risen but it’s also why American health care, despite the criticism currently in vogue, is the envy of the world. On the other hand, with the best of intentions, the political solutions traditionally put forward to make health care cheaper and more accessible – like artificially capping costs, regulating the services providers offer and restricting consumer choice – have had the opposite effect. Nobody who runs a business is surprised about that. What computer maker or car dealer would worry about price, access or quality if there was no competition for the customer and no reward for distinctive service?

Business leaders across the country are keenly aware of these issues. I am a member of the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, a group of more than 50 companies advocating solutions to the health care crisis. In regular conversations with top executives, I hear the same concerns frequently. First, because health care costs are soaring, our employer-based health insurance system is hurting American businesses and the economy. Every product or service an American company offers is more expensive than it should be because employee health care costs are added to the mix. In a global economy, this is making it harder to compete with companies abroad. Second, business leaders, with their background in competitive markets and customer service, look at our health care system and think, “What other industry could operate like this and survive?”

In most industries, top performing businesses excel by being the low cost producer, putting out the best product, and meeting or beating customer expectations. The market works because consumers are able to choose the services that meet their needs best. In the health care industry, costs are distorted by government interference in the market and quality differences are disguised by a lack of consumer information and choice. Moreover, while we can argue that “customer” is another word for patient, would the customer in any other market make critical decisions without concern for cost or quality and put up with the inconveniences, inefficiencies and high error rates of health care?

The three remaining presidential candidates understand that effective health care reform means preserving our enviable ability to innovate while making the health care industry more market-oriented and customer friendly. The stump speech talking points about access and cost containment don’t always highlight this. But if you view the details of their proposals, a different picture emerges. Each candidate’s agenda emphasizes business fundamentals like quality, transparency, and paying for outcomes. They also understand that the current health care information technology boom is about to revolutionize the way care is delivered, reducing medical errors and administrative waste while making efficiency, informed choice, lifelong care and customer-orientation the new paradigm.

What’s more, all three candidates see the same critical areas that need our most urgent attention. Chronic diseases account for most of our health care expenditures and require coordinated rather than episodic care. We need to incentivize and organize providers to manage long-term illnesses better. The fear of medical malpractice suits are driving up costs by encouraging unnecessary treatment. We need sensible reform to reduce the preponderance of defensive medicine. Quality of care and outcomes need to be the new measuring sticks by which we assess, select and pay providers for their health care services. We need greater transparency to give primary care physicians and health care consumers the ability to choose the best doctors, hospitals, insurance providers and technicians, while also creating industry-wide standards for the latest in best practice.

No matter which candidate prevails in November, the popular concerns we have about health care right now are going to evolve rapidly once the next administration begins. As a business leader, I support universal access through tax incentives and individual choice (not a de facto expansion of Medicare) because I believe that having everyone in the insurance pool is fundamental to reducing costs and creating a competitive insurance market. But as Governor Schwarzenegger learned when the California Senate Health Care Panel rejected a bill mandating health care for all state residents, sweeping reform is even more difficult when economic times are tough.

The will for reform is real and the political process is critical in building and maintaining the health care industry we deserve. But as the candidates for president realize, the kinds of forces that make American business so competitive can make health care work better, too. Higher quality, lower costs, greater transparency, and better customer service are not contradictory goals, they’re outcomes that go together. We don’t need to control the health care market through mandates and cost containment legislation, we need to unleash it by giving people the ability to make better informed choices. After all, health care is the one product all consumers need, guaranteed.

Author
John Hammergren is CEO of McKesson Corporation, the Fortune 18 health care services leader. McKesson serves customers at every point of health care and is helping transform the industry into a modern, efficient, and quality-driven system. McKesson has seen industry-leading performance under Hammergren’s leadership. During his tenure, the company has more than doubled its revenues and experienced a cultural and business renewal. Hammergren is an HP board member and the recipient of numerous awards for leadership. He is the author of Skin in the Game: How Putting Yourself First Today Will Revolutionize Health Care Tomorrow.

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More on Estrogen Benefits: Brain function and blood pressure


In a recent blog at metabolism.com (http://metabolism.com/2007/11/12/estrogencant-live-with-it-cant-live-without-it/) we reviewed information suggesting women who had their ovaries removed or who began early menopause before the age of 50 may preserve brain function as they age by using estrogen replacement. I have just reviewed new research which could help explain why. Researchers gave post-menopausal women one dose of inhaled estrogen while measuring blood flow to their brain. They discovered that the estrogen caused an increase in blood flow to the brain. Diminished blood flow to the brain is one reason people develop impaired memory and thinking as they get older. Could estrogen prevent or slow this process?

In other areas of estrogen research it was found that daily estrogen use can significantly lower blood pressure in post-menopausal women. Healthy post-menopausal women without high blood pressure were given sequential estrogen/progesterone treatment for one year. At the end of the year blood pressure was significantly lower in women using estrogen compared to those who did not. The fall in blood pressure was equal to the benefits of some popular blood pressure medications such as verapamil (Verelan, Calan, Isoptin).

Stay abreast of further estrogen related developments at metabolism.com.

Be advised that this information is not meant as medical advice. Starting or changing medications should be done only under the supervision of your own physician or medical provider.

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Armour Thyroid Dropped by Medicare


After hearing the rumors, I was waiting for official notice that Armour Thyroid was being dropped from the Medicare formulary. The confirmation came by way of a form letter telling me that one of my patient’s prescriptions for Armour would no longer be covered by Medicare and asked if I want to switch them to levothyroxine. With that letter I understood that the only viable alternative to traditional t4 therapy for hypothyroidism is now officially shoved to the outer fringes of medical care in the United States.

Not to be naive about the role of Armour in this country, I already know that the use of this medication is considered “off beat” if not worse, by many of my colleagues. For years I also was skeptical of its viability as a treatment for low thyroid (hypothyroidism) conditions. What changed my mind was the realization that so little is truly understood about what constitues ideal thyroid hormone replacement. The endocrinologists who taught me that Synthroid (t4) was the gold standard of thyroid hormone replacement were speaking more from the unexamined prejudices of their generation, than from true understanding of the needs of their patients.

I have treated many patients with traditional t4 therapy who are doing fine. There is no reason for them to think about another type of thyroid hormone replacement. But for the portion of older hypothyroid individuals who fail to return to feeling normal on t4 alone and who have happily switched to Armour, there is now financial disadvantage if they want to continue using this medicine. Is this fair? Is it proper medical care to switch them back to what appears to be an inferior treatment? These are questions the community of thyroid patients and their doctors must now begin to address.

Comments welcome.

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