Recently, I’ve noticed a handful of health-related factoids floating around the internet describing some of the impressive things that our bodies do every day. How our hearts pump about 2,000 gallons of blood, or how our lungs take 17,000 breaths. Daily counts like these are easy to measure. Others like the number of thoughts our brains mull over each day are fuzzier, and estimates are as much guesswork as they are science. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of work the body does every day is impressive. And, that it’s done in a non-stop, no-rest rhythm is beyond extraordinary.
A few months ago, Don Hitzel celebrated his 100th birthday in Spokane, Washington. When I heard the news, I was eager to call and wish him happy birthday on behalf of the entire Amway family. Why? In addition to hitting the century mark, Don has another impressive claim to fame.
You see, Don has been eating Double X™ food supplement ever since he became a Nutrilite™ distributor in the 1950s. If you’re counting, that’s seven decades ago, back when Hollywood royalty helped introduce the product to health-conscious people all across America.
Don and I had a lovely chat on his birthday. His son Gary and daughter-in-law Diann, both fellow Amway Business Owners, hosted a catered affair for family and friends. “It was a big one,” says Don, “I must have had 100 birthday cards!
There’s a lot about Don that betrays his age. His voice is crisp and clear. He stands tall and straight even when he casually poses for the camera. And, he has a sharp mind and a can-do spirit born from his Depression-era childhood, working daylight to dark on his parent’s South Dakota farm.
He recalled his first paid job at the age of 15 with the National Youth Administration sponsored by President Roosevelt. Don worked at a fish hatchery where he was paid $15 per month to move heavy wheel barrels full of sludge. It was tough work for a 120-pound teenage boy, but he was young and fit and, at the time, the pay seemed like gold.
The family soon moved to Washington State to flee the severe drought and dust storms that spread across South Dakota, turning farmland into wasteland. After spending a couple of years in the South Pacific during the war, Don settled into a long 35-year career managing large credit unions, helping people save, invest and grow their money.
As for his longevity as an ABO, Don says it’s much like success in other areas of life. “You need to work at it and stay with it,” he says, “but most of all, you have to believe in the product.”
Don says he’s a bit puzzled why he’s still around after all these years. However, I have a few ideas, and it starts with a lifetime of healthy habits.
Simple lifestyle choices, serious benefits
There’s no debate that lifestyle choices can help us stay healthy as we age.
Maintain a healthy body weight, and you’re more likely to avoid high blood pressure, insulin resistance, heart disease and asthma.
Get enough regular exercise, and you’re more likely to avoid type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. If you drink alcohol, doing so in moderation can help you avoid heart disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Don’t smoke (or quit if you do), and you’re more likely to avoid lung problems and heart disease. Plus, you’ll avoid all the harm tobacco smoke causes, including DNA damage, inflammation and oxidative stress.
While each of these lifestyle factors delivers serious benefits, together they have real power. In fact, a new study reveals that some combinations of these lifestyle factors are better than others if you want to avoid chronic diseases as you age.
For this study, the researchers completed an extensive prospective multicohort study that includes 12 European cohorts. Study participants had to be free of six chronic diseases at baseline – type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and provide relevant information about lifestyle habits, health status and other factors. Over 166,000 men and women were eligible to be included in the study analysis. The participants were in their early 40s and were followed for about 12 years, on average. The researchers focused on 16 lifestyle profiles based on combinations of four healthy lifestyle factors (weight, activity, smoking and alcohol).
Over 166,000 men and women were eligible to be included in the study analysis. The participants were in their early 40s and were followed for about 12 years, on average. The researchers focused on 16 lifestyle profiles based on combinations of four healthy lifestyle factors (weight, activity, smoking and alcohol). The results are detailed in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Internal Medicine (published online April 6, 2020).
A better lifestyle profile means more disease-free years
Here’s what I found fascinating. Those who had the best lifestyle scores had over nine more years of disease-free living compared to those with the worst lifestyle scores. Four specific lifestyle profiles were associated with the highest number of years free of disease. All four of them included a healthy body weight (a body mass index less than 25) and at least two other factors such as regular physical activity, moderate alcohol intake and never smoking. In other words, maintaining a healthy body weight is key, and other lifestyle factors have an additive effect. In all cases, the more, the better.
How does Don’s lifestyle profile rate? Well, he says he’s never had a weight problem. He’s always been active and still makes it a habit to get on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day. He drinks alcohol in moderation with an occasional cocktail of Crown Royal Canadian whiskey. He did smoke as a younger man, but quit 36 years ago.
Don has one of the better lifestyle profiles, and it likely plays a role in his longevity. Plus, eating Double X™ supplement for 70 years has certainly helped keep his body (and brain) fully nourished over the years.
Image celebrating your 100th birthday with health and vigor. You can prepare now by shaping healthy habits that last a lifetime.
As I have always said, the younger you start, the better.
Here’s to a lifetime of great habits!
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