#107 7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at Age 90

June 9th, 2015 by

7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at Age 90

Odds are that you will be medically disabled by age 69 according to data from the World Health Organization.  As the current life expectancy is now 79 in the U.S., this means that you will likely spend the last 10 years of your life with chronic medical conditions, on lots of medications, and with many doctor visits.  Is this really how you want to spend your “golden years?”

Research shows that if you can do all 7 things discussed in this article, you will likely be able to do everything you now enjoy doing right up until your 90th birthday.  Don’t leave 21 high quality years “on the table.”  Read on to understand the science of how our bodies were genetically designed to function well until age 90.

Our Distorted Concept of Aging

Many people are afraid to live a long life.  Some even have the mistaken idea that the reason why they make poor lifestyle choices is because they don’t want to live very long.  What they don’t realize is that these poor lifestyle choices are much more likely to cause premature medical disabilities rather than a premature death.

Sadly, I often hear the following from patients.  “If I had known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”

The key message of this article is that you don’t have to “grow old” in the traditional sense of the word.  You can continue to do everything you now enjoy doing until age 90.  For most people, your genes will allow you to enjoy great health at age 90 if you are committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Men vs. Women, Disability and Longevity

In general, men become medically disabled and die several years younger than women.  The only exception seems to be “Sardinia’s Mysterious Male Methuselahs.” For some strange reason, the Sardinia men seem to outlive the women.

Despite these grim odds for men, there is one group that does surprisingly well in the U.S.  This one group of men that seem to thrive in the U.S. are male physicians.  What can we learn from these long lived male physicians that can help all of us to live to 90 without medical disabilities?

If you are a woman, even better, as your chances of hitting 90 in great health are even higher than men.  This is true even among U.S. physicians.

The Physician’s Study

The Physician’s Health Study was launched in 1982 at Harvard University to test the role of aspirin and beta-carotene in preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Now, 33 years later, we have learned far more than the health effects of aspirin and beta-carotene.

Surprisingly, many of these male physicians have lived healthy lives, doing everything they have always enjoyed, until their 90th birthday and beyond.  Indeed, researchers found that if these physicians did all of the things described in this article, most of them would still be alive at age 90.

I should point out that if physicians even missed just one of the following things, then they probably would not make it to age 90.  Even more striking is that most of these physicians, living to age 90, reported excellent health.  Below are the 7 things you must do for great health at age 90.

7 Things You Must Do For Great Health at Age 90

1. Don’t Smoke

Every cigarette smoked takes 11 minutes off your life.   This adds up to dying 10 years too early.  It also causes rapid aging and premature medical disability.  Indeed, for physicians to make it to age 90 with excellent health meant absolutely no smoking.

If you smoke it is never too late to change.  The sooner you can quit the sooner you can gain back these lost years of quality life.

2. Prevent or Reverse Diabetes

Diabetes is a tragic disease causing premature medical disability and death.  In one study, diabetes took away up to 9 years of life and caused people to become medically disabled 20 years earlier.

According to a study performed by my former classmate, Harvard researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, 90% of diabetes is completely preventable.  Even if it is genetically impossible to reverse your diabetes, do everything possible to keep your hemoglobin A1C in the normal range or at least as close to the normal range as possible.

3. Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

High blood pressure not only wears out your heart but also your arteries and other organs.  The goal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.  Anything above this is prematurely aging the body.  Indeed, studies show that people with high blood pressure lose 5 years of high quality life to heart attacks and other heart problems.

As with diabetes, I have seen hundreds of my patients reverse their high blood pressure and get off of medications with an unwavering commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  To learn more about how to reverse high blood pressure without medications, please read this article I wrote.

4. Physically Active

Studies show that every hour spent sitting watching TV takes 22 minutes off your life.  This could be any form of sitting.

The physicians living to age 90 and beyond with excellent health, in the Physician’s Health Study, were physically active their entire lives.  At the cellular level, studies show that if we spend too much time sitting then we give up 10 years of life.

5. Maintain a Lean Body Weight

These physicians living to 90 with great health were not obese.  They were a lean group.  The average body mass index (BMI) of these physicians was 24.  A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight.  To determine your own BMI, click on this link.

Studies show that obesity will rob you of up to 9 years of life.  Like diabetes, it can cause you to become medically disabled 20 years before your time.

6. College Education

When reviewing the findings of the Physician’s Health Study, it is important to note that this was a very homogenous group.  They were all physicians.  Thus, we also have to understand what makes a physician a physician.

To begin with, to become a physician means you have to go to school for a long time.  Countless studies have shown that the more education you achieve the more likely you are to avoid medical disabilities and live a long life.

According to this 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people did not finish high school gave up 9 years of life.  Even those who may have attended college, but did not finish their degree, lost out on 5 years of life.

If you did not go to college, or did not finish your degree, it is never too late.  Most colleges offer night courses or online courses to help you get your degree.  Spending the time now to get your degree may also help you to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.

7. Calling in Life

Many physicians I know feel that being a physician is their calling in life.  There is no separation between work and personal life.  As a physician, you are driven by your desire to help other people.  This calling in life, or sense of purpose, has been shown to improve health and longevity.

Based on my calculations of studies done, those without a strong sense of purpose give up 4 years of life.  People without a perceived calling in life also develop Alzheimer’s Disease at a young age.

If you don’t yet have a purpose or mission driving your life, now is the time for you to explore why you are on this Earth.  What legacy do you want to leave?

Surprising Factors Not Associated with Health and Longevity

Interestingly, there were certain factors not associated with health and longevity in physicians.  The following were not shown to improve the health and longevity of physicians in the Physician’s Health Study:

1. Social connection

2. Wine consumption

3. Cholesterol numbers

Of these three, the most surprising to me was that social connection was not a predictor of health and longevity in physicians.  Perhaps this is because, by nature, physicians tend to feel very needed and connected to their communities.  For example, every week I go to church, at least several neighbors will come up to me asking for help regarding a medical situation.

Also of interest was that as you get older cholesterol numbers don’t seem to matter as much.  Other studies have shown similar findings.  One other factor that should be considered is that most of these physicians were in good health when they first enrolled in the Physician’s Health Study in 1992.

It Is Not Just Physicians Who Make It To 90

You don’t have to be a physician to enjoy great health at age 90.  With strict adherence to a healthy lifestyle, studies show that most Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and Okinawans can also live to age 90.

Making It Work For You

The key message of the Physician’s Health Study is that aging does not need to mean medical disabilities, lots of medications, and frequent visits to the doctor.  You can continue to enjoy excellent health to age 90 and possibly beyond.

Are unhealthy lifestyle choices worth becoming medically disabled 20 years younger?

#031 Listen to Your Body and Make Exercise Work for You

September 1st, 2014 by

“That candy bar you ate from your kid’s Halloween bag is stuck right there in your thigh! Squeeze harder! Get it out! Come on, you know you ate more than you should. We all have our favorite jeans that we want to fit into! Keep lifting!”

So we did. We all lifted our leg higher at the “counsel” of our Pilates instructor.

What was the message offered to us that day?

External appearances are more important than our internal well-being?

We’re not good enough as we are?

We can’t trust our body to tell us what it needs?

The tragedy here is that we may take in and even look for these types of external cues to tell us how we’re doing.  These external cues abound in our modern society.

Productive Movement in China’s Longevity Village vs. Our Typical Gym Experience

During our most recent trip to China’s Longevity Village, as I worked along side Mrs. Huang and her neighbor in the fields one morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark contrast between my gym classes which are designed to mimic the real motions utilized in real work and real work itself.

I noticed the strong steady rhythm at which Mrs. Huang and her friend worked. With seeming ease, they carried the packs that held the substantial fruits of their efforts; their faces expressed both contentment and determination.  Side by side, they conversed about the issues in their families and community, identifying possible solutions as they went. At the end of the day, they would prepare their harvested food and partake with their families of multiple generations in one home.

There I was outside working with these women and with the earth, thinking about what a strange phenomena it is, by contrast, that I hop in my car and drive to a building so that I can stand on a machine or in a room, with others doing the same–to move.

As these women work in their fields, their focus is on harvesting the fruits of the earth.

By contrast, as my friends and I work out in the gym, our focus is on the mirror in front of us and the images that are reflected back to us.  We focus on the external appearance of ourselves and others, as instructors call out our next move, telling us what we need to be doing.

In this way, our cues come from an external voice while our focus is on an external image.

Similar to my Pilates instructor, who encouraged us to squeeze the candy bars out of our thighs, my cycle instructor admonished us as Thanksgiving approached:

“Who is planning to eat pie?  Are you going to be naughty?  Pedal faster!”

We pedaled faster then we got in our cars and drove home.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have loved the gym since I was old enough to join one.  I still love it.  For some of us, the gym may be the only way we can work in physical activity, and is a vital component of our well-being.

However, for our ultimate well-being and enjoyment, we need to learn to identify and confront the external messages that can override the messages our body will most definitely give us to tell us what it really needs.

Making the Shift from External to Internal Cues

I used to exercise to compensate for the junk food I ate and measure my exercise status by the number of calories burned, the maximum heart rate achieved or the minutes spent on a particular machine. I exercised primarily alone with the sole focus of “getting in shape.”

Today, gratefully, I move simply because it feels good. I get outside more. I join with friends and family more. Together, we produce more.

Our family is always looking for new and creative ways to get out and enjoy nature together. One of our favorites that we just discovered is, instead of driving all the way to grandma’s and grandpa’s, parking and riding our bikes the rest of the way.

I feel so much better and can accomplish so much more than I did when I was trying so hard to do the exercise thing according to the rules I thought I was supposed to be following.

What great freedom I experience with this shift from focusing on the external to honoring the internal!

By observing with compassion, I can now identify and confront these messages that sometimes exist at the gym and elsewhere that tell me that how I look on the outside is more important than how I am taking care of myself on the inside, that I am not good enough and should do something to compensate, and that I need to look outside myself for the answers.

Challenge for the Week

Here is your physical activity challenge for the week:

1. Make it natural.

2. Make it social.

3. Make it productive.

4. Make it enjoyable.

5. Do what feels good to your body.

6. Politely dismiss any external cues that may suggest you do otherwise.

Listen, honor, and let us know what you discover by leaving a comment below!

#027 Do You Have These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Chances are that you suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Indeed, up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

Most people have no idea they are missing this critical micronutrient.  Read on to find out if you may be suffering from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Early in my career as a cardiologist, I worked with a 48 year old nurse from Wyoming who suffered from palpitations, anxiety, and weight gain.  She was tired during the day and couldn’t sleep at night.  She had seen many doctors and nothing seemed to help.

As part of her work up for palpitations, I put her on a 24-hour heart monitor (Holter monitor).  The heart monitor showed frequent premature ventricular contractions (PVCs).

I also checked her lab work.  Everything was normal, including her serum magnesium level.  Fortunately, her stress echocardiogram was also normal so we didn’t have to worry about any other heart issues.

To help with her palpitations, I prescribed a beta-blocker medication.  Unfortunately, beta-blockers only caused more fatigue and only marginally decreased her palpitations.  What followed were a series of different medications, all with intolerable side effects.

Finally, I encouraged her to eat a high magnesium diet.  I also prescribed magnesium supplements.  Even though her serum magnesium level was “normal”, I was running out of options.

Miraculously, all of her symptoms went away.  Not only were her palpitations gone, but her anxiety resolved, she had more energy and she was now sleeping at night.  She even lost 10 pounds in the process.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

Unfortunately, there is no good test for magnesium deficiency.  This is why it is so important to recognize the magnesium deficiency symptoms.

While it is easy to test for magnesium in your blood (serum magnesium levels), less than 1% of the magnesium in your body can be found in your blood.  Thus, serum magnesium levels are a poor indicator of magnesium deficiency.  Most of your magnesium is stored in your bones or your cells.

Who is at highest risk for magnesium deficiency?

If you are under a lot of stress you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  If you drink filtered or bottled water, you are getting minimal magnesium in your water.  If spinach and other green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are not on your plate every day, you probably suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you are overweight, diabetic, or over age 60, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if you take diuretics, calcium supplements, or stomach acid blocking medications you are also probably deficient in magnesium.

Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Below are 12 of the most common magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Chances are that you probably suffer from one of these 12 conditions.

1. Weight Gain or Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract.  To make matters worse, magnesium deficiency is an important cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

For over 100 years now, magnesium deficiency has been associated with depression.  It is also well known, that people with depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

If you’ve had a lot of cavities, or been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you probably have magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium deficiency has long been associated with dental cavities.  Magnesium deficiency may also affect vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a key role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium has long been used as a laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease have been linked with magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are very common in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues can be traced back to a magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

An often overlooked cause of cancer is magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.

To make matters worse, the foods most often eaten in the U.S, namely wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, and other processed foods, do not contain much magnesium.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very difficult to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

In general, adults need about 400 mg of magnesium each day.  Rather than trying to calculate the magnesium content of your food, just eat a heaping green salad each day.  If your heaping salad includes plenty of spinach, seeds, nuts, or beans you are there.  A heaping salad with the right toppings will get you 100% of the magnesium you need for the day.  This is especially true if the seeds on top are pumpkin seeds.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be an important reason why heart disease is very uncommon and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Reduce Stress.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Final Thoughts

Up to 89% of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency.  Chances are that you may already be suffering from one of magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.  Talk with your doctor if you suspect that you have any of the above magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with magnesium deficiency, please leave your comments below.  Also, if you have any questions about what you have just read, leave your questions in the comments section below.  I will do my best to answer every question.

#015 How to Find Your “Why”

June 23rd, 2014 by

Do you have a plan for your life?  Why are you committed to reclaiming or maintaining your health?

Finding your purpose or your “why” power is what gets us out of bed each morning.  If we don’t have a reason for living, the entire day becomes a chore and we lose site of our goal.  Over time, we can fall into a trap of a negative downward spiral. We stop investing in ourselves.  We stop investing in the relationships with family members or others within our social networks.  We may stop eating the foods that give us health and energy.  We may even stop exercising or moving altogether.

I have found that my patients who have successfully reversed their medical conditions have a very strong answer to “Why are you committed to regaining your health?”  They also have an answer to the follow up question, “What will happen if you cannot regain your health?”

We have to visualize our goal.  We also need to visualize what will happen if we cannot stick to our goal.  Every day I review my life’s goals and purpose.  It gives me much greater focus and clarity with all of the distractions and temptations in our modern life.

My Experience

In my mid 40s I had lost my health and lost my “Why”.  I was working long and crazy hours at the hospital.  I had lost my connection to my family, myself, and even my spirituality.

I would not take vacation time. Each day I would start working at 5 or 6 am and often would not come home from the hospital until 8 pm or later at night.  I definitely was not happy at that time either.

I had this crazy idea that if I just worked hard enough and we saved our money that we could retire early and start enjoying life.  I fell victim to the trap of once this happens (fill in the blank), I will be happy.  You cannot put off your happiness. The key is to be happy in the moment, happy in whatever stage of life you are in.

In the end, my body just gave out.  It hurt to move or do anything.  I wound up on 5 different medications and had developed an autoimmune disease, severe esophagitis, degenerative disk disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, horrible insomnia, and chronic fatigue.

I always felt tired and would try to compensate by eating plenty of donuts, bagels, pizza, and Diet Coke each day.  Finally, I realized how far off course my life had become.  I also realized that my answer to the second question, “what will happen if you cannot regain your health” was that I would become a decrepit, arthritic, and sickly overweight man and would likely wind up in one of those Jazzy scooters before age 60!

The first step for me to regain my health was to develop a strong life’s purpose.  My purpose required me to have excellent health so that I could fulfill my role in this life.  The purpose also had to be strong enough to resist all of the temptations of modern life.

The Power of Purpose and Risk of Heart Disease

Does having a sense of purpose matter with regards to health?  The answer is a resounding yes!  I learned this first hand.

One of the largest studies looking at the role of a life purpose and survival was done in Japan.  In this study, they had a total of 43,391 people that they followed for 7 years.  They found that those who did not have a sense of purpose for their lives were 50% more likely to die during the 7 years of the study.

Interestingly, in this same study the risk of dying from a heart related cause was 60% higher if you lacked a sense of purpose in your life.

The researchers offered several explanations for their findings.  They cited other studies which have shown that people without purpose or hope are more likely to develop blood clots, have increased levels of inflammation, and are more likely to have the dangerous forms of cholesterol.

Having a Purpose Can Protect Against Alzheimer Disease

An equally fascinating study was recently published on 246 individuals from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.  In this study, they found that having a life mission or purpose could help to prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease.  It makes sense to me, if you have a purpose you have passion.  If you have a passion for life you will live in a way that promotes health and wellbeing.  To read this study click here.

Lack of Purpose and Poor Health

This is something that I have seen many times in my career.  The most dangerous day in the life of a man is the day he retires.  For many men, their sense of purpose seems to come from their job or career.  So often, when men retire their health quickly crashes over the next 1 to 2 years.

Does this mean we can never retire?  Of course, not.  However, instead of turning retirement into lounging on the chair, it could be an opportunity to move from a “for profit” to a “non-profit” career.

Volunteering can be so incredibly therapeutic and health promoting.  Many studies have shown that those who volunteer gain remarkable health benefits.  We all need to feel needed and valued for optimal health.

How to Develop Your Life’s Purpose

How can we develop our own life purpose as this is the first step to reclaiming our health?  This is something that is very personal and will vary from person to person.  You must be sure that your purpose and goals are your own rather than “should’s” that may be placed on us externally.

For me, what seemed to give me the greatest clarity of my life’s purpose was to imagine what I would want people to say of me at my funeral.  What do I want my life to stand for and what legacy do I want to leave?  What mark will I leave on the world so that my posterity will know that I once lived here.  I hope that I can live my life so that on my gravestone my family will have carved my life’s purpose which is “He served God, loved his family, and healed the sick”.

To fulfill my life’s purpose I must have good health.  I now know that I can never take this for granted again!  This strong sense of purpose keeps me motivated and helps me each day to live in a way that promotes health.  It gets me out of bed, it motivates me to move each day, and it inspires me to resist foods that will take me away from this purpose.

What is your “Why”?  Does a strong sense of purpose give you the power to resist the temptations of modern life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

#010 Six Reasons Why You Need a Vacation Now

June 2nd, 2014 by

Did you know that taking regular vacations can help you to prevent a heart attack? While it seems strange, most Americans do not take their full vacation time. I was the same way once. It really makes no sense at all.

Is stress crushing you?

According to the 2013 Work Stress Survey, 83% of Americans reported being stress out at work. Where are you right now in your life? Are you buried at work? Is stress crushing you?

Do you need a vacation?

The problem is that as Americans we just do not take many vacations. While Europeans get up to 30 days of paid vacation each year, we just get 14 days. Even with these 14 days of vacation, the average American only takes 10 days off.

I get this. I used to be the same way. I would never take any time off. I would let my vacation time go unused so that I could work more. Seems strange doesn’t it?

I’m really not sure what was going on in my head at the time. I think I was trying to work hard and not spend any money in hopes for an earlier retirement. That is if I still had my health by the time I hit retirement age…

It was not until I hit my own health crisis a few years ago that I started taking vacations. Now I know that vacations are absolutely critical to our health, happiness, and longevity!

Let me give you 6 Reasons Why You Need a Vacation Now!

1. Less Stress

We just do not do a good job of dealing with stress in our modern lives. 70% of all doctor visits are due to stress or illnesses brought on or made worse by stress. I see this every day in my medical practice. In fact In a study of 1500 women in Wisconsin, those who rarely took vacations were 90% more stressed out than those who regularly took vacations.

2. More Happiness

While we have always been taught money cannot buy you happiness, that is not always the case. Studies have shown that spending money on life experiences, such as vacations, actually improve happiness.

Interestingly, in a study of 1,530 Dutch people, vacations seem to boost their pre-trip happiness the most. Somehow, just thinking about your upcoming vacation makes you happier. I know this is the case for our family. For the last 20+ years our annual family vacation has been on my parent’s houseboat at Lake Powell. If we even bring up Lake Powell our kids instantly become joyous! Now that I am thinking about this vacation, I can already feel my spirits lifting!

3. More Energy

Yes, vacations can give you more energy! Perhaps it is because they give you a new perspective on life or a chance just to de-stress. Regardless, from the Wisconsin study cited above, women who rarely took vacations were 67% more tired and fatigued than those who regularly took vacations.

4. Better Marriage Satisfaction

Can you really improve your marriage just by taking a vacation? Yes, according to the results of this Wisconsin study. In this study, women who regularly took vacations reported 55% more satisfaction with their marriage. Vacations give us a chance to reconnect with those that are most important in our lives free from all of the stressors of everyday life.

5. Protect Your Heart

Yes, a vacation will help to save you from ever developing heart disease! In fact, from over 12,000 men followed for 9 years in the MRFIT Trial, those who regularly took vacations were 29% less likely to die from a heart attack. Studies of women have shown the same heart protective effects of vacation. Vacationing is indeed good for your heart!

6. Live Longer

If all of the above benefits were not enough, those who regularly take vacations live longer than those who do not. Based on the MRFIT Study above, regular vacationers were 17% less likely to die over the 9 years of the study.

What if I can’t afford a vacation?

You may be thinking, yeah that all sounds great Dr. Day but my wife and I just cannot afford a vacation right now. Vacations do not have to be expensive. In fact, you could even do a “stay’cation”.

Stay’cations, if done right, can yield the exact same health benefits. Of course, a stay’cation does not mean stay home and do chores around the house. It means to get out and explore the area around where you live!

What can I do today?

My challenge to each of you is to take some time and plan a vacation with your family or friends today. There is no better time than the present. It just might make you happier!

How have vacations helped you in your life? What was your best vacation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.