Disaster response: Trading scrubs for military boots

The 2014 hurricane season started on June 1, and thousands across southeast Texas began preparing for what is supposed to be a quiet hurricane season. Across the country and right here at Houston Methodist, there is a unique group of people who are also prepared for hurricane season. But they don’t plan to “hunker down,” instead they run to the disaster.

When footage of a disaster starts rolling in, I’m always amazed by the people who are there within hours helping the homeless and injured. As a nurse practitioner at Houston Methodist, Paula Rupert cares for patients as they enter and leave the operating room for general surgery. As a member of the national Disaster Medical Assistance Team, or DMAT, Paula is one of those people you see rushing into a disaster area.

NDMS
Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) are part of the National Disaster Medical System. They provide rapid-response medical care during a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other incident in the United States.

DMATs are groups of medical personnel, including physicians, nurses, and support staff, who are organized to provide rapid-response medical care during a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other incident in the United States. Deployed by the president of the United States, DMATs can mobilize within six hours of notification and can be on site within 24 hours. Deployments can last for up to two weeks, and team members work 14-hour shifts. While deployed, DMATs are set up like MASH units with tents, cots, etc. Team members also have to wear uniforms and boots at all times.

“I volunteered to be on the DMAT team almost ten years ago,” said Paula. “One of my favorite deployments was to the 2013 presidential inauguration to provide medical support in case of an emergency.  Having a real bed, hot showers and warm food during a deployment was a luxury for our team!”

Then, the conversation will turn to the numerous disasters where Paula has provided disaster response emergency medical care, and you can tell the difference in Paula as she recounts the masses of adults and children she has cared for in these extreme circumstances. Within in two weeks of volunteering for DMAT, she was deployed to Florida after Hurricane Charley. Her most recent deployment was to Oklahoma after a deadly tornado hit the small town of Moore and claimed 24 lives in May 2013.

Caring for others in need is not just a job for me,” Paula said. “It’s a way of life. From Florida to Oklahoma, I’ve been able to help people during one of the most devastating times of their lives. This is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Caring for others in need is not just a job for me. It’s a way of life Click To Tweet

Usually, Paula and her team rotates being on-call with two other Texas-based teams. This hurricane season, Paula is a member of the strike force team, so she can be deployed at any time. We all hope Paula won’t have to trade in her scrubs for military boots, but just in case, here are some of her best tips for preparing to deal with a hurricane before and after it strikes the coast.

  1. Consider purchasing a battery-powered carbon monoxide monitor. If your carbon monoxide monitor is powered by electricity, it won’t work while the power is out, leaving you susceptible to the odorless, colorless gas that is fatal if inhaled.
  2. Stock up on food that does not need to be refrigerated and bottled water. Food that looks or smells bad or has touched floodwaters should be thrown away. By stocking up on canned and other preserved foods, you can ensure having enough food for you and your family while the power is out.
  1. Avoid standing flood water, especially without proper foot protection. Standing water can hide sharp objects and carry waterborne diseases.
  2. Watch out for wildlife. Standing water can also serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying diseases. The habitats of wasps, snakes and other creatures can be destroyed by flooding, so they might seek shelter at your house.

Weight loss: there’s an app for that

“I will start tomorrow” was a common phrase for me. I uttered it every day, usually as I was eating a Pop Tart or a bowl of pretzels or handful after handful of Wheat Thins.

Weight loss was just one of those things that I would get to … eventually. But as the years went by, I watched my weight continue to rise. I always vowed that I never wanted to weigh “240,” so whenever I would get within a few pounds, I would exercise or lay off the sweets for a day or two, lose a couple of pounds and breathe a sigh of relief.

On February 20, 2014, I stepped on the scale and it said “239.8,” not the dreaded “240,” but about as close as you can get. I knew it was time for a change. I was tired all the time, I had low self-esteem and I knew that 240 would eventually become 250 and it would just keep going up if I didn’t do something now.

A couple of weeks earlier, my daughter began using a food app called MyFitnessPal as a way for her to stay in shape for her upcoming soccer season. That was the spark I needed.

The app is not magic, but it does help you lose weight by simply counting calories. After you put in your current weight and then your desired weight, it gives the number of calories you can eat each day to lose the weight you want.

I put in that I wanted to lose 55 pounds, so it gave me 1,340 calories. It sounds like very little, but if you can make it through the first few days, you gain momentum and it becomes a new way of life.

3d supermarket smartphone
From automating calorie counting to assigning letter grades to foods, apps can help you lose weight and make healthy food choices.

While calorie counting is a great way to lose weight, Houston Methodist dietitian Kari Kooi says it’s important to make sure your calories count and that you are just not counting calories.

In other words, you want to be eating nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, etc., and staying away from processed foods that usually have empty calories. She says a good rule of thumb is to eat foods with five or less ingredients in them.

Kooi adds there are a couple of other apps besides My Fitness Pal. One is called Fooducate. This app assigns a letter grade, A through F, to the foods you eat. It also tells you why certain foods receive the grade they receive.

Another app is called ShopWell. It helps you pick groceries based on your health goals.

In the beginning of this quest, I did not exercise at all, but I have recently started to incorporate that into the plan.

While counting calories is helpful, don't forget to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods, too Click To Tweet

I downloaded a workout app called Endomondo. It tracks how far and for how long you run or walk, and measures how many calories you burn. The great thing is that it connects to MyFitnessPal, so every time I exercise it automatically adds the extra calories I have burned to the daily calories I can eat.

Since February 21, 2014, I have lost 34 pounds. While I haven’t turned into Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt, I feel much better about myself and my health.

Through this journey I have found that whether you have an app or go someplace that helps you, losing weight is all in your mind. I know I sound like Tony Robbins, but it’s true. If you decide to do it, you can do it. Food apps are just great tools that will help get you there.

3 science-backed ways to improve your sleep

You toss and turn and can’t get to sleep. The next morning, instead of being alert and ready to take on the day, you find yourself dragging—dependent on coffee for a morning boost. For many, something as integral to our nature as sleep seems elusive.

Night Owl Surfing the Net
Are you a night owl? If you are, your body may produce less melatonin, a hormone tied to sleep and wake cycles that’s also a potent antioxidant.

From weight gain to increased cardiovascular risk to even accelerated aging, poor sleep quality can be disastrous to your health.

Improving your sleep can boost your immune system, increase athletic performance and improve your memory.

Here are three ways to improve your sleep and make sure you get a good night’s rest.

Minimize your exposure to blue light after sunset

The pineal gland in your brain produces the hormone melatonin. In turn, melatonin helps regulate sleep and wake cycles, causing drowsiness at appropriate times.

Not only does melatonin help sync sleep patterns, it functions as a potent antioxidant that is as effective as vitamin E and has been found to significantly reduce cellular stress and damage. The best part? It’s naturally produced by your body.

Melatonin helps regulate sleep, but is disrupted by artificial light from devices like tablets and smartphones Click To Tweet

For melatonin to be produced, you must be exposed to natural patterns of light, meaning lots of bright light during the day and minimal blue light at night. To maximize melatonin production, consider following these tips:

  • Wear amber-tinted, blue-blocking sunglasses after sunset if you’re exposed to electronic screens or bright lights
  • Studies in 2009 and 2011 found that wearing these kinds of glasses help combat disruptions in melatonin
  • If you have a sleep disorder or do shift work, replace house lights you use in the evening with amber light bulbs
  • Install blue-blocking software like Twilightf.lux or Redshift  on your computer, tablet and/or smartphone
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible by covering windows with heavy drapes
  • Turn electronic devices that emit light off or away from your bed

Eliminate late-night meals and snacking

Don’t raid the fridge after dark or eat dinner too late. A 2011 study found that eating late in the evening extended the time it took individuals to get to sleep and reduced overall sleep quality.

Research shows that eating too late at night disrupts melatonin production, as well as raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is naturally supposed to be high in the morning, not evening.

Research shows that eating late at night extends the time it takes to get to sleep and reduces sleep quality Click To Tweet

So, what seems to be the sweet spot for meal timing at night? Research leans toward keeping your evening meal about four hours away from bedtime.

Don’t drink alcohol near bedtime

While many like a nightcap, it’s not the best idea as far as sleep goes.

A small amount of alcohol (such as a glass of wine) may make it easier to fall asleep, but any amount of alcohol disrupts the second half of your sleep cycle, which is important for concentration, motor skills and memory.

While alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, it results in a less restorative sleep cycle Click To Tweet

Ladies take special note: You metabolize alcohol differently than men, absorbing 30% more in your bloodstream. This means alcohol disrupts sleep more in women than in men.

Interested in learning more about sleep? Follow our Sweet Dreams board on Pinterest.

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Sweet Dreams on Pinterest.

Reviewed by Aparajitha K. Verma, M.D.

Summertime snacks fit for kids

In just a few days, my teenage son will come spend the next month with me, and there are three things I’m certain of: He’ll stay up long after he’s supposed to; he’ll sleep way longer than he should; and he’ll eat me out of house and home.

While I don’t have the energy to control the first and I have to work and can’t always control the second, I do know I have some power over what he eats when he’s at my house. As anyone with a teenage boy in the house will attest – they can eat … a lot. Just because he’s going to eat doesn’t mean he can’t eat healthy.

While we can't control everything our kids do, we can help them make healthier decisions when it comes to food Click To Tweet

I reached out to Kristen Kizer, R.D., L.D., a clinical dietitian with Houston Methodist Wellness Services for some healthy food suggestions for my son. She provided me some great (and simple!) summertime snacks that should keep any teenager properly fueled for most activities.

Guacamole and baby carrots:

“All this simple guacamole requires is jar of salsa and some avocados. You mix them together and you have an instant dip for veggies,” Kristen said. She recommends baby carrots because they’re already washed and ready to eat. “The vitamin C in the salsa will keep the guacamole from turning brown and the healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado will keep your hungry teens satisfied,” she said.

Whole wheat rotini and veggies and pasta sauce:

“Pasta is versatile and can easily be made in large quantities. Take a bag of frozen mixed veggies together with a jar of pasta sauce and heat up in a sauce pot while you cook the pasta,” Kristen said. To make it easy for your teenager to heat up, Kristen suggests putting everything in the refrigerator in a covered glass container once it’s been cooked. “All your kids have to do is grab the complete meal and heat it up in the microwave, and with all the sauce and vegetables, they won’t even know they’re getting a healthy dose of fiber, magnesium, manganese and selenium,” she said.

Greek yogurt with fruit:

“I prefer to add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt over fresh because it makes it a cool, refreshing treat, and as the fruit melts, the juice spreads throughout the yogurt, making it sweeter,” Kristin said. She suggests buying 32-ounce containers of yogurt and adding your teenager’s favorite fruit. “The extra protein from the Greek yogurt will keep your hungry teen full and he or she will also be getting fiber from the fruit, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and calcium.”

Cereal:

When you don’t have time to leave something prepared, cereal is always an easy alternative. “Keeping a box of lower sugar cereal on hand can be helpful when teens are around. I suggest something with no more than 6 grams of sugar, like Kashi’s Heart-to-Heart or Honey Sunshine,” Kristen said. “Original Cheerios  can also be jazzed up with some vanilla extract and cinnamon, or PB2, a natural, dried peanut butter powder that can make plain Cheerios taste a lot more like their peanut butter variety without all the added sugar.”

Thanks to Kristen’s help I think I’m ready for the onslaught my kitchen will face these coming weeks, and perhaps more important, my son will have healthy alternatives to enjoy instead of typical junk food and snacks.

For healthy cooking ideas, check out our Snack Smart Pinterest board.

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Snack Smart on Pinterest.

The difference between life and death for student athletes

Since 2008, more than 200 student athletes across the nation have died on the field. I think we can all agree that number is way too high. The majority of student athletes are required to get a pre-participation physical, but some medical providers use a one-size-fits-all approach that can put the lives of student athletes at risk.

Since 2008, more than 200 student athletes across the nation have died on the field Click To Tweet

On May 31, Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine will host its annual pre-participation physical event at Reliant Center. Physicians and staff will check the athlete’s height, weight, vision, blood pressure, pulse, range of motion, joint strength, and heart and lung function. If a serious problem is detected, they will see a Houston Methodist cardiologist, neurologist or orthopedic surgeon on site.

“For example, if we hear an irregular heartbeat or see a personal history that is concerning for heart disease, that student athlete will be directed to our cardiology station where they can have an electrocardiogram, or EKG, or echocardiogram and be evaluated by a cardiologist,” said Vijay Jotwani, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician with Houston Methodist. “If further testing is needed, an appointment can be coordinated for the following week. We feel that having on-site experts in numerous specialties enables our physicians to provide complete, personalized care for our student athletes.”

Jotwani stresses that getting a proper physical from medical providers who are knowledgeable about student athletes is essential for a safe and healthy season.

“At our event, we screen student athletes with a family history of heart disease for a disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes under the age of 35,” said Kevin Lisman, M.D., a Houston Methodist cardiologist and lead cardiologist for the event. “What we don’t do is order an EKG for every student. This practice can sometimes cause students to receive a false positive on their EKG. We want to make sure the student athlete is healthy enough to compete while not causing any unnecessary worry for them or their families or driving up health care costs.”

The pre-participation physical event is open to all students ages 12-18. Parents can download the necessary forms at the pre-participation physical event page.

Event details

What: Houston Methodist Pre-Participation Physical Event

When: Saturday, May 31, 2014, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Where: Reliant Center

Free parking with voucher in the Orange Lot at the corner of Holly Hall and Fannin.

Download parking voucher here.

Cost: $15 per student athlete, cash only.

Before leaving the event, be sure to meet the Houston Texans cheerleaders and throw a football into a giant inflated Toro. It’s fun for everyone.

The importance of bone marrow donation: Chen’s story

Every year, more than 12,000 patients in the United States are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma for which a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor may be their best or only hope of a cure.

Chen Gong is one of them.  A year ago, she was working well over 40 hours a week at an oil and gas manufacturing company doing paperwork in the supply chain department. During her free time, Chen would hang out with friends or go shopping with her mom. These days, she’s still spending a lot of time with her mom – but from a hospital bed at Houston Methodist Hospital, desperately waiting for one unknown person to give her a life-saving bone marrow donation.

Dr. Swaminathan Iyer, hematologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center, says a staggering 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. They depend on an unrelated bone marrow donor or umbilical cord blood unit.

This illustration shows cells in bone marrow which produce approximately 500 billion blood cells per a day, supporting the body’s immune system.

In the Asian community, more than 720,000 potential donors exist, but that’s only 7 percent of the entire bone marrow donor registry. The numbers aren’t much better for African-Americans or Hispanics, and they’re even more dismal if you’re of mixed race.

A staggering 70% of patients in need of a bone marrow transplant do not have a matching donor in their family Click To Tweet

Chen, a 26-year-old native of Shanghai, China hates the thought of others seeing her sick but at the same time, she needs to find a donor who might help rid her body of recurrent acute myeloid leukemia. Chen was diagnosed in the summer of 2013 after she noticed red spots appearing on her legs. After her initial treatment seemed to work, Chen’s leukemia relapsed this March. She recently finished a round of chemotherapy and now she’s waiting to see if her blood count goes up.

Waiting is the hardest part. I sleep a lot because there isn’t much else to do, and it’s like I have to feel worse before I can get better. I still have a lot I want to do. I want to get married and have a family.

No one in Chen’s immediate family is a full match, which is the ideal candidate who would provide a perfect genetic match. Chen’s dad is a half match, but her medical team at Houston Methodist Cancer Center want to hold off, as her immune system might reject the marrow.

Chen and her Houston Methodist physicians, including oncologist Daniel Lehane, M.D., are hoping that more people, especially minorities, between the ages of 18 and 44 will join the registry. If you’ve thought about joining but haven’t made the decision yet, Dr. Iyer wants people to understand the following:

  • It’s a simple cheek swab. You don’t actually donate until you are a match for a patient
  • You don’t have to be the same blood type, but there are 10 markers in your DNA that have to match the recipient
  • Bone marrow donations are not painful. Donors are typically under general anesthesia during the withdrawal of liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone. Donors go home the same day and are back to their usual routines within a few days with only a small amount of discomfort.

Learn how you can donate bone marrow for a patient like Chen.

What’s the prescription for a healthy breakfast?

Are you smart about your breakfast? The most important meal of the day is definitely a must here at Houston Methodist. Why, you ask? Because a healthy breakfast provides the fuel our bodies need to help us power through the day.

Having a healthy breakfast can help improve your attitude throughout the day, prevent obesity, help brain function and kick start your metabolism. And, breakfast eaters often perform better than those who skip breakfast. So, what are the smart people eating? Well, we asked them.

I like a high-protein breakfast; usually eggs or egg whites, depending on my last cholesterol, strawberries and blackberries and coffee. – Dr. Osama Gaber

My wife makes me a breakfast each morning that is yogurt, soy milk, oats and blueberries. It is refrigerated and I take it in to work, run and then eat breakfast at my desk. – Dr. Michael Reardon

I eat Oatmeal (#1 choice), an egg white omelet (#2 choice) or Greek yogurt (occasionally). I have been having the same breakfast for years. – Dr. Aparajitha K. Verma

I generally eat either an omelet or curry for breakfast, never cereal, and once a week I eat oatmeal. – Dr. Gavin Britz

Weetabix and soy milk every day. Plus coffee. – Dr. Jenny Chang

I’ve eaten the same thing for breakfast for decades: Kellogg’s ‘Original Bran’ cereal topped with fresh blueberries. – Dr. Stanley Appel

If your breakfast needs help, find some inspiration on our Breakfast of Champions Pinterest board!

Follow Houston Methodist’s board Breakfast of Champions on Pinterest.

Label fables: 4 tips when looking at nutrition labels

Food marketing is powerfully persuasive and it often slips below the radar of our critical thinking.  Usually all it takes to lure a shopper into buying a product is to have a tempting buzzword on the front of a package.  We buy it because it’s low fat! And natural! And packed with fiber! You get the picture.

Understand the effects of the “health halo”

These claims can cast a blinding spell that has been dubbed the “health halo.” This term refers to foods pretending to be more than what they really are and can cause us to let our guard down.  For example, you might say to yourself, “Go ahead, have some more cookies, they’re low-fat!” That low-fat label is a hidden persuader giving you mental permission to eat more.  Lots of processed junk foods are hiding behind a health halo, so here are just a few things you need to know to defend yourself.

Realize the difference between fake and real fiber

Fiber is one of the hottest nutrition buzzwords.  Food companies have been ramping up fiber content on nutrition labels to impressive-sounding numbers by using fake fibers.  Ingredients to look out for include:

  • American_Fiber_Intake_Gap
    While fake fibers can help you reach your daily fiber goal, they may cause bloating. Stick to fiber from whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

    Inulin: made from chicory root.

  • Maltodextrin: made from rice, corn or potato starch. (Note to celiacs: sometimes it’s made from barley or wheat.)
  • Polydextrose: made from glucose (sugar) mixed with sorbitol (a sugar alcohol).
  • Oat fiber: made by extracting fiber from oats.

These fake fibers aren’t harmful, but they can cause bloating.  Also, they don’t have the same health benefits as naturally occurring, intact fiber that’s found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

While fiber can be healthy, be on the lookout for fake fibers like inulin, which can cause bloating Click To Tweet

Know that gluten-free doesn’t equal “healthy”

Gluten-free foods are all the rage in the grocery store right now and lots of people are experimenting with a gluten-free diet for curiosity’s sake.  Only a small percentage of people have a medical reason to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For the vast majority of people, going gluten-free will not offer any health benefits.  In fact, gluten-free foods are often twice as expensive as their gluten-containing counterparts and higher in calories and sugar.  French fries are gluten-free, so just because a food is gluten-free doesn’t make it more nutritious.

Don’t be fooled by claims like “all-natural”

Don’t get excited over the claim “natural.” This claim is designed to make you feel like the product is farm fresh, but it’s meaningless because it’s unregulated and hasn’t been defined.  Read the ingredients list.  If you can’t pronounce it or there are more than five ingredients, it probably isn’t natural. The bottom line: don’t judge a book by its cover or a product by its package.

H1N1 flu, ECMO and lungs: Crystal’s story

The 2013-14 flu epidemic reached alarming levels in Houston. Because of the damage the H1N1 flu inflicts on the lungs, many patients were placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a lifesaving technique that oxygenates the blood outside of the body. Most ECMO patients are sedated to give their lungs time to heal. That’s why I was so surprised when I walked into Crystal Johnson’s room in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Houston Methodist Hospital – she was awake and watching TV.

Crystal was 21 when we met in early January 2013. When she was 14, Crystal had received chemotherapy that would cause severe damage to her lungs to treat a cancerous tumor on her liver. After Crystal and her mother, Tracy, moved from Opelousas, Louisiana, to Houston in 2012, Crystal’s lungs began to decline and she dealt with a series of collapsed lungs. Crystal didn’t get a flu shot, so she had no immunity to the virus when she was around family members recovering from the flu. Upon her return to Houston, Crystal tested positive for H1N1 and was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), is a lifesaving technique that oxygenates the blood outside of the body. Most ECMO patients are sedated to give their lungs time to heal.

Since Crystal was still testing positive for H1N1 at my first visit, I stopped at the doorway to gear up – a plastic gown, mask and gloves. I can still remember her labored breathing, SpongeBob blanket, and half-finished Duck Dynasty puzzle. I met Cindy, a CVICU nurse, who had become so attached to Crystal that they texted – even when Cindy was off duty. While Crystal’s body was receiving enough oxygen via ECMO, her lungs still labored to breath, so it was hard for her to talk. That first day, she mostly listened while Tracy and Cindy told me her story.

On my way home from work that night, I cried. I cried because I was so incredibly blessed, while this amazing young lady spent every moment fighting to breathe and live. My problems didn’t seem so big anymore.

After several weeks in the hospital, Crystal finally tested negative for H1N1, but the damage was done. She was immediately placed on the lung transplant list as one of the most severe cases in the nation. One day, I stopped by for a visit and Tracy told me a transplant coordinator had called early that morning with the news that Crystal might have donor lungs. I spent the day waiting with them for news. Crystal was nervous that she wasn’t going to get lungs that day. We reassured her that lungs were coming – the doctors were checking to make sure the lungs were just right for her.

Then, it was time. Cindy gave Crystal a hug and a kiss on the forehead. Tracy shed a few tears. In the moment Crystal knew she was getting lungs, she was peaceful.

All of Tracy’s family was in Louisiana, and I couldn’t leave her alone. So, after a long day of waiting for news, Tracy was called back to see the doctor. The doctor said the surgery had gone well and that Crystal was going to be fine.

After surgery, Crystal returned to the CVICU for monitoring as she adapted to her new lungs. I continued to stop by with the latest issue of a celebrity news magazine or to chat about the latest episode of Duck Dynasty and the crazy antics of Crystal’s favorite Robertson – Uncle Si. It was during a conversation about Skittles that it struck me – we were actually talking. Until then, our conversations consisted of me asking questions and Crystal writing answers or Cindy translating for me.

That was the last time I saw Crystal in the hospital. When I went back to the CVICU for a visit, they told me Crystal had gone home. Now that she isn’t fighting to breathe, Crystal finally has a chance to live her life.

10 rules for a long and healthy life

It used to constantly amaze me that the great Dr. Michael DeBakey continued to perform surgeries well into his 90s. He used to say he would never retire, there were too many diseases to conquer.

9. DeBakey 60s
Dr. Michael E. DeBakey’s surgical career spanned more than seven decades and 60,000 patients.

And he never did retire; when he died in 2008, DeBakey was still coming in to work whenever he could. He was 99 years old.

People used to ask him if he knew the secret to a long and healthy life. “Yes,” he would say, and nothing else.

Once, with DeBakey’s slight participation, I put together a list he could use to answer those questions about a long and healthy life.  He never used it, but we agreed the list was absolutely true. There have been literally thousands of studies to prove or disprove these rules, and they all came out the same way.

Years later, these rules still stand up even with minor updates. They are so true, they’re boring. You can print them out and tape them to your refrigerator or carry them around in your wallet. But you probably know them already.

What is the secret to a long and healthy life? Common sense. Click To Tweet

The question should always be: “What is the secret to a long and healthy life?” To which DeBakey would have replied, “Common sense.”

10 (or so) Absolutely True Rules For A Longer, Healthier Life

  1. Don’t smoke cigarettes.
  2. Exercise as much as you can.
  3. Lower your cholesterol level to reduce risk of heart disease.
  4. More often than not, choose foods that are good for you – rather than foods that are bad for you. (You know what they are.)
  5. Wear a seat belt in the car. And don’t mess with cell phones while driving.
  6. Practice safe sex.
  7. Go easy on your exposure to the sun.
  8. Don’t play with guns.
  9. When it’s time, get all of your recommended screenings. (Mammograms, prostate exams, colonoscopies, etc.)
  10. Be friendly and happy whenever you can.
  11. Remember: everything in moderation – including friendliness and happiness.