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Dr. Zorba Paster: Tips for living longer – tea, alcohol and social interaction

UPDATED: Wed., July 14, 2021

Savannah Breeden, right, owner of Urban Nirvana, smiles as her husband Thomas Kilborn pours her a cup of tea on March 7, 2017.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Savannah Breeden, right, owner of Urban Nirvana, smiles as her husband Thomas Kilborn pours her a cup of tea on March 7, 2017. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dr. Zorba Paster For The Spokesman-Review

I talk a lot about living longer. Why? Because I’m an older guy. I’m 73. I used to hate when my father said he was a Super Senior. He liked to boast, in a friendly manner, that he still worked. He did right up to the day he died at the ripe old age of 87 – and that he always walked the course, the golf course, that is.

He was an active guy right up to the end. Now that I’m next up to bat, I think about him, what he did and what others do that will help you live a long, sweet life. Now there is no guarantee in life, you know this already.

I have a dear friend whose husband died, suddenly, at 60. He was in the prime of life, did everything right, ate right, exercised right, strong family ties, etc. But the vagaries of life are there. Randomness. But just like seat belts reduce your risk of dying in an accident, what can you do to keep yourself fit?

Now you’re all aware of the usual stuff that I talk about all the time – following a more Mediterranean diet, exercising regularly, kicking butt. But what about drinking tea?

A study published of 100,000 people, followed for 7 years, pointed out that habitual tea consumption was linked to living more years, and more healthy years at that. Three times a week seemed to do the trick – it seemed to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by 22% and death by all causes by 15%, with green tea having the most benefit. Not bad.

Then there’s the issue of alcohol. Recent research out of the University of Georgia showed that light to moderate drinking, that is an average of one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, might just preserve and perhaps boost cognitive function as you age. Doing this three times a week also seems to be the sweet spot.

Now before the New England Puritans chime in on the dangers of drinking, and let me tell you they always chime in how alcohol is the devil’s tool, this advice is not for those with a drinking problem. It isn’t. About 10% to 15% of Wisconsin residents have a problem with booze. I have people who write in to me saying that they’re an alcoholic wondering if they can have a daily drink. Nope. But for the rest of us, this is a salubrient.

And finally the one obvious thing that we all miss during the pandemic: human interaction. Hugging your kids. Going out with friends. Helping your neighbor. Going to soccer games, baseball games, music festivals, graduations. The data is irrefutable. The social sphere of our lives is what propels us forward. It’s what often gives us motivation to do the other things that keep us alive.

When I wrote my book “The Longevity Code” – your personal prescription for a longer, sweeter life, I postulated that there were five spheres that influenced us – physical, mental, family and social, spiritual and material. With this COVID-19 epidemic, I’m ready to change that order. I think that the social sphere should be No. 1.

Friends and family, those who love you and you love, are clearly the bottom-line secret to life. So back to my dad. He never drank, so I can’t ascribe that to his longevity. He ate a fairly good diet; points for that. He golfed or walked every day – he was not a couch potato. He kept his mind active by continuing to work selling (more on that in another column). But what he excelled in was his social sphere.

He had five sisters, he was close to all of them, and when some of them died, he stayed close to their kids, he had golf buddies, work buddies and neighborhood buddies. And when he was asked what his secret of his long, healthy life was, he always, and I mean always, replied his family and friends (in that order).

Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician and host of the public radio program “Zorba Paster on Your Health.” He can be reached at askzorba@doctorzorba.com.

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