Living Healthier

It is natural to think of plastic surgery and healthy living together, as they both refer to having a better life. Many of our patients use cosmetic plastic surgery as part of a program of self improvement. As they feel better about themselves, they are more motivated to improve their life. On the flip side, it is hard to get motivated about exercise and diet when you struggle to lose 10 pounds and cannot even see the difference because of a bulging tummy!

There are lots of people out there touting magical lotions and potions for "anti-aging". The sad truth is that the only magic is common sense.

The most important thing you can do is to stop damaging and poisoning yourself. First on the list, I shouldn't have to tell you, is to avoid cigarette smoke. I hate it when I see a pretty girl who smokes, because I know that soon the cigarette smoke will make her wrinkled and old before her time. Arizonans took a huge step forward on May 1, 2007, with Smoke Free Arizona, the proposition that eliminated most indoor smoking in public areas, but we are still exposed to smoke on patios and sidewalks.

You should also realize the damaging effects of sun exposure, which ages the skin and causes skin cancer. I can't deny that a suntan looks nice, but don't say I didn't warn you! Wrinkles and spots wait for those who ignore this advice.

And I know this one won't be popular, but alcohol is a poison. Indeed, that is how it works. Unlike drugs such as heroin, which attach to specific drug receptors, alcohol just invades the wall of the nerve cells and interferes with their function. Can you drink some of this poison on a regular basis and still survive? Probably. But, it can't be good. Everyone has to make their own decisions, but forget what you have heard about a glass or two of red wine. You have been warned.

Also, you should be aware that, even though political forces have made marijuana much more available (and I agree that the war on drugs has been somewhat counter-productive), it is not because marijuana is any less harmful.  Is the poison of marijuana less harmful than the poison of alcohol?  Perhaps -- it depends on how you look at it.  But is no poison better than some poison?  I think that common sense provides the answer.  And smoking marijuana is clearly worse in one way, in that it exposes those around the user to the poison in a way that drinking alcohol does not.

Next is weight control and body fat percentage. This one is a lot trickier than it seems. On the one hand, you might think that all you have to do to lose weight is eat less and exercise more. But, if so, why are so many people overweight? There are lots of people smarter than me who have been unable to lose weight. I have to believe that there is lots more about weight control that we do not know.

Having said that, getting your weight down and getting your body fat percentage into a good range is one of the most important things you can do for a long and healthy life. Excess body fat is metabolically harmful, and promotes increased blood sugar levels, which in turn damage the proteins of your body. Caloric restriction is the one intervention that has been proven to prolong active life in both animals and in man.

Exercise is also critical, both in helping you control your weight and in strengthening your body and helping it to function better. This should include both aerobic excercise and resistance (weight lifting) exercise.

Preventive screening is also critical for a long and healthy life. Go for a regular annual examination. Women should have a PAP smear and breast examination annually and, starting at age 40, they should have a mammogram annually. Everyone should have a colonoscopy when they reach age 50, and then again as instructed by your doctor. Many, including Katie Couric's husband, have died an early, painful, and completely unnecessary death due to the failure to have a colonoscopy. Please, don't be one of them. Find the cancer early, and you won't even know they removed it. Find the cancer late, and you die.

Have your doctor check your blood pressure and your labwork. Of course, all of these general recommendations should be customized by your doctor. For example, if you have a family history of colon or breast cancer, you will probably want to start those screenings at a younger age.

Finally, a word about nutritional and hormonal therapy. Vitamin supplementation is cheap and easy; Costco has big bottles of one-a-day type vitamins. Hormonal supplementation is also helpful for both men and women, especially for women approaching and past menopause. As always, discuss these with your doctor. But, make no mistake, they are no substitute for avoiding poisons, controlling your weight, getting some exercise, and preventive screening.

Everyone can make changes to improve their life. Get started today!