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M. P. Ravindra Nathan

Editor's Note: This series is designed to give you heads up on healthy living and graceful aging.

Medical illnesses have a way of cutting down one's life suddenly or shattering an entire career. While we dream of a long life with youthful vigor and vitality, many succumb to premature illnesses and death without being able to fulfill their ambitions and goals. And yet, modern day research tells us that the human body is built to last 120 years or may be even more. Often, when we look back at our own lives, we would say, "I wish I had been a little more careful; may be then I wouldn't have been in this predicament now."

But it is never too late to rectify your errors and modify your habits to get more mileage out of this life. While it may not be possible to achieve the proverbial 'immortality,' living to celebrate your own centenary - what you would call practical immortality - is quite exciting and certainly feasible. But you need to lay the foundation now.

For starters, read the book "Chasing Life" (Warner Wells, $24.99) by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the famous CNN medical correspondent and neurosurgeon at Emory University. You can cash in on the 'longevity boom' that the scientists are talking about.

M. P. Ravindra Nathan
A groundbreaking book

"Chasing Life" is all about living longer and healthier. The task may appear daunting at first with all the self-imposed disciplines and restrictions to be observed consistently during one's lifetime, but once started on the right path, it is simple. In his quest for practical immortality and the elusive fountain of youth, the author takes us on a whirlwind tour to some of the centers in the world where important aging research is being done. He explores the claims of a prominent Russian physician, Dr. Alexander Tepliashin, who believes that he can reverse the aging process with stem cell therapy. The price tag? A cool $12,000 to $30,000 per treatment, but he has a lot of admirers and a faithful, elite clientele.

According to Dr. Gupta, the longest average life span in the world goes to Okinawans, where living to 100 years is a common phenomenon. The Okinawan diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and unrefined carbohydrates, coupled with hard purposeful work appear to be the theme among the centenarians there. And they observe a special tradition, "hara hachi bu" - push away from the table before you are full. Eat till your hunger is sated, but not till you are full to the brim.

In 10 well-written chapters, this sensible health advocate covers the entire gamut of what it takes to live a long life without falling victim to premature illnesses. The first few chapters with catchy titles are devoted to the "essentials" that everyone should observe, such as maintaining a healthy diet with our hectic lifestyles (Eat Less, Live More!), the importance of daily exercise (Run for Your Life), exercising your brain as you exercise your body (Memories R Us), reducing the incidence of cancer by controlling risk factors (Taming the Cancer Beast), etc. Many other issues relevant to healthy aging such as cardiometabolic syndrome (Abdominal fat is a killer), the role of stress (Keep your sunny side up - optimists are less likely to die of heart disease), unsubstantiated claims of many dietary supplements (The Supplement Boom) as well as the roles of genetics and environmental influences are also addressed. If you are born with a longevity gene, you are already in the driver's seat.

So, how does the future look?

Dr. Gupta specially discusses the work of Ray Kurzweil, the MIT trained inventor and author who has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. According to Kurzweil, longevity boom is right around the corner and he envisions three bridges to radical life extension - biotechnology revolution, reprogramming our own biology to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and may be even aging itself and finally using technology at a molecular level to prevent deterioration of the cellular function, repair the DNA and rejuvenate the cells and organs. Sounds encouraging, doesn't it?

Now that human genome has been sequenced and decoded and "genomes have started talking." Genomic contribution to human diseases has become clearer. Indeed, we might be able to predict who is likely to develop what kind of diseases way ahead of time and then take appropriate steps to prevent them, including pharmacogenetic therapies. Industry has already moved into this arena to take advantage of these spectacular advances. As Kurzweil says, "Death is a tragedy and must be avoided. With the new research in biotechnology, genetics and molecular sciences, we should be able to extend our lives to 120 years or more."

Next month: Interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



Our body is a wonder machine. I call it a wonder machine because it has the mechanism of refreshing or rebooting itself through sleep. I mean that the process of sleeping is the process of refreshing our body. Sleep reenergizes our mind and body.

There are four stages of sleep. These stages start from feeling sleepy to waking up fresh. Most of us complain about restless sleep. We have problem sleeping than we have problem staying asleep and then we have problem waking up from sleep.

Why sleep is important and necessary?

Simple, reboot you engine (brain). Sleep helps over all the body to relax.

Why do we have problems with sleep?

Not so simple answer !

o We unconsciously train our body to stay awake until late night.
o We ignore the body signals when it asks for sleep.
o We train our body to take a nap at the wrong time of the day.
o We eat inappropriate food for dinner.
o We develop a habit to drink caffeine or alcohol at dinner.
o We do not perform the right type of exercise in the evening.
o We fill our mind with past and future events.
o We develop our worries with ifs and buts.

There can be long list ! and you can personalize it too !

How do we develop habit of good sleep?

" Recognize your body messages: Our body is pretty good at telling us what it needs. The problem is to interpret. When your body tells you that it is tired and needs a break, then listen to it instead of the program on TV or Internet. Many of us, including myself, ignore the constant yawning and sleepy feelings because of a "Law & Order" or "20/20," episode etc. My point is don't ignore your sleepy feelings. You are training your body to ignore these feeling as you continue to watch TV late night or work until late night.

" Exercise in the evening: It is important that you practice 20 to 30 minutes of exercise in the evening after work or school. These exercises can be done individually or with family members. Age is not a factor because you are simply stretching you body and releasing the muscle tension that is created by constant standing or sitting. Also, the neighborhood walk is a good habit after dinner. The walk can be before dinner as well. We usually go for a walk after dinner as a family. This gives us time to talk about our day to each other and not feel the burden of distance.

" Proper diet in the evening: About year ago, The Today Show had an interesting topic "Diet to get a good night's sleep." That show offered good tips such as:

o Do not take any caffeine at dinner or in the evening. So, no coffee, tea, caffeine soda, mocha ice cream, etc.

o Do not take alcohol. Now, this tough one because many people have the habit of drinking a glass of wine or bottle of beer to relax in the evening. Also, many people believe that the alcohol will put them to much-needed sleep that they need, which is not true. Try to eliminate the habit of daily alcohol intake for sleep.

To be continued

Achut Mashruwala of Fitness Guru Inc. can be reached at (813) 857-5103 or e-mail

Payal Patel

Its that time of the year again when flu season is almost around the corner, and doctors everywhere are offering vaccines to protect patients from the influenza virus, which is responsible for about 35,000 deaths per year in the this country. The flu vaccine has been around for awhile, and now the FluMist (a nasal spray) also is available as an alternative. This is appealing to those who hate to have a shot each year, which includes the pediatric population.

First, let's talk about the flu symptoms, shortly thereafter looking at the flu shot, and more important, the FluMist. The flu season starts in October and can continue through March, especially in Florida. The peak of the flu season is generally in January when more people are likely to be infected by it.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, fatigue, body aches, congestion, coughing, vomiting, etc., and can last up to 10-14 days, leading to missed work and school days for the parents and kids alike. Even worse are the complications of the flu virus such as pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, worsening of chronic conditions such as asthma, and other diseases, and sometimes leading to death in the elderly and in the children less than 2 years.

The flu shot is a great way of protecting yourself as well as the people you interact with on a daily basis. It is highly recommended for health care workers, children and the elderly, as well as family members around the elderly and the babies less than 6 months old that who are unable to get the shot and therefore are not protected against the flu virus.

The FluMist is a nasal spray vaccine (live virus vaccine) that can be given to ages 2 years to 49 years of age as a safe method of the flu vaccine. It is a one-dose vaccine except for those in the age range of 2-9 years old who are getting the vaccine for the first time who need to have two doses six weeks apart. The benefits of the FluMist are that it provides a longer protection period to almost 12 months. It also works immediately compared to the flu shot, which takes up to a week to start working. Therefore, if you were to get the flu in three days after your flu shot, you are not protected from the flu virus.

The FluMist is unfortunately not for everyone. It is not approved for those under 2 years or age or patients who are 50 and over as well as women who are pregnant. The FluMist cannot be given to those with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cancer or other underlying medical conditions. Also just like the flu shot, it cannot be given to those with egg allergy, as well as those allergic to a previous flu shot.

The side effects of the FluMist are mild flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, headache, muscle aches and fever. These side effects are more when compared to the flu shot, which most commonly causes fever and soreness at the injection site. Yet, the great advantage of the flu shot is that there is no shot, which is a big deal for kids.

Therefore, this year ask your doctor about the flu shot vs. the FluMist and see which one is better for you. The flu shot is widely available at this time, and it is a good time to get it before the official flu season begins.

Dr. Payal Patel is a board-certified pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics, 18928 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 102, Lutz. For information, call (813) 948-2679.

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