I haven't exactly discovered the fountain of youth, but I have stumbled upon something that comes as close as possible at the moment. According to a study in the journal PLoS Medicine, it's possible to add 14 years to your life by simply adopting four easy lifestyle habits: exercising, eating lots of produce, drinking alcohol only in moderation and never, ever smoking. Not only do each of these practices help prevent heart disease, the number-one killer of American women, but each also helps send your cancer risk way, way down.
Because I'd love to become one of those little old ladies who gets written up in the local paper for celebrating her 100th birthday (while, of course, not looking a day over 75 and still skiing the black diamond trails with my great-grandkids), I'm trying my hardest to incorporate all of these habits into my everyday life.
I've been waking up a little earlier every morning to take a bike ride through the park before work. I've been eating lunch a little earlier than I used to, so I'm not absolutely starving when it's time to order my food. (I used to "forget" to eat and by 3 P.M. was so ravenous it seemed like a "nice" thing to do for myself to go foraging around the office for chocolate or anything to put in my mouth. Now I eat early and often, since I've discovered that the louder my stomach growls, the more likely I am to order a burger and fries instead of a spinach salad.)
I've been unwinding after work with one really amazing glass of red wine, not two so-so glasses of moderately cheap white, or sometimes three glasses like I used to back in the days of letting stress be my driver instead of my best instincts. And I'm proud to say that I quit cigarettes years ago, and though it was the hardest thing I have ever done physically, I am also the most proud of it, and you will be too, once you've quit for good. (And you will thank yourself! Smoking is directly linked to cancer of, well, basically everything: the lungs, cervix, colon, mouth, nasal cavity, throat, lip, bladder, pancreas, kidney and stomach. Hello! So not worth it!)
And there's one other healthy habit that wasn't mentioned in that particular how-to-live-longer study, but that I've also recently added to my repertoire of Things to Do Today to Help Ensure That My 100th Birthday Party Rocks. (If I say it here, I figure it might help me stick with it longer.) Deep breath--I'm cutting back on caffeine. For someone who keeps a full pot of coffee on her kitchen counter at all times, this is a very big deal!
Of course, I've known all along that too much caffeine can cause j-j-j-jitters, anxiety and sleeplessness, but I've also recently learned that some experts think it may also increase your risk of esophageal cancer. Why? Excessive caffeine can trigger chronic reflux, which is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus. So, while I'm not totally giving up on my Starbucks, the next time I'm there, I'll order a tall, rather than a Venti (or whatever fancy synonym they use for extra-large). Who knows? Doing so might help me sleep better, for more reasons than one.