Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

November 21, 2013

Live longer and stronger

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— The Little Woman (not her favorite nickname) showed me an article in her current “Woman’s Day” magazine entitled, “Six ways to lower your blood pressure.” The introduction by the author read like this: “Add these steps to your weekly routine to slash your risk of heart disease and stroke. No pills necessary!” As usual, she gets her information from various and anonymous “new research” and “new studies,” so a grain of salt is necessary. However, here is how my current life style stacks up against the “six ways.”

Way number one: “Lend a hand.” The point here is that volunteering and helping others does more than give you a warm feeling. Folks aged 5l to 91 who volunteered for 200 hours per year (about three hours per week) lowered their risk of hypertension by 40 percent. I have been woefully short in this category ever since I retired from my second career. I guess I’ll continue to rely on my prescriptions to control my hypertension which I have had since I retired from the Air Force in January 1985. I kind of depend on that hypertension since it provides me with a teeny-tiny retirement benefit and adds to my exemptions under Florida’s “Homestead Act.”

Way number two: “Eat Yogurt.” It seems people who eat at least six ounces of yogurt a day are 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than folks who only slurp the stuff once a month. It seems yogurt is a good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium which help regulate blood flow. This is a tough one — to me, eating plain yogurt is like eating mayonnaise and eating fruit yogurt is like eating mayonnaise with peaches in it. We do have a pretty good supply of fruit yogurts in our refrigerators but they all have expired “use by” dates. I’ll try to do better on this one but my preferred consumption of curds and whey will still be cheddar, brie, gouda, swiss, and mozzarella.

Way number three: “Walk a dog.” It seems owning a dog, playing with a dog, and walking a dog increases exercise levels and lowers blood pressure. This is a mean one because we don’t have a dog. I have always been a dog lover, but about 17 years ago, TLW came home from a Denver animal shelter with a scrawny, long-tailed cat we named “Little Orphan Annie.” She has been the boss of our household all these years and refuses to go for a walk with me. The average life of house cat is from 15 to 17 years and 17 cat-years is equal to 84 human years. Annie appears to be sedentary but she can still get to the top of the refrigerator and cabinets in two bounds. Wow, I have trouble stepping over high curbs.

On my daily walks, I see all sorts of dog walkers in our neighborhoods. It is not unusual to see one little-old-blue-haired-lady (LOBHL) waking three yipping and yapping Yorkies at one time. Now that the weather has plummeted to 68 to 70 degrees in the morning, many of the pooches are in designer sweaters. There are even a few LOBHLs who walk their little darlings in baby strollers. What’s up with that? I guess the mutt has to raise a paw when he sees a tree, shrub, or hydrant he likes.

Way number four: “Play some tunes.” “Studies” found that listening to relaxing music releases calming neurohormones that work to lower blood pressure. This just won’t work in our household as TLW is hung up on dookie-kicking, country-western twangs and I am a retro oldies (especially doo-wop) kind of guy. You can always tell who drove our car last by what radio station is on.

Way number five: “Drink black tea.” Black tea contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that may help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The “research” recommends consumption of three cups of black tea daily. To me, tea is only for sipping when you have the flu. I simply reject this one and I’ll leave all that the tea drinking to the likes of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. I’ll stick with my three cups of black coffee in the morning and my three shots of Jack Daniel’s black label at happy hour.

Way number six: “Get your heart pumping.” Cardiovascular activity can improve health and lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking or a fitness class most days of the week. I am still dealing with back problems (a compression fracture and spinal stenosis) but I am really dedicated to getting my walking regimen back. Our community center has a well-equipped fitness center and my New Year’s resolution is to start using it. (Check back with me on that.)

Well, there you have it. I am 74-years-old and like the old saying goes, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” I am going to try to do better as pertains to “the six ways,” but it unfortunately comes under the heading of teaching old dogs new tricks.

See ya...

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com