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Q&A With Dr. Thomas Tambouratzis

Thomas TambouratzisWestern Pennsylvania Guide to Good Health recently posed a popular question often asked by our readers to Dr. Thomas Tambouratzis, who specializes in Internal and Geriatric Medicine at Washington Health System Internal Medicine.

Q: Is there anything I should be doing to live a longer life?

There are three primary things you can do to extend your longevity: quit smoking, lose weight and control your blood pressure.

1. Quit Smoking

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the hazards of smoking and benefits of  quitting. It found smokers lose nearly one decade of life expectancy compared with those who never smoked. But even if you smoked for years, you can still gain health benefits if you quit now.

There’s an excellent book written in 1999 by Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic called Realage: Are You As Young As You Can Be?

Dr. Roizen looked at 25,000 studies and looked at the different attributes and how they affected mortality. For example, if someone smoked, he noticed that their risk of dying was actually that of someone who was 10 or 12 years older than their chronological age.

One of the ways that he suggested that information be presented to a patient to motivate them to quit smoking was to say that even though you are 60 years old, your real age is 72 because of your smoking. If you can cut back on your smoking over the next several years, you’ll improve your chronological age and your chronological age will come down. He did that with many risk factors including obesity and diabetes.

2. Lose Weight

There are a number of things you can do to lose weight including exercising more and improving your diet. When it comes to diet, watch your gluten intake. A large portion of our diet contains gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When possible, choose whole grain over whole wheat. Eating whole grain foods within your diet can help lower your risk for many diseases.

Read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Also, check out Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and Grain Brain written by Dr. David Perlmutter. These three books talk about how a lot of our wheat supply has been genetically modified and has more gluten in it.

Watch your flour and sugar intake as well. Reducing sugar, in particular, from your diet has tremendous benefits. Lately, the number one book for nutrition on audible.com is Bright Line Eating by Susan Peirce Thompson who discusses cutting back on foods that have added sugar and cutting back on flour in your diet. I recommend all of these books to my patients. 

3. Control Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases your risks of heart disease, stroke and other health issues. High blood pressure can be treated successfully with medication and dietary and lifestyle changes.

If you are having problems getting your blood pressure under control, please talk to your doctor about getting tested for obstructive sleep apnea. The test is a sleep study, and the treatment, called CPAP, will lower your blood pressure.

If you exercise regularly, limit the amount of processed foods as well as your alcohol intake, you can begin to manage your blood pressure.

If you can get these three things under control—smoking habits, diet, and blood pressure—you are going a long way into leading a longer healthier life.

For more information, visit www.washingtonphysicians.org/practices/internalmedicine

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