weekly blog--one for the ages
September 28, 2047. I sit in a rocking chair on the porch of my retirement home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Newton, Massachusetts. More than 25 years have passed since the end of the U.S.'s second civil war and the dissolution of our country. Like the first, between 1861 and 1865, this war started because of uncompromising differences between states over the power of the federal government, and whether the nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, would continue to uphold those rights.
The event that triggered the war was the election of Donald Trump, the first populist president since Andrew Jackson. Trump won the presidency because he sensed, as no other candidate did, that many voters felt ignored and even despised by the elites of both Democratic and Republican parties. His candidacy resonated because increasing numbers of citizens believed that the economic and political systems of the country were rigged against them.
He, like many populist candidates before him, also found it difficult to resist scapegoating minorities and outsiders, offering simplistic and unrealistic solutions for complicated problems, and destroying trust in every social or government institution other than the military and police.
The long, painful decline of our nation began with a battle over healthcare, which foreshadowed even bigger campaigns for tax reform, free speech, climate change and immigration. By the year 2020, Trump’s original goal of bringing limited chaos had given way to a new strategy of bringing chaos to every sector of American society.
But enough reminiscing for now; I’m just happy that the people of Massachusetts along with the other 5 New England states chose to secede from the Union and enter into an economic and cultural alliance with Canada’s Maritime Provinces. I’m also happy that I was selected to participate in a research study just before my 75th birthday that focused on the removal of senescent cells--frail and damaged cells that age us and promote disease. It was like discovering the fountain of youth.
It’s that time of the year again, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s a time of reflection; a time to lift oneself higher; a time to reinvent which allows for endless opportunities to continue exploring new parts of ourselves. The process of lifting is called cheshbon hanefesh. Timeless is the challenge to move from the moment of reinvention to achieving a moon-shot goal.
A thought for the new year of 5778: “True self happens when your deepest gladness and the world’s deep need, meet.” (Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian)
This week I had a number of conversations focused on diets that promote successful aging. Eating sensibly, reducing the consumption of red meat and dairy, cutting down on sugar and salt, and getting lots of exercise seem to be at the core of giving yourself a chance to live longer, and fend off the ills that accompany aging.
Below are three of the more unusual diets I came across:
New Nordic Diet
This diet was developed in 2004 by food professionals and chefs from five Nordic countries. Rich in plant foods (often foraged), the diet includes lots of root vegetables, cabbage, dark greens, apples and pears, berries (such as ligonberries and bilberries) and whole grains (such as rye and oats). Fish (such as salmon and herring) is also prominent, along with some wild game (such as elk, inherently low in fat) and small amounts of dairy. Other wild foods include moss, mushrooms, nettles, garlic and even ants. In many ways, the New Nordic Diet is very similar to a Mediterranean diet but relies on canola oil instead of olive oil and is a reflection of what the region’s climate, soil and water naturally—and best—produce.
French Paradox Diet
A diet rich in cheese that might actually give you a metabolic boost, according to new research. The researchers believe their pro-cheese finding may help solve the so-called French paradox, a perplexing phenomenon in which French people, who tend to have diets rich in cholesterol and saturated fat somehow have low rates of heart disease and a relatively high average life expectancy of 82 years. However, the new discovery must be taken with a grain of salt as there were very few participants in the study. It should also be noted that the researchers received some funding from Arla Foods, a food company that produces dairy products.
A typical Okinawan may live on average for 100 years. Many theories postulate that the secret of centenarian lies in their genetic constitutional makeup. However, recent studies suggest that the most important factor influencing their longevity is the simple food they consume. The diet of the Okinawan people is 20% less in calories than what the average Japanese consumes. Their diet features green/orange/yellow (GOY) vegetables, fruits, roots, and tubers. These foods are rich sources of antioxidant vitamins like vitamin-C, vitamin-A, and flavonoid polyphenolic compounds like ß-carotenes, lutein, xanthins, and minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.
The Okinawa diet is also low in fat, has only 25% of the sugar and 75% of the cereals of the average dietary intake of the Japanese. Limiting fat and sugar in the diet can help prevent coronary heart diseases and stroke risk. Further, the islander's traditional diet includes a relatively small amount of fish and somewhat more in the form of soy, low-calorie vegetables like bitter melon and other legumes. Almost no meat, eggs, or dairy products are consumed.
Last week my wife and I drove up the coast to Prince Edward Island, Canada from Boston for our annual summer vacation. On the way back, we stopped in Saint John, New Brunswick to see the Reversing Falls, a series of rapids on the Saint John River where the river runs through a narrow gorge before emptying into the Bay of Fundy. The semi-diurnal tides of the bay force the flow of water to reverse against the prevailing current when the tide is high.
At the park overlooking the rapids, we met an older couple from Rochester, New York who were members of the Escapees, a club for RV enthusiasts. Their winter refuge was Brownsville, Texas. One of the reasons that they chose this location was that it was across the border from Matamoros, Mexico, where they could walk over the international bridge to seek affordable dental care.
Dentistry has never gotten much respect in the U.S., where oral health is seen as a cosmetic luxury rather than a necessity. What’s rarely mentioned is that the U.S. is in the midst of a dental care crisis. According to the National Association of Dental Plans (NAPD), 114 million Americans don’t have dental insurance, including 46.3 million people aged 65 or older. And for those who do, the cost of dental work can still be out of reach.
Enter Matamoros and other Mexican border towns such as Palamos and Los Algodones, where for the past 20 years Americans have been saving up to 80% on dental services. For example, a crown that cost $1,000 to $2,000 in the U.S. might cost less than $300 in Mexico; a full bridge about $900 instead of $3,000 to $5,000; a root canal $330 instead of $1,400; a dental nightguard $100 instead of $400.
Studies have shown that the level of satisfaction for dental work in Mexico matches that of the U.S. Now about that wall?