Doctor says healthy lifestyle choices key to longevity

Being healthy means making healthy choices about what people eat and having a healthy lifestyle, a Portland doctor told more than 40 people attending a Year of Wellness lecture in Bay City recently.

By Brad Mosher

Dr. Miles Hassell told the people attending the lecture that diet has a major impact on their health and quality of life. But, he stressed that that was only part of the way to better health.

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“The guys that has far less chance of having any kind of neuro-cognitive problems, far less chance of having diabetes or vascular disease – which means like strokes or heart attacks – were non-smokers. They had a body mass index of less than 25 – in other words, they had a waist.

The healthy diet came in with the food choices that they were making. They ate at least three servings of fruit and vegetables a day, Hassell added.

“Anybody can do that,” he said, looking out at the audience.

Regular exercise also plays a big factor in the healthy lifestyle. “This group,” he said while pointing to a study displayed on a screen, “averaged about a two mile walk a day.”

When it came to dietary impact, a Mediterranean-style diet can have a major impact on health, the doctor at the Providence Medical Center said.

He pointed to several studies which should that people following the Mediterranean-style diet were “far more likely to live to 70 or beyond and far more likely to have no physical or mental illness.”

A Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes eating plant based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Also, it means replacing butter with healthy fats, like olive oil, and using spices instead of salt to season or add flavor to foods.

One study Hassell showed in a humorous light covered people as old at 90 over a 10-year period. “They were looking at diet, exercise and health outcomes. I find it particularly amusing because in a 10 year study you were allowed to be as old as 90. I always thought that was an optimistic group of people,” he said.

“If you were an elderly non-smoker who ate a Mediterranean-style diet, exercised for 30 minutes or more a day, drank a small amount of alcohol – your chance of dying of anything during that study was 65 percent lower,” he said.

The choices those people were making could be made by anyone, Hassell said.

“If we were going to make a lifestyle prescription for someone who came to my office, it would be like this – start a whole food Mediterranean-style diet.”

Humans are omnivorous, the doctor said. “People historically have been eating everything they could get their paws on, because if they didn’t they would starve.

“That is a useful model for us to follow,” he added.

According to Hassell, people with highly restrictive diets do not have as good a health outcome.

When it comes to daily activities, the ones that are fun social are the best, the doctor said. “We like that kind of activity. ”

Obesity is another problem which has detrimental effects on health. “We really think that people should avoid being overweight and sugars of any kind – including the artificial toxins,” he said, noting that he didn’t feel strongly about the artificial sugars. He also included highly-processed grains and hydrogenated oils as other items people should avoid putting into their bodies.

The doctor even warned about medications, saying that they do far less in reality than they are purported to do. “They are oversold. I use medications every day in my practice, but we try to be very realistic about what we expect that medication to do,” he said.

Hassell has written a book with his sister, Mea, on the positive impacts of a good diet called “Good Food, Great Medicine.

Before the lecture, Hassell and almost 100 people visited Fresh Market for a luncheon built around the recipes in his book.