Cardiologists on the Keys to Not Dying

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OK, the odds of not dying are definitely against you. Right now, they're 0%. But that kind of pragmatic thinking isn't going to help you overcome the shackles of death, now is it? This is a world with vaccines, nano machines, and maybe even imminent technological singularity. Google futurist Ray Kurzweil thinks immortality is right around the corner, and it's too soon to say he's wrong. 

In the meantime, why not keep your mortal coil as shiny and springy as possible? Dr. Nicole Weinberg, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center, and Dr. Victoria Shin, a cardiologist at Torrance Memorial Physician Network, weigh in on how to do just that.

Learn about your family history

Genetics can predispose you to certain diseases, Dr. Weinberg says. So sit down with grandma and go over the more morbid details of the family tree. You may find, for example, that three family members had sudden death before age 50, which may have been described within the family as a heart attack. "But if you scratch the surface, you may find that these people had a valve disease," Dr. Weinberg says. "Maybe it's a family history of aortic dissection, and that's something we need to monitor quite closely."

Dr. Weinberg doesn't think genetic testing is necessary in most cases. "One good conversation where you're taking notes and writing approximate-age medical problems can help you understand what you're at risk for." Bonus: the conversation might uncover scandalous family secrets that’ll make Thanksgiving a lot more interesting.

Avoid being a motionless blob and pay attention to your body

It's a given that you should exercise regularly, right? And that you shouldn't spend the remainder of your time in lump mode, illuminated by a work computer or a TV screen, hopefully? "Regular exercise is important, but movement throughout the day doing mundane tasks is just as important," Dr. Shin advises. 

To up your not-dying process, tune in to your body's feelings and note any changes. Your heart is a fairly good gauge of its own health, Dr. Weinberg says. "Our body is our best way of letting us know if there's some sort of problem from a cardiovascular perspective," she says. "It can be as simple as walking fast and stressing your heart a little so you know everything feels OK."

Eat more plants and fewer animals

Dr. Shin makes it easy: "Eat more plants, less animals, and try to avoid the processed stuff that would be part of a disaster preparedness kit, like instant noodles, SPAM, Cheez Whiz, etc. ... OK if you're in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, but then heart disease is probably the least of your worries." Though if everyone lives forever, isn't that something like the zombie apocalypse? 

Don't become a party legend

Relieving stress and socializing are important aspects of a balanced, healthy life, but that doesn't mean you should reach for oblivion every weekend. "We recommend 6 to 8oz of alcohol per day," Dr. Shin says. "That doesn't mean you can 'save it up,' e.g., not drink all week and drink seven drinks Friday night. Anything more than that increases risk of high blood pressure."

Don't smoke, like you've been told since virtually birth

"Nothing controversial here. Smoking is bad," Dr. Shin says. "It will catch up with you in some form: heart disease, lung disease, or cancer." According to Dr. Shin, if a smoker were to have the opportunity to time-travel and change one thing about the past, she should never get hooked in the first place. Of course, that smoker could also just quit today, but I like Dr. Shin's futuristic vision.

Find a doctor who's a good listener

Doesn't matter whether they're a general practitioner or a specialist, Dr. Weinberg says. You need a doctor who can go through the details of your medical history and figure out what makes your body tick. "I believe in individualized medicine, and putting all the pieces together for patients is the most important thing," Dr. Weinberg says. "Go to a doctor who can really listen."

And once you find that precious doctor, whisper your new mantra into her ear: "I will live forever."

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Missy Wilkinson think that if Old Testament patriarchs lived to be 1,000 years old and didn't even have antibiotics, she can, too. Follow her on Twitter at @missy_wilkinson.