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Healthy Aging

By Sheryl Kraft

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You know what appeals to me about Dr. Oz? He seems happy. He seems approachable. And he seems truly excited about what he does. Now, I know everyone doesn't buy into that. A friend of mine actually frowned when I told her I was going to see Dr. Oz at the New York Times Talks series last week. "He's become so commercialized," she uttered. But it's tough to turn away from his enthusiasm, knowledge and messages of health and longevity. And when he says that four-letter word (you know the one I mean), everyone listens.

So, it was after lunch that I got on a very long line to wait for the doors to open to see him interviewed by Tara Parker-Pope. While there were mostly women on that line-of-great-anticipation, there were also a few men scattered around (dragged kicking and screaming by their wives, maybe?)

I first became aware of Dr .Oz at the gym. (No, he wasn't a member of my gym but instead, I watched him on Oprah while toiling away on the treadmill/bike/elliptical). The matter-of-fact way he put health into such simple terms was not only refreshing, but listening to him also helped pass the time and make me forget that I was actually exercising.

On this day, he did it again. "Purpose drives longevity," he declared, before stressing to every one of us that physical activity is the number one way to stay young and maintain good health. He's proof of this (and that the camera adds 10 pounds): he is as trim as an active teenager. "If you can’t walk a quarter-mile in five minutes, your life expectancy drops 30 percent." Now if that's not simple and matter-of-fact, I don't know what is. And a little scary, too, I must admit. When I walked back to Grand Central to get on the train after it was all over, I can swear I walked just a bit faster.

Did you know that your ability to lift yourself out of a chair is a predictor of health? Dr. Oz demonstrated what he meant by that. Think about it: you're sitting in an armchair (or one without arms) and need to stand. Do you hold onto the arms (or even the seat) to push yourself up? That's a big no-no in his book; he says that we need to keep our quadriceps strong so that we can accomplish simple things – like lifting ourselves out of a chair – without help. Ever since that little demo, I've been extra-cautious about standing and sitting without using anything but my legs to lower and lift my body. (To refresh yourself on the best exercises to do for your quads, you can refer to a past post of mine here.

What's most impressive about this health-celeb are his accomplishments: he still performs heart surgery one day each week; he's on TV, the radio, in print and in person. How? I have no idea – I know I could never do even half of what he does - but I gather it's a combination of enthusiasm, will, discipline, energy, organization and sheer brilliance. It's funny, but I found we shared a few commonalities: he can't meditate, either, since thoughts are always rushing into his head (so instead, he takes 7 minutes when he wakes each morning to do a combination of sun salutations, deep breathing and push-ups), and he doesn't like to break for lunch, either (instead he nibbles on little healthy snacks like nuts and fruit throughout the day).

And who couldn't like a guy who talks so glowingly about his wife, giving her credit for all his success, calling her the most sensible, linear thinker he knows? And what about all the talk of poop? (In my house, between my husband and my sons, I figure it’s a "guy thing" to talk about bowel movements and all related matters.) But somehow, Dr. Oz talks matter-of-factly about its floating-and-sinking nature and the meaning behind it all, as if he was talking about what he had for breakfast morning (sorry, bad metaphor).

Rather than attempt to explain it myself (see, it really is a guy thing, I think), I'll let you in on what Frank Bruni wrote in last week's Sunday Times Magazine Section about it: "When he made it O.K. to talk about the shape of a good poop, I knew he could talk about anything," he quotes Oprah as saying. Dr. Oz told her audience that "the bequest of a properly humming gastrointestinal system should be S-shaped and hit the water like an Olympic diver, without much splash."  Quite prolific, don't you think?

Next time you're sitting on the toilet, maybe you'll remember that…and also remember this: when you stand up, try not to hold on. It's a longevity thing, after all.

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