Having a coffee at a sunny cafe could be just what the doctor ordered, as Kate Minogue discovers.
Five simple steps for a longer, healthier life – sounds too easy? That’s because it is – you might already be doing one or two! This month Dr Sanjiv Chopra, professor of medicine and brother of alternative health guru Deepak Chopra, releases his new book The Big 5 (Picador, $29.99). He explains how drinking cofee, keeping vitamin D levels topped up, exercising, eating nuts and meditating are key to greater longevity and vitality. Here, he tells how to easily make the big five part of your daily routine.
Q How do the Big 5 work your life?
I startmy day at 4am with a 30-minute meditation. At 6.15am I amat a coffee shop where I get a tall coffee and porridge with nuts. I sit down with two other friends for about 15 minutes and then go to
work. I exercise three times a week and take vitamin D3 (4000IU) daily.
Q Why should we be drinking coffee?
Coffee appears to be a miracle drink. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of many types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, and they experience slower cognitive decline. Research shows coffee drinkers have a lower overall chance ofmortality! Coffee can aggravate heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome, and some people may develop tremors or insomnia. But as you can see, the multitude of health benefits far outweigh these side effects.
Q How should we enjoy our coffee?
I recommend at least two cups of coffee a day: the first one in the morning and the second one in the afternoon. I drinkmy coffee black – adding cream or milk adds unnecessary calories, and artificial
sweeteners are not healthy. Studies show they alter the gut microbiome and raise blood sugar levels.
Q Why is it so important for us to get moving?
Perhaps the best advice I can give is, ‘Move! Move! And keep moving!’ It is indisputable that people who exercise regularly live healthier and longer lives. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of premature death, assist in weight control, and lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cognitive decline and depression, certain types of cancer, osteoporosis and sexual dysfunction.
Q Do you have any tips for becoming more active?
I ask people, ‘Which form of exercise do you dislike the least and could do a minimum of three to four times a week?’Let’s say the person says swimming – I take out a pad and write a prescription for ‘Swimming for 30 minutes, 4 times a week. Number of refills: infinite’.
For people who like exercise feedback, wearing a fitness tracker can pay huge dividends. Or try exercising with friends – I find this particularly useful as you will most likely not want to let down
your buddies. Also, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park the car as far from the entrance to the gym in the parking lot as possible.
Q Why should we eat nuts?
They are a powerhouse of nutrition and provide a wide array of health benefits. People who eat nuts have a lower risk of coronary artery disease and the deadly pancreatic cancer, and a recent study
concluded that consuming nuts reduced mortality. I recommend eating cashews, almonds, walnuts, or peanuts, which are actually a legume.
Add them to your cereal in the morning or eat a handful of nuts a half hour or hour before a big meal. This helps curb the appetite while providing the benefits.
Get your vitamin D
Q Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is good for strengthening bones and muscles, it supports the immune system, and it’s likely to be a strong weapon against prostate cancer. Vitamin D is made by the skin when we are exposed to sunlight. But many people are not exposed to enough sunlight and those who are often use sunscreens, which will hinder vitamin D production. It’s important to wear sunscreen to decrease the risk of skin cancer, however I strongly believe that it’s a good idea to get your vitamin D3 blood level checked, and if you’re deficient take a vitamin D supplement.
Q Why should we meditate daily?
You’ll notice the benefits of meditating immediately – your friends will remark that you look happier and different. Not only do meditators feel calm, more focused and creative, but they have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure and other chronic disorders.
Q Any advice to beginner meditators?
It is best to learn meditation from a certified teacher for the proper technique. Although there are many books and websites that teach meditation, you get the most out of it by learning to do it properly.
You might wonder ‘how am I going to find the time?’ There’s an ancient saying: you should meditate once a day, and if you don’t have time to do that you should meditate twice a day. For years I’ve meditated later in the afternoon in the office. I simply put a sign on my door saying, ‘Please do not disturb between 4.40–5pm.’