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Going Long: Secrets of Male Longevity

Life extension tips that can also make life more fun

Vitamins and life-extension supplements: Time in a bottle?

It’s also a good idea not to forget your fruits and vegetables. “You should try to eat five to seven fruits or vegetables a day because they contain not only vitamins but probably beneficial chemicals we don’t know enough about yet scientifically,” advises Butler. Some holistic medical gurus, such as Andrew Weil, MD, encourage aging men to follow a daily supplement program that includes extra doses of vitamins C and E, selenium, mixed carotenoids, and calcium, as well as omega-3 fish oil, turmeric, and ginger capsules. But Butler is skeptical about dietary supplements to increase life expectancy.

“If you’re eating all your fruits and vegetables and a well-balanced diet,” Butler says, “you probably don’t need a lot of vitamins. But Americans usually eat so haphazardly that I would tell my patients to get the least expensive multivitamin and take it, because I didn’t trust how well they ate. If the person is eating a terrific diet, however, you’re probably just creating expensive urine with vitamins and other supplements. And as you get older, it’s not a good idea to get too much iron because it can insinuate itself in your heart.”

What about hormone supplements? According to Butler, “there’s no scientific basis” that they contribute to life extension, and in fact, they might be harmful. “There are animal studies that show growth hormone actually shortens life. So I think it’s a scam.”

Keep walking, talking, and thinking

Americans are too fixed on pills as a health solution, says Butler. Instead, he promotes a balanced lifestyle that includes lots of relaxation and exercise to reduce the stress and strain of our lives. “The Europeans say they work to live, while Americans live to work. I think there’s some truth to that.”

Butler, who is 80 years old, says he still puts in 60-hour workweeks, but he also knows how to enjoy himself. “I’m a workaholic, but I’m also a playaholic. I like to enjoy myself, go places on weekends, take lots of vacations.” He is also a strong believer in the benefits of brisk walking. “It has the same aerobic and physiological effects as jogging — which, as you get older, can damage your knees, no question.”

The geriatrics expert, who circumnavigates Central Park with a walking club on weekends and works the treadmill in his library while watching TV on weekday mornings, subscribes to the “10,000 steps a day” program of Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, who popularized the use of pedometers in Japan. Butler says he wants to spark a national walking movement. “If everyone started walking four or five miles a day — even less,” he says, “we would lose weight and have a healthier, longer-living population.”

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