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Are green beans the secret to a long life?

Live long, prosper and eat some beans

There are a number of articles about health and finance in the November edition of Reader’s Digest, giving valuable information on how to arrange one’s life, under the overall heading “Live Long and Prosper.” That phrase particularly rings a bell with folks who watched “Star Trek” back in the '60s, when it was the usual greeting of that pointy-eared fellow.

The articles are just what you’d expect, full of sound advice. But here and there among them, I came upon some little things that surprised me.

For instance, one article mentioned that the world’s longest-living people eat a lot of beans. A longevity researcher discovered that people who live in areas noted for long lives eat about four times as many beans as the average American.

So, will I live longer if I quadruple my bean input, or would I have to move to one of those areas? (And am I an average American?)

Perhaps more startling, one article reports that participants in a 40-year study of European businessmen found that those who took fewer than three weeks of vacation a year were 37 percent more likely to die in any given year!

Now you, dear reader, are most likely not a European businessman and have no plans to become one. If you happen to be one, and get only two weeks off in a year, better have a talk with your boss. And eat some beans.

Here’s another surprise. Having a solid network of friends gives a person the same longevity boost as quitting smoking. How do these health experts think of making a study to determine something like that?

And here’s another finding that I wonder how anyone would think to investigate. People with a strong hand grip have lower rates of death from heart disease, lung disease or cancer. (Let’s shake on that.)

One item that confuses me tells us that women who had lost teeth had a 17 percent higher risk of an early death. I’m not sure what “lost” means. I guess dentures don’t count. But “early” is vague. And why just women?

Like so many studies, I also have questions about this next one. A study of 177 self-made millionaires found that nearly 50 percent wake up at least three hours before their work begins.

The studiers chose only self-made millionaires. I guess they assumed that people who inherited their millions slept late and didn’t care what time it was.

The nearly 50 percent who woke up at least three hours before their work day began spent the time mainly doing non-millionaire type things.

I’m only a thousandaire, but if I were a millionaire, I think my arising time would still be based solely on how long it took to eat breakfast and get to work.

And I’ll bet you didn’t know this: Walking backward helps people remember something they’ve just seen or read.

The scariest pronouncement among these tidbits from all the magazine’s articles was this: The more time you spend sitting, the more likely you are to die prematurely.

Golly. You and I have been sitting down frequently since way back before we figured out how to stand up. Now they tell us that sitting down is shortening our lives.

I guess there’s nothing that can be done about it, except to take long vacations, someplace where you can stand up most of the time and walk backwards while reading and eating beans.

Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at

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