Health

A Jane Brody Birthday Milestone: 80!

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Give up all excuses like Todd Balf did after being partially paralyzed due to cancer after spinal surgery. Although he had long avoided diving in water with a physical therapist as a trainer, he eventually took the plunge and discovered that swimming back and forth in a pool gave both his body and soul a boost.

Of course, like any machine, the human body needs high quality fuel in order to maintain the highest level of activity. As we grew up, most of us, now 80 years and older, were largely spared the abundance of ultra-processed foods that are on every food shelf today. My father, the family’s grocery buyer, was a huge fan of oatmeal and schnitzel, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eating out was an occasional treat (and still is to me). Most of the meals were prepared and eaten at home in a familiar way. Fast food? Maybe a hot dog when we drove miles to Coney Island or celebrated my birthday at a Brooklyn Dodgers game. I was in my early twenties when McDonalds ballyhooed that it had just sold 600,000 burgers! (The company stopped counting in 1994 after serving 99 billion burgers.)

But exercise and diet are not enough. Studies suggest that motivation, attitude, and perspective are equally important for a long, healthy, and fulfilling life. I was still in high school when my mother died of cancer at age 49, and her untimely loss became a lesson for me to live every day like it was my last with a keen eye for the future, if this is not the case.

I went to college with a plan to become a biochemist and find life-saving clues about cancer. But I found working in a lab boring and isolating, and in my junior year I realized that my real love was learning what others were discovering and getting that information across to the public. So I married biochemistry with journalism, pursued a fulfilling career in scientific writing focused on personal and public health, and never looked back like a blindfolded horse.

My advice to students: try to combine your passion with your talent and you will have the best shot for a rich and rewarding career. I also recommend choosing a supportive life partner who is willing to share the day-to-day chores of daily living and take on additional responsibilities as needed.

After growing up to save, I have shopped sales and bargains my entire life, turning the financial rewards into scholarships for deserving students and fabulous nature, hiking and biking tours for myself, my family and friends.

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Robert Dunfee