Tips on healthy aging from 250 years ago, when a 40-year-old was ‘ancient’

June 24, 2013
Aging
Healthy old men
“The Old Man’s Guide to Health & Longer Life” by John Hill

These days, tips abound — in books, magazines and online — about how to look and feel younger. But the rerelease of a 250-year-old treatise, “The Old Man’s Guide to Health & Longer Life,” shows that interest in healthy aging is not exactly new. First published in the mid-18th century, the book offers advice to a population its author, physician John Hill, described as “the ancient.” (Never mind that at the time the majority of people didn’t live to see their 40th birthday, according to the publisher.)

Today much of its wisdom may seem humorous. “Carrots are to be avoided, for no old stomach can digest them,” Hill writes. Salads, heavy cheeses and butter as well as raw pears and cucumbers are also suspect. “The pine-apple, the most pleasant of all fruit, is the most dangerous,” the book goes on to say. “Its sharpness flays the mouth.”

The “old man” is also advised to rise early but not go outside until “the dews are dispersed” by the sun, to lunch on a fresh egg yolk beaten in a glass of white wine, and to “avoid a foolish fondness for women.”

Amid discussions of fluxes and humours, there are tidbits of still sage advice: controlling one’s temper, taking warm baths before bed, going for walks and staving off disease through diet and lifestyle rather than medicine.

“The doctors will not thank me for this,” Hill wrote, “but I do not write it for their service.”


(The Old Man’s Guide to Health and Longer Life)
Medicine
The lives of nurses
“I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse,” edited by Lee Gutkind

As anyone who watches “Nurse Jackie” can attest, being a nurse isn’t easy. In a new essay collection, “I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out,” real nurses write about how difficult the job actually is. The book brings together stories harrowing and humorous — about delivering babies, powering through long shifts, struggling against burnout, the death of patients and navigating tensions among medical staff.

In one essay, a nurse recounts her experiences at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, when medical practitioners struggled to understand the disease. Another writes about how surviving Hodgkin’s lymphoma inspired her to become an oncology nurse. A home-care nurse remembers being the sole attendee at a funeral. A student sums up the nursing experience succinctly: “There is no way to memorize how to take care of someone.”


(I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse)

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