Top 10 Lessons on How Not to Die

dead body on a table
Death can be preventable, but it is certainly not avoidable. See more death pictures.

After seeing so many preventable deaths in the morgue, Dr. G has developed a set of basic instructions for how not to die. Her advice is simple, but it can have a profound effect on your longevity. Here are her words to live by.


1: Know Your Numbers

You'll live a longer and healthier life when your body mass index (BMI) is under 25. It may be possible to have a full life span with a somewhat higher BMI (25-29) if you stay in good shape, but in no event should you tolerate a BMI over 29. Aiming for 24 should be your goal. The adverse health effects of obesity are multiple and avoidable.

Know your blood glucose (blood sugar level). The consequences of elevated blood glucose are not only eventual plaque formation and narrowing of the blood vessels, particularly the coronary arteries, but also damage to your nerves, kidneys, eyes, and immune system. Millions of people are walking around with diabetes, with its effects already ravaging their bodies. Diabetes is sometimes not detected until something terrible happens, like a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. Seize the initiative and have this simple test!


Check your blood pressure early and check it often. Just about every drugstore I walk into has an automated blood pressure monitor, so use it. If your blood pressure is greater than 130/85, bring the information to a physician and take action. High blood pressure is a silent killer. You can feel great right up until the moment you die; I see this virtually every day. Hypertension is one of the leading cause of kidney failure (being on dialysis is no fun), and causes enlargement of the heart, accelerated atherosclerosis in your arteries, and sudden hemorrhages in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke), all of which can have sudden death as their first symptom.

The last numbers that are essential to know are your lipid profile: total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the bad one, which should be low), and HDL cholesterol (the good one, which should be high). Heart disease, particularly due to atherosclerotic plaque buildup (narrowed coronary arteries), and ischemic strokes are major causes of premature death. Cholesterol-lowering drugs are a major success story in modern medicine. They're inexpensive, well tolerated, and extremely effective. Take advantage of this great medical advance.

2: Listen to Your Body

Family doctor's visit.
A good offense begins with a good defense. Protect your longevity with regular doctor visits.
© Moore

If something doesn't feel right or you have an unusual pain that causes concern, pay attention to it. See your doctor and find an answer. Be proactive about your health and seek help early. Get regular physicals and have appropriate screening tests.


3: Use as Directed

So many things in life come with instructions-and for good reason. Instructions tell us how to do things right so we won't get hurt or injure others. To increase your odds of living a long and fulfilling life: Take your medicine as directed, follow your doctor's orders, and obey posted and written rules.


4: Practice Good Hygiene

Washing Hands
Washing your hands frequently is a simple and effect way to maintain good health.

This advice isn't just your mother nagging you, either. Studies show that the more often you wash your hands, the less likely you are to get sick. Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to avoid illness. Along those same lines, use condoms when needed, since HIV is largely transmitted through sexual contact. Nearly 60 percent of AIDS cases diagnosed since 1981 could have been prevented by using condoms.


5: Drive Carefully

The tendency to take chances on the highway that can land you in traffic court can just as easily land you in the morgue. Wear a seat belt when driving and a helmet when bike riding. Don't drink or do drugs and drive. Observe all rules of the road.


6: Just Say No

Close-up of an intensively smoking man
Smoking can be devastatingly harmful.

Smoking is one of the best ways to ensure you'll wind up in the morgue. Get help to quit, if necessary. A little bit of alcohol may be healthy, but more than moderate amounts are not. Don't mess with recreational and illicit drugs, and don't abuse prescription drugs. The less you put of these things in your body, the greater your chances of being around for a long time to come.


7: Watch Your Step

Think about the consequences of your actions. Sure, I see some unavoidable accidents in the morgue, but a large percentage could have been prevented, and that includes most car accidents. I have the choice of only five manners of death on the death certificate: homicide, suicide, natural, accident, and undetermined. If I could add another, it would be "stupidity." It's difficult to say a cause of death is an accident when the decedent's death was clearly avoidable if he or she had applied a little thinking to the situation.


8: Have a Good Time

happy, smiling couple
Happiness and humor can go a long way to keeping you both mentally and physically in shape.
© Dougal Waters Photography Ltd/Digital Vision/Getty Images

What's important isn't whether you got all of the food stains off your blouse or shirt. It's whether you had a good time at the picnic, the candlelit dinner, or the ice cream store with your kids. If you enjoyed yourself, then the experience was well worth it, whether your clothes looked good afterward or not. As you go through life, have fun and get a daily dose of vitamin H. Humor - through laughter and smiling - eases the burdens of life.


9: Don't Go It Alone

Relationships are important to me. Life revolves around them, and it shows in our health. People who maintain close relationships live longer and more healthily. Tap into the healing network of family and friends, neighbors and colleagues, so that when stressful, difficult times come, you'll have supportive people all around. It may sound corny, but caring for others helps us care for ourselves and brings added meaning to our lives.


10: Remember What Matters

How to Create a Family Reunion Web Site
Clarifying what is important, such as family, can help create a more meaningful life.
© Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock

There's one thing that I'd like my kids to remember about me: I cared. I cared about my family, and I always put them first. We all need to clarify what's truly important and set priorities that make sense for us. When all is said and done, it's not how many years you live, it's what you do with those years.

Life has its challenges at times, and death is inevitable. We just don't have to help it along.