A milestone for Jane Brody’s birthday: 80!

Drop any excuses, like Todd Balf did after being partially paralyzed from spine surgery for cancer. Although he had long avoided being submerged in water, with a physiotherapist as his coach, he eventually took the plunge and found that swimming back and forth in a pool floated both his body and his soul.

Of course, like any machine, to maintain peak activity levels the human body needs quality fuel. Growing up, most of us, who are now 80 and over, were largely spared the plethora of ultra-processed foods that now line the shelves of every grocery store. My father, the family grocer, was a huge fan of oats and grated wheat, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eating out was an occasional treat (and for me, it always is). Most meals were prepared and eaten with the family at home. Fast food? Maybe a hot dog when we cycled miles to Coney Island or celebrated my birthday at a Brooklyn Dodgers game. I was in my early twenties when McDonalds said he had just sold 600,000 burgers! (The company ceased to count in 1994, after reaching 99 billion hamburgers served.)

But exercise and nutrition are not enough. Studies suggest that motivation, attitude, and perspective are equally important to 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 each day as my last with a keen eye on the future in case where it wouldn’t.

I entered college with the intention of becoming a biochemist and uncovering vital clues about cancer. But I found working in a lab boring and isolating, and during my first year I realized that my true love was to learn what other discovered and communicate this information to the public. So I married biochemistry and journalism, pursued a rewarding career in scientific writing focused on personal and public health, and like a horse with blinders on, never looked back.

My advice to students: try to combine your passion with your talent and you will have the best chance for a rich and rewarding career. I also recommend choosing a supportive life partner who is willing to share the mundane chores of daily living and do extra homework when needed.

Having been raised to save, all my life I have been shopping and bargaining and turning monetary rewards into scholarships for deserving students and fabulous nature, walking and cycling tours. for me, my family and my friends.


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About Shelley Hales

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