“He described himself as a unique drunk. He could work almost every day, and no one would know it.”
“I’m drunk almost every day.” Pat Morita.
Mr. Miyagi. I’m guessing most of you have heard his name. He taught Daniel LaRusso karate in the three karate kid movies. Such a great character, and Pat Morita did a wonderful job bringing that character to life.
I’ve written about Daniel and Johnny in the Karate Kid/Cobra Kai Series. Both of them are petty, resentful, jealous of each other, egocentric, and basically really immature. Mr. Miyagi, on the other hand is portrayed as the wise sage. He is in the “giving back“ stage of his life. His story is about the early rivalries and losses during World War II, and how he rises above them, and becomes a man of peace and tranquility. It seems like the Bonsai trees are the metaphor for his life.
That is Mr. Miyagi. The story of Pat Morita is a much sadder story. I became interested in his life and watched a very good documentary, “More than Miyagi: The Pat Morita story.” Marita had what he described as an abandoned childhood. He gave up his dream of attending college and medical school, to follow his parent’s dream of working in their Chinese restaurant. Later, he did stand-up comedy and had several TV roles, including a part in the series, Happy Days. And then he got his big break with Karate Kid.
What the general public did not see but what Marita confesses is that he was drunk almost every day throughout his adult life.
He described himself as a unique drunk because he could drink almost every day, and no one would know it. He died at 73 from kidney failure . The last decade of his life was filled with a steep decline in health. He was practically penniless due to his two failed marriages and his inability to show up for work commitments. I encourage you to watch the documentary.
I’ve been writing blogs on healthy aging, and refer back to the book, “Triumphs of Experience,” by George Vaillant. It’s a book about the Harvard Grant Study, which was a longitudinal study of 268 men that began when they were 20 years old and students at Harvard. The study followed them until they died. I’ve looked at the overall lessons from the study, and I’ve shared the predictor for successful aging (having healthy adult relationships when you’re 47 years old) and now I want to look at what predicts longevity or living to 90.
What predicted that the men of the Harvard grant study live to 90 years old? I want to know what those predictors are! Are there things that I can do or not do that will increase my chances of living to 90 or 95 years old?
There’s no question that there are things completely out of our control that affect longevity.
Heredity and the predisposition to various illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease affect longevity. Ancestral longevity plays a role in your longevity, but not as much as you think.
Five things that we learned from the Harvard Grant Study about living a long life!
The factors that contribute to a decrease in longevity are more lifestyle related. Vaillant spotlighted five risk factors or as he lists them, Vascular Risk Factors. Here is the checklist. Check off the boxes that apply to you!
- Alcohol abuse.
- Type 2 diabetes.
“Men with no vascular risk factors,” Vaillant writes, “lived to an average age of 86. Men with three or more, live to an average age of only 68. This complex of factors subtracted 18 years from a man’s expected life.”
The Bad News
Did you check smoking?
Throughout my studies on aging, smoking is the king of bad behaviors. Thirteen Hundred people die each day in our country from cigarette related disorders. If you smoke, do everything you can to stop now. There are several strategies for stopping. Smoking will contribute to a shorter life span and also to a very difficult “Marginal Decade.” If you haven’t followed my past blogs, the Marginal Decade is your last decade and if you haven’t prepared for it, it could be a very difficult 10 year for you. Nothing ruins your life like COPD!!
Did you check Alcohol Abuse?
Although alcohol related deaths per day are significantly less, it is still 260. I remember, many years ago, selling a car to an acquaintance that had an alcohol problem. I was such a tragedy. She died a year later from her alcohol abuse. It happens. Alcohol abuse shortens your life.
Did you check obesity?
Obesity has become a very serious health issue in our country. The U.S. obesity prevalence was 41.9% in 2017 through 2020. It’s difficult determining the number of annual deaths attributed to obesity because of other overlapping disorders like type 2 diabetes, but a conservative estimate was, 300,000. That’s about 820 deaths per day from complications related to obesity.
Did you check hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes?
Untreated hypertension and type 2 Diabetes contribute premature death that can be avoided, to some degree, by wise lifestyle choices.
In a previous blog I introduced you to the concept of marginal decade. The marginal decade is your last decade, and it has the potential and prospects of being the most difficult in your life.
You have a chance now to make decisions and make lifestyle changes that will improve your quality of life and increase your chances of living to 90. In the documentary on Pat Morita, alcohol abuse took at least 10 years away from his life. It’s interesting in the first karate kid he gets very intoxicated, which is in some ways a very tragic way of mirroring the life of Pat Morita, the real Mr. Miyagi.
To see more entries in the Healthy Aging series, click here.