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Want to live a longer life?

Dr. Zorba Paster, who writes a weekly Saturday column for WNY Refresh, launched the P2 Collaborative conference Tuesday morning giving attendees several pointers on how to do so.

The short version: Eat right, exercise and drink alcohol, in moderation, if you can.

The best exercise?

“What you will do,” said Paster, a family doctor in Madison, Wis., who hosts a call-in radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7.

Paster defined “old age” as “25 years older than you are today,” and he encouraged his audience to be lifelong learners who are active and optimistic.

You boost the chances of a long and meaningful life, he said, if you “pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over” when trials and tribulations come your way.

The P2 Collaborative – a Western New York nonprofit made up of public and private leaders interested in the health and wellness of the entire region – hosted the daylong conference to allow these leaders to mingle, and learn what it will take to build a healthier Buffalo-Niagara.

In the broadest use of the word “public,” the seventh annual conference focused on medicine, nutrition and fitness in the region, with a special emphasis on better serving the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Learn more about the seeds of public policy that were nurtured at the conference, held at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew, in coming weeks in The Buffalo News and at BuffaloNews.com, including on the Refresh Buffalo Blog.

But first, back to some of Paster’s keys to a longer, healthier life:

• Eat local: Processed foods have become the bane of this country when it comes to nutrition, he said, and the goal of eating more vegetables and whole foods – particularly those produced close to home – is key.

• Vitamins: A good multivitamin, 200 units of “cheap” Vitamin D, and no more than 1000 mg of calcium are good when it comes to supplements; fish oil, vitamin E and niacin are best left to be consumed in food, and may not be as helpful in our diets as once believed.

• Aspirin: Low-dose aspirin can aid in the prevention of heart disease, but it also lowers the incidence of colon polyps by 50 percent, of breast cancer 20 percent and of onset Alzheimer’s 10 percent to 20 percent, based on various research.

• Alcohol: Seven to 14 drinks is a good benchmark per week when it comes to the benefits alcohol provides – “just not to be taken all on a Saturday night,” or if you have an alcohol addiction, Paster said.

• Sleep: The doctor said he hosted the Dalai Lama at his home in 1981 and that the spiritual leader sleeps an average of nine hours a night. Paster encouraged his audience to get at least seven to eight hours.

• Stress: Chaos and anger lead to higher levels of adrenaline and cortisone in our bodies, and it can cost the volatile among us dearly. Those prone to angry outburst are eight times more prone to stroke, Paster said.

• Education: Paster reiterated what he said in his Refresh column last Saturday – that education is the biggest predictor of longevity: “Studies have shown that those who have one to two years post-high school education live a decade longer than high school dropouts. Why? Because education teaches you that learning gives you the tools to a better life, better health, prevention, and vigor – what I call a ‘long, sweet life.’ ”

• Social life: Those who stay close with their friends, families and community tend to live longer, the doctor said. Those who live alone tend to be less healthy. Those engaged in gardening, landscaping and regular gatherings that tend to be productive and helpful to the greater community tend to live longer. So do those who have a pet.

• Cut yourself some slack: But don’t overdo it. Paster admitted to the audience that one of his first stops when he arrived in Buffalo on Monday was to Louie’s for a Texas Red Hot. He enjoyed it, but says that sort of eating isn’t a regular habit. He also vowed to have some chicken wings before he leaves town.

Conference sponsors included The Buffalo News, WNED/WBFO, Univera Healthcare, Independent Health, BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Catholic Health, Field & Fork Network, University at Buffalo health-related programs, Boehringer Ingelheim, Buffalo Medical Group, HEALTHeLINK, George & Bodil Gellman, Rich’s, Wegmans, ECMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, NN/LM and the National Library of Medicine.

email: refresh@buffnews.com