Remember, 70 is the New 50! Happy Birthday, Friend!

Echo Dale Regional Park, Medicine Hat, Alberta. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Echo Dale Regional Park, Medicine Hat, Alberta. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Today is August 25th. It is my friend’s birthday. He turns 70. We have been friends for a long time. Like me he was born in a small town in Tanzania. In pursuit of education he traveled through many cities and countries. Eventually he settled in Canada.

Over the years he has learned many lessons. Lessons on how to be happy, healthy and comfortable. He learned the importance of raising a good family and having good friends. He learned the art of working hard and to be happy with his coworkers.

I rarely heard him whine and complain. His principle was to mind his own business but be helpful to people who needed help. He was always funny and courteous. He never brags about himself. In fact, he thrives on self-deprecating humor.

It sounds like he is a perfect man. Not really. His youth was far from perfect. He had his share of ups and downs. From time to time he did disappoint some people and hurt some feelings. He has many regrets. But life is never going to be perfect. His motto is to learn from the past and do better in the future.

Now that he is 70, he wonders how he can make the best of whatever time he has. Who knows what will happen once he goes underground. I don’t think he will find beautiful mermaids. If he is lucky he may find some angels. Nobody has been back from the grave to tell us what to expect down under.

For both sexes in Canada, life expectancy increased on an average from 77 in 1990 to 82 in 2012. Not everyone wants to retire at 65, and very few people want to slow down. Statistics show more than one-fifth of recently retired seniors return to work.

The 72-year lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart, has written about aging gracefully and staying healthy, feats which involve ‘maintaining a tiny waist’, among other factors. According to Stewart, 70 is nothing like the 70 of 20 or 40 years ago. She says, “70 is the new 50!”

Staying healthy goes along with working and keeping mentally and physically active. One way to stay healthy is to read a book written by yours truly and follow the advice given in “Dr. B’s Eight Steps to Wellness.” The book covers topics like healthy eating, no smoking, regular exercise, stress relief, good sleep, sexual empowerment, laughter and regular meditation. I wonder if my friend has the book!

So dear friend, turning 70 is a good time to look forward to life of some comfort and some hard work. That should not be too difficult as long as you can keep your head in the right place.

Happy birthday friend.

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Saying the Last Good-Bye to an Inspiring Friend I Never Met

Candles - Peace for Joyce. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Candles - Peace for Joyce. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

I have been writing articles on a random basis since my school days. But my serious writing started in Medicine Hat. I also started taking a writing course inspired by a friend I never met, Joyce. Joyce is a successful writer.

Due to various reasons, I never finished the writing course but Joyce received my columns on a regular basis. From time to time she would write to me encouraging and inspiring letters. She lived in British Columbia. Once I was there on a holiday with my family. I arranged to meet with Joyce. The meeting was cancelled at the last minute, as I was running late in my other commitment. Now I feel so bad that I never got to meet Joyce.

In the last few months, Joyce has been sharing with me her health issues, which are not very good. I think about her and pray for her health and comfort. You wonder sometimes why such good people have to suffer so much at the end of the their wonderful and satisfying life. I saw my mother suffer from the consequences of cancer in her dying days. As a physician I know what Joyce is going through.

Her last email to me arrived few weeks ago. I will share that with the readers of my column because many will empathise with what Joyce has to say. Her email reads as follows:

Hello Doctor,

I’m shutting down my computer in a few days, so I wanted to bring you up-to-date.  I think I told you I have lymphoma.  They radiated the tumour and I went into remission.

About three months ago, I came up with a tumour in the colon, unrelated to the lymphoma. Last week they sent me for a scope and couldn’t even get it in the colon.  As far as they can tell, my large colon is almost solid with cancer.  It is fast growing and metastasizing. I’ve decided not to do anything.

I’m almost 80, have had 39 surgeries, 2 heart attacks, been hit by lightning twice, Don is gone and I’ve had over 40 years of pain. It all started when I got that heart virus.  To be honest, I’m tired and can’t fight anymore.  My kidney function is approaching dialysis so it’s unlikely I’d survive removing my entire large bowel.

The oncologist said I’m not going to feel much worse until the bowel completely closes and perforates.  From then it’s right to hospice and it will go quickly.  He said they’d likely put me in a coma the first day or two. Until then, it’s life, as we know it.

I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to, have made all my amends and have left a legacy of which I’m proud.  It’s been difficult for my family and some of my friends, but everyone is starting to settle down.  I have no fear and am actually anxious to start the next adventure.

I’m very proud of you and what you’ve done with your talent.  It’s been fun for me to watch you grow and to read your columns.  Thanks for taking the time to send them to me.  I wish you all the luck as you go forward with your writing.  The blessing is, it is something you can do no matter where life takes you.  You’ve been an inspiration in my life.  Thank you!


Well, what can I say Joyce. You have inspired me and many of your students. So good-bye Joyce, may you find peace and comfort where ever you go in the world beyond this planet. May your soul rest in eternal peace… Amen.

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Laughter can make you stronger, friendlier and sexier!

The most thoroughly wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed.

 Nicolas Chamfort, a French writer

We are exposed to many challenges as we make our way through life. Laughter functions as a remedy to these challenges. Laughter makes you stronger, friendlier and sexier.

Eighteenth century philosopher, Immanuel Kant, says hope, sleep and laughter are trio of tactics humans use to counterbalance life’s troubles.

Ashley Montagu, a British-American anthropologist and humanist, has written much about the function of laughter. He says, “We are not short of theories to explain the mystery; for centuries, biologists, philosophers, psychologists and medical doctors have sought a definitive explanation of laughter.” Research continues and now many institutions have departments where they study this phenomenon.

How does laughter make you stronger, friendlier and sexier? An article in the Scientific American Mind (April/May/June 2009) titled, Laughing Matters, says, “Seeing the bright side of life may strengthen the psyche, ease pain and tighten social bonds.” It is written by a psychologist, Steven Ayan. Some of the points discussed in Ayan’s article are summarized here.

Does laughter have influence on physical fitness? No, it is not like pumping iron. But it does have effect on our body by producing short-term changes in our cardio-vascular and respiratory function. Laughter increases our heart rate, respiratory rate and depth and increases our oxygen consumption. Laughter relaxes muscles, decreasing muscle tone for up to 45 minutes after the laughter has subsided.

Laughter may not make you physically strong but it does make you emotionally strong by improving your emotional state and improve your mood. Studies have shown laughter reduces blood concentration of the stress hormone – cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can weaken your immune system. Experiments have shown laughter increases the activity of immune cells called natural killer cells in saliva in healthy subjects. Making a nursing mom laugh might sometimes serve as an allergy remedy for her baby. Laughter makes your immune system strong. It makes your mental and physical health strong.

Humour has a calming effect by creating emotional distance between yourself and the excitatory stimulus. It makes you strong by taking sting out of defeat and disappointment. Ayan references studies which show that being a cheerful person with a sense of humour may help you endure negative events and situations and protect you from the threat of pain.

Does laughter make you friendlier? Yes, it does. Ayan says being funny and cheerful can cultivate friendships, facilitates bonding and builds social support.

Does laughter make you sexier? Of course, it does. Funny people get more dates. Ayan’s article says that in 2006, researchers from Westfield State College and McMaster University in Ontario reported that women are more likely to consider a man in a photograph a desirable relationship partner if the picture is accompanied by a funny quote attributed to the man. And you know the women preferred the funny men despite rating them, on average, less intelligent and less trustworthy.

What about men? Men prefer women who laugh at their jokes. A 1990 study suggests that when women and men chat, the amount of laughing by the woman indicates both her interest in dating the man and her sexual appeal to the man. Ayan says, the man’s laughter did not relate to attraction in either direction.

So, do not waste your days by not laughing. And you know laughter makes you emotionally and psychologically strong, makes you physically friendlier and sexually attractive…….yummy!

Next week: Laughter and love and why women laugh more than man? Stay tuned and keep on laughing.

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Enchanting New York and Meaning of Friendship

Noorali Bharwani and Family at the Empire State Building

August 2006 picture shows Noorali, Alia, Sabiya and Hussein Bharwani in front of the Empire State Building, New York City on a cloudy and rainy day.

I never thought New York City would be a place where I would feel at home, be happy and feel healthy, especially after the events of September 11, 2001. I had booked my holidays with some trepidation. Now I can say I have no regrets.

In New York City, besides sightseeing and some shopping I was hopping to see my friend, Bhagwan. We were in college together 42 years ago. We went to different medical schools and lost touch. Couple of years ago, I Googled his name and discovered that he was a general surgeon like me working in New York City. I phoned him and we decided to meet sometime in the future. So I thought I will meet him and his family briefly for coffee, talk about old times and then do my own stuff.

I discovered the true meaning of friendship and New York City hospitality when Bhagwan and his lovely wife showed up at JFK airport to receive us. From then on Bhagwan, his wife and their wonderful three children took care of us and made this a real memorable holiday. The people of New York City are extremely nice and friendly. I felt totally safe and at home.

Few months before our departure from Medicine Hat , I had been in touch with the New York City’s official tourism office through their website ( They were very helpful and supplied me with a press pass and information which helped me plan my stay in the Big Apple.

Our hotel was close to the Grand Central Station. We were within walking distance to the United Nations building, 5th Avenue, Times Square, Broadway and Empire State Building. So we walked a lot. We used the subway to take a ferry trip to see the Statue of Liberty. We used hop-on and hop-off tour bus to visit other tourist areas including the Central Park and Ground Zero, the site of World Trade Centre.

We were scared to go to Harlem but Bhagwan took us there to see the historic Capitol Theatre. Thanks to Bhagwan and his family we saw more than what we had planned. It was wonderful to walk around the Broadway and Times Square at midnight after a show and see streets full of happy people. No wonder New York City has been praised for courage and fortitude. In spite of the tragedy of 9/11, people are extremely nice and helpful.

Ethel Barrymore said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them.” To have good health one has to have good friends and a good social circle. I can say I have been very lucky to have friends like Bhagwan (which means God) and his family. That makes me very happy. And New York City has a new friend, me!

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