Crash Program in Anti-Aging

How much younger can you get in 40 days? Three women with common health problems added a total of 17 years to their lives by reinventing their diets, exercise routines and stress management techniques.

By Nancy Stedman
Rosa DaGraca after 40 days
Photograph: Sophie Olmsted

But the DASH diet isn’t easy, and when Rosa first started it she said, “I’m taking it meal by meal.” The biggest challenge was cutting down on sodium. Because Rosa couldn’t stand the thought of cooking pasta without salt, she simply stopped eating it. The only starches she allowed herself were sweet potatoes and brown rice. When she got the munchies at night, she nibbled on some dark chocolate or a handful of pistachio nuts. “My mind-set has become very different,” Rosa said. “Before I reach for food, I think about my health.”
During the program, Rosa’s company nurse checked her blood pressure several times a week and reported no significant change. Yet Rosa felt much healthier. Jeff Young, the team’s exercise physiologist, had suspected she might be overexercising, and he cajoled her into taking a 10-day break. Rosa couldn’t even remember a time when she didn’t exercise every day, but agreed to give it a shot. By the time she started up again, she felt rested and stronger. Young also suggested Rosa log more sleep time, since shortfalls in slum-ber have been shown to increase blood pressure. She began turning in an hour or so earlier than usual and letting her-self sleep an hour later some mornings. Result? “I’m not so pooped all the time,” she said, “which makes it a little easier to get more accomplished.”

One night, about a week before the end of the Crash Program, Rosa settled in at home after a really stressful day. “I sat and read the papers, ate some dinner.” At one point, she noticed a new sensation. “I caught myself thinking, I’m really relaxed. Jeez, something is working.”

A few days later, Rosa’s blood pressure dropped to a healthy level—where it has remained. “I feel I have more control over my destiny now,” she said.

HER GOAL: Quit smoking
START: As much as a pack a day
FINISH: 0 cigarettes

RENEE KINSELLA grew up in a sleepy town in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, but once she left home, she was off and running: college in New York City, followed by marriage to an Irishman (Rory, now 48), stints in Dublin and London, a career in marketing back in the U.S., law school, then work as an attorney—and also three children (Finn, 11; Rory, nine; and Charlotte, four). After the third, Renee stayed home to take care of the kids full time. Her life was full of changes, but she knew she could count on one constant: her cigarettes.

And though she quit during her pregnancies, Renee always drifted back to smoking four to eight butts a day. “Throw in good friends and a bottle of ,wine, and it could go up to a pack,” she said. But the habit scared her. “At night I sometimes dream about the cancer cells in my lungs,” Renee said when she started the More program. “I would be incredibly grateful to stop smoking forever.” After 40 days, she was headed in that direction.

Lee ordered up a full arsenal of smoking-cessation tools for Renee: nicotine chewing gum (available over-the-counter) to satisfy some yearnings for the addictive chemical; the prescription antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion), which reduces nicotine cravings; an over-the-counter oral spray called Neuro-Science EndoTrex, which contains L-theanine, a relaxing amino acid found in green tea; and, to stave off irritability, SAM-e, a mild OTC mood-booster used in Europe.

The gum helped Renee temper severe cravings the week after she smoked her last cigarette, but she says she gave it up because it made her feel “a little sick.” She continued to take Wellbutrin and SAM-e and to carry around the calming spray—“my security blanket”—to use in the event of unexpected cravings.

By her third week, Renee thought she had “passed the worst.” But Lee told her, “To really stop smoking, you need to find other things that are equally leasurable to fill your days.”

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