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Dr. Lester Breslow

Mr. Public Health

Dr. Lester Breslow's research in the 1960s showed the value of following simple steps to a healthy life. Now, at 82, he's living proof.

October 13, 1997|JULIE MARQUIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He quickly made amends. In 1964, three of the studies in which he was involved were cited in the famous U.S. surgeon general's report linking smoking to lung cancer. And he has had a hand in tobacco policy, in one way or another, ever since.

With so many obligations--late nights in the office, early morning meetings, teaching, travel and lectures--one might expect him to cheat a bit on the seven healthy habits.

So does he?

"I say, 'Moderation in all things,' " he replies with a laugh, "even moderation. . . . There's nothing sacred about these things. You don't have to run the marathon, but you do have to get off the couch."

Breslow even confesses to trying the big no-no: smoking. As a boy, he would sneak out to the edge of town, buy a corncob pipe, stuff it with corn silk and puff away for hours in the empty bleachers of the local ball park. "It doesn't really smoke too well," he said, "and there's not much taste."

He also tried Old Gold cigarettes, which went by the motto, "Not a cough in the carload."

"It hurt my throat," he said. "I was looking for a cigarette I could smoke and not hurt my throat, but I never found one."

With some lapses here and there, he says--and his wife confirms this--he practices what he preaches about healthful living. Lest there be any doubt about his own vitality, he bounds up the steep stairs to his terraced garden, leaving a breathless visitor behind.

Besides work, this is his greatest joy. He cleared the rocks from the Bel-Air hillside himself. He keeps count of each fruit and vegetable he harvests. He insists that visitors take home bags of lemons and figs.

Asked if it is this pruning and digging, after hours at the office, that has kept him going for so long, he feigns indignation.

"Not long enough!" he quips.

For Dr. Breslow, it is clear, there is still much more to do.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The 7 Healthy Habits:

1. Don't Smoke.

2. Drink in moderation.

3. Get seven to eight hours.

4. Exercise, at least moderately.

5. Eat regular meals.

6. Maintain a moderate weight for your height.

7. Eat breakfast.

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