December 15, 2006
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
Is Santa Healthy?
UMDNJ Geriatrician Says Santa Claus is “Aging Successfully”
STRATFORD — The founder of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging (NJISA) has examined the available evidence and determined that even though Santa could improve in a couple of areas, he really is a model for “successful aging.”
“We’re not sure how old Santa really is, but he seems to be in pretty good shape and should be able to continue filling Christmas wishes for many years to come,” said Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, interim dean of the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine and founding director of the NJISA. “Although Santa could afford to lose a few pounds, he must be exercising pretty regularly or else he wouldn’t be nimble and quick enough to deliver all those toys in just one night.”
Dr. Cavalieri has never personally examined Santa, but his expertise on aging has allowed him to draw some remarkably specific conclusions about the “naughty” and “nice” health habits of “the jolly old elf.” Here are some of Dr. Cavalieri’s observations:
Naughty: Santa should skip some of the cookies that children leave out. Sugary, late night snacks can contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which increases the risk of developing diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Nice: On the other hand, the milk left with the cookies is a good source of calcium and vitamin D, both of which build strong bones. Drinking milk will help Santa avoid the chance of developing osteoporosis and will reduce his risk of fractures.
Nice, but used to be naughty: Santa, who in the past was often seen with a pipe, appears to have quit smoking. The majority of oral cancers occur in people who use tobacco products and lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in America. No matter how old you are, quitting smoking immediately improves your health.
Nice: Santa keeps busy all year round. Even though he delivers toys on just one night, Santa keeps active, working with the elves to make the toys and to keep an eye on the naughty and nice list. Studies have shown that maintaining strong social networks is an integral part of healthy living and can even reduce the risk of diseases like dementia.
Nice: Santa keeps lists and checks them twice - a great technique for compensating for age-related memory problems.
Nice: Santa’s reindeer help him stay healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness, and can increase opportunities for socialization and exercise.
Nice: Mrs. Claus helps Santa stay healthy. Research from the CDC has also shown that married individuals are much more likely to be active and less likely to experience psychological problems or engage in unhealthy habits like smoking.
“When you add it all together, Santa’s health habits definitely put him on the path to successful aging,” Dr. Cavalieri concluded.
To request an interview with Dr. Cavalieri, please contact Jerry Carey, University News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.