Self-Awareness and a Good Attitude

Self-awareness and a good attitude are just as vital for good health/good living as for keeping you alive on the fireground. We can see this from the item on testicular cancer below. Being aware of changes in our body, for example, can alert us to health problems that can be resolved if detected early.

Looking at the segment discussing studies on longevity by researchers at the University of Georgia, we see that our personality, attitude, and adaptability may have more (or at least as much) to do with the number of years we live than our health history.

Testicular Cancer

Captain Bill Gustin of the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Department has recommended this You Tube link, which was referred to him by his son. The video, “Manhood in the Mirror,” by “DZoggMD,” is a tasteful, clever, and informative reminder of the importance of finding testicular cancer early, when the odds are high that it can be cured.

Gustin stresses the need for vigilance in this matter:

“The video is funny to get its point across,” Gustin says, “but testicular cancer is no joke. And, as the article mentions, firefighters are at much greater risk that the rest of the population. Three of my friends in the department, young men, have had this form of cancer. I am suggesting that you consider putting this video on your FireLife Web page. One of my friends died from the cancer because it wasn’t detected soon enough, This is an issue that I feel very strongly about.”
The following information is summarized from the American Cancer society Web site:

Testicular cancer forms in tissues of the testis (one of two egg-shaped glands inside the scrotum that make sperm and male hormones). Testicular cancer usually occurs in young or middle-aged men. In the United States in 2010, there were an estimated 8,480 new cases and 350 deaths from the disease.

The exact causes of testicular cancer are not known. However, studies have shown that the following may increase a man’s chance of developing this disease: undescended testicle; congenital abnormalities of the testicles, penis, or kidneys and inguinal hernia (where the thigh meets the abdomen); and a personal or family history of testicular cancer.

Men, themselves, find most testicular cancers. Also, doctors generally examine the testicles during routine physical exams. Between regular checkups, if a man notices anything unusual about his testicles, he should talk with his doctor. See a doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

•    a painless lump or swelling in a testicle.
•    pain or discomfort in a testicle or in the scrotum.
•    any enlargement of a testicle or change in the way it feels.
•    a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
•    a dull ache in the lower abdomen, back, or groin.
•    a sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer as well. It is important to see a doctor to determine the cause of any of these symptoms.


University of Georgia researchers say how we feel about ourselves and our ability to adapt to life’s challenges may be even more important than health factors when it comes to living to be 100 years old. The research was published in the current edition of Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research.

Data collected as part of the Georgia Centenarian Study were used to measure psychological and social factors as well as genetics and health histories of so-called “expert survivors.” The study included 244 people age 100 and was conducted between 2001 and 2009. Successful aging depended on critical life events, personal history, and how people adapt to stressful situations and cope with them. 

According to Leonard Poon, the director of the Institute of Gerontology in the University’s College of Public Health and lead author of the study, “What is happening to you matters; but, more importantly, it is your perception of what is happening to you that is really important for your individual health.”

The researchers found that a centenarian’s feelings about his own health, well-being, and support systems, instead of blood pressure and blood sugar measures, are stronger predictors of survival. Personality also determined how well the centenarians reacted to life stress and change. The study found that healthy 100-year-olds had personalities described as open and conscientious, and neurotic personalities tended to be less healthy.


Eat walnuts. Walnuts are a good snack when you are stressed, according to Allan Spreen, M.D., NorthStar Nutritionals. They are rich in fiber and antioxidants. They contain the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid, which promotes cardiovascular health. Eat walnuts in place of one snack every day. They are filling and help you stay calm. Make sure the nuts are fresh; they can become rancid quickly. (I keep mine in the refrigerator or freezer.)

According to scientists from the University of California at Davis, mice given the human equivalent of 2.4 ounces of walnuts every day experienced a reduction in the growth of prostate tumors by 30 to 40 percent. The researchers are hopeful that this beneficial effect will carry over to humans as well.

I also toss some walnuts into a salad. (I notice that restaurants in my areas add walnuts to “specialty” ala carte salads on the menu.)

Photo by Suat Eman.
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Specialty Walnut-Cheese Salad

I add a handful of walnuts, a handful of dried cranberries, and a half of handful of goat cheese or gorgonzola cheese crumbles (low-fat varieties) into mesclun greens (young tender leaves of lettuces, arugula, chicory) and toss the greens with no-fat raspberry dressing (it is sweet; a little goes a long way) and bit of  cider vinegar and a dash of olive oil. Guests usually like this salad. I don’t use salt because the cheese has salt. You can adapt the proportions to your taste.

Mary Jane Dittmar is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.


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