Life Extension Magazine May 2007
Dr. Donald Morse
By Dave Tuttle
Donald Morse learned about life extension at an early age. While majoring in biology at the City College of New York, he took a course in 1950 on the anatomy, physiology, and mechanics of exercise. Writing a term paper on the effects of cigarette smoking on endurance, he found some early studies showing that smoking caused emphysema and lung cancer. At the time, it was considered fashionable to smoke, but he threw out his “cancer sticks” and never smoked again.
In 1956, during his second year at New York University’s College of Dentistry, his pathology professor opened up a cadaver’s coronary arteries and a foamy white material came out. When Morse asked his professor where it came from, he was told it was the result of eating lots of butter, cheese, eggs, and whole milk. From that time forward, he avoided those foods, focusing on healthier ways to get his essential nutrients from food and supplements.
Excelling in Academia and Athletics
Morse has an impressive list of academic achievements that could easily stand alone as a life’s work. He graduated cum laude from the City College of New York with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, and graduated with honors from NYU’s College of Dentistry. He received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from West Chester University and a PhD from Columbia Pacific University. While teaching at Temple University, he was awarded the Faculty Research Award for his studies of stress and its management. Morse also served as editor-in-chief of The International Journal of Psychosomatics for 10 years, and for the last five years, he has held the same position with The Journal of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies.
During his academic career, Morse was the principal investigator in projects involving nutrition, pain and stress management, meditation, acupuncture, and hypnosis. He has written over 220 scientific articles and 12 books of nonfiction, including Surviving Stress: Simple, Safe, Strategic Solutions. He has also penned four medical mystery novels: Deadly Reaction, Eye to Eye, Lethal Penetration, and Malpractice.
“I’ve been teaching stress management, health, and wellness for 30 years,” notes Morse. “In my preparation for these courses, I’ve relied on information from lectures, books, scientific articles, and the Internet. During the last few years, I’ve relied heavily on Life Extension magazine. I’ve incorporated much of this information in my own life extension plan.”
While all this was going on, Morse still found time for exercise and competing in singles and doubles tennis tournaments. These competitions provided an outlet for his athletic spirit, which has been a lifelong constant. Back in grade school, he played basketball and lifted weights. At City College, he formed a weightlifting team and led it to a first-place finish at the Eastern Intercollegiate Weightlifting Championships in 1953. A true renaissance man, Morse believes that you need to develop your mind and body to be a complete person.
“As far back as I can remember, I have followed the ancient Greek motto: A sound mind in a sound body,” he says. “People who don’t follow this adage often have an excellent mind, but their body collapses and they wind up sick, disabled, or dead. Proper nutrition supplies nutrients for the mind and body. Proper exercise delivers these nutrients to the mind and body. And meditation relaxes both the mind and body, which is necessary after physical activity and stressful encounters.”
“Physical and mental exercise can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia,” he adds. “When a person doesn’t look and feel well, he or she can become depressed and be more prone to disease. I believe one reason some people think you can’t do both is that many intellectuals have poorly developed bodies and many well-muscled athletes have poorly developed minds. You can be both well-built and intelligent, and a well-conditioned body will make it easier to remain intelligent well into your nineties.”
Never Too Late to Get Fit
Now retired from academia, Morse is exploring other avenues for his indomitable spirit. He competes in amateur bodybuilding contests (which often have age-restricted classes), performing admirably in the over-70 division. He recently won the Senior Grand Master title at the 2005 Natural USA Bodybuilding Championships of the Natural Physique Association. He also won the Grand Master Championships at the 2004 Musclemania Nation’s Capitol Bodybuilding Contest. With his drive and commitment, he will no doubt achieve more victories in the future.
“It’s an exhilarating feeling to win a bodybuilding title,” says Morse. “The younger competitors tell me that I inspire them. While most people might not choose this particular sport, it’s important to find a physical activity that you do enjoy and go for it. As long as you don’t have any medical contraindications, it’s never too late to start a fitness regimen.”
Morse adds, however, “You must remember that it took you a long time to get out of shape, so it will take time to get back into shape. Nevertheless, it can and should be done. Studies show that even people in their eighties and nineties can benefit greatly from an exercise program. It will reduce your body fat, increase your muscle mass, improve your flexibility, and make you look and feel better.”
While Morse does have bronchial asthma and spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spinal canal that can compress nerve roots—his healthy lifestyle has minimized the need for medications. Although he occasionally uses a prescription inhaler if he cannot avoid exposure to an irritant such as cat dander, house dust, or cigarette smoke, he has been virtually asthma-free for the last decade because of his exercise program, proper nutrition, and supplement regimen.
In addition, after briefly using such prescription pain relievers as Celebrex®, Vioxx®, and Bextra®, he found a physical medicine specialist who is also a bodybuilder. With proper therapy and an appropriately designed regimen of resistance exercise, he was able to strengthen his back muscles such that the discomfort from spinal stenosis became tolerable. He also rubs capsaicin (a natural extract from peppers) into the skin of his lower back, which he finds to be very effective in reducing and even eliminating pain.
“Whenever possible, I choose alternative or complementary medical options rather than relying on synthetic prescription drugs,” says Morse. “However, when the risk/benefit ratio is favorable, I believe that prescription drugs should be used. For example, for an attack of acute asthma, a rapidly acting anti-asthmatic can be lifesaving.”
Preparing to Stick Around
Morse believes that the keys to optimal health and greater longevity are largely within our grasp.
“Like many people, I was told the best way to live a long life was to ‘choose the right parents,’” he says. “But the latest information suggests that environmental factors are much more important in determining longevity. Exercise, proper nutrition, relaxation therapy, adequate sleep, a sense of humor, being spiritual, having friends, developing hobbies, seeking the help of friends or professionals when needed, and taking vacations can all help a person live a long and healthy life. Follow this advice, and you better be prepared to stick around for many years.”