Sedell RandSeptember 2015
By Donna Caruso
Sedell Rand has lived the life of a pioneer. During the 1940s, she was part of a rare breed of visionary women who pursued higher education and obtained a master’s degree from Columbia University. More than 40 years ago, she started her own business when few women had the guts to become independent entrepreneurs in a man’s world. In the 1950s, she became interested in health and longevity and began taking vitamins—long before it became part of the public conversation on health. Today, at age 94, she continues to run her own business, works out with a physical trainer several days a week, utilizes public transportation, and does her own shopping and healthy meal preparation. Sedell Rand is a powerhouse of health and longevity, an inspiration for those who refuse to view aging as a condition of declining health and possibilities, and a longtime member of Life Extension®.
An Early Path To Healthy, Independent Living
Born in New Jersey, Rand laughingly states she escaped to New York City at the early age of three. Her father’s early death at the height of the Great Depression left her mother a widow with five children to raise. “I was blessed with a mother who was strong and capable and a darn good cook,” says Rand.
“My mother loved healthy food, she never fried anything and steamed vegetables,” Rand recalls. “Her cooking stemmed from her European background where the food on the table came straight from the farm, not the supermarket. We were raised with fresh vegetables, fruit, chicken, and fish. She also knew how to use spices to make the meals interesting and appealing.”
Rand notes that today, because she has to stay away from salt to maintain normal blood pressure, she has the advantage of knowing how to mix blends of spices to enhance her food. She is fortunate that a rich variety of fresh vegetables are available from the farmer’s market that is accessible a few yards from her door during late spring, summer, and fall. “It makes me chuckle that of all places, New York City should make such ‘straight-from-the-farm’ vegetables so accessible for its population.” The vegetables she buys were usually picked just a few hours earlier.
At a time when most women did not seek higher education, Rand went to college, studying accounting and personnel and labor relations at CCNY before receiving a master’s degree from Columbia University. After working for a number of corporations, she decided to strike out on her own and start her own business. She entered the field of life and health insurance, where she has remained for the past 50 years.
“When I came into the field, there weren’t many women and the men often treated businesswomen with caustic disregard,” says Rand. “It wasn’t easy thriving in such an environment, but I did. I obtained another degree specializing in insurance.”
Rand’s strong self-esteem and autonomy have fostered success. “I’m a very independent woman,” she adds. “I have a theory: Respect has to be earned. A lot of people have a title, but they don’t necessarily qualify for respect.”
Having been raised on a wholesome, balanced diet, Rand has continued to favor healthy foods. Her favorites include salads with a variety of greens, tomatoes, peppers, onion, avocado, and other fresh vegetables. Rand describes salad as “the thing I dream about,” and adds that she makes her own no-salt dressing, which can include turmeric, dry mustard, pepper, cumin, lemon, oil, and vinegar. She also eats a lot of fish prepared innumerable ways and when dining out, avoids salt and orders only nutritious foods. She favors high-protein shakes, mixed up in a blender using Life Extension® chocolate-flavored whey protein powder, almond milk, blueberries, walnuts or hickory nuts, and ice.
Rand takes pleasure in running her insurance business, socializing with friends, keeping up with the news, and pursuing her personal interests. She actively participates in lectures, attends museum events, and enjoys the opera. Her work and social calendar are full. In a long conversation, she demonstrated a great memory for details and an unusual talent for telling amusing or significant stories about her life, especially those with a moral edge.
“I laugh at life,” she explains, citing the mindlessness she often observes in some humans. “Stupidity is the reigning force all over the world, and you have to laugh at it.”
Rand also mentions “independent thinking,” saying that “there are many sides to one story and you’re entitled to form your own opinion. Too many people are sheep; never challenging the source of imparted information that has been given gratuitously.” Rand also notes that she avoids gossip. “I think it’s painful,” she explains, “and I don’t like hurting people. I can’t afford to get angry, either, so I’d rather laugh at things because I know they’re not permanent and whatever is going to happen, will happen.”
Another positive is not worrying about anything. “If I have a problem, I take care of it,” Rand states. “You don’t push it off until it becomes a major situation. And when I have a problem with another person, I confront it.”
It all adds up to a life that is being consciously savored. “It’s important to enjoy your life,” she says, “to appreciate little things, like springtime when the blossoms start coming out and the leaves break through. I used to sing to myself when spring came. People thought I was crazy!”
Rand is an avid reader of books and periodicals. Daily, she consumes both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal along with periodicals such as The New Yorker. The Jane Austen Society is another important part of Rand’s life and she regularly flies to distant cities for annual conferences. Last October, she attended a Jane Austen meeting in Montreal and plans to attend the next one in Louisville, Kentucky. She describes Austen, who has been rediscovered in recent years, as “an absolute genius,” and says “she had great insight into human psychology and understood people better than most of us understand people today. Her characters are recognizable and engaging because they are portrayed as functioning individuals with traits that exist currently in our society. The human issues are just as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago.”
For the past 10 years, Rand has been working with a personal trainer who, she says, has made an enormous difference in her life. “I have an argument with him,” she comments. “I say, ‘You’re my luxury,’ and he says, ‘I’m your necessity.’”
Prior to engaging her trainer, Rand swam on a regular basis for fitness. However, she soon thought she needed more rigorous physical activity and started working out at a gym. A woman trainer told her machines weren’t important to achieving full-body health. “She said ‘You have to develop the core of your body, that’s the most important thing. Use your body, don’t let the machines use you.’”
With basic equipment in her apartment, including a mat, a large rubber ball, boxing gloves, and weights, Rand often works out with the trainer inside, including climbing up and down stairs. In good weather, they move outdoors to do different types of exercises. Her regimen includes push-ups, sit-ups, planks on a rubber ball, and body movements such as touching toes and swinging arms. Rand practices these moves on her own daily. She has seen a decided change in her physical strength, agility, and feeling of well-being in the years she has been working out.
“When I take the subway, the stairways are usually pretty steep and sometimes go down several levels. Thanks to my physical training, I always manage even though I see others, younger than me huffing and puffing on their way out of the subway.” She says if slow moving people are in front of her, she may have to ask them to move over to let her pass.
Finding Life Extension®
“Life Extension® was introduced to me by a family member,” Rand says. “I liked the products and found they were of very high quality. The magazine, filled with information you can’t find anywhere else, is extremely well produced and researched. But long before I found Life Extension®,” she continues, “I was already familiar with supplements. I knew that food gets processed and loses nutrients and there are many times when you need extra.” She mentions Linus Pauling and his early studies of vitamin C as an example.
“With Pauling, I went through my ‘C’ stage,” Rand explains. “Then I went through my ‘E’ stage, and so on. As I began to learn more about the benefits of various supplements, I did additional reading to discover what else I might be lacking, like potassium,” she adds, and to this day, she continues to stay up-to-date on the latest findings.
Despite overall good health for most of her life, Rand did have a heart problem a few years ago. Her doctor had been monitoring her heart and when she was in her late 80s, he called to say, “I think it’s time.” She replied, “Time for what?” And he told her it was time for surgery.
“So I went to see the surgeon he recommended and asked him some questions and didn’t like the answers,” Rand recalls. “They were presenting me with open heart surgery as my only option. My nephew took me to see Dr. Mehmet Oz, who looked at my medical records and told me I wasn’t ready for heart surgery just yet. He treated me like a family member, with enormous respect, and he wasn’t eager to jump right into surgery.”
Sometime afterwards, Dr. Michael Ozner, member of the Life Extension® Scientific Advisory Board, learned of Rand’s condition and suggested that she investigate the PARTNER trial that was researching a new technique called “percutaneous transcatheter aortic replacement.” This technique had been developed in Europe in 2002, but it was not being practiced in the US even though it was a safer and more efficient alternative to the many complications of open heart surgery. The clinical study was headed Dr. Mathew Williams at Columbia Presbyterian in New York. The study involved a new minimally invasive procedure to thread a replacement aortic valve through the leg’s femoral artery and insert it into the malfunctioning aortic valve.
Fortunately, Rand was accepted for the study and was randomized to those patients receiving this experimental aortic valve rather than open heart surgery. The procedure was an overwhelming success and Rand avoided the potential complications of an operation and the considerable recovery time that accompanies such serious surgery. She recalls, “I came in for surgery on a Thursday and left the hospital the following Tuesday. My healing and recovery were extremely rapid. Later that month, I flew to Chicago for the Jane Austen Society meeting. Physically and mentally, I went back to all my activities. I had no problems. Dr. Williams did an excellent job and I avoided the surgery that the other doctors had recommended. I am a success story for this innovative, lifesaving procedure.”
Rand adds that the procedure is now available to patients needing heart valve replacements.
At 94, in fine physical health, Rand already qualifies as a paragon of longevity. She credits not only a disciplined, healthy lifestyle but also her family history of long-lived people, including her mother who lived to 96, and two cousins who are in their upper 90s.
But longevity is more than genetics and Rand’s enthusiasm for living, her healthy lifestyle, and her continuing desire to learn more about herself and the world certainly help to keep her going strong.
“I believe in ‘know yourself,’” Rand says. “If you know who you are and how you feel and have good standards, you can stand up to anything.”
And while Rand seems modest about her accomplishments as a feminist and trailblazer in the business world, she did mention a recent surprise at a business dinner, when a woman speaker suddenly said, “There’s a woman here named Sedell Rand and I owe her a vote of thanks. She is a pioneer and she taught me many things about how to deal with different problems.” Rand says she was flabbergasted, but admitted that over many years, she has always tried to help others, especially young women entering the business world. “And some of them have grown beautifully,” she concludes.
Unlike most people who fear growing older, Sedell Rand celebrates her longevity and pursues her interests with zest. She is quick to mention her age and enjoys the astonished reactions of people who believe she is decades younger. Her infinite curiosity about the world in which she lives gives her much pleasure and provides us all with a superb example of active aging with grace and intelligence.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.