Confronting the Reality of Aging
A Proactive Approach to Aging
Our awareness of our health tends to increase with age. As we grow older, we begin to feel our age, and we are forced to pay more and more attention to our health status.
Ailments that you only imagined when you were a child become a reality, and they force you to look into remedies, treatments, and preventative measures. When you're a kid, you have little awareness about your own health. The only people who care about your health are your parents, and you tend to feel annoyed if they so much as ask you why you skipped breakfast, or ate the wrong foods at school. A person's sense of their own health tends to awaken only when they begin to have health problems of their own—health problems that generally increase with age.
People arrive at this point at different ages, usually depending upon their health situation. For many women, this occurs around the age of 30. They begin to notice the signs of aging in their own skin and body, and they soon discover that their parents are beginning to suffer from age-related illnesses. After some research and soul-searching, many begin to offer advice to their own parents, and the wise ones may even begin to make changes in their own lifestyles. Some may take up a new exercise program, or introduce changes in their diet. Other may take up hobbies designed to reduce the effects of aging.
Being Positive About Aging
At some point, an ailment or disease will become a part of all of our lives, and we will all have to learn to coexist with it. The situation is a bit like having a difficult relative, acquaintance, or neighbor that you are forced to live with. Even prior to that, however, we should consider ways to combat aging and its effects. Naturally, it is impossible to prevent all of the effects of aging, but I am writing now to offer a more optimistic message: there are ways to fight back against aging and its effects. Our bodies have mechanisms that can be stimulated to maintain aspects of youth, and lower the risks of age-related illnesses. By maintaining a positive mental attitude, conducting self-help research, and making minor lifestyle changes, we can do a lot to preserve the healthfulness of youth and stave off the infirmities of old age.
Maintaining Brain Fitness
One of the greatest fears of aging that many people have is that they will lose their faculties and suffer a loss of mental acuity in their senior years. Fortunately, modern medical research has revealed that there are many ways to reduce the risk of dementia. The Mayo Clinic, for example, reports that taking up a knitting hobby can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by 30-50%.1
Being bilingual also affords an advantage: one Indian study found that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of dementia by an average of 4.5 years.2 I advocate studying different languages throughout life and maintaining proficiency in them as a way to keep one's mind sharp over the years.
Playing a musical instrument also appears to help: a recent twin study in Europe suggests that learning a musical instrument later in life reduced the risk of Alzheimer's in such musical twins by 64% over their non-musical siblings.3 Clearly, taking up the right kinds of hobbies and interests can work wonders to keep one's brain sharp and clear throughout life.
Diet may also play a role: one study found that a diet rich in fish, fruits, and vegetables can also lower the risk of brain disorders.4
A Sound Mind in a Sound Body
In addition to a potential loss of mental acuity, there is also the increased risk of physical ailments that goes along with increases in age. Again, to a certain extent, this is inevitable. As the famed fitness guru Jack LaLanne described in his last book, Live Young Forever, "I can't cure diabetes, cirrhosis, cancer, or heart disease, but then nobody can."5 Nevertheless, there are steps that we can take to minimize the damage. A diet rich in salmon and olive oil can help prevent heart attacks and strokes.6 Fortified dairy products provide the calcium, vitamin D, and protein needed to maintain the musculoskeletal structure.7 Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 drinks per day) has been shown to be heart healthy. A serving of nuts per day is also beneficial.8
Of course, the value of regular exercise in warding off aging cannot be understated. As we age, our strength, endurance, flexibility, and mobility all suffer. The only way to reduce these effects is through regular exercise. I advocate 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, using an elliptical trainer, or doing dance aerobics) three times per week, together with at least 15 minutes of resistance-type training (weights, body-weight calisthenics, isotonic self-resistance exercise, or isometrics, or some combination of those) two or three times a week. Do not neglect either category. Only by combining resistance training and cardio training can you maintain the combination of traits most often associated with youth. Adding some gentle stretching exercises to your workouts two to three times per week can also help one to overcome the stiffness and inflexibility that often comes with age. Naturally, before undertaking any exercise program, have a complete physical exam and get an okay from a physician. Not all forms of exercise are appropriate for all persons, and in any event, start slowly and build up.
In short, aging is inevitable, but accepting all of its ill effects is not. By following some of the suggestions I have described here, you can increase your odds for maintaining health, fitness, and youthful vitality for as long as possible!
1. http://www.lionbrand.com/blog/mayo-clinic-reports-that-knitting-may-reduce-alzheimers-risk-by-30-50/#sthash.WzOhxsQi.dpbs (Last Accessed on 20 NOV 16).
2. http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-11-11/speaking-two-languages-delays-dementia/ (Last Accessed on 20 NOV 16).
3. http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog/playing-musical-instrument-later-life-protective-factor-against-dementia (Last Accessed on 20 NOV 16).
4. http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20150327/could-a-diet-help-shield-you-from-alzheimers?page=2 (Last Accessed on 20 NOV 16).
5. Lalanne, Jack. (2009). Live Young Forever. Robert Kennedy Publishing, Mississauga, ON, CA.
6. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/anti-aging-diet?page=3 (Last Accessed on 20 NOV 16).
© 2016 Burgeon