Riding the crest of the first wave of baby boomers, I find that my latest interests and concerns have become the focus of many others. So, my current preoccupation with maintaining my health is likely to resonate for a growing number of people. It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, I don’t think I am, but I dread getting, not older, but old and being sick, miserable, and/or a burden to others.
The “Serenity Prayer” offers a practical approach to this problem: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, what do we have to accept and what can we change if we want to increase our chances of enjoying life while growing older?
Common health problems
The big ones are cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, osteoporosis and fractures, dementia, depression, and some cancers. The greatest single influencing factor for healthy longevity is genetics and we’re pretty much stuck with the hand we’ve been dealt. But, by making a few simple lifestyle modifications, we can significantly reduce some risks for most of these conditions.
A recipe for good health
Although 30 minutes exercise 3 or 4 times per week is considered optimal, recent studies have shown that walking as little as an hour per week cut the risk of heart disease in half. Whether exercise can replace bone lost to osteoporosis is controversial; however, it does reduce the rate of bone loss and associated risk of fractures while making you feel better.
Nutrition and weight
We are meant to be grazers and not gorgers. Eat small, frequent meals with lots of fruit and vegetables. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, and flavenoids, found in many fruits and vegetables fight atherosclerotic heart disease and cancer.
Although a certain amount is essential, prolonged, unrelieved stress can be fatal. Balance is everything. Giving all things important to you a proportionate piece, then modify your activities and time accordingly. Learn how to say, ”No!”—and mean it.
The best single investment a person can make in their health is to quit smoking. Within 24 hours of stopping there is a significant decrease in cardiovascular risk and many more health benefits follow with time. Next time you see your doctor have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides checked, discuss prostate, breast, and bowel cancer screening and ask about aspirin for heart disease prevention. If you drink alcohol, careful moderation is essential.
It sounds like a lot of work, but here’s the secret: if you gradually work all of these things into your life, the dividends are huge and immediate. You will have more energy, more joy, and more healthy time to enjoy the rest of your life.
Remember: “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” – unknown
Health and happiness,