LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Smart Behavior


LIVING LONG, LIVING WELL


As I continue to get used to writing a figure I cannot fathom to describe my age, I find myself eager to explore ways to defy stereotypes about getting older.

What, in your opinion, qualifies as "old age"? In 1900 our average life expectancy was 47 years. Today it is 77. Tell that to an 80 year old tennis player who can beat most people she meets on the court or my 75 year old friend who was heli-skiing in February or to 79 year old "sexiest man" Sean Connery or diminutive 65 year old Betty Carpenter who was recently awarded the President's Lifetime Achievement Award for successfully developing four corporations that incorporate her love of active living.

In 1950 there were 150 people in the U. S. over the age of 100. Today that number is closer to 50,000. It's predicted that by 2080, there could well be one million centenarians. Will the census that year put you in that statistic group?

Although I appreciate the energy of a savvy entrepreneur I am also somewhat saddened by the increase in products that promise to make us look and feel younger than our years. I happen to have good genes so most the time what I see in the mirror reflects how I feel inside. True, I don't recover as quickly when illness or an accident steps in my path as it did fifty years ago, but the difference between life then and life now has to do with priorities. As I challenge the speed of my healing process (and often pay the price) I'm well aware of the frustration we experience when how we look or feel doesn't reflect how mentally tough we believe ourselves to be. We're reminded daily that we have fewer years ahead of us than we do behind us. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the dilemma of folks who faces reflect the challenges of life and the companies who market anti-aging pills and potion know there's a market for those of us who continue to strive to be who we used to be (or wish we were).

Despite media reports to the contrary, there is conflicting evidence about what prolongs life and what keeps us healthy. Take weight for example. One study showed that people who dropped their calorie level by 1/3 lived longer. Yet as I write this respected M. D./health educator, Dean Edell is reporting on a study that showed body size may not be a predictor of health because women are getting healthier at the same time they're getting heavier. The twelve year study revealed that women whose body mass index averaged 29 (25 is considered healthy) lived long and well because they also stopped smoking and made dietary changes that included more fiber and fish oil and less saturated and trans-fatty acids. If they had added another criteria-those who exercised daily-I'm convinced that would be an even more significant predictor since we've long known that fit people trump statistics about over-fatness and the diseases that compromise longevity.

The question continues to be, "why do some people thrive in their older years while others do not. There is much to learn about aging. Meantime, I believe we can live well and live long by adopting a few important habits. In my opinion these include:

  1. Eat a balanced and varied, calorie sufficient diet that focuses on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding saturated and trans fats.
  2. Exercise regularly in a balanced program that includes cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, coordination, flexibility, and balance.
  3. After age 35, visit your doctor, including your eye doctor, dentist, and hearing specialist for baseline assessments that can be reference points for health as you age. (Women need a bone density scan and men a prostate exam before age 50.)
  4. Do not smoke (it's never too late to quit).
  5. Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. Always wear your seat belt in a car.
  6. Cultivate friendships. Stay active through work, play, community, and contact with family and friends.
  7. Avoid overexposure to the sun or the cold.
  8. If you drink, moderation is the key. When you drink, let someone else drive.
  9. Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify budgeting and investing. Plan long-term housing and money needs.
  10. Do the things that make you happy and support a positive attitude toward life.
  11. Challenge your mental health with brain fitness programs clinically proven to help people think faster, focus better and remember more.
  12. Write the epitaph of your life. There's nothing better than knowing the path to the destination you want to achieve so you can create the appropriate roadmap to get you there.

I believe that if I continue to practice what I preach I'm setting the stage to continue to enjoy my personal and professional life and meet the challenges that come my way. You can too!

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LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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