People often talk about the importance of growing old gracefully, but that’s made a lot harder if you’re not also growing old healthily. In fact, if you are healthy, you could grow old disgracefully, and it would be a lot more fun.
But seriously, we have an aging population. Today, there are far more older people and they are living longer every year. Over 4 million U.S. residents are now in the group termed the “oldest old”; that’s to say 85 or older. More than 40,000 have reached 100 years old, and centenarians are the fastest-growing group within the elderly. By 2050, it is estimated there will be 1 million centenarians in the U.S., and many will have formed themselves into motorcycle gangs.
That last bit’s not true, although it’s fun to think that it could be.
As more is discovered about growing old, it has become more apparent that our genes only play a small part in our longevity. Research shows that it is entirely possible to avoid the “inevitable” side-effect of getting old: chronic illness. Rather, it is our lifestyle choices that have a huge impact on how long we live and how those years are played out in terms of illness or vitality.
Assuming you want to go shopping for a Harley on your 100th birthday, what do the experts recommend you do to become a centenarian?
Centenarians have a tendency to exhibit great optimism, and it is this positive attitude that researchers believe has a significant role to play in our ability to live more healthily and with a greater quality of life. It is believed that the emotions directly affect our physical self, boosting or hurting our immune systems, depending on the type of emotion we feel. That is the essence of psychosomatic illness. It is not illness merely imagined in our mind (that’s more hypochondria); it is genuine illness produced by our thoughts and emotions.
A Lively Mind
According to research, the more educated you are, the longer you’ll live. Similar to positive thinking, maintaining a healthy interest in furthering your knowledge and education brings great benefits to the mind, keeping it firing on all cylinders for longer. However this is achieved – through volunteer activities, taking classes, or simply doing crossword or similar puzzles – the results are worth it.
We all know how physically debilitating mental stress can be. It can make you thoroughly ill. Your aim should be to keep stress levels to a minimum. Try humor, meditation, exercise and optimism to counter those negative effects.
Keep in Touch
Don’t become a hermit. Having a good social support network is an important part of staying mentally in shape and physically active. It is also helps in providing advice and guidance we may otherwise not hear, such as to quit smoking, or to visit a doctor to check out certain symptoms we may choose to ignore on our own. The emotional support and positive encouragement through any bad times is another great boon.
Do Some Exercise
Whatever you do to exercise – walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, gardening – it all serves to make your body stronger. Your heart health improves, your muscles burn fat more efficiently, and you remain steadier on your feet. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days.
The food and drink you consume are your fuel. The wrong things can cause your engine to clog and splutter and you’ll end up in the garage (hospital). Try to maintain your weight within the ideal range for your height, focus on good nutrition and keep the calories under control. Processed and fast foods contain a lot of empty calories, i.e. empty of nutritional value. That’s a double whammy of too many calories and too little nutrition. Choose healthy foods instead, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, nuts, legumes and healthy sources of protein.
Get a Good Health Care Provider
Despite your best efforts, illness can strike, so make sure you trust your health care provider to get you back up and running as quickly as possible. Look for:
- Knowledge and provision of a variety of healing and treatment techniques to provide the most effective and safest options.
- An eye to preventive treatment and whole-person wellness.
- Advocacy of healthy living practices and patient responsibility.
- Willingness to involve the patient in decision-making, except where immediate medical decisions have to be made in an emergency.
See a Chiropractor
Your doctor of chiropractic can offer excellent advice on how you can improve your quality of life. Chiropractors are fully licensed and trained to provide treatment for the whole body, with a special focus on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, wellness and prevention.
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam