Some things you can't change - The Explorer: Editorials

Some things you can't change

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Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:08 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

I recently overheard a conversation about aging, and one of the guys said, "I think it's great the way things have evolved; 50 is now the new 70, you know."

No, I didn't type it wrong, and, true to form for those in my age range, the apparent dyslexic delivery of the message wasn't picked up on by the men involved in the conversation. They just laughed, seemingly agreed, and walked out of the room. Before going any further, you picked up on the flaw, right?

Over the past few years we've heard from numerous health researchers and medical doctors that scientific, age-related advances are allowing people to live longer, healthier, more physically comfortable and generally rewarding lives. There are a variety of reasons for their assumptions, ranging from greater awareness and involvement in suitable physical activities to medications for treating and controlling a myriad of common diseases.

I have a vague recollection of the way I was able to function at the ripe old age of 50, and there's no way I can do most of the things I did back then, especially the physical ones. I have longtime friends and high school classmates that are active and still running marathons (OK, just one is a runner), but nonetheless, even he admits it's a challenge sustaining his motivation to train because his body has become prone to a rebellious nature. When it has had enough, it simply breaks down, forcing a repair, rest period, or a complete change of activity for a while. And don't forget to include a mental workout in the mix as well. We not only age physically, but also our brains tend to shrivel from lack of use, so doing some routine mind teasers such as puzzles, board games, using a computer, or any other challenging mental activity that stimulates the cranium is fine.

Regardless of what the TV fitness and age-reversal marketing gurus tell us, there's no magic pill for turning back the physical and mental age of our bodies. However, there are some foods, vitamins and minerals, prescription medications, and cerebral activities that may help us ease through the continuous physical and mental aging process. Here are several options that seem to be suitable, almost universally acceptable and doable on a regular basis for years to come.

1) Move. Depending upon your physical limitations, this can be just about anything other than being sedentary. Walking is one of the best, most common forms of physical activity that the majority of people can do. But if you have serious back, hip or other lower extremity restrictions, then actively moving your arms back and forth, up and down, and all around will certainly get the blood pumping, causing your body to function more in line with the way it was intended.

2) Think. Like it or not, your brain can wither and shut down from lack of use. But it doesn't have to be that way. With a little creativity, you can come up with countless initiatives for putting your mind to work. The reward will be almost immediate and, with repeated use, can last a lifetime.

3) Eat. Proper diet is a good idea at any age. You can easily eat food that scientists have proven to be beneficial to mental and physical well-being, such as lushly colored fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and Omega-3 essential fatty acids with oily, cold-water fish (e.g., salmon) topping the list.

While no one has found a way to return aging bodies and brains to their youthful abilities, it is possible to strengthen the ability of your body and mind to protect important neurons from early degeneration or outright death. This is most easily and effectively accomplished by making smart lifestyle choices. It just makes sense to avoid the two most obvious debilitating factors — excess alcohol and nicotine use. Your brain can also gain an advantage for staying sharp when you routinely follow a healthful diet that's low in fat and cholesterol and loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and oily, cold-water fish rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids.

Anyone who tells you it's possible to turn back the aging clock is either incredibly uninformed or trying to sell you something that's completely bogus. But following a few common sense practices every day has the potential for making a positive difference in your long-term quality of life. It's working for me; I'm now the new 80.

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