When I was younger, I developed the notion that I would live to be 105! If that’s the case, then I am only a third of the way through this wild ride of life. In an effort to make it to a H E A L T H Y old age, I have recently been reflective of my own 35 years of life experience, and have sought to gather longevity wisdom from those around me. Some of this advice came from reading books, blogs, and research, but the rest came to me indirectly from personal observations of, and conversations with, my aging and aged patients and loved ones. The following short list is some of the most poignant advice that I have discovered:
- S E I Z E T H E D A Y – if you really want to do something, anything, big or small, silly or not – do it now! If you want to write a book, start a new business, learn how to speak French, see the Great Wall of China, learn how to ride a unicycle – make plans and make it happen. As you get older, have kids, get sick, fight to get well again, take care of your aging parents, take on more debt and responsibility – it may only get harder. A lot of people have plans to do amazing things when they retire, however it is unbelievably sad how many people don’t actually get to do those amazing things – SO DO THEM NOW!
- T A K E C A R E O F Y O U R B O D Y – when we are young and healthy we often take for granted that our body will always be able to carry us through life. As those of us who work in health care see on a daily basis, that is certainly not the case for many; and they often express to us that they wish they would have taken better care of themselves. So EAT and EXERCISE like you are a diabetic heart patient, who has survived cancer and a stroke – so that you never actually have to! There is so much science about eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber – SO YOU SHOULD REALLY ACTUALLY EAT THEM! Even if you also eat meat and dairy and sugary junk food, make sure at least 80% of what you eat is good for you. The saying “you are what you eat” is being proven true, check out some of the newest research being done on microbiomes.
- … A N D D O N ’ T F O R G E T A B O U T Y O U R T E E T H – make it a habit to brush your teeth for a full TWO minutes and actually floss every day. Having healthy teeth is pretty awesome. Being able to eat apples and almonds and crunchy food is a luxury that you might not want to lose. So treat your teeth like they are indispensable, because they are! During a conversation with my dentist awhile back, she suggested that I floss more in a certain area of my mouth, when I asked which teeth specifically, she replied: “whichever teeth you want to keep.” Touché.
- L E A R N H O W T O M A N A G E S T R E S S – or even better, learn how to M E D I T A T E – a lot of us are walking around in fight or flight mode, stressing about work deadlines, to-do lists, bills to pay; this is not good, constantly being stressed can kill you! There is a reason that the most heart attacks happen on Monday mornings – CORTISOL (a stress hormone). Increased stress can interfere with your immune system, negatively affect learning & memory, increase your risk for heart disease, depression, and mental illness, and lower your life expectancy. We can’t get rid of stress, but we can learn how to manage it better. Learn how to take a moment and just b r e a t h e. Meditation is not some wacky, new age thing – it is has been around forever, and it has a growing body of science to support its many benefits. It doesn’t require you to change your religious beliefs or become a Buddhist monk, it doesn’t require any equipment, and you don’t have to meditate for an hour a day to benefit from it – find a quiet place, sit down for 10 minutes, and just do NOTHING. Really, that is all. There are endless ways to meditate, find a way that works for you, and one that you enjoy so that you will be more likely to stick with it.