Lorn Healthy Options weekly health tip – August 4

Ian Milarvie, exercise professional at Healthy Options.

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Positive aging

‘Some people are old when they’re 18 and some people are young when they’re 90. You can’t define people by whatever society determines their age. Time is a concept that human beings created.’  Yoko Ono.

I have just turned 60 and find myself drawn to considering my future and the aging process. Yes I know what you are thinking…. ‘doesn’t look a day over 59 and a half’.

Aging does not have to be associated with inevitable decline but all too often we exhibit a negative attitude towards our later years. Research points to the fact our longevity is directly affected by how we perceive the aging process, especially after we reach retirement.

Studies have found positive thinking can result in a 15 per cent longer lifespan and a stronger likelihood of living to age 85 or older. Some of us will enter retirement with a viewpoint that life will inevitably get more challenging and we will suffer more health issues, but others will see this time as an opportunity to make use of more free time to enjoy hobbies and interests without the responsibilities related to work or bringing up a young family.

That’s great I hear you say, but what about people with long-term health conditions?

Remaining positive and, above all, active is critical for those living with persistent health challenges, whether they be physical or mental health related. I often meet clients with a fear of worsening their condition or experiencing undesirable consequences through physical activity.

What we have known for some time is that when physical activity levels are increased gradually, the risk of an adverse outcome is low. Physical activity is the best long-term drug we can take and it only comes with positive side effects. It’s never too late to start improving your health and wellbeing.

It’s not just all about activity, with a healthy diet playing a huge role in weight maintenance as we grow older. Reducing our intake of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods and drinks can help control body weight and the associated health conditions we see with obesity, such as type two diabetes.

We all know of the risks associated with smoking and giving up at any age will reduce the likelihood of respiratory disorders and eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Try to limit your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to some forms of cancer, liver damage, immune system disorders and brain damage. Excessive intake has now been strongly linked to memory loss and mood disorders.

We don’t need less sleep as we age, but generating enough can be more challenging. Therefore, it’s extremely important we make our shut eye a real priority to reduce our risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity or depression. Your body’s natural response to sleep deprivation is a hormonal imbalance that will encourage you to eat more and feel less satisfied with your meals.

Finally, try to stay connected and ensure you have a hobby or interest to keep you and your mind active. Boredom, loneliness and helplessness can play a huge role in our deterioration as we age.

Loneliness is now recognised as a major health risk; regular contact with friends and family can have a transformative effect on our mental health. Humans tend to respond well to a cause greater than themselves whether that be family, friends, country, principle, religion, caring for a pet or nurturing their garden.

Sacrifices made for others gives life meaning. In a world where our modern medical approach to the elderly concentrates principally on the repair of health, perhaps we could also turn our attention to a little sustenance of the soul.

Man does not cease to play because he grows old.  Man grows old because he ceases to play.

Ian Milarvie, exercise professional, Healthy Options.