Photo by Huyen Nguyen on Unsplash
By Lisa Profera MD
Getting older is inevitable, but feeling older is a choice. Do you want to be old and limited, or do you want to live your life to its fullest? Just because your chronological age advances, you don’t necessarily need to feel as old as you are. I choose to fight the aging process as much as possible and I am always looking for new “weapons.”
Weapon #1 for me is proper nutrition. Smart food choices, lots of water, and adequate supplementation is the cornerstone of health. Exercise is a close #2. Staying fit and active is key. Exercising your brain is also crucial. #3 would be sleep. If you read my article in last month’s issue of BRICK, you will understand the importance of sleep for cellular health and regeneration. The quality and quantity of sleep we get supports our systems and their longevity. Next on this list (#4 if you are keeping track) is emotional health and stress management. Maintain a positive attitude as much as possible. Be adaptive to change, and ”roll with the punches.” #5 is minimizing toxic load, internally and externally. Last but not least is what I call “body health” through proactive self-care and medical care as needed (#6). For some excellent self-care tips, read “A Quick Guide to Improving Your Self-Care” by guest blogger Brad Krause on my website: http://www.projuvu.com/blog
It’s hard to assign a rigid numerical order of priorities for each of the aforementioned aspects of optimal health, since they are so intertwined and interdependent. What does a healthy life look like to you? To me, it’s all about the concept of the compression of morbidity. I want to live a long life, but more importantly, I want my lifespan to be of the highest quality possible for the longest percentage of the time allotted to me. To put it bluntly, the “death and dying” part should be weeks or months rather than years or decades. As for the “suffering” part, I’d like to skip that altogether. By taking active measures now (lifestyle optimization), we can compress the timeframe where our bodies experience dysfunction and enjoy many years of great function.
When I was growing up and even in my early medical school years, chronic diseases mostly affected older people. As a former pediatrician, I am appalled at the emergence of “adult” diseases that are afflicting the young in their teens or twenties: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes), arthritis and other obesity-related illnesses. There has been a surge of autoimmune diseases (formerly regarded as rare). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the life expectancy of Americans has declined over the past three years rather than increased as it had been for decades. “Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation’s overall health, and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” the CDC director said in a recent statement on American life expectancy. Not only do we have people developing chronic illnesses at a younger age, but we also have the opioid crisis which may be contributing to a large number of accidental and non-accidental deaths in young people. Why are so many people taking opioids? This is a huge topic for a future article.
Consider this excerpt from the American Academy of Family Practice News: “Americans have enjoyed an unprecedented run at living longer, healthier lives for much of the 20th century. Clean air and water, improved sanitation and refrigeration systems, public education, vaccines and life-saving drugs, and management of chronic diseases all have added years to the average American’s lifespan and virtually guaranteed that a child born in the United States would be expected to live longer than his or her parents. Now, slowly, those gains are being eaten away.” (December 2018).
What can we do to stay on track or get back on track? If you are off-track and heading down the road to chronic disease, you can re-route your path. This happened to me. When I was diagnosed with a progressively destructive and potentially debilitating auto-immune disease about 14 years ago, my first thought was “Oh, that sucks, but it’s better than cancer.” Then I allowed myself to feel sad for a hot second. After that, the fighter in me said “Oh hell, no—I’m going to figure out how to fight this thing.” The well-known proverb entered my mind: “Physician, heal thyself”. As a traditionally-trained physician, I knew the fate of those diagnosed with my condition and I chose to say no, this is NOT happening to me. I am going to figure this out. And so, my quest toward better health began.
Granted, I thought I was pretty healthy. I thought I was in good shape. But what I’ve learned over the last decade or so is that you have to FIGHT for your health. It’s not easy and it’s not inexpensive. The investment involves time and money. How you manage that is up to you. Some people can invest more of their time and less of their money, and vice versa. You do need a bit of both.
What happens to our bodies as we age? What makes us feel old? It really boils down to our biochemistry and our cellular health. Trillions of biochemical reactions occur in our bodies throughout the day. Free radicals are formed in the process and something called “oxidative stress” can drive a destructive process (aging) that ultimately leads to death. What does aging feel like to you? Is it more musculoskeletal discomfort, decreased energy and sex-drive, mood swings and irritability, decreased cognitive ability (brain fog, impaired memory), poor quality of skin, hair, and nails, or all of the above?
What happens next is up to you. You can wallow in self-pity, blaming your genes, your ancestors or both. Or, you can choose to deal with the hand that you have been dealt and play it to your best advantage. How do you do that? The answer is “arm yourself” for battle. Fight for optimal health and slow down the aging process as best you can. As always, I am happy to help guide you toward a path to better health. Here in Ann Arbor, we have many talented practitioners that we can consult with for all aspects of lifestyle optimization. Let me help point you in the right direction.
Do you want to feel younger longer? We can’t slow time, but perhaps we can slow down and manage the effects of aging.
LISA PROFERA, MD
Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD
Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI
doTERRA Essential Oils Wellness Advocate
BEMER Independent Distributor
FaceBook business page: https://www.facebook.com/projuvu/
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