Age is interesting...
When you work in health care, there are typically four things you know before you enter a patient's room: the patient's name, age, sex, and chief complaint. It's interesting how the patient I envision before I enter the room can be so different from the person I meet after I have entered the room.
For example, if I saw that my next patient was a 55 year-old male with chief complaint of "chest pain on exertion," I might imagine an active man who was exercising after work and noticed new chest pain symptoms.
When I walk into the room, however, I may see a man who looks more like 70 (causing me to do a double-take of his age). Smoking, inactivity, obesity, and chronic disease have taken a toll on him. He does not function well, and he appears much older than his stated age of 55.
Conversely, if I saw that my next patient was a 90 year-old female with a chief complaint of "fall," I might imagine a frail elderly woman with dementia who fell in the nursing home.
To my surprise, the person I see when I enter the room may be a sharp, coherent woman who looks to be in her 70's (again, I do a double-take of her age). She simply tripped and twisted her knee while walking up the steps to her house, where she lives independently.
I want to know the 90 year-old's secret.
So, I often ask.
I might say, "Wow, you look great. And you're doing extremely well for your age. What's your secret?"
The most common answer I hear is: "I've just always been a very active person."
Anecdotally, I've seen the correlation between an active/engaged lifestyle and exceptional health into old age. But in this post I want to share with you an excellent book that explains this correlation really well and gives practical advice to help you achieve it.
A Book that Explains the Secret
Younger Next Year is written by Harry Lodge, M.D., who is a board-certified internist (adult medicine doctor) and gerontologist (expert on aging), and Chris Crowley, who is a retired attorney and Harry's patient. The book contains valuable information for anyone, but it is particularly relevant for those over age 50.
Harry explains, on a scientific level, the things we can do to help our amazing, complex bodies thrive as we get older -- into our 60's, 70's, 80's, and beyond. Chris keeps it entertaining (downright hilarious at times) and speaks from his own experience about implementing these practices in daily life.
Harry has 6 basic rules. The book goes into great detail about why these things are important and how to successfully do them. The rules are:
- Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
- Spend less than you make.
- Quit eating crap!
- Connect and commit.
Some Quotes from the Book
Harry: "One of the hardest things about medicine is delivering bad news... I became increasingly aware that most of these conversations were happening long before they should have, and for reasons that were clear and avoidable... I had done what doctors do well in this country, which is to treat people when they come in with a disease. My patients had had good medical care but not, I began to think, great health care. For most, their declines, their illnesses, were thirty-year problems of lifestyle, not disease... No matter how great our medical care, we all need good health care, too -- and very few of us get it... If we had the will to do it, we could eliminate more than half of all disease in men and women over fifty. Not delay it, eliminate it."
"You can control the cycle. Commuting, loneliness, apathy, too much alcohol and TV all trigger the inflammatory part of the cycle. But daily exercise, joy, play, engagement, challenge, and closeness all trigger the crucial repair."
Chris: "Make [exercise] your new job... There is one thing people learn in their careers, whether they're president of the company or mid-level what-do-you-call-its. They learn to go to work... That simple knack is one of the most powerful organizing forces in life, and you have it, etched deep in your conscious and unconscious mind. Nice going. Now use it in your new life."
"Some of the people Harry and I like best hate exercise and all its works. Men and women who live a life of the mind. Bookish folk... lunatic professionals... artists... gardeners. People who love to eat and drink and talk. And read in the privacy of their very own homes. They hate sports, hate exercise, hated school because of sports and exercise. And hate people like us who try to tell them how great it all is... There is no 'life of the mind.' Mind and body really are one... You may not like exercise, but do it anyway. For your heart, for your mind, for your immortal soul. And for us. We want you around to talk to. Maybe we can go have a drink."
(I like that last quote because it describes the kind of person I used to be, before I learned to love and even crave exercise.)
How about you?
Are you over the age of 50? Are you ready for a lifestyle change that will add life to the years you live? Are you ready to consistently "go to work," doing what it takes to enhance your health and well-being in the long run?
Younger Next Year takes a deep dive into the science of aging. It explains these concepts in a way that is easy to understand. It also gives detailed, practical tips on how to become functionally younger -- in other words, younger in all the ways that matter.
So check it out. Embark on a new adventure. Make 2017 the year that things change for the better. Invest in yourself, prioritize your health, learn as you go, and enjoy the bright future that this way of life can yield.
Who knows? You might one day be that person who is constantly asked, "What is your secret?"
This post was originally published on December 21, 2016.