If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to age with your health intact, you’re not alone. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently, and this is what I’ve learned.
First, in order to address the question of whether it is possible to age with wellness, we need to consider the major players in how we age. As you might guess, our genes have some say in whether we might develop certain areas of physiological weakness or susceptibility.
As well, life experiences, especially when they involve trauma or chronic stress, can set us up to be more prone to certain ailments and forms of illness. But most often, genetic inheritance and life events alone don’t determine whether we develop a disease.
It’s those elements, combined with the environment in which we live and the lifestyle choices that we make every day that eventually flip a disease-development switch in our bodies from “off” to “on.”
And no matter at what age that switch happens to be triggered, disease progression usually takes years to show up as symptoms or a diagnosable condition.
A Personal Story
I’d like to tell you a bit about a close relative of mine who, in spite of her many admirable strengths, made a number of choices, over years and decades, that seriously impacted her ability to be well.
By the time she turned 60, osteo-arthritis had started to disfigure her hands and interfere with her physical mobility. By 70, she had nearly died from a bleeding ulcer in reaction to her arthritis medication. Also, breast cancer showed up, requiring a mastectomy.
By 80 this strong-willed and stoic woman was bed-bound, with rampant arthritis and chronic pain. Finally, at 82 she died of a stroke. Later I learned that she had also died with a resurgence of cancer.
What breaks my heart when I think about this beloved woman is not just her death and the intense chronic pain she suffered leading up to it. It’s what she did not realize she could do for herself to take charge of her health along the way.
She simply let disease happen. She and her loved ones – yes, that includes me –didn’t understand the relationship between her early-life traumas, her day-to-day choices, and her health status over the long run.
My much-revered relative’s story is complex, as is the case for so many people today. Yet I believe that she could have altered the course of her health journey through her daily choices, if only she had known that she could! Though this woman lived a fairly long life, she spent her final 20 years coping with major health crises.
Her long and difficult health journey is an important part of the reason why I have chosen to focus my work on functional nutrition and lifestyle practices to help women reclaim their health.
So, you must be wondering, what are some of the ways with which you and I can prevent or resolve symptoms that we assume come with the territory of aging?
The Power of Choice
The place to start is by believing that you DO have the ability to influence how you age. You and I have a lot more power than we might think to determine how well we get to live between birthdays!
Fortunately, there’s currently a fair amount of research that backs me on this.
There are a number of actions we can take to make a difference in how we feel and in how well our bodies function, beginning right now.
Start Here: 3 Fundamental Factors for Aging Well
I’m not talking about an all-or-nothing approach, or perfection. I am suggesting that to begin with you consider these three fundamental steps:
1) Listen to what your body is trying to tell you. The more we pay attention to what we put into our bodies and how it affects how we feel, the better. Doing so can help us make good choices that support our unique needs.
2) Ideally, eat mostly whole, seasonal foods. By avoiding refined foods, including processed sugars and carbohydrates, we can reduce a lot of the inflammation that fuels disease.
3) Manage your reactions to stress. Some of the ways to do this include: engaging in physical activity that is appropriate for your body, connecting regularly with people you care about, and interacting frequently with nature in some way – caring for house plants, pets, or a garden, walking outside, or simply stepping out for fresh air.
We each have the power to impact the course of our own health and aging journey, starting today if we so choose!
Read about common fears concerning aging in my last blog post.
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to age with wellness, come to my free workshopon November 15, 201, at River Valley Coop in Northampton, MA.
If you’d like to talk with me privately about your aging-related concerns, I’d like to hear from you. Click here to contact me.