Peter Thomson ponders the difficulties of getting older, and how the mind can certainly win out over the matter.
The other night I watched a TV programme fronted by a medical man who arranged to have a variety of medical tests to ascertain his general level of fitness and well-being. I would like to think, and his general appearance would suggest, that he did not live a life beset by the lifestyle excesses and deficiencies that some (or do I mean many) of us experience.
Unfortunately the presenter received an early setback when a scan discovered a build-up of plaque near his heart. The doctor’s conclusion was that this situation was a concern as the eventual outcome could lead to a terminal heart attack and that the ‘patient’ should go onto a statins for the rest of his life. A confirmatory second opinion left the poor man at a very low psychological ebb as he was confronted with his own mortality. A third consultation gave him much better news and a good deal more hope as it suggested that he could get on with his life without further treatment. This set the context for the programme as to whether it was better to have tests which seemed to divide medical opinion, often leaving the patient emotionally overcome and possibly facing medical treatments. It even prevented the presenter from not looking at his genomically produced liability of suffering from dementia in case the truth was too shocking.
On a slightly lighter note, so I don’t send you scuttling to the fridge for a large glass of wine, I have a few thoughts. Irrespective of what ailments you may or may not have, and you should consult your GP before embarking on any lifestyle changes, a positive state of mind can be a very positive weapon in your armoury against ageing. Just deciding to get a grip on you life is a vital first step. Working on the principal of doing more of the things that are good for you and less of the things that are bad you can see changes very quickly.
Take exercise, quite literally, get down to your local gym. There will be experts on hand to guide you through an appropriate fitness program. Don’t worry if you are one of the least fit people there, it is a true statement that most people are only concerned with themselves and their own programme. After a few weeks of getting our body moving and stretching, you will soon see improvements. Even if you have not regained your youthful figure those stairs will seem easier to climb and you will be feeling justifiably proud of yourself.
If unfortunately you have lost some of your mobility there are a number of excellent aids to help you get out and about. A trip to your local mobility centre will introduce you to an array of products which with expert guidance will have you chasing new horizons. Being properly equipped can open so many doors, and you may be surprised to find that your gym caters for such things with specialist equipment.
It seems to be that entering your fifties offers a significant enough milestone that general well-being is brought to the forefront of your mind. We can all make excuses for missing out on exercise, but with a few simple changes, healthy options can be easily swapped into a daily routine in place of time in front of the box. As we age, the need to strengthen and tone our muscles becomes more important, as this is what will keeps one supple and mobile. Having strong muscles also means that should a fall happen, recovery is likely to be much faster. I’m not suggesting that you need to become an expert weightlifter, but adding in some conditioning exercises can make all the difference.
Exercising isn’t just about losing fat and increasing tone. The benefits of cardio vascular exercise are more far reaching. Exercise improves the health of the heart and blood vessels, which can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Exercise can also improve cognition, recent studies have shown that exercise may improve memory and slow down mental decline. Finally, it will also help you sleep better and more deeply, and we all know how much a good night’s sleep can lighten our step.
When it comes to your diet there is an abundance of advice on TV or the web to reduce your calorific intake and eat fewer processed foods. If you prefer a more hands on approach and you do not rate yourself as a chef there are a number books filled with simple low calorie recipes. Assuming you have already cut out smoking, a definite ‘no-no’, now deal with those empty calories…the demon drink. You do not necessarily have to give up, as a glass of wine can be an aid to digestion, is enjoyable, and in moderation will not damage your health, but instead you may reduce your consumption to a single glass a night and watch the fat melt away.
If you take everything in to consideration growing older is not a byword for not enjoying yourself. With a little bit of effort and some planning you can realign your life if you think you have let things slip, it is almost never too late to do something positive. Even a gentle stroll in the countryside, though not necessarily physically taxing can do so much to lift your spirits. It is generally accepted that those people with a positive take on life are likely to live longer as result. The mind, body and soul are all connected, so make sure you take time to nurture and strengthen each one in turn.
What are you waiting for! Get moving!
Words by Peter Thomson