Healthy Aging - "The Journey: A Look at Aging"
Good health and a positive attitude--keys to quality of life in later years
Chapter 4 of a Collaborative Series of Articles about Aging
The years seem to overtake us while we aren't paying attention.
This journey called Life began for each of us with a newborn baby's cry--our own 'debut' wail at the world in which we'd arrived.The years dragged by so slowly when we were children eager to grow up. Suddenly we were young adults, and life stretched before us endlessly. There were so many choices to make and adventures to pursue. We felt invincible. Doesn't every twenty-something think life will glide on like that forever?
Was it overnight we became middle-aged? It seemed that way. When did those first strands of gray hair begin to appear? Now we reach the autumn of our years and, for some of us, the pace may be slowing. How we lived during the earlier parts of our journey will likely influence this stage.
Some of us are retired; others keep working for the satisfaction, income or both. However we spend this time, these are our "Golden Years." Good health, staying active and maintaining a positive attitude can help us enjoy them to the fullest.
If I could only be again
the girl who once was Me
with youthful air of innocence
and laugh of gaiety
If I could just retrace my steps
to the place I was back then
and have the chance to alter
the way my life has been
Would I do other than I’ve done,
a wiser pathway go
to realize all ambitions?
Alas! I’ll never know!
(But...,I think not.)
Stay active to maintain body strength: "Use it or lose it."
This is Chapter 4 of 16 chapters written by 16 hub authors on the topic of aging. A new chapter was published on HubPages each weekday during the active phase of this project by a participating author, from Chapter 1 through Chapter 16. Links to each chapter are provided at the bottom of this screen. (UPDATE: Some of the original chapters were unpublished by the authors after the project concluded. However, those that remain on HubPages are well worth reading.)
My Question is:
"At this point in our lives, can we reverse damage already done by poor health choices we made along the way, or are we to suffer the consequences as we age?"
The Answers are:
My answer: Much of the health information responsible for increased life expectancy and quality of life was not available when I was young or even middle-aged. Misinformation and controversy about the route to good health abounded, and the guidelines kept changing like fast cars switching lanes on a freeway. I lacked knowledge of what constituted a healthy diet and why it was important. For a half-century, much of what I consumed was unhealthy. Now I choose organic, unprocessed foods and eat as nutritious a diet as possible.
I knew exercise was necessary for fitness, but only recently was its importance to the brain, as well as the physical body, discovered. My lifestyle has been too sedentary, and an accident left me with physical challenges that now prevent the long walks I would enjoy. Aqua therapy and yoga to the rescue! Muscles that aren't used will atrophy, losing strength as well as tone.
Environmental toxins? Prescription drugs side effects? Stress overload and insomnia? I was ignorant of their dangers until a couple of years ago. Now I’m a convert to the holistic approach to good health. More doctors are encouraging the prevention of disease instead of waiting for their patients to need a cure, and that's a step in the right direction.
I practice healthy habits every day, believing that even a small improvement is better than none. Some things I can control; others, I cannot. I’d be foolish to ignore any factor that I can influence for better health.
Her answer: Most of us have incurred or even inherited various health issues. There are few things in life without consequences, but the most important aspects of life are the constant and continuing choices at our present disposal. Some may seem insignificant, but almost all set off a network of further results, each bringing further choices leading to their logical ends.
The good news is that, at any point in our lives, we can reverse some damages from poor choices by reversing choice patterns; most importantly, we can avoid furthering damage over which we do and will continue to have choice.
Possibly when poor choices and their consequences pile up without one’s awareness for stopping their flow, the consciousness and awareness that they CAN be changed may also diminish as a consequence.
Awareness is the key. Things don’t fully ‘just happen’ for better or worse. One must consciously choose (or have established the habit of) the wiser choices, backed up with specific plan and effort. Sadly, otherwise, poor choices replicate themselves or simply occur ‘by default’, easily proving to be paths of least resistance—till the piper demands to be paid. Choosing well is worth its effort. Things can be reversed.
His answer: Much of the damage done by the choices we have made can be corrected or minimized by changing the way we live now. Attitude is paramount, and following that, diet and exercise are both vital to our health. Having a positive attitude can make a huge difference in the way our bodies function and react to the environment we live in.
I believe that many people place their health in the hands of a doctor and end up living on a host of medicines that, truthfully, are killing us. A better choice is to live an active, positive life and eat healthy foods.
Ω This response was written by former HubPages member, Vincent Moore:
His answer: Reversing damages done by our poor health choices accumulated over our years depends, I believe, on a number of things—primarily the extent of damage done. If we are internally or externally damaged, then hopefully the medications we may be on are helping with the problem. If, however, the extent of damage is minor, then I would have to say that abiding by a healthy and active lifestyle should help curb any further damage.
I have lived a very athletic, demanding, disciplined lifestyle most of my life. I’ve arrived into my senior years in fairly good condition, other than a few minor joint annoyances. I don’t feel we have to suffer consequences of bad choices unless they are extremely bad health choices.
It’s up to all of us to live life in moderation, being very careful not to overindulge in excessive bad eating or poor exercise choices. Making wise choices in our younger years should pay huge dividends in our golden years.
Her answer: I don’t think there’s ever a point in life where we can’t do something about the damage we’ve done by poor health choices. Granted, some things can’t be reversed, like smoking damage, kidney damage, and so on, but if it is in a general sense, just like anything else it’s never too late.
We can always get up off our duffs and start walking. Walking is like the cure-all for everything. It improves our health in so many ways, and helps improve our outlook as the exercise touches us inside and out.
Changing our eating habits and making healthier food choices certainly can help our poor bodies face the day to day a little better by providing nutrients we haven’t had before. Just like watering a dying plant, better food can help nourish our aging bodies.
There is always something in life we can do to make things better, and, though better health choices may not completely reverse damage we’ve done, they can certainly give us a boost and help add a few days here and there to keep us around a little longer.
His answer: I am certain that we can reverse damage done by poor health choices earlier in life. Fortunately, I never smoked, but those who did, or do, can add years to their life by quitting. According to the American Cancer Society, benefits begin within minutes of your very last smoking experience and continue to do so. The risk of dying from lung cancer or heart disease or other smoking-related diseases continues to drop drastically every year after you quit.
I am a great believer in a healthy diet, and have tried for years to eat well-balanced meals, and also, despite arguments to the contrary about effectiveness, I have taken vitamin and mineral supplements for over thirty years.
Either I have really good genes or all the above works, I believe, since I need no prescriptions and see the doctor only for check-ups. The only exception to that is a yearly screening by a dermatologist for skin cancer, since I got way too much sun growing up in Texas and California.
Obesity in the United States is much in the news lately. As a nation, we are gaining too much weight, consuming too much fat and sugar. We all know how to remedy the consumption aspect of that, if only we will.
His answer: I read an article in a magazine years ago about an interview with a 100-year-old woman. At the bottom of the article was a picture of her smoking a non-filtered cigarette and holding a bottle of whiskey. She claimed to have always smoked a few cigarettes a day and had drunk a shot of whiskey at bedtime for most of her life. When she was asked, “What is your secret to living a hundred years?” her simple answer was, “I am happy.”
An old doctor once told me, “Moderation is the key to good health.” I don’t know if we can reverse the damage done to our health, but I do believe we can increase our chances of a longer and better life if we decrease our bad habits of excess. Some of the most health-conscious people I know seem to be sick far more than others who totally disregard good health guidelines.
Perhaps…excessive health-oriented habits do somewhat the same damage as bad health habits because of added stress. Maybe finding a good balance that fits our individual minds and bodies is the key. I believe—at any point in our lives—it is good to treat ourselves better than before. We just have to make sure we don’t under or overdo it.
Ω silvergenes (This user is apparently no longer on HubPages.)
Her answer: Cause and effect is not merely a theory embraced by Buddhists, it is central to Newton’s Law of Motion and applies to all things in our physical world, including our actions. If we have made poor choices, there will be consequences unless your name is Keith Richards.
However, the same is true if we begin to make wise choices. We can lower blood pressure, strengthen our muscles, lose excess weight and bring our cholesterol into an optimum range. Diet and the use of certain nutraceuticals can give our bodies the tools needed to effect repairs where they are warranted.
Repairs take time. Relief by masking symptoms can be instantaneous. It’s when we give up our control that we run into trouble and head for the pharmaceuticals/recreational drugs/comfort food. But isn’t that how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place?
While there are certainly times when pharmaceuticals can be life-saving, they work by blocking specific enzymes, and over the long term, this is not conducive to overall health. The same holds true for their above-mentioned partners in crime. Hold your course and ride out the storm. Yes, you can make a difference and help your body heal.
His answer: Absolutely. We can make wise choices in foods we eat, activities we attend, hours we spend working or resting, getting enough sleep and even social interaction. All of these areas can be made healthier and wiser by just taking one good “honest” look and evaluate each area and ask ourselves, “Is this activity, food choice, work ethic a wise choice or one that will keep the cycle of bad health intact in my own life?”
This is a baby step, of course. But it’s a key step to live longer, healthier and much happier.
Her answer: There are consequences to everything we do or don’t do. But there is almost nothing that is irreversible physically. You can quit smoking today and reduce, maybe not reverse, the damage you have done. You can change your diet and activities and start on a different path to the rest of your life. Even with a life-threatening illness, there are things you can do to deal with the condition and make it somewhat easier to endure, or at least easier than it would have been if you did nothing.
I know the knee I broke a few years ago may well come back to torment me as I age, so I stay active. I know all those hours of sun-bathing will catch up to me eventually in the form of wrinkles and age spots, so I don’t do it any more, and take better care of my skin.
There is a saying, “Your sins will find you out.” They probably will, but I’m not going to make it easy for them.
Ω cjsledgehammer is apparently no longer on HubPages.
His answer: You pose a very good question, but, unfortunately, the reality is that no one really knows for sure. A lot of it depends on the nature of the poor health choices, the severity of the damage that has already been inflicted and the individuals themselves.
One must also consider the steps that have been taken to alleviate prior damage, because sometimes the so-called remedies can make things even worse than before.
Indeed…there are some poor health choices that can be reversed within a year if proper action is taken immediately. Many health complications associated with smoking, for instance, can be reversed or side-stepped altogether if immediate action is taken and new healthy behaviors are adopted.
Let’s face it—some people can overcome some of the poor choices they made earlier in life, while others are destined to suffer the consequences. Perhaps the most reasonable thing to say regarding this issue is: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Her answer: This is an important question that requires more medical, scientific expertise than I possess. I suppose it depends. It is possible to stabilize certain health conditions, perhaps not all, and prevent further deterioration through dietary changes and physical exercise. I am thinking of exercises prescribed by a physical therapist to address specific physical injuries.
Research has demonstrated that after quitting smoking, a person can expect the lungs to begin to heal. Some medical techniques can turn back the clock. My brother’s knee deteriorated after a skiing accident; he dealt with unrelenting pain. Because of recent knee replacement surgery, he walks pain free for the first time in two decades.
However, I think there are some diseases, injuries and health conditions exacerbated by lifestyle choices which cannot be reversed, and deterioration becomes inevitable. In those situations we must depend upon our faith, the strength of our moral fiber, the flexibility of our innate personality in order to create and enjoy the best life possible under difficult circumstances.
I wish I could offer a more definite answer. However, I think our personal aging experiences will depend on many factors; some we can control, and others we cannot. It depends.
His answer: This appears to be a bit of a yes-and-no scenario. Obviously, it depends somewhat on the specific type of damage, and from a medical perspective, whether it is fixable. But I sense you’re really looking for more of a connotative response, as if to pose whether to see the glass as half full or half empty. I think there is actually a clear answer beneath the obvious.
If life has a trajectory, it does take a slowing of momentum to change any physical, mental or addictive course. There are myriad 12-step programs that have proven to be incredibly beneficial for millions of people. So an alcoholic has to live with the choices he has made, but he can choose to stop drinking, and even if he has made poor health choices to this point, he can stop the negative trajectory and commit to a better life.
I do think suffering is a choice, even if pain is not. History is full of people who had every reason to suffer through their lives and chose not to. I’ve spent too many of my own years feeling defeated, sad and angry at circumstance. What I found is that it just causes more of the same. It’s not always easy, but I now choose to place my attention on things that feel purposeful and inspirational. And that works for me.
His answer: The answer is NO, and, regrettably, we must suffer the consequences. We can stop further damage.
I have smoked Marlboro for 45 years and continue to smoke. I have been diagnosed with COPD and have difficulty breathing. If I stop now, I will always experience problems. I might stop someday. I smoke when I write and write when I smoke.
I am overweight—no, obese—no, I’m fat. I have been this way for twenty years. My clothes fit my body, and my body suits me as it is. I like food and love to cook. I’d rather die fat and happy than change my ways at this stage of my life. When I die, no one will be surprised, least of all me.
His answer: I suppose, to some extent, that we can reverse damage to our bodies done earlier in our life. But, I tend to stay away from the word “reverse.”
For example, if we incur COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), we may still live to old age by quitting smoking, diet and exercise and good medical care. We probably won’t reverse the disease, though. The same is true of heart disease and even some cancers. Surgery, stints, angioplasties and medication can stop the diseases, but not reverse them.
We can still live a long and happy life by making certain life changes. Exercise, proper diet, less stress and good medical care can enhance both your physical and mental well-being. And, that’s what it’s all about anyway. So, for the second part of your question, no, we need not suffer the consequences from earlier bad choices if we make the right choices now.
His answer: Many of the choices which affect our health are, indeed, reversible. Whether it arrests our bodies in the form of tobacco addiction, alcohol dependence, poor dietary habits, or simply from being sedentary, empirical evidence has demonstrated it is almost never too late to reverse both direction and consequence. The difficulty lies in letting it become a lifestyle. The effort to break free from an entrenched habit, like any addiction, becomes proportionately more difficult.
The most difficult consequences to shed in life are those inflicted emotionally upon one another. Such deeply embedded wounds follow us like shadows chained around the door of our hearts, with all intent, to lie beside us in the grave. They are reversible, but require from our heart the kind of forgiveness which we must beg from God.
To carry such weight through life is perhaps the greatest human tragedy, because it leaves us our life, but keeps our spirit, like a ghost ship anchored to the ocean floor. I have never witnessed anyone celebrate life while simultaneously chained to the past. We owe it to ourselves to become cruise ships until the fuel is gone.
Appreciate life's little pleasures to find contentment.
The Journey--a Collaborative Effort
This series about aging was a collaborative effort by 16 HubPages members/writers, each with his or her individual hub published to present a chapter. Each writer posed one question relative to some aspect of aging, and each responded to all the questions..
Questions and answers were the products of our genuine thoughts and feelings garnered from individual life experiences, beliefs and opinions. The questions asked were profound, and answering them required some soul-searching, yet participants were generous in their responses.
Our credentials? We are all individuals 'of a certain age', qualifying us to speak first-hand with some authority on the topic of Aging. As a group, we're in various stages of the ‘growing older’ process, ranging from AARP-eligibility range, or approaching it, (50s) to the eldest (80s). We're a cross-section of real people with varied life events, knowledge and values, willing to share some things we've learned along the way with each other and with you, the reader. We hope you derive both usable information and enjoyment from reading the remaining available chapters in THE JOURNEY - A Look at Aging.
This HubPages writing project was the brainchild of Alan Berry (aka 'arb' on HP), brought to fruition by a diverse team of writers. Alan was our guiding force from the beginning of this collaboration. Nellieanna Hay coordinated technical aspects of the series to ensure continuity among all the chapters. Every participant added significantly to the outcome envisioned by Alan, and the resulting ‘opus’ deserves a readership of all ages. If you find value in this series, we hope you will share each chapter you read with your followers and share chapter links with your friends on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Because a lot of ground is covered in the question-and-answers section, you may want to read each response through once, then return and re-read the section slowly to discover any gems of wisdom you may miss the first time around.
If you've reached this point, you are probably following the series chapter by chapter. If you follow the links, you will not be disappointed in any of them. Each chapter is full to overflowing of life lessons absorbed, used and passed on freely to readers. We hope you will read each chapter until you complete the series.
Update March, 2014: Some of the chapters (articles) in this series were unpublished by their authors, but those that remain are listed at the end of this hub in a revised table of contents. Each of the remaining chapters is a stand-alone article that constitutes a valuable reading experience.
Pets can be "preventive medicine" for senior citizens!
I enjoy seeing an elderly couple holding hands or showing affection for each other. He takes her arm protectively as they walk up steps. She reaches out and straightens the edge of his collar. For them it's still very much, "You and me against the world, babe." Young people wrongly think they cornered the market on love and romance. How, then, do they account for those happy unions that last decades with the love of the couple for each other--even in very old age--quite obvious to onlookers?
Research indicates that a happy marriage is actually good for one's health. A strong marriage (and the key word is "strong") promotes a healthy immune system and seems to make men (on average) live longer. Perhaps it's because happily married people do look out for each other. They even take better care of themselves for their partner's sake. This seems to hold true for other committed long-term relationships as well.
Of course, single people can also reap these benefits if they remain socially active and have a good support system of family and friends. And if they get lots of hugs. Everyone needs hugs. (Remember that, and act accordingly.)
- The Journey - Chapter 5; A Look at Aging
This is Chapter 5 in a series of 16, all about the journey we face as we age. The older we get, the more we know about aging. There are many insights from the sixteen represented here.
Read the other available chapters of THE JOURNEY by following the links below:
~~~~~~ A Table of Contents ~~~~~~~~THE JOURNEY ~ A Look At Aging
(NOTE: Chapters 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 11 ,12, 14, and 15 were unpublished by the authors at varying times after the project concluded, or perhaps they are published by those HubPages authors separately on their sub-domains under new titles. Those chapters that remain in the series, with links shown below, are valuable reads.)
- The Journey - Chapter 1
- The Journey - Chapter 5
- The Journey - Chapter 7
- The Journey - Chapter 10
- The Journey - Chapter 13
- The Journey - Chapter 16