By Barrington H. Brennen,
January 28, 2014
Barrington H. Brennen
do we believe that after one passes age sixty-five, one will
start going “down hill”? One’s energy, stamina, mental
alertness will automatically deteriorate. While there is
some truth to that, the senior years need not be so
difficult. Now I am in my sixtieth year, it is amazing
that I am writing about this. When I was twenty-five, age
sixty seemed like centuries away. Now that I am at the door
of the decade of the sixties and looking straight into the
face of the seventies, and still feeling pretty good, it
still seems so unreal. I am still hoping that when I start
to climb the mountain of the eighties, I will be vigorous
mentally and physically. Is that unrealistic?
MYTHS ABOUT AGING
research I came across a few myths about aging. This
really made me feel so good because others are telling me
that my grey hair is a sign of “old age”. Here are three
myths of aging as presented in the December 2005 issue of
the Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
“MYTH: Aging means
declining health and/or disability.
There are some diseases that become more common as we
age. However, getting older does not automatically mean
poor health or that you will be confined to a walker or
wheelchair. Plenty of older adults enjoy vigorous
health, often better than many younger people.
Preventive measures like healthy eating, exercising, and
managing stress can help reduce the risk of chronic
disease or injuries later in life.
MYTH: Memory loss is
an inevitable part of aging.
As you age, you may eventually
notice you don’t remember things as easily as in the
past, or memories may start to take a little longer to
retrieve. However, significant memory loss is not an
inevitable result of aging. Brain training and new
learning can occur at any age and there are many things
you can do to keep your memory sharp. The sooner you
start, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.
MYTH: You can’t teach
an old dog new tricks.
One of the more damaging myths
of aging is that after a certain age, you just won’t be
able to try anything new or contribute anymore. The
opposite is true. Middle aged and older adults are just
as capable of learning new things and thriving in new
environments, plus they have the wisdom that comes with
life experience. If you believe in and have confidence
in yourself, you are setting up a positive environment
for change no matter what your age.”
After reading this, it is
clear to me that how to take care of yourself and your
mental outlook can
"The human body is made to move,
and to move throughout the span of life.
Age is not an inhibitor for regaining
determine how vigorous you will be
between age sixty-five and one hundred. Dan Burden in
his book “Blue Zones” writes about people living beyond
their one hundredth birthday and still having a vigorous
life. They work, play outdoors in the sunlight, write,
lift weights, walk, run, etc.
WE ARE MADE TO MOVE
Research indicates that diet and
exercise are what really matter most for living a long,
healthy, vigorous life. Almost twenty years ago (1996),
there was a research at the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical School on bed rest and healthy living. Five healthy
men volunteered for the research. What were the men to do?
Here is the report of the research. “All they had to do was
spend three weeks of their summer vacation resting in bed.
That’s all. They were to do nothing, just rest. But when
they got out of bed at the end of the trial, it probably
didn’t seem so good. Testing the men before and after
exercise, the researchers found devastating changes that
included faster resting heart rates, higher systolic blood
pressures, a drop in the heart’s maximum pumping capacity, a
rise in body fat, and a fall in muscle strength. In just
three weeks, these 20-year-olds developed many physiologic
characteristics of men twice their age. Fortunately, the
scientists didn’t stop there. Instead, they put the men on
an 8-week exercise program. Exercise did more than reverse
the deterioration brought on by bed rest, since some
measurements were better than ever after the training.
The Dallas study was a dramatic
demonstration of the harmful consequences of bed rest. It’s
a lesson that has been learned yet again in the era of space
travel, and it has helped change medical practice by
encouraging an early return to physical activity after
illness or surgery. And by revisiting the question 30 years
later, the Texas researchers have also been able to
investigate the interaction between exercise and aging.”
What’s the point? The human body
is made to move, and to move throughout the span of life.
Age is not an inhibitor for regaining youthful energy.
Research has indicated that osteoporosis can be reversed at
any age, even in the nineties. Plaque in the arteries can
disappear. Muscle mass can increase at any age. It has
been known of men in their seventies lifting weights for the
first time and looking thirty years younger. How is this
possible? Diet, exercise, and a positive outlook on life
“In one of two startling studies,
by Dr. Maria Fiatarone, Dr. William J. Evans and others at
the Tufts University Research Center, nine women and men,
ages 87 to 101, strengthened their arms and legs by
exercising with resistance weights, which, as part of a
controllable system of pulleys and cables, are safer than
free weights. In eight weeks, they increased the strength in
the front thigh muscles by an average of almost 175 percent.
Dr. Abraham Datch, a 101-year-old retired dentist, increased
his strength by 200 percent over what it was at age 95.”
HOW TO DO IT?
Here are a few tips on how to be
old and vigorous as presented by the Harvard Men’s
Avoid tobacco in all its
Eat properly. Reduce your
consumption of saturated fat, trans fatty acids, and
cholesterol. The omega-3s and monounsaturated fats in
fish, nuts, olive oil, and possibly canola oil are
desirable in moderation. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, and nonfat dairy products. Favor complex
carbohydrates and high-fiber foods, but reduce your
consumption of simple sugars. Get about 15% of your
calories from protein. Cut back on salt and processed
foods. Keep your caloric consumption down and stay as
lean as possible
Consider simple supplements
such as a daily multivitamin and low-dose aspirin (81 mg
Keep your mind active and
stimulated. Mental exercise is an important complement
to physical exercise.
Build strong social networks.
People are good medicine at any age.
Get regular medical care. Good
medicine is good medicine.
A balanced program is best.
That’s why Cicero proclaimed, “Exercise and temperance
will preserve something of our youthful vigor, even into
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and
board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your
questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or
write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or
call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.