Wayne Adult Community Center
Feature article from the November, 2006 Newsletter

Reduce or Reverse the Effects of Aging

The article has been augmented since publication in the newsletter

We would all like a long life, but we don’’t want to spend our later years in slow physical and mental decline. The measures described below will help you to maintain your health:

1. Exercise on a regular basis:

 All exercise counts, although sustained exercise is the most beneficial. You don't have to run or lift weights: A brisk walk (45 minutes is recommended) every few days will do a great deal of good.

 2. Eat intelligently:

·        As tempting as high-calorie foods can be, minimize your intake.

·        Learn to cook vegetables in appetizing ways (there are a lot of tasty vegetable dishes). Perk up otherwise bland salads by adding things like crumbled Roquefort cheese. And avoid sugary dressings.

·        Eat "oily" fish for the omega-3 fatty acids.

·        Realize that bacon and potato chips should be treated as condiments and garnish, not eaten as if they were food. They are the cardiac surgeon's friend, not yours.

·        Even if you're not a salt-sensitive hypertensive, limit the amount of salt that you use.

·        Broil most of the things you might otherwise fry. Bake some things that you might otherwise broil.

·        Look for foods made with whole grains and nuts1, which provide valuable anti-oxidants. When you want a sweet snack, think of fruit before you consider candy or cake.

 3. The brain is the one organ that defines our existence, and like our muscles it needs exercise.

 Many of us older people think "I've learned everything I need to know", or "I've paid my dues, now I'm entitled to relax full time". That is the way to senility. Learn something new, or work to recover prior knowledge that you've lost. There are computer programs designed specifically to exercise the mind, but there are also many other things that you can use. Do some crossword puzzles. Write poems. Take out an old algebra text (or, if you were a mathematician, try to reproduce proofs). Even some portable electronic games that so captivate children and young adults can be fun for us too as they make us do mental work.

4. Reduce stress:

 Or look for ways to neutralize it (other than drugs). Meditation, when done right, can make an amazing difference. (But it has to be a regular practice, not just a hit-and-miss proposition.) If you have religious inclinations, prayer can provide valuable support.

5. Get enough sleep:

            According to recent studies, most Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. night television shows. (They’re mostly commercials these days anyway.)

    ·        If you’re fortunate enough to be comfortably retired, and you don't sleep well during the night (disturbed sleep is rampant among seniors), don't be reluctant to take a nap during the day if you feel tired.

    ·        If you still have to get up and to work, give up the late night television shows. (They’re mostly commercials these days anyway.)

    ·        If you are drowsy during the day even after what seems to be an adequate amount of sleep, you might be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that can become life-threatening.  A sleep laboratory can diagnose the condition and recommend countermeasures or treatment.

6. Seek out things that make you laugh: Laughter has actually been shown to promote health. Also, it releases "feel-good" brain chemicals.

 7. Keep in mind that although age does not automatically produce wisdom, you probably have a large store of valuable experiences and knowledge. That’s true whether you dropped out of elementary school after the fourth grade, or you have a doctoral degree in Astrophysics. We don't all have the same knowledge, but some people who have the least formal education have the most common sense. Use what you have by doing volunteer work; it’s a marvelous way to keep active, and to remind you know that you can still be useful.

 8. Cherish your friends as well as your loved ones. People with strong social ties are healthier and happier than those without.

 9. If you smoke, find a way to stop. You already know that it is a deadly addiction.

10. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Your brain, as well as your liver, beg you to do it.

11. Brain damage, spinal cord injury, and other physical harm are no fun. In addition to the nutritional and behavioral measures mentioned above, protect your body directly: Wear a seat belt in the car. Wear a helmet on the bike.

12.  Many people have food allergies that they're not aware of because the effects are not life-threatening.  Wheat allergy is one of the most common, but there are others as well.  If you have mild but mysterious symptoms, such as gassiness, intermittent drowsiness or occasional "brain fog", consider being tested for food allergies.

Following the twelve practices above, will not cancel the effects of genetics and environment to guarantee a long and fully healthful life, but it will certainly improve your odds.

W. A. Shapiro
The article is based on information from a variety of sources.

1. Obviously, this does not apply to people who have strong allergies to nuts.