Today’s blog post will be a bit of a departure from my previous entries and a little more personal. Today (March 30, 2022) is my 68th birthday!! I am incredibly grateful to God not only to see this birthday but to get here as a healthier me than I was when I was 50!
While others much younger than me are retiring, I am finding my career more rewarding than ever as I am able to use much of my life experience along with my medical knowledge to encourage my patients toward positive lifestyle changes that will make them healthier as they age. It has become something that I am quite passionate about.
In the year since my last birthday, God blessed me to finally complete my bucket list goal of completing half marathons in each of the 50 states as well as DC, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Since completing that goal last October, I have done 4 more half marathons in four different cities just for fun. In December I completed my 8th consecutive St. Jude Half Marathon, raising over $2800 for the children as a St. Jude hero. I was given the opportunity to encourage others toward active aging both on the local news and by being featured in an article in a local Health and Fitness magazine.
Based in part on the contents of this blog, I now serve as volunteer nutrition and lifestyle coach to a wonderful group of women in what we call the “Healthier You” support group started my my good friend Penne Allison. The group meets weekly via conference call. We have seen some amazing changes among our group members with not only weight loss but also improvements in fitness and in chronic diseases like diabetes and markers of cardiovascular disease.
Through my social media presence I have been able to encourage others spiritually by sharing daily devotional readings from the several that I read each morning. I use my Facebook group, No Gym-No Problem, to share YouTube workout videos that I enjoy as well as fitness challenges in the hope of inspiring others to get off the couch. I am amazed at the sheer number and variety of FREE workouts that are available on the internet!
I am sharing the way I have chosen to live this season of my life to make a point. I firmly believe that only God knows how long each of us will live but He has given us the free will to make choices that will enhance the quality of our lives. I was not active as a child and minimally active for most of my adult life. In an attempt to keep my weight down I would starve myself all day then reward myself with pizza or chocolate chip cookies and late night snacks. Being diagnosed with both hypertension and prediabetes finally convinced me to make the lifestyle changes I needed to make to get healthier. I was already 59 when I did my first half marathon and 64 when I finally made the permanent dietary changes that reversed my prediabetes and got me to a healthy weight without regaining it for the first time in my adult life. Now I like to think of myself as a living advertisement for active aging and good nutrition. I am out to prove that it is never too late to become your healthiest self!
For the last few weeks leading up to my birthday I have been doing a lot of reading and listening to podcasts during my walks about so called “successful aging.” You tend to read about that which is important to you personally. At 68, it has become increasingly important to me to understand this aging process so that I can make the most of whatever time I have left.
According to healthy aging expert Daniel Levitin, successful aging has nothing to do with status or financial security. He describes the three components of successful aging as as low probability of disease and disease-related disability, high cognitive and physical functional capacity, and active engagement with life. In other words, being able to do the things you want to do for as long as possible is the goal of successful aging.
How to accomplish successful aging involves the choices we make both before and after we earn that little red white and blue Medicare card. While there may be some disagreement about the best ways to age well, there are some tips on which most experts agree. Let’s explore some of these universal truths.
- You must “eat as if your life depends on it.”Regardless of which way of eating you choose; vegan, plant based, paleo, low carb, Mediterranean or whatever, it is important to minimize your consumption of processed foods and foods high in refined sugar and simple starches. Processed foods are highly inflammatory and contribute to many of the diseases common in older people. A healthy diet as we age centers around simple whole foods and not processed fake foods. Every bite you eat is either feeding good health or feeding disease. Another important dietary consideration is that, contrary to popular belief, protein needs increase with age to combat the muscle loss (aka sarcopenia) that naturally comes with age. Make it a point to have some kind of protein at every meal.
- You simply MUST keep moving. I am not saying you have to join a gym or train for a marathon but you do need to move your body with purpose every single day for at least 30 minutes. There is no magic formula but experts agree that you should vary your activities and get in some kind of cardio (walking, running, biking, dancing, swimming etc.), some resistance exercises to help combat muscle loss as well as movements that improve flexibility and balance. It is important to find activities you enjoy which makes it more likely that you will stick with them.
- Reduce stress. This may be simple advice but likely the hardest thing to do. We often have no control over the aspects of our lives that cause us stress but we do have control over our responses. For me that involves daily quiet time with God to start each day. For others that might mean daily meditation, yoga or getting a massage. Also, the above mentioned physical activities are also great stress relievers.
- Sleep Well. Most people think that our need for sleep declines with age when in actuality it becomes MORE important as we age. During sleep is when our bodies repair themselves and our batteries get recharged. The time honored advice of trying to sleep at least 8 hours a night becomes crucial as we get older.
- Get outside daily if you can especially on sunny days. The sense of wellbeing that comes from getting fresh air and sunshine comes from the release of serotonin, the feel good hormone. The sun also boosts vitamin D which is important to bone health. The benefits of as little as a 15 minute walk outside in nature is priceless. Even if your mobility is limited, just being outside can boost your mood.
- Keep your mind engaged by continuing to learn new things, visit new places and by staying connected with others. Become a lifelong learner. (I just found out that several universities offer free classes to high school graduates over 60). Join a book club. Try a new form of exercise, make some new recipes, learn a new language or get a new hobby. The possibilities are endless.
- Remember to have FUN!!! If you are not going to enjoy your life in your 60’s and beyond – then when??
If you have lived your life up until now in unhealthy ways, make today the day you decide to change course. It is my prayer that you will take these tips seriously and apply them to your own life so that you too can live that “abundant life” and that you will finish strong.
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 (NLT)