Living or Surviving
About a hundred years ago, the average life expectancy in the USA was under 55. As of 2018, the average has gone up to about 78. Advances in medicine, science, and a better understanding of the body have contributed to the longer life expectancy. It’s truly a blessing to many. However, I’ve observed that although many people live 23 or more years longer than their predecessors, often times those extra years are full of chronic conditions and illnesses, hospital trips, and medication, severely limiting what one is able to do in their later years. In fact, the latest research conducted in the US and Mexico shows that 55% of adults take 2 pharmaceutical drugs regularly, and 38% of adults over the age of 56 take at least 4. These conditions are unpleasant and have lead me to believe there is a difference between living longer and surviving longer.
In our culture, there is a paradigm that once you reach a certain age, you are supposed to start falling apart. Slow down, retire, take it easy because the heart problems, diabetes, memory decline, and other health conditions will start kicking in. We expect our elderly to be in mediocre, if not poor, health. Most people are shocked when they meet someone in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s who is in great health. Sometimes these elderly people are in better health than those half their age!
This assumption that the older you are, the sicker you’ll become is inaccurate. While it’s true certain aspects of our lives should be handled a bit more cautiously the older we get, it’s also true that there are people in their 90’s who still ski and are physically active. There is no gene that turns on when we’re 60 that says, “Well, time to start having heart problems.” That’s absurd! The truth of the matter is that the health problems we experience in our senior years is a result of years of poor health habits.
We shouldn’t judge or fault anyone experiencing health problems, whether they’re in their senior years or not. We all have things we’re working on, and there are times when the health problem is the result of something out of the person’s control. However, we also should recognize that the health habits (or lack of them) we develop now have a direct effect on how we’ll live (or survive) later.
Those who are healthy throughout their later years have developed healthy habits of nutrition, sleep, physical activity, service, have healthy relationships, and are emotionally healthy due to healthy thought patterns. An emphasis on the last one. I have yet to meet or hear of a healthy senior who doesn’t have a good attitude. There is a big correlation between our health (now and in the future) and the quality of our thoughts. Most people know they should eat healthy, exercise, etc, but the quality of our thoughts is seldom talked about in regards to our long-term health. Developing optimistic, healthy attitudes is a key part to truly living longer.
The healthier we are, the more we can create and contribute. This is true whether we are 25 or 125. Again, I understand there are times when someone’s health is the result of something outside their control. However, for most of us, whether we’re healthy in our senior years (living) or not (surviving) is a result of the consistent choices we make throughout our lives. No matter our age or our current health state, we can all become healthier. We can eat a little better, develop stronger relationships, and manage our thoughts better.
Before wrapping up we should make a note on genetics. There may be some of you who think that a healthy 90 year old must simply have good genes. Though genes play a role, research has shown that genetics have little to do with how healthy we’ll be throughout our lives. Genes are a library of possibilities. If we carry any genes toward tendencies of diabetes, obesity, etc., they are only activated if we create an environment for them to be turned on (e.g. unhealthy habits). Creating a healthy lifestyle produces an environment that keeps these genes inactive, allowing for a longer, healthier life.
If your health is not where you want it to be, or if you haven’t developed the health habits required for longevity, know that you change that. Our bodies are amazing creations capable of change. We at Phytotherapi are dedicated to helping you achieve the health you desire. Feel free to reach out to us if there are specific needs we can help you with.