Do you know the largest health issue among older people?
No, it is not any of the non-communicable diseases common to them like arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease.
Yes, they do have them and they are very debilitating, costly and stressful for both patients and those tasked to care for them. But according to a report from the University of Rochester, the number one problem among older people is lack of Physical Activity and Nutrition. .
These two act in a symbiotic relationship that can either make an older cool or as cold as a puppy's nose.
As people age, their metabolism slows down, making the food they eat, regardless of nutritional value, digest slowly. This rate slows down further if you practically spend the entire day on a couch watching TV or reading the papers.
Compounding this lethargic lifestyle is their tendency to splurge on or potato chips, or corn flakes, or any of those comfort foods readily available in any grocery store.
Very soon these improperly digested food (as fats) will soon find its way in your legs, thighs, hips, waist, belly, arms and face until you qualify a contestant in the popular TV reality show, The Biggest Losers.
Ironically, the more you put in weight, harder it is to get physically active . Not only because you find it so heavy to move, but you justify your excess weight as an inevitable consequence of growing old; that weight increase is in direct proportion to an increase in age.
Not so, according to experts.
Excess Weight is not bad, but Its Effects Are:
As people age, some experience thinning hair, loss of some teeth, be hearing impaired, or have memory lapses. But gaining weight is not triggered by some biological clock, but by setting the alarm clock too long.
But gaining weight because of lack of physical activity is only half the problem. The other half lies benefit the surface, like an iceberg.
Some of these are:
Type 2 Diabetes :
Occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to maintain the body's normal glucose level, or is unable to use the insulin that is produced (also known as insulin – resistance).
The risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases with age because people tend to gain weight and exercise less.
Type 2 diabetes can be preverted or managed (if you already have one), by maintaining a healthy weight, have a healthy nutrition and exercising regularly.
High Blood Pressure:
High blood pressure is caused by structural changes in the arteries, particularly the large arteries. Its cause is non-specific but it has always been taken as a natural consequence of aging.
It is a great concern among health practitioners (and you, too) because it can lead to kidney problems, heart disease, stroke and many other serious health problems.
Risk factors of high blood pressure are genetics, age, excess weight , no physical activity and poor diet .
Aging and many other factors common to aging cause some changes in the heart and blood vessels, which, if not treated, can lead to heart disease.
Among other things, the risks for heart disease can be minimized by having a heart-healthy diet, and exercise to prevent of obesity, control blood sugar and reduce stress.
And unless you have become a celibate, your sex life takes a nose dive due to lack of physical activity and improper nutrition.
You may not be a raging bull anymore but it does not mean your libido has flat-lined either. There are men in their 70s and 80s who are still very sexually active. But for most, it is like a blip in a heart monitor of a patient in ICU – now you see it, now you do not.
It would be very downright embarrassing if you will not have the stamina to reach a fulfilling climax – like you could never enjoy a full round of golf, if you are not physically fit to sink the 18th hole.
So start counting calories, not ills and pills.
Count Calories, not Ills and Pills:
The other week I sat next a guy in the senior citizens' lane of a grocery check-out counter while my daughter queued up.
He was big, ie, around 5'9 “, 190 lbs. Or so. He was 62 (four years younger than I), and started walking telling me of his arthritis problems and his coming titanium implant to replace a hip bone.
When my daughter came up, I introduced her to the guy, who immediately told my daughter of the things he told me earlier.
Cheerily my daughter said, “I know. When seniors get together they talk of ills and pills, not calories.”
My daughter's surprising and unexpected remark, mean as a joke, made me smile.
I thought it cool, but true.
The average age of the people I play tennis with is 54 years. The oldest is 73 but he dropped out for failing eyesight. I am 66 and there are at least three who are in their 70s. The youngest is in his mid 30, and the rest are in their late 40s and early 50s.
We joke, we banter, play with or against each other, and rib winners and losers alike.
There are four or five who have arthritis and diabetes. One had a hypoglycemic attack while playing, and one member had had a bypass (he plays very early in the morning).
We never talk of ills. The only pills we talk about, and change hands, are those small Chinese-made pills for erectile dysfunction – which practically everyone is taking.
You can take any of those signature diets your nutritionist prescribe, or get it online. But if you do not exercise enough, if you do not get physically active, they are just good money thrown into the sewer.
On the other hand, you can eat nails and be as healthy as when you were in your 30s if you stretch your muscles and rev your heart like a Formula 1 car by exercising regularly.