Aging Gracefully

When researching the average age we die today, it comes with very mixed information.  Are we living longer?  While it’s true more people live into their 80’s and 90’s, it is also true that we are dying of “old people diseases” at a substantially younger age than we used to.  It’s no longer unusual to hear of someone dying of cancer or heart disease in their 40’s and 50’s and even in their 30’s.  Cancer, of course spans all age groups.

While we may have extended the life expectancy, the quality of life into those years is appalling!  Long term care homes are bursting at the seams and the baby boomers are just beginning to enter them! 

When I think of living, I think of quality of life.  I think of being able to romp around the house with my grandkids hanging all over me, on my shoulders, or wrestling with me, without reservation.  This weekend I went sledding with 2 of my 17 grandkids – and yes, I sledded and didn’t just watch them.  “Living”, is feeling healthy and not encumbered by feeling tired, being in pain, or having to use caution with activities for fear of aggravating a health condition.  With that definition, what is our average life span?

Living in a nursing home isn’t living.  We are living longer, but the quality of our life is falling far below past decades.  I see 40 year olds that I would have guessed were 60, 60 year olds that I would have thought were 80.  And then there are those who appear younger than their chronological age.

What’s the difference?  I see several common denominators that seem to distinguish aging early or aging with grace.

Women (more than men) that I have encountered that live into their 90’s and are still quite active have 2 common denominators (these also apply to the others).  First, they all had a sense of humor.  They seem to take life lighter and not let it get them down.  Second, they avoid medications.  Just last week a new patient of mine told me her medical doctor told her the same thing.  She had requested a different remedy than a drug and her doctor said “Good for you.  If you want to stay healthy and live longer, avoid medications as much as possible”.

Other common denominators I find in individuals who age gracefully include:  Avoiding fast food restaurants.  They understand the harm that these foods laden with harmful ingredients are to their health and avoid them.  They also eat out an average of only once per month.  Instead, they cook at home.  I find today it seems no one cooks anymore, especially young adults.  It’s sad to me.  It’s sad mostly because I see the long term results of poor eating.

We have created a viscous circle for ourselves.  We have traded quality foods for convenience foods.  Those nutritionally devoid foods have depleted our bodies, leaving us sick, weak and tired.  Because we are sick, weak and tired, we resort to convenience foods because we don’t have the energy to cook real food.  We perpetuate the cycle which makes us even more sick, weak and tired.  If you want to live a healthy life into your later years, you must break the cycle and cook for yourself no matter how you feel.  You will soon feel better.

Aging gracefully also entails doing what is needed to stay well.  Sleeping healthy hours, drinking lots of water, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.

Most people who age gracefully have found careers that are fulfilling.  They find a job, find the joy in the job and are happy to do their best.  Today, especially among the young, there is a tendency to find what’s wrong, find what’s in it for them, do what they need to gain experience, all with eyes looking elsewhere and a restlessness to move on.  They look for their own special interests and not for the welfare of the company.  This discontentment eats at them and creates unhappiness in their job.  Since you live three quarters of your waking hours at work, you better love what you do!

So how well we age consists of two parts: Health and attitude.  I’ve noticed something peculiar.  Women, in particular, who feel great and look great have no qualms about answering truthfully their age when asked.  Those who feel old or don’t look good seem more likely to hedge when asked.  There is no question that good health is a marker for how well you look, how joyous your life is, and ultimately, how well you age.

Aging gracefully means having the health to enjoy the things in life, your entire life.  It’s about a quality of life.  If your health is less than acceptable and you want to age more gracefully, seek the services of a qualified natural health practitioner skilled in helping you to overcome your health issues.  Remember, this body of yours is the only one you’ll get.  If you want it to last, you’ve got to maintain it and fix its problems.  It will serve you well if you do.

© 2008 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.

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The information provided in this article or podcast should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article or podcast. Readers/listeners should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers/listeners who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.

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