Recently a television health expert was discussing the topic, "How to stay young looking" for the post-50 set. It was pretty much the standard 'take good care of your skin, eat right and exercise' list until the last item. He stated, "Take your drugs every day. One of the best ways to look younger is to stay healthy". Wait a minute! When did the use of prescription drugs become a mainstay of a healthy lifestyle in this country?
Now, no doubt about it, the drug industry is big business. All those prime time TV ads are marketed to specific audiences. Just watch the evening news and nearly all the national ads are for drugs or medical equipment and services. Between the drug companies and the media, they would have us believing that poor health is the normal, natural state of the human condition. But is this really what we should expect?
One 'side effect' of our so-called 'healthy, modern' lifestyle is that all these drugs, devices and services come with a hefty price tag to the users. A recent study published in the American Medical Association journal showed that 95,000 people die from the use of PROPERLY prescribed drugs each year in the United States alone. Thousands more are sickened by adverse reactions to medications. That is right, folks, the facts show that the very drugs your doctor prescribes to alleviate your symptoms of illness can do you serious, permanent harm.
What about the financial cost? Recent statistics indicate that one of the largest groups now filing bankruptcy are people WITH medical insurance but unable to pay the medical bills and other associated costs of illness that insurance doesn't cover. Is that what we should expect from our 'golden years'- to give our gold to the health care industry just to eke out a few more months or years of existence while suffering the effects of debilitating diseases? Is this what you picture for yourself in the future? Are you suffering now?
The experts agree there are certain basic things we can do to stay healthier as we age. Most of this you've probably heard before, yet keep in mind, these suggestions only work if you put them to use in your life.
First, proper hydration is essential. Our bodies are 90% water and 8-10 8 oz. glasses are needed every day just to maintain the proper fluid balance in the body for cell function.
Regular exercise is another vital part of healthy aging. 20 minutes of aerobic exercise- perhaps just taking a walk-three days a week alternating with moderate weight lifting is a good routine nearly every one can follow. Research shows that following a weight lifting program can improve both strength and agility, no matter what your age. Of course, check with your doctor first before starting any new exercise program and take the time to learn proper technique for both safety's sake and the maximum benefit from your efforts. Be sure to take one day off each week to allow your body time to rest and recuperate.
Get sufficient sleep. Time spent asleep is grossly undervalued in our society. It is during the sleep cycle that the body repairs and rejuvenates itself.
A proper diet of balanced protein and complex carbohydrates with small amounts of essential fats promotes both physical health and mental alertness. Remember, what you fuel your body with directly impacts your performance level in a big way. Avoid processed foods, artificial colors, flavorings, sweeteners and preservatives. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Stop thinking of the fast food drive up window as your 'friend'.
Unfortunately, experts agree that it is nearly impossible to adequately meet your nutritional needs with our modern diet alone. Our soils have been depleted of most essential nutrients since the 1930's. Farmers regularly replace nutrients required for plant growth-nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but it is up to us to replace the minerals and other nutrients missing from our diets.
Modern processing and marketing techniques also contribute to our lack of adequate nutrition. Produce picked in it's green state, then allowed to 'ripen' in transit to market often lacks the nutritional quality of their field ripened cousins.
Poor nutrition combined with the stress of our modern lifestyle and constant exposure to environmental toxins means it is unreasonable to expect good health in our mature years (or any year, for that matter) without adequate supplementation.
Picking the correct supplement is essential to your health as well. The vast array of options are enough to make your head spin. Testing by independent labs show huge differences in quality between brands. The cheapest drug store 'has everything' vitamin may not have much in the way of active ingredients, but the most expensive brands may not, either. Once again, take the time to do the research. Find out what quality control methods the company uses. Are their products manufactured to pharmaceutical standards? What is the company's commitment to using the best available ingredients and how do they test for ingredient quality?
In addition, investigate the latest scientific evidence on what nutrients are needed for good health. There have been important breakthroughs recently in our understanding of what cells need to function and how proper cellular nutrition contributes to the body's ability to restore and repair itself. Find a nutrition company whose products reflect these advances.
The last, and perhaps most important way to stay healthy as the years go by, is to pay attention to you. Respect yourself enough to take care of your physical needs. If something needs fixing, do it. Learn to like yourself if you haven't already. Don't just feed your body, feed your mind as well. Make your brain work. Take time to laugh everyday. Laughter stimulates the immune system and just plain makes living more fun. Do the things in life that give you pleasure. After all, there is more to life than work and worry. You deserve to be happy, but it is up to you to BE happy. When it comes down to it, you are all you've got. Be someone whose company you enjoy.
Doing all these things won't guarantee you a long, healthy life. After all, "times and unforeseen circumstances befall us all". But they may help the time you do have on this planet be enjoyable for you and those whose life you impact. Best wishes for a good life!
Karen Walker is a life long student of healthy living. She works from her home in Montana.