How many of you would put off having your car serviced indefinitely? Not too many because sooner or later that neglected car will either need expensive repairs or conk out altogether. Yet, when it comes to servicing ourselves to avoid the same fate, we are resistant, perhaps because it is something we think we OUGHT to do rather than something we really WANT to do.
Looking good and feeling great as you get older isn’t just a matter of good luck and good genes. It’s a matter of investing a small amount to get an enviable pay out in well-being. Think about what is in it for you: rewards like vitality, a better figure, protection against ill health and you are much more likely to be motivated to keep your own engine running smoothly. Ditto if you can find fun ways to keep positively healthy that you will enjoy.
New knowledge about the way you age shows that there is a great deal you can do to maintain physical and mental health and the good news is that while you can’t change your chronological age you can influence your biological age by taking responsibility for your health.
Ireland is a good place to grow old. Our average life expectancy has increased by four years since 2000 and is above that of our EU counterparts with over 60% of over 65s reporting very good or good health according to a report on key health trends by the Department of Health. As a nation we are ageing, and the number of over 65s – currently 11% of the population – is set to double over the next 30 years. ‘Could do a lot better’ should be the comment on our latest health report. We are still too fat and too lazy and according to the Healthy Ireland Report, published October 2015, a shocking 60% of Irish are overweight and only four out of ten men are getting enough daily exercise, while we spend an average of five hours a day sitting. Perhaps not surprisingly high blood pressure and back problems are tops as the most commonly reported health problems.
We are eating more fruit and vegetables, but daily snack foods and booze, with more than 20% binge drinking at least once a week are likely to be culprits when it comes to weight gain. Only 53% said that they cook fresh foods from scratch which suggests overreliance on processed and fast foods which, with the high fat, sugar and salt content, are implicated in the obesity epidemic. While respondents in the 10,000 households surveyed in the study said having more exercise was the lifestyle change they most wanted to make this doesn’t seem to translate into action. The good news, though, is that there are fewer smokers and more who want to quit and the smoking rate has fallen below 20%. Smoking, being obese, skipping breakfast and binge drinking – a more common pattern in deprived areas – cause more illness and shorter life.
The point is that many diseases and premature deaths related to lifestyle are preventable if we take responsibility for our well-being with healthier diet and more exercise. But there isn’t any room for complacency according to the report ‘many diseases and premature deaths are strongly related to lifestyle determinants such as smoking, drinking, exercise (or rather lack of it) and obesity’. In other words, they are preventable.
There are two myths about ageing that: (a) we are programmed to age and (b) ill health and incapacity are an inevitable part of the ageing package. While development and growth to maturity is genetically programmed – the ageing process isn’t and is now thought to be as a result of an accumulation of random molecular damage, in other words good old wear and tear, which our cells may be capable of repairing to some degree.
While proneness to some health problems may be inherited, many other diseases often associated with older age are lifestyle related and prevention is to a considerable extent within our own control. Studies show too, that how you live and eat can have an influence on whether or not you do develop a disease for which you have a genetic predisposition.
There really is plenty that you can do to stay positively healthy, especially when it comes to brain and body fitness. So what can you do to invest in your wellness reserves?
This excerpt was taken from Rewire Don’t Retire, sponsored by Irish Life and Active Retirement Ireland. You can download the full guide HERE.