What does aging well mean to you? Does it mean owning your own home and having financial security? Does it mean knowing that your children and perhaps grandchildren are happy and in good health? Perhaps it means that you are physically healthy and free from serious medical problems. To most, it might mean all of the above.
What Does Aging Well Actually Mean?
The reality is that over a lifetime you have control over most of this. If you have made careful financial decisions it is likely you will have some level of financial stability as you age. Likewise, if you invest in your family and friends with love and support, they will always value and love you too. And like any investment in life, investing in your own physical and mental health is as important as your financial, family, and social life.
When you think of your mental health, try and avoid stresses that complicate life. A well-structured financial, family and social life can and will mitigate unhappiness. Therefore, it is important that you focus on your relationships. If someone at work is difficult, limit your exposure to only what is needed and invest your time with the people who value your presence.
At home, love freely, and above all respect your partner and children. In turn, they will learn to respect your behavior and give you little cause to be confrontational. It is very much like a garden that is cared for and loved. Do the same in your family and it will be healthy as you grow older. Problems are bound to come along. However, you will have the support and the reserve to meet any challenge.
As important as your mental and social health is to aging well, most people think of physical health as the most important. It is important to stay healthy, but do not discount the value of mental health as it interacts and fundamentally affects the latter.
Being physically healthy has a lot to do with genetics or what you were born with. However, it is not the whole story. It’s not common for people to think that they are just, “unlucky” and born with a propensity for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, large size, sleep apnea, fatigue, constipation, decreased sex drive, or many other challenges. Some people might say that a great athlete is born not made. However, experts would disagree, as it is the power of epigenetics that ultimately determines how healthy you are and how well you age.
Epigenetics has less to do with what you are born with but everything to do with what you do with it. It is your environment and how you interact with it. We already spoke of your family, social and professional life, and how you interact with it. Through your choices, you also dictate your health and aging process. In fact, you do this with your relationship to diet and exercise.
Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise frequently create a response of dread. “I have to lose weight”, or “I have to get my sugars down”. Another response might be, “I’ve got to take my pills because if I don’t I’ll have a heart attack”. To age well you have to turn the challenge of aging into a positive exercise rather than a chore. For example, “I cut out snacking between meals except for vegetables and now I weigh less”. Other examples might include, “I feel so good after a walk, a swim, or a run”, or “My diabetes got so much better after I cut out soda.”. How about, “My doctor stopped my blood pressure pills because I lost weight eating differently and I’m not a diabetic any more”.
This is the power of epigenetics. Epigenetics ultimately affects how your body interacts with the world around it. In fact, you have the power to dictate the results. In medical school, the interaction of our bodies and the world around us is known as the biopsychosocial approach to medicine. After years in practice, we now call it simply, the loving, respectful, and common sense approach to medicine. This is how you age well.
Prime MD of Naples
Our primary care physicians in Naples have years of experience and are comfortable with all aspects of medicine. If an expert opinion is required, our Naples primary care doctors will refer you to a trusted specialist. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.