A recent article in The Cleveland Jewish News by columnist Regina Brett was so good that I felt I had to share it. I do not usually post an article and ask you to read it, but here we are!
The above quote kind of sums it up. The only thing that I would add is that accepting aging does not mean that we should not do our best to keep ourselves healthy and in shape. In fact, the opposite is true; taking control of our futures in our senior years a key element of embracing the aging process. I know it is a part of my plan and those of my clients as well.
It’s not what you think. Unlike the song from Fiddler on the Roof, we are not talking about alcohol, but instead our good friend H2O.
NBC News and many other news outlets reported on a new study from the National Institutes of Health indicating that poor hydration may lead to chronic disease and early aging. The study took place over the course of 25 years; participants started in their mid-40s to mid-60s and follow ups went through ages 70-90.
There is not total agreement on the meaning of the results. The research used blood sodium levels as an indicator of dehydration, which some scientists believe may not be the most accurate way to measure. Others believe that dehydration is not as widespread a problem as most people believe it to be; in other words, most of us are properly hydrated most of the time.
What is important about the research is that it sheds light on the continuing benefits of drinking water and other non-sugary decaffienated beverages. Drinking plenty of water tends to keep the kidneys healthier; kidneys filter the blood which is then circulated to the rest of the body. The “cleaner” the blood the better it is for the cells that rely on blood for nutrition.
It is also significant that those with higher concentrations of sodium in their blood (which could be the result of not enough hydration), were more likely to have high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. These are all signs associated with faster aging. On the flipside, those with lower levels of sodium were less likely to have these conditions. While most participants were in the normal range for sodium, those at the higher end had a 20% increased risk of death than those at the lower range.
More research will need to be done, but current recommendations are that women drink 6-9 cups of water per day, and men should consume 8-12. Although water is best, other non-caffeinated beverages are also OK; fruits and other foods with high water content can also increase hydration levels.
Until that research is done, it is always a good idea to keep hydrated–especially before, during, and after workouts, as well as when the weather is warmer.
Tevy from Fiddler on the Roof, had it right. Drink…to life!
We know that as we age there are lots of changes that occur in our bodies. It makes sense that the largest organ in our bodies, our skin, would be affected as we grow older. And it is about more than just wrinkles. With age, our skin thins out, loses fat, and does not look as “full” as it used to. As the skin thins out, it is easier to see bones and blood vessels underneath the surface. Injuries take longer to heal. Exposure to sun over a long period of time can lead to wrinkles, dryness, age spots, and even cancer.
The National Instutes of Health (NIH) offers great information about what happens to our skin and what we can do about it. For instance, dry and itchy skin can be treated with moisturizers; even a humidifier in the room can help. It also helps to take fewer baths/showers, using warm water instead of hot, and bathing with mild soaps.
Another condition is more frequent bruising that may take longer to fade. If bruises appear and you do not know how you got them–especially if they are in areas that are usually covered by clothes–consult a doctor to make sure it is nothing more serious.
There are many factors that cause skin to wrinkle: gravity, smoking, exposure to too much sun, etc. There are many products that claim to reduce the “appearance” of wrinkles, but most are not really effective. The only way to treat wrinkles requires a trip to a dermatologist who specializes in medical procedures and injections; these can be quite costly and may have only limited impact.
Age spots and skin tags are unsightly and show up more and more in the elderly. To prevent the appearance of more age spots, use appropriate sunblock and protective clothing. Skin tags are growths that rise above the surface of the skin; they are harmless, but if they are bothersome or in an area that causes concern of discomfort, they can be removed by a professional.
Finally, skin cancer is quite common as well. I blogged about this in 2020 and also last month. I am a skin cancer survivor several times over. Know the signs of skin cancer: Assymetry of a growth, Borders of the growth that are irregular, Color changes or more than one color, Diameter greater than that of a pencil eraser, and Evolving (meaning that the size, color, shape, or symptoms are changing). Check yourself regularly (once/month) and have regular checks with a dermatologist. Caught early, many skin cancers can be quickly and efficiently treated.
There will be changes in our skin as we age. Even so, we can still take care of this organ so that it will take care of us. Use sunscreen, avoid tanning, wear protective clothing (hats, coverups), and limit sun exposure. We only have one set of skin, so make sure it lasts! After all, we’ve all got skin in the game.
A recent article in The Atlantic by Arthur C. Brooks highlights ways that we can help to ensure happiness as we get older. Brooks is an American musician, social scientist, and professor at Harvard University. He has written many articles and a book on this topic.
In the article, he cites an ongoing study (over 80 years) that traces the attitudes, conditions, and well-being of the subjects over the course of their lives. Here are some fascinating conclusions: 1) Happiness declines through young adulthood into middle-age and bottoms out at about age 50. 2) After that it starts to go up again until about the mid-60s. 3) After that, it can go one of two ways; there are those who get much happier and those who get much more unhappy.
The study makes clear something that should be clear to begin with. The decisions that we make earlier in our lives have an impact on how we will feel later in life. The investments (not just financial) of our earlier years pay dividends–or if we have not invested wisely, we suffer. This is a pretty stark reality, but it is also not 100% accurate. There are those who are born into wealth, who inherit good genes, have tragic accidents, etc., whose lot is determined in large portion by events beyond their control.
There are, however, factors that we can control according to Brooks. All things being equal (which they are not), making the right choices in these realms will yield better results (happiness) in later years. In short, here is the list.
Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit.
Drink in moderation.
Maintain a healthy body weight.
Keep active every day.
Develop coping skills for when life gets challenging.
Never stop learning.
Invest in interpersonal relationships.
Nothing earth-shattering, right? How many of these 7 are we doing right now? Is there time to make a change? Of course! All the research on fitness, shows that it is never too late to make a change, and it will have positive outcomes.
I am the happiest I have ever been. I do what I love with people I love. I put effort into all 7 categories above. I have a few years until I hit my mid-60s, but I am hopeful that I will fall into the “getting much happier” category. I hope you will join me there!
Older adults are used to hearing that a natural part of the aging process is that our metabolism will slow down; the metabolic rate is the rate at which our bodies burn calories in order to keep our vital systems functioning and allow us to do the things we do on a regular basis. As we age, most of us find that slowly but surely our weight increases; it seems that as our metabolic rate decreases (assuming everything else stays the same, like exercise and diet) the pounds begin to add up. We are just not burning calories at the rate that we used to.
An article in Science, reports that our assumptions are actually incorrect. Our metabolism is not slowing as we get older simply because we are aging, but rather because a number of other factors come together to decrease our levels of activity. Leading a more sedentary lifestyle due to work, home responsibilities, technology–and even the pandemic–is behind those decreasing metabolic rates.
A recent article on http://www.cnn.com, explains the issues and concludes that this research is good news for older adults. If aging is behind our decreasing metabolism, then there is nothing we can do to reverse its effects; we are simply stuck in a downward spiral. What the research shows is that we actually have it in our control to maintain and increase our metabolism as we get older.
The article suggests four main strategies:
Be active throughout the day. Many of us spend hours at a time at a desk (or on a couch) with little movement. Even little bursts of activity throughout the day can raise metabolic rates.
When you exercise, do the right types for maximum metabolic effect. HIIT exercises are recommended because they raise the metabolic rate and keep it elevated even after the workout is over; check out my blog post on HIIT for more info. Additionally, strength training (working with weights and other types of resistance) has a similar effect.
Make sure to get enough protein in your diet and keep hydrated. The simple act of eating increases our metabolic rate because it takes calories for the digestive system to do its job; consuming proteins (especially after a workout) can help to build muscles which cause us to burn more calories. Drinking water–aside from its other positive assets–can raise our metabolic rate too.
Get plenty of rest. Not sleeping enough can lead to a myriad of health problems. Allowing our bodies to adequately refresh and re-energize can help counteract the negative effect of these maladies. It is recommended that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Metabolic rate decreases are not a done deal as we age. There is much we can do to counteract the effects of being sedentary, not exercising enough, eating a poor diet, and being overtired. It is all in our power–not part of some process beyond our control. This is good news indeed!
Disclaimer: this is a stock photo off the Internet. My actual bicep size may vary!
It has been a year since I had bicep tenodesis surgery through the Sports Medicine department at the Cleveland Clinic. My last post about the surgery was 6 months ago. Back then I noted that it had been about a month since I began to feel like I was “back to normal.”
Here I am at the one year mark and my verdict is that, despite the fact that recovery was longer than I expected, it was worth it. 99.9% of the time I don’t even think about my shoulder; before the surgery, pain and discomfort were my constant companion. The only differences I notice now are that when I sleep on my left side, I can only sleep with a pillow supporting my right arm (the one that had the surgery), and that during certain exercise that involve raising my arm overhead I hear clicking. Aside from these minor changes, I have no limitations.
Final thought: as we age, we often think that we have to accept pain, discomfort, and limitations on our mobility. That is not necessarily the case. Every person is different and individual circumstances will dictate the best course of action. Sometimes physical therapy is called for, or simply rest and ice. In my case, when those options did not improve the situation, I am glad that I was a candidate for this surgery and had a successful outcome.
Something pretty exciting happened in sports just a couple of weeks ago. Golfer Phil Mickelson, who will be 51 in less than 2 weeks, became the oldest player to win the PGA Championship. This goes against the conventional wisdom that as we age, we are less able to compete and win in sports. This is no fluke, though. In fact a recent article shows the strategy that Mickelson undertook to be successful.
The story is not anything earth-shattering, but rather just a confirmation of what fitness professionals–especially those of us who work with older adults–have been saying for a while. Our bodies undergo changes as we age, but that does not mean we are powerless to counteract them. The article points to three main areas that Mickelson addressed and they are instructive for all of us.
First, among the changes we experience is often a change in metabolism. Some of us when we were younger were able to eat whatever we wanted and not put on weight; as we age, however, we must be more conscious of our nutrition. Mickelson was aware of this and if you look at pictures of him, you will see how much more fit he looks these days.
Second, mobility and strength need to be maintained and even improved. This is a big part of what I do with my clients. It is not enough to simply be flexible; one must also have the muscle power to go behind the movements. For years, older adults were told that it was dangerous to work out with weights; research now shows that as long as it is done in a responsible way, it is key to maintaining independence. Additionally, studies indicates that power training (combining resistance and speed/repetitive motion) is an effective way to boost fitness and even life expectancy.
Third, be certain to assess and re-assess the plan so that workouts and diet are appropriate. Doing the same thing every single workout without progression rarely leads to progress. On the other hand, overtraining can do more harm than good. In this regard, it is good to have a professional like a certified personal trainer to shape a program that will be safe and effective.
Phil Mickelson should be an example to all of us of what we can accomplish if we follow these guidelines. He is just one example, though; we all know that there are many older athletes out there who are pushing the limit and showing us just what is possible. No need to accept defeat!
They say that aging is not for the faint of heart.
Each year, it seems, my body surprises me with something else. Last year I had an emergency appendectomy–not fun at all and with a harder recovery than I expected. Three months later, I finally took care of a long-standing issue with Plantar Fasciitis that led to another surgery–also not the least bit enjoyable with an even harder recovery.
In the midst of COVID-29–which, thank God, I have avoided thus far–I have had a skin cancer with surgery (about which I blogged earlier). I will be having shoulder surgery in the not-too-distant future to resolve bicep tendonosis. And did I mention that some of my labs came back “funky” and I’ll need some more evaluations?
Definitely not for the faint of heart.
There are times when I do feel like I’m falling apart, like I am a broken robot whose circuits and switches are malfunctioning. The weird thing, though, is that I am still running (thanks to the surgery on my foot last year), am still working as a personal trainer, go for long bike rides a couple of times each week, can hike, and do the other activities that I enjoy. It is all relative. I sometimes see pictures of others my age and think that I’m actually doing pretty well, if not excellent. Others who see me tell me how great I look and ask how I keep in such good shape. And yet, there are days where I feel like I’m simply holding on with toothpicks and glue.
My attitude has evolved into the following. My father lived until he was 85. He had a lot of health issues including diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s, and did not always take the best care of himself. If I manage to make it to 85 that means I have another 28 years to go (God willing). I plan to do all the maintenance and repairs so that my body will help me to do all the things I want to do as I age. It is kind of like taking care of a car; as long as we are faithful with the upkeep, the car should last a good long while…and may even become a classic!
I know that this is not the end of the surprises. I am sure that other parts will fail me every now and again. I am fortunate that I have access to health insurance and can deal with my issues in a planned way rather than at the ER when the situation becomes critical. I do worry about so many others who do not have the same privileges that I do. This too is part of the social protest movements that are going on.
The main thing is to listen to our bodies, to care for them, to keep them well-nourished, well-exercised and well-rested. We cannot control everything that will happen, but we can keep ourselves as strong as possible so that when parts fail, we are better able to address the issue.
That is my strategy as I make my way into territory that is not for the faint of heart.
May 24, 1963. My parents weren’t expecting twins, but that is what they got. This was in the days before ultrasound and there were surprises. My sister, Michele, and I are still close even though we live in different states; she works at the University of Michigan and I am an OSU fan, but we still have that twin thing after 57 years.
In a way, it is unbelievable that I am 57. There are things that I think about and say to myself, “that must have been about 15 years ago,” and I realize it was more like 40. My 35th college reunion is this fall. 35! It feels like I was just in high school and I couldn’t wait to get to college, and now my 35th reunion is coming up. It hasn’t gone quickly…until recently when it seems like the weeks just fly by.
This is, of course, a time for reflection for me. When I was younger, I thought 57 was ancient. Now, my brain still thinks like I am in college or even younger. I still find the 3 Stooges hysterical. I can’t say no to pastry. Farts and fart jokes are ALWAYS funny. And I am always looking forward to the next adventure. But every once in a while, my body reminds me that I’m 57.
My life has had its twists and turns since this photo was taken. I was very sick as a teenager with Crohn’s Disease. I had an amazing college experience with lots of travel. I have lived in Colombia, Costa Rica, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, Israel and Ohio (for the last 23 years now). I was married, had four kids, and got divorced. I got remarried and picked up a stepdaughter, and am happier than I’ve ever been. I was a rabbi for 25+ years and, while I still am a rabbi (it’s like Herpes–it never goes away), that is only part of who I am as I’ve become a Certified Personal Trainer. I have an amazing extended family as well as friends from the many times and places of my life.
Do I worry about getting older? My biggest worry is not getting older but being unhealthy as I age–either physically or cognitively. I have devoted a big part of my life to staying healthy and helping others to as well. I continue to challenge myself; yesterday I ran a 5k with my 20-year-old stepdaughter, and today I biked 15 miles with my wife. I am always learning new things and planning to someday travel again to exotic and not-so-exotic places.
Fifty seven years has brought me a certain amount of wisdom. Fart jokes are in fact always funny. Aside from that, I understand myself better. I have learned to be less judgmental and to forgive others (and myself). I truly value my family and the friends who have stuck it out with me over the decades. I know that what matters is how you treat others and how you make them feel. I have a more mature understanding of how I think the worlds works and what God wants out of me.
Lots of blessings. It hasn’t all been unicorns and glitter, but on the whole I have a great life and have learned to be resilient when things don’t go my way. Thanks to everyone on this journey with me. Here’s to the next 57…or whatever that number may be.
This book was recommended to me by Cody Sype from the Functional Aging Institute when I attended his certification seminar.
I am accustomed to going to seminars, conferences, etc., where books are recommended and I am often cynical, but as a guy who is not getting any younger and is somewhat anxious about aging, this book sparked my interest.
Marc Middleton makes the argument that the “Machine”–the healthcare industrial complex, government, media and culture in general–wants all of us as we age to feel helpless, frail, weak and dependent. The Machine does this because it makes money for them; entire industries are built around this notion and we buy into it because it is so prevalent in our society.
Middleton’s goal is to show us another way. Retiring and aging aren’t about being put out to pasture. On the contrary, our 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond can be the happiest and most meaningful years of our lives. Middleton brings multiple examples of ordinary older Americans doing incredible things. These are not all far-fetched examples; all the individuals are accessible and inspiring.
I can honestly say that this book got me to rethink my attitude about aging. I know to look at the Machine with skepticism. I know that many of us reinforce ageism without even realizing it. I know that unless our society changes its point of view, we will have a big problem on our hands. This demographic is growing; unless we are able to dismantle the Machine, we had better be prepared for a whole sector our economy warehoused in long-term care facilities. Is that what we want?
I am inspired by this book. It has changed my thoughts about aging and given me the courage to rock whatever time I have left!