AS I SEE IT
BY MARIANNE HERON
IN the run up to Christmas it’s worth mentioning that the way you treat your health may save not only your life but also save money.
Here are two sobering figures: 70% of your medical expenses occur after retirement age. More soberingly still, over 30% of the top causes of death – coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer – can be prevented through lifestyle change, according to medical statistics.
We get our cars serviced regularly.If we don’t they will sooner or later need expensive repairs, yet we are resistant to doing the same for ourselves. Perhaps that resistance is due to the fact that keeping physically – and let’s not forget mentally – fit, feels like something we ought to do rather than something we enjoy.
But for a small investment you can get an enviable return in your wellness reserves. There are two big myths about ageing: one is that you are programmed to age. Not true, while you are genetically programmed to grow to maturity, ageing is down to random molecular damage or wear and tear. The other is that ill-health and disability are an inevitable part of the ageing package. Not true either. You can’t hold back the clock but what matters here is not your chronological age but your biological age.
So what is that makes a difference, not just when it comes to adding years to your life but life to your years?
While there isn’t a silver bullet to guarantee well-being, the good news is that not only are most of the factors involved free but they are within our own control.
So, alongside your traditional insurance plan what should be in your very own life policy?
Our behaviour is the single-most important factor in how we age.
“The diversity of ageing experiences is largely due to the choices we make, along with the physical and social environments we find ourselves in, “ says Trinity College Dublin’s Future Learn Course on Successful Ageing.
Being positive has a beneficial effect on both mental and physical health. A study of nuns carried out by the University of Kentucky found that the nuns who expressed positive views lived on average 10 years longer. Optimism has a protective effect against disease.
Face to face social contact matters. In her book The Village Effect, psychologist Susan Pinker writes that we need supportive relationships to thrive. In remote mountain villages of Sardinia, where people’s lives are closely interwoven, folk live to be lively centenarians.
Far more effective than pills, exercise protects wellness, reducing the threat of killer conditions: cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. A recent UK study found that even moderate exercise reduced the risk of cardio vascular events by 14%.
They say that when your waist measurement and your political views swap places you are getting old. Putting on weight can compromise your health outlook.
A good night’s sleep
Sleep is the equivalent of a nightly detox. It helps maintain mood, aids memory and brain function as well as boosting our immune systems and eliminating metabolic waste.
Love the Latin diet
The Mediterranean diet with plenty of colourful food and vegetables, fibre, olive oil, wine in moderation, fish and fowl has been found to be the most beneficial for health.
Keep on learning
Learning can definitely lengthen your life. The longer the time spent in education the less the chance of developing Alzheimer’s in old age. Continued mental stimulation helps to keep our brains young and healthy, so it really is a case of use it or lose it.
Do something you love
While happiness depends partly on circumstance, it is also the side benefit of the things that you do, especially if they involve challenges and things that you really believe in.