What is a super ager anyway?
I’m sure you or, have heard others, describe an older adult by saying “they are sharp as a tack.” These people may also be referred to as Super Agers, people who live well into their 80s, 90’s, and even past 100, retaining their memory, ability to think clearly, and continue to be vibrant, active, productive and energetic. This without over-the-counter drugs, supplements or pharmacologic interventions.
As said in the November 2023 AARP magazine, “Super Agers live longer, live stronger and enjoy life more.”
What is the secret, or do they really have a secret?
According to Dan Buettner, National Geographic Explorer, award winning author, educator and Blue Zones expert, it involves specific diet and lifestyle choices that allow you to live healthfully until the age of 100. However, Blue Zones are places where people live in somewhat isolated communities surrounded by others living in the same manner. While I love the Blue Zone concept, and there are Blue Zones being developed in the U.S., how realistic or desirable is it for most of us to move to or live in such a community? Probably not likely.
This begs the question, “can you achieve this type of personal Shangri-la without moving to, or living in, a Blue Zone?”
The answer is a resounding yes!!!!!
Most people can probably rattle off a few areas that would positively impact their health: better nutrition, more sleep, less stress. They may even be able to list better food choices, things to avoid, etc. etc.
Herein lies the 64,000-dollar question; if we know this, why aren’t we doing it?
Conditioning, habits, major media, (i.e., TV commercials), fear, resistance to change, comfort level. You may have a few others you can name.
Of course, there are DNA markers, genetics, family history, environmental factors, (i.e., including where you live and work) that impact your well-being. If you have concerns in any of these areas, you may want to have testing to find out if family history plays a role in the predictability of certain diseases.
My friend has a niece who just underwent a double mastectomy because she carried the gene for cancer. A BRCA gene test uses a sample of your blood, saliva (spit), or cells from inside of your cheek to look for changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that may increase your risk of cancer. Changes in your genes are called gene variants or mutations. There is a blood test available for dementia which can confirm a mutation in the PSEN1, PSEN2 or APP genes. Genetic testing for monogenic diabetes involves providing a blood or saliva sample from which DNA link is isolated. The DNA is analyzed for changes in the genes that cause monogenic diabetes.
Despite the presence of these markers, you may be thinking that if you’re already into your 60s, 70, 80s, what’s the point, you can’t turn back the clock? But that’s akin to someone who has smoked for 20 years thinking there’s no point in quitting because their lungs have already been adversely affected by years of tobacco intake which places them at high risk for lung cancer.
The reality is that it is never too late, and that you can turn back the clock of your health and wellbeing if you want to invest the time and effort.
You may be able to relate to one of these two scenarios or know someone who can but, you also may think of how they could make different choices that would benefit them.
A gal, age 50 told me she is building a greenhouse to grow fruits and vegetables in order to eat more nutritiously. She also hunts wild game and animals to have the freshest meat possible. Though she acknowledges being pre diabetic she can’t stop herself from eating all kinds of sweets, she also smokes. She related to me that she stopped smoking twice for periods of time but has gone back to it. Though I’ve never hunted, she described it in a way that sounded intriguing. I suggested that I might consider going hunting with her if she agreed to stop smoking. Her response, “that would be a hard pill to swallow” The most incredible part of the story is that the gal is a nurse who works in an environment where she is in daily contact with people, many of whom have been compromised as a result of their choices. This seemed antithetical thinking to me.
I met a second woman whose husband sells insurance, particularly long-term care insurance. I told her of my background in long-term care and my passion for coaching people to develop their Longevity Wellness Action Plan so they can live as healthfully and gracefully as they possibly can. I recounted my experience with my father who died suddenly when I was 17. He was diabetic and, though he didn’t eat potatoes and always used sugar substitutes, he made many other poor eating choices. Because I was diabetic in both of my pregnancies, I am cognizant of keeping my weight under control and the amount of sugar products I eat. Though I love cakes, cookies, chocolate, and ice cream, I’ve made modifications to the choices in those categories that I can still enjoy. Admittedly, I cheat sometimes, albeit infrequently. The woman told me she was 40 pounds overweight but to her diabetes is just a word. She had no intention of living differently in any way.
Now, the opposite side of the coin.
A nurse who is visibly overweight, and significantly taller than I am standing at 5 feet 3 inches, didn’t seem to me to be morbidly obese. She told me that in fact in May she is and is scheduled for stomach bypass surgery. In preparation for her surgery, and to maintain post-surgical health and wellbeing, she is already committed to making lifestyle changes. She is currently diabetic, working hard to reverse that course, so she can live as long and condition free as possible. Here is her partial commitment list:
· She’s committed to stop smoking January 1, 2024,
· For portion control she’s utilizing a well-known strategy using smaller plates so food portions will look more plentiful,
· She’s reconditioning herself to eat snacks that contain less sugar,
· Has begun working on developing her passion business so that she spends less time thinking about food and also stimulating her mind,
· She’s incorporating more movement in her daily life.
She used an expression that I thought is a reality for many of us. I’ve been guilty of it myself. “How many times do you have to pass a refrigerator before you feel full? In other words, do you open the fridge and look for something to eat because you’re hungry or bored? Are the choices you make when you do so the best ones?
My dear friend David Giller, co-creator of Think Positive World along with his wife Helene Abrams, has a history steeped in all-of the above. In 1977 he was crippled with excruciating back pain. No one could find a solution, and for David, taking medication was not an option. He embarked on a journey of self-healing, including education acupuncture, yoga, meditation, breathing, stretching, better nutritional choices, positive attitude and gratitude. This ultimately led David to developing his 10 daily fundamentals of wellbeing. David celebrated his 80th birthday December 30th. His birthday party was the launch of Think Positive World, the culmination of his 46-year vision and mission. For David at age 80, in some ways, this is only the beginning. He embodies what it is to be a Super Ager; healthful and successful longevity, living each day productively, and vibrantly.
My experience working over 50,000 hours in long term care, where I’ve treated and talked with thousands of patients, long-term care residents and their families, brought me to the thinking that the conditions we normally associate with aging are not foregone conclusions. Admittedly, there are factors beyond our control that do affect our health and wellbeing. But we can also reverse the course on many of them.
According to Mayo Clinic Cardiologist and Cancer Survivor Stephen Kopecky, MD, there are 6 steps you can take to prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and more which includes:
· Changing unproductive habits in favor of ones that serve you at the highest level of health,
· Getting the information you need, so you can make the most informed choices,
· Finding the motivating factors that will allow you to make and sustain the best choices for your physical and mental wellbeing.
If asked, most people would say they care about themselves. The 6 steps outlined in Dr. Kopecky’s book Live Younger Longer actually fall into the categories of self-care and self-compassion. They may be simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes practice and commitment.
So Why Wait?
The time to begin is within, the time to begin is now!!!
Make the Rest of Your Life, the Best of Your Life!!!!!
Find out how the IMpathy® program can help you become a Super Ager!!!!
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