Happy New Year 2022!
I’ve been thinking during these past few days that if we had guidelines and laws helping us to live healthily, would it help the world? All of us will be compelled by law to live healthily and thrive as we age. Then I realized how big companies would not sell as much fast food, chips, and soda. And for these companies bent on making money at the cost of human health, well, that would make them very unhappy. Maybe that’s why my longevity laws would never get passed.
Healthy ageing, vitality and longevity are topics very close to my heart and I love talking about them. In my podcast conversation with Annie Gaudreault, we expose some falseness and common stereotypical assumptions about ageing particularly in women. It is estimated that by 2050, 20% of our population will be over the age of 65. Today, the North American lifespan is approaching 80 years. The daily habits of today will contribute to this healthy living or healthy ageing later in life. It is great to live until 80, but we also want to live healthy as we reach that age. In this blog post we are going to bust some myths around ageing that I discussed with Annie in the podcast episode #27.
Myth 1 – You Are Stuck With Your Genes
Do you believe that if your forefathers lived until the age of 70, so will you? This is untrue. Mortality is not inherited. You are not the result of your genes. We have 20,000 plus genes, and 20% of them we cannot alter. The good news is that 80% are in our control. In the science of epigenetics – how genes are expressing themselves, we know that some genes can either express themselves in a positive way or not, depending on a number of decisions and the influence that we have around us. Nutrition, lifestyle habits, access to sophisticated health care, active living, environment, pollution, positive relationships in life etc. all affect our ability to either express our genes in a positive way or not.
We can take advantage of epigenetics. Epigenetics means beyond our genes, actually it means above our genes. Mental, emotional and physical health are all related. All of us have genes that can be predisposed to certain outcomes that are not desirable like cardiovascular disease. However, by having a very healthy lifestyle such as eating well, being active and keeping cardiovascular health particularly good by doing a lot of meditation and taking care of stress etc. we are actually doing all of the things that are needed to reduce inflammation & development of potential cardiovascular disease such as clogging of arteries or having high levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol. In this way we are doing all of the work that slows down a potential outcome of a cardiovascular disease. When people say “diabetes runs in my family”, I question that. And I respond that “I think the nutritional and lifestyle habits run in your family”. Research around obesity says that the number one predictor of obesity is how many obese people are around you. I find this so fascinating, so it’s not your genes it’s who you hand around because you pick on their habits. Their thoughts start to become yours and you are more likely of having the same outcome of those same decision patterns.
Myth 2 – We Are Supposed To Decay And Deteriorate Mentally And Physically As We Age
Society has created biases against people that are older. Media on ageing is never about optimism or great opportunity. Your body is changing but it’s not deteriorating because it’s ageing, it’s deteriorating, because you have neglected it. We have the opportunity to keep this beautiful body & mind that we have healthy, flexible, nimble and strong. Just like our home or car, if we never feed it properly or never do the proper maintenance, we would have a dilapidated home or car. This is what we do to the body, we take it for granted. The body tries to keep up but it will eventually break down if it is not cared for and this is often considered to come with ageing. We lose our flexibility, because we are not maintaining the efforts required for us to be strong, flexible and age gracefully. For example, we develop a hunched back because we are not doing any strength exercises for the back to remain strong.
The same is true for emotional and mental health. In the book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey, one of the things that he talks about is sharpening the saw. This keeps our mind sharp. In neuroplasticity, we know that we can make new connections by stimulating centers by learning new things. I encourage my readers to learn a new hobby every 3 months. In the blue zones people in their 90s never changed the way they live. If they were on a hill, they still climb the hill up and down. People are not pushing walkers. Sometimes they have a cane, but that’s about it. People are not ordering their groceries; they go out and they carry their own groceries or they are doing strength work. This is how we design our society for ageing. We need to reconsider that older people are not frail and incapable. They might be a little slower, but they’re not incapable of doing what they need to do. They can still be highly productive, intellectually as well and have so much wisdom to contribute from the invaluable life experiences that they’ve had. It’s not denying the changes that are happening. It’s about listening, recognizing and then doing something so that we remain strong and vital.
Myth 3 – Your Best Years Are Behind You
This myth is related to the decay and deterioration. Studies show that happiness is a U curve. Early in your life, you are very happy go lucky and as the years go by, you see that the first curve, the descending curve is happening, and you are at your lowest as you approach the 40s. And then beautiful things happen and it starts to pick up again, in your 50s and as it increases the happiness quotient goes right back up.
This shows you that at 60, you will be happier than at 40. Thus, it is crazy to believe that your best years are behind you as statistically speaking it’s actually the opposite. We must surround ourselves with people that also see the future as a positive thing, remember you are the average of the 5 people you hang around. The glass half full analogy, is very important. A lot of people have this implicit unconscious ageing bias because of culture, society and mainstream media. It’s not going to kill you if you have a bad meal one time, but the accumulation of these meals just like the mindset of the people we surround ourselves with, will take a toll for sure.
Ageing is an enigma for majority. The supposedly many paradoxes have led people to believe some of the myths mentioned in this blog post. I hope I can help you to clear any confusion about the facets of healthy ageing.
Please share your thoughts and views with me, I’d love to know what you think.
For more information listen to the Self-Care Goddess podcast episode #27 with Annie Gaudreault here.