Haims: You may not be as old as you think
If I were to ask you what your perception would be of someone who got over 90 skiing days on the mountain this year, would you assume such a person would be in their 20s or 30s with a part-time job and no children? Maybe.
Well, I have news for you. There are a number of locals here in our mountain ski towns who are over 80 years old and achieve this regularly. Further, there are a few who are in their 90s. Chronological age is not always a factor in living a healthy and active lifestyle. It’s possible that your biological age may really be the driving factor.
Odds are, at some point you have met someone “older” and thought to yourself how young they really seem. Often, when this happens, people often say that the older person seems so “young at heart” or that they seem “so full of life.” There is a recipe that is somewhat easy to follow that may help those interested in emulating such a life. The recipe consists of a mixture of mindset, diet and nutrition, lifestyle, and sleep.
In some respects, we do have some control over our aging process. Chronological age, the number of years a person has been alive, does not always inhibit someone from snowshoeing, hiking, swimming, skiing, or even walking well into their senior years. However, what may have more significant implications is one’s biological age. Our biological age refers to how old our cells are and therefore, our real age.
Biological aging has become a big thing of late. While I am not going to delve into this too much here, for those interested, some recent articles from Nature.com and the National Institute of Aging provide fantastic information on the basic biology of aging and how mindset, diet and nutrition, lifestyle, and sleep will better your overall well-being.
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If you are dismissive of the premise of biologic age, stop and think about the people you have come across whom you may have thought are young at heart. Take for example people like Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer. Pepi continued being physically active and skied until he was 86 years old. Sheika, now in her 80s, continues to ski. She eats well, fills her days with activities, and surrounds herself with people she loves and cares about. I spoke with Sheika recently and asked her how it was that she felt she has been able to remain so happy and active, she giggled and replied, “Positive thinking, genetics, and loving myself.” This statement embodies the totality of what it takes to live a higher quality of life – regardless of age.
Shieka could not be more accurate. First and foremost, a positive attitude will carry you through life during the most trying of times. My aunt Sissy was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was a child. Her doctors told her that while they were doing everything they could to help her, she should get her affairs in order. I believe her triumph that carried her through the following 13 years was her zeal for life, and lifestyle changes that included diet and swimming.
While some people think that genetics may be the root of health challenges they incur, this may not be wholly correct. Genetics can be modified; they are not permanent.
Consider a person who has encountered high radiation levels and become ill. It’s likely that illness is the result of DNA damage and thus a DNA change. Conversely, there are changes that occur with low-density lipoprotein receptors which are known to help with osteoporosis by making bones significantly stronger and denser than average.
To better understand human biological aging and how our genes, behaviors, and environment play a role in our health, you may want to educate yourself about the burgeoning field of study called epigenetics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains epigenetics as, “the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence”.
Globally, there is a shift happening in biological thinking. Scientists are studying epigenetics and gaining a better understanding of the therapeutic applications it may have. It is a fascinating field of study. Should you be interested in learning more, there are some good books to read, “Epigenetics Revolution” by Nessa Carey and “Lifespan” by David A. Sinclair.
While not rapidly, our DNA can change throughout our lives. We can’t really say any longer that our parents and family history are solely to blame for our genetics. If you doubt this, consider the longer view of genetic changes that Darwin’s theory of natural selection addressed — via natural selection, species change and adapt over time.
If you really want to, living a healthier and happier life is something that can be accomplished if you change your mindset and lifestyle.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be contacted at VisitingAngels.com/comtns or by calling 970-328-5526.