Friday, March 19, 2010

Living With A Full Heart With Aging.

We Can Control How We Age.
(Successful Aging)
What does it take to age successfully--to maintain both a sound body and mind ?
How do some people age so successfully ? 
Many of us think that it takes genes or dumb luck.But many recent studies have revealed that we are very much in control of our own aging.The secret to a long and happy life,it seems,does not lie as much in our stars as in ourselves.
The recent studies at International Life Sciences Institute-India and Harvard Medical School are a medical rarity because these have examined the lives of the well,not the sick.
Old age is like a minefield. If you see  footprints leading to the other side,step in them.These results show a clear path that "Baby Boomers" and "Gen X-ers" can follow to lead a long,happy life. Both"Happy-Well" and "Sad-Sick"persons between 60-80 years of age were included in the studies.
It's not in our genes......
A major finding was that good genes did not account for better aging.Nor did income.Good care  obviously is important, "but the trick is not going to the hospital in the first place."
The studies dispute the assumption that with aging comes decay.When 30- and 50-year old brains are compared,the older one is better developed.Advancing age impairs some motor skills,but maturation can make people sharper at emotional tasks.
......but in ourselves.
Why not celebrate another birthday ?.Social engagement helps keep you active and promotes good mental health.
Many of the study's findings focus on psychological and social health.As we age,we should try to develop more mature coping styles."Our defenses are always more mature when we are not hungry,angry,lonely,tired and drunk."
Taking people inside oneself emotionally is important."Popular people can be extraordinarily lonely and depressed.The paradox is that they starve,yet there's plenty of food." I quote the example of Marilyn Monroe,who made Arthur Miller and others feel cared for yet was unable to feel that love within herself.
Although developmental psychologists often say that personality is formed by the age 5, the studies have found otherwise.By 70, it's how we mature ourselves throughout our lifetimes that takes precedence over nature.
.Interestingly,many people who aged well unconsciously reinterpreted early events in their lives in a more positive light as they grew older.Those who clung to negative events were less happy adults.Forever blaming parents for a rotten childhood seems to impede maturity.
"What goes right in childhood predicts the future far better than what goes wrong." Especially important was a feeling of acceptance.
As one ages,remaining connected to life is crucial--as is learning the rules of a changing world.On the other hand, "One task of living out the last half of life is excavating and recovering those whom,we loved in the first half.The recovery of lost loves becomes an important way in which the past affects the present."
A heightened appreciation of the positive with less worry about cholesterol and more about gratitude and forgiveness are the key holes for successful aging.
Four psychosocial attributes vital to successful aging :
(1).Orientation towards the future : The ability to anticipate,to plan and to hope.
(2).Gratitude,Forgiveness and Optimism : We need to see the glass as half-full,not half empty.
(3).Empathy : The ability to imagine the world as it seems to the other person.
(4).The ability to reach out : We should want to do things with people,not do things to people or ruminate that they do things to us.In other words we need to "leave the screen door unlatched."

The world over,populations have been aging.Although India has the youngest population with people over 60 years of age presently constituting about 7-10 per cent,it is estimated that, in the next two decades,this percentage will go up to 12 per cent.In absolute numbers the elderly in India will exceed 160 million in 2025 which would be 3.9 times the number in Japan and about 1.9 times the number in the US in that year.
A variety of changes take place during the aging process viz. decline in antioxidant defenses,loss of muscle mass,loss of bone density.loss of appetite,loss of gut functions and exposure to old age related diseases.Surveys indicate that in India there is also prevalence of chronic energy deficiency as measured by BMI.Aging changes begin even at the age of 30 and menifest later in life.While these changes are inevitable,they can be slowed down if early initiatives are taken.
The problems are multifarious and include social,economic,physiological,nutritional and pathological.Major concern is about non-communicable diseases like cardiac diseases,cancer,cataract,osteoporosis,muscular and mental impairments.

The strategy of seven keys to successful aging.:
(1).Healthy diet and weight : 
Dietary guidelines of WHO for elderly,recommend prudent selection of nutrient dense foods such as fish,lean meat,liver,eggs,soy products,low fats,fruits,vegetables,herbs,spices,whole grain cereals,nuts and seeds.Oils high in n-3 and n-6 fats (canola,soybean and olive) are recommended.Fats shouldn't exceed 25% of the total calorie intake.
WHO has recommended consumption of at least five fruits a day.
Both green and black tea have functional properties and contribute to longevity.Green tea esp. has good anti oxidant properties.High consumption of both green tea and soy has been proven to reduce the incidence of heart diseases,cancer and osteoporosis in Japan.
Daily intake of water or non alcoholic fluids equivalent to weight in kg x 33 ml is very essential to flush out toxic agents from our body.Obesity and over weight are both a risk factor for poor health in later life.
(2).Physical activity : 
The studies have shown that the Happy-Well usually did "some exercise."Exercise lowers the risks of heart disease,breast cancer,diabetes,bone loss (osteoporosis),hip fracture,muscular weakness and protects functional decline.
Of particular importance are aerobic exercise "Take Ten" program and Yoga.Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise per day with strength training for 2/3 days have been recommended in elderly by WHO. 
"Take Ten" program recommends exercise for 10 minutes at a time at least thrice during the day.
Yoga has also been found to be highly beneficial in elderly.It combines three aspects of human personality viz. physical,psychic and spiritual and offers a path to stress free life that leads to healthy aging while remaining physically active and mentally alert.
It is important to exercise regularly.But no age is too late to begin regular physical activity.The very old can equally benefit.The benefits of fitness also extended to mental health.
(3).Not smoking or Quitting early : 
Those who quit the habit before 50 were,at 70, as healthy as those who had never smoked.And heavy smoking was 10 times more prevalent among the Prematurely Dead than among the Happy-Well.Smoking is probably the most significant factor in terms of health.
(4).Copping with life's stresses : 
The ability to take life's ups and downs in stride has been found to boost successful aging.If you can make lemonade out of lemons,then you have an adaptive coping style,also known as "mature defenses." Mature defenses don't actually ensure good health at an older age.But a person will suffer less from life's real problems if he or she has the ability to roll with the punches.
"Life ain't easy.Terrible things happen to everyone.You have to keep your sense of humor,give something of yourself to others,make friends who are younger than you,learn new things and have fun."
(5).Absence of Alcohol abuse : 
"Abusing alcohol destroys both your physical and mental health." It has been found that a partner's alcoholism can destroy a marriage,which also may have an impact on how one ages.
(6).A solid and strong marriage : 
A good marriage contributes to a long and happy life.This is important for both physical and psychological health.The studies have found that,overall,marriages improved with time--if people were willing to work out the bumps."Happy-Well people were six times more likely to be in good marriages than were the Sad-Sick."
(7).Continuing Education : 
The studies have revealed that"the more years of school people have, the more they tend to age successfully." Continuing education has been linked to healthy aging and it has been speculated that people to whom "self care and perseverance"are important are also more likely to continue their educations.These individuals are able to take the long view."People seek education because they believe it is possible to control the course of their lives." People with less education also were more likely to be obese.Their physical health at age 65 was close to that of the more-educated group at 75.
Inference or Conclusions :
People who had four or more of these seven factors at age 50 were one-third less likely to be dead by 80.
People who had three or fewer of these factors  at 50--even though they were in good physical shape--were three times as likely to die during the following 30 years.