Thursday, February 12, 2009

Count the Numbers that Really Count

While it may seem like yesterday that I had a Sweet Sixteen party, turned “legal” and qualified as middle-aged, there’s no stopping the fact that I’m getting older. I am. You are. We all are.

But age is just a “number.” So says my aunt. In January, while her birth certificate confirms that she hit 94, she’ll tell you she turned “49.” Two years ago, at 92, she was really a spring chicken: "29".

I think Aunt Ethel is on to something—something big. We should all strive to feel younger on the inside, even if our bodies look older on the outside.

And it should never be the flip side of that scenario—like the episode of “The Biggest Loser,” in which the show’s doctor initially told one of the contestants that the state of his health made him a 51-year-old living in a 70-something body.

The contestant, Jerry Skeabeck, told Reality TV World: “You know things are no good when you get a doctor who's such an authority such as [Dr. Wayne Huizenga] giving you the cold hard facts…‘You need to wake up. ‘You need to wake up or die.’”

It’s not only shows like this that can provide a reality check. Just turn to the growing body of research that reinforces the value of a healthy lifestyle. We are what we eat. We are how we exercise. We are what we imbibe and smoke. Each day, evidence mounts that a healthy body and a healthy mind appear to go hand-in-hand.

Especially as we get older, we must look not at our age, but at the numbers that really count—like waist circumference, weight and blood pressure. These reflect the types of conditions, such as obesity and hypertension, that are suggested risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. And we need to work on the other things that count, like managing stress, exercising, doing brain games, etc.

Fitting all this into our busy lives does seem daunting. It does to me anyways. But there seems to be no denying that if you and I want to be Aunt Ethel’s “49,” we better get moving in the right direction.

Posted by Carol Steinberg, Executive Vice President of AFA

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