Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Few of us want to age but it’s something we are all stuck with. But it’s how we will age that is the important thing here, the speed at which we deteriorate and when this deterioration starts. We are talking quality of life here, and indeed perhaps the most fundamental aspect determining how much you will be able to enjoy your time on earth.
Think of two groups of people, one in their early fifties, showing signs of arthritis, with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, already pre-diabetic, with foggy brain and living with daily pain and stiffness, and then another group, in their eighties, still walking a mile or two every day, vibrantly healthy, perfect blood markers, flexible and strong for their years.
I’m sure a few people you know fit into the first group and, of course, it’s a shame to see them suffer. However, what is even more of a shame is when you consider what was on offer when they started on their journey. I know which of the two lives I’m pursuing, and it doesn’t need to be too complicated or exhausting, more about adopting the right mindset.
Change your Mindset - Change your Life!
The wonderful thing about being human is that we can think about where we put our attention; it’s called metacognition. If you’ve never thought much about aging and how you can influence it’s seemingly unrelenting progress, then I urge you to do just that. Pause for a moment and think how it could impact your life and that of your loved ones if you could find a way to slow down or even reverse the aging process.
We know the body has inbuilt self-healing mechanisms but these only work up to a point and then of course entropy takes over. Everything will eventually break down, like your laptop or your child’s favourite toy, this must also eventually apply to your body. All living things must grow old and die and as your body starts to break down this is referred to as ‘aging’.
But there doesn’t seem to be any law that states we have to die at a certain age. Indeed mice die at two whilst some whales live to two hundred, so clearly, being top of the food chain we can definitely do better. Indeed, with our growing knowledge base and with scientific advances going exponential, we humans will in the future almost certainly be able to influence how we evolve and at what speed. This is an interesting concept I find fascinating; I need to delve deeper.
I do know that most of us expect to age at a certain rate and this has been programmed into our subconscious. If you like, we have become conditioned. We see others age and die by a certain age so that’s what we expect for ourselves. It always shocks me when patients tell me they don’t want to live past a certain age because that’s when they expect to lose their quality of life. I always think “make some changes and raise your aim!”
We can break down the causes of our aging into two broad categories: programmed and damage-related. With programmed factors there is a genetic inevitability, it all ‘runs in the family' if you like, so there’s not much we can do about it. However, the ‘damage-related' factors certainly CAN be mitigated. These are basically stresses from the environment, or wear and tear that accumulates over time. For example, toxicity, poor food choices, lack of movement, insufficient sleep and so on.
This is where we can go a long way to changing outcomes. If we think in terms of hardware and software then we can say our body tends to stay healthy as long as the vast inborn organizing intelligence within us and all our body’s systems have the basic resources they require, and can effectively communicate with each other. If we provide all the good stuff the body needs (nutrition, fresh water and air etc) whilst protecting it from the bad stuff (toxicity, stress etc) then we have a good chance of living long and well.
If we are to be well, all the systems of the body, whether it be the nervous system , the digestive system, the immune system, the cardio-vascular system or the musculoskeletal system, need to be in a state of ‘flow’, meaning they are constantly in a state of flux, adapting to the changing environment. Indeed, stasis never occurs in life, only in death. We can call that healthy balanced state ‘homeostasis’. We can also define ‘disease’ as a ‘loss of homeostasis’ as the body becomes overwhelmed by an insult from the environmental.
As a chiropractor I know my role here and as we learn more and more about the workings of our body, it provides me with great purpose, that of helping people through natural means to bring their bodies into a state of full function and balance, thus restoring their full ‘Flow State.” Chiropractors indeed, are rapidly becoming a vital part of Functional Medicine which is a holistic, systems based approach to restoring and maintaining health. The spine is fundamental to our structure and is central to any thoughts of living a long healthy life, as is posture and avoiding a sedentary life.
There are so many things we can influence to enhance our levels of wellness. Think of all the pillars of health – nutrition, exercise, posture, sleep, reducing stress and maintaining a positive outlook to name just a few. People have only really considered health as something we can influence for little more than a couple of generations. Previously, heart disease, high blood pressure, infections, strokes etc were seen as ‘pot-luck’ and very little consideration ever went into trying to improving outcomes by making healthier choices or cleaning up our environment.
Now we know better, and we have the basic knowledge and tools to extend our lives. This trend continues and as our life spans continue to rise, we are also extending those years of vitality and wellness into our old age, and for some even for an entire lifetime. This is something previously inconceivable for the human race and it must surely be our ultimate health goal, wellness that lasts for an entire lifetime.