Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lifestyle Choices Help Us to Get Old

Yoga instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch b. 1918. Photo by Born in the South

"Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it,
you've got to start young." Theodore Roosevelt

How we age depends a great deal on lifestyle choices.   Yes, family history and environment play some role. However, we can improve the quality of our life as we age (and we are all aging) by making healthy choices every day.

The Get Old program, run by Pfizer and their partners, supports healthy aging by providing information on how to make better lifestyle choices.  In a statement released today, Pfizer shares this eye-opening fact:

"Chronic diseases are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many could be prevented or delayed through simple lifestyle changes. According to the World Health Organization, eliminating three risk factors – poor diet, inactivity and smoking – would prevent 80% of heart disease and stroke, 80% of type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancers."

Again and again, I have seen evidenced-based research supporting the power of lifestyle choices. I regularly tweet links to news stories on this topic @TheGenAboveMe. I see that heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, COPD, dementia, and many other age-related diseases can be prevented, decreased or better managed through lifestyle modification.

How do we have healthy bodies as we age? Lifestyle choices. How do we have good emotional health as we age? Lifestyle choices. How do we have sound minds as we age? Lifestyle choices. 

While I was earning my master's degree in aging studies (aka gerontology), I would often read about the value of regular exercise.  The data was so compelling that I would put down my books and attend a yoga class, walk the dog, or lift weights.

I have never thought, "Oh, I really regret the time I just spent exercising." Never. I earn back the time by increased energy and improved concentration.

The same is true for healthy eating.  If I eat more whole foods and less processed foods, I have greater energy and a clearer mind.

The Get Old site has a treasure trove of resources on how to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. They have testimonials, photos, research articles, and videos.  For example, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer, and Dr. Travis Stork share four key ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle:

I invite you to do something today for the sake of your 80-year-old self.  Modern medicine helps us to extend our life, but we also want to have quality of life as we age. Pills, surgery, and assistive technologies cannot offer us the same level of functionality earned through a lifetime of healthy choices. 

And despite Roosevelt's admonition cited above, 

it's never too late to start healthy habits. 


Older Adults Who Are Athletes (including Tao Porchon-Lynch, pictured at the top)


  1. Kare, this is so true. I'm watching several older adults in my life rapidly lose mobility, but they have resisted exercise, physical therapy, and good nutrition for many years. And none of them are particularly old (late 60s). It makes me wonder how much suffering they could have avoided. Their quality of life has already diminished so much.

    1. They can still make changes. It's never too late to improve your current health, but to kids and young adults (and midlifers), it's better to start habits now to improve life as an older adult.

  2. Also, I just googled Tao Porchon-Lynch. She's the most amazing person ever. Wow!