Super-health over the age of 55...myth or possibility?
Since the beginning of time, man has been relentless in the search for immortality. Ask anyone if they would like to live in a state of health and productive vitality forever, and there would be little doubt as to what the response would be. Although, inherently you and I know that we are going to someday depart this temporal existence, secretly we all wish we could live forever. I broached this thought with a patient of mine named Rob, and his response was that he just wanted to see the Maple Leaf’s win the Stanley cup….so I guess that's a yeah to the question of wanting to live forever.
Under normal circumstances, sane people don’t plan their death, and remarkably, few actually ever prepare for illness and disability. We all want immortality, but most of us conduct our lives like we could give a shit about the eventual outcome. If you disagree, take a moment and look at your own eating habits and lifestyle. Do you live like a centenarian? Chances are Sparky that there may be one or two deficiencies hampering the likelihood. Face it! It is far easier to eat that bag of chips and wish for immortality, then it is to do something about pursuing it.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to explore with you a strategy designed to help recover lost health where necessary, improve existing vitality and discover some logical potentials for reaching a state of super-health and enhanced longevity. I am going to break the process down into bite size chunks, with each week providing a stepping stone along the path to improved health and quality of life. The program requires minimal effort and is designed to provide solid tangible benefits at any age within a surprisingly short period of time.
In my 70 plus years on this planet, I have devoted much of my time and interest to the exploration of health, performance and longevity. Starting life as a sickly, overweight kid with a stutter came with its challenges. I graduated from the school of hard knocks and was acknowledged by my high school peers as the guy least likely to amount to anything. Although growing up, I had the academic record of a tree stump, as so often happens in life, crisis changed everything.
In grade 12, I had a teacher berate me in front of the other students. He said that I was a disruption and embarrassment to my classmates and that the best thing for me to do would be to quit school and pump gas. That was the day that changed my trajectory. In the shame of that moment I resolved to do something with my life that would somehow make a difference. I subsequently completed high school, university, then chiropractic college where I graduated in the top 5 of my class winning the award for clinical proficiency. I have enjoyed a magnificent practice and life, having worked with over 20,000 individuals in around 500,000 clinical encounters so far in 40 plus years of practice. I won a bodybuilding competition at 53, and now in my 71st year, I can still physically out-perform many at half my age. I know what it means to be unhealthy and I certainly know what it takes to be and stay healthy. I am going to show you that in many respects, your age has no more relevance to your health than does any other date on the calendar. So, if you want to feel better, perform with more vigour and enjoy an expanded quality of life, then walk with me for a while as we explore the road to super-health. As you will see as we go forward, so much of the aging process is a head game. In most cases, it is here, between the ears, that we get old first.
My time in practice has led me to firmly believe that “super-health” is not only a potential, but for many it is readily attainable and with it a capacity for longevity going well beyond currently accepted expectations. In a June 2017 article by Alice Park published in the online edition of “Time”, the author notes that researchers once postured that the maximum reasonable anticipation for human lifespan would not extend beyond 115 years. Now, research is revealing new evidence to support the fact that although we will all ultimately die, it is currently impossible to put an accurate number on when that event will statistically occur. For all of the scientific posturing about understanding the body and how it functions, when it comes to the study of longevity, in many ways we are still not that far out of the trees.
Historically, human lifespan over the past 100 years has risen dramatically for many sound and predictable reasons. Advancements in prenatal and early childhood health care, general improvements in sanitation, readily available cheap sources of food, exceptional emergency medical services and generally expanded and accepted knowledge of hygiene and safe food preparation/storage procedures have all served to expand the potential for extending life. As well, with the recent explosion of technology and information sources, the average person is certainly more aware of disease, it's causes and treatment options. What we have lost at the same time, is the appreciation of what it means to be healthy, that we live in the greatest self-repairing and vitality generating machine ever created, and that a life of health, not disease was always the intended expression of our human journey.
Although there is mounting evidence in support of the pivotal relationships between health, diet and exercise, those in command; the decision makers, do little more than pay lip service to that knowledge, as is reflected in our current disease based health policies and protocols.
We have pretty much all figured out that the current practice of health care is essentially reactive in nature rather than a proactive process. Its focus is almost exclusively directed towards fighting disease with little or no attention paid to initiatives designed to explore and foster strategies aimed at actually enhancing health and longevity. I assert that no matter how you cut it or dress it up, reactive approaches to disease prevention will never work long term. It is just not logical. There will always be a bigger and badder bug to fight. The pandemic has demonstrated that conclusively. For us to survive, much less flourish going forward, we need to develop and adopt strategies that are focused on expanding our inherent health potential rather than fighting disease and chronic disability. History has demonstrated that in continuing to follow our current reactive model, no matter what you do to fight illness, there is always another one just around the corner that is often more heinous and deadly, waiting to take its place. As you will see as we go forward, how healthy you are and how long you can expect to live are in many ways, pews in the same church. If you are not “systemically healthy'' (all green lights on the dashboard of health), the likelihood of you living to a ripe old age is statistically reduced.)
If there is one thing, we have mastered with some efficiency over the last 50 or so years, it is the development of technology for fighting disease. Science and its big brother commerce, have crafted copious forms of treatment in response to virtually every disease known to man. Most with great promise, and many at substantial costs. This all sounds reasonable and pragmatic at first blush, but no one seems to be asking the bottom-line question: are we any healthier today than we were half a century ago? Sadly, in many ways, the answer is no.
In fact, in western society, we make more trips to doctors, and take more medications than ever before in recorded history. Chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, asthma and allergies are rising at phenomenal rates. In fact, rather than getting healthier, we are actually getting sicker and the process is happening at an ever-accelerating pace. Let me give you a salient example: In 1960, 1 out of 100 people was diabetic. In 1995 that number jumped to 1 in 50. By 2015 that number jumped to 1 in 8, and it is predicted that by 2050, following our current path, 1 out of
every 3 people will be diabetic. What makes it even more sobering is the fact that 70% of those with diabetes will acquire heart disease which in health care costs amounts to about a billion dollars per day, saying nothing about all the other related disability and costs associated with the disease. The average person is totally unaware of this reality or its consequences. Life today moves at such an accelerated and demanding pace that few of us actually take the time to process the true magnitude or horror associated with this potentially devastating situation. The sad truth is that the current 21st century North American lifestyle may just kill us all, and health provision in its current form is in many ways just along for the ride. The good news is that it does not have to be so, and I believe that the solution is to be found to a large part contained within our evolutionary footprint.
Over the next several weeks, we will dig into the following:
Defining exactly what it means to be healthy.
What constitutes life, what is required to sustain it, and the relationship of those core components to health.
The five essential pillars of life that we cannot live without, and their subsequent impact on health.
As goes the “id” so goes the “ego”. The relationship of the mind to the body and its influence on health and aging.
What would constitute a state of “super health”?
The road map for the attainment of super health
Before we start that process, perhaps the most valuable first step would be in debunking the myths surrounding aging and disease/disability.