Monday, February 20, 2006

Healthy Living

Lately, I look in the mirror and I wonder “who in hell is that old man staring back at me? I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before.” By the end of this calendar year I’ll celebrate my sixtieth birthday and begin my seventh decade. I don’t feel that old.

I subscribe to emails related to health issues published by Real Age. The emails summarize research findings and provide links to the research. Today’s tip encourages eating a whole (as in whole cereal) breakfast: “Reduce your risk of metabolic disease with a heartier bowl of cereal in the morning.” I’m told that if I follow this and other dietary advice my real age will be younger than 59.

I find it interesting that the hierarchy seems to be diet, exercise and relationships. If I eat healthy I may (may – as in don’t blame us) live longer – perhaps 2 years. Exercise is more important than diet and may extend my life by 4 years. The most important issue is relationships. Supportive, nurturing relationships may extend my life by sixteen years. That’s right – sixteen as in one six. Relationships lead diet and exercise by a huge margin.

Did you know that happy marriages have just as many problems as bad marriages? One of the differences between a happy and a bad marriage is the number of good experiences. Compared to unhappy couples, happily married couples have more positive experiences that offset the bad experiences. I guess the same principle applies to health. I can’t escape stress. I live in the US where a healthy diet is almost impossible unless a person eats every meal at home and never dines with friends. I work at a sedentary job so getting enough exercise is always a challenge. In spite of these bad lifestyle experiences, I can more than offset them by good relationships.

Surprisingly, it appears that friends may do more for health than family members! Also, not all friends need be human. Single people with pets live longer.

My number one relationship is with myself. Self respect and self esteem are most important. My second most important relationship is with Julie. She’s my wife so that makes her family but, more importantly, she’s my best friend.

Julie and I are planning a trip to Death Valley next weekend. Yesterday, we began planning a three-day backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon. These aren’t vacations. They’re work. We’re working to maintain our health through exercise and healthy relationships with one another and with nature.

I have twenty-some years of formal education but the really important lessons I’ve had to learn from experience -- trial and error, good fortune and varied experiences. I’ve learned some things about healthy living that appear to be useful. I was pleased to learn that, beginning at any age, we can significantly improve our health and enjoyment of life. I may not live to be 100 but that doesn’t matter. I’ll keep learning and enjoy my remaining years.

I make it a rule never to give advice, but, if I was going to break that rule, I would advise you to get off your butt and invite a friend to take a walk in a quiet park. Feed the ducks and watch the kids playing. I'll bet you would feel better. But, as I said, I don't give advice. I was just thinking out loud.


Blogger anonymous julie said...

It amuses me that there's research to support my experience.

And your thinking-aloud (atype?), well, my experience agrees with that too. Several weeks ago I went hiking with a friend at the Indiana Dunes. 'Twas brillig. Solitude is good. Two flames together burn higher than one alone.

Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

2/21/2006 11:22:00 AM  

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