Tag Archives: stay fit

White Water Rafting: Good Exercise And Great Fun

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverRegular exercise is a requirement for a healthy and “forever young” life. To put more years in your life — and more importantly, more life in your years — you must exercise.

The best approach to exercise is to simply “set it and forget it.” That is, make exercise a regular part of your life. Make it a habit, a part of your daily routine. Don’t think about it, just do it.

Another strategy is to add fun exercise activities to your life. Doesn’t it make sense that the more fun something is, the more likely you will do it?

Adventure Sports And Extreme Sports

Have you ever tried any of the adventure sports?

These are sports that not only provide exercise but also are thrilling and adventurous. Water-based examples are white water kayaking and white water rafting. On land, you can do mountain biking. And in the air, you can bungee jump or skydive.

Actually, depending on how you define “adventure sports” or “extreme sports,” the list could include such things as Base Jumping, BMX, Canyoning, Caving, Cliff Diving, Climbing, Hang Gliding, Kite Surfing, Motor Cross, Mountaineering, Parachuting, Rock Climbing, Scuba Diving, Ski Jumping, Skiing, Snowboarding, Surfing, Ultra Distance Running, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Windsurfing, Wingsuit Flying and more. (There’s even something called Skyaking, where you skydive in a kayak!)

Mixing adventure and extreme sports into your exercise regime can be incredibly exhilarating and mucho fun.

I recently reminded myself how much fun white water rafting is.

White Water Rafting On The Lower Yough

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverLast weekend, we spent 5 hours white water rafting on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.

Most people call the river simply “the Yough” (pronounced “Yock”). We arranged our rafting trip on the Lower Yough through White Water Adventurers.

The guides, who were named “A.J.” (although his tat said “A.D.” for some reason), Smiles and Anna, started us off with instructions. Mostly, they made sure we knew how to wear our safety equipment, a life vest and a helmet. (It turns out snug is the way to wear both.) They admonished us not to clobber our raft mates with our paddles. And they told us what to do in the likely event we got pitched out of our raft going through the rapids.

Their number 1 “you’re in the water, now what do you do” tip was this: don’t try to stand on the bottom in the rapids. There are cracks and crevices in the rocks where you could get a foot caught. You don’t want that because the rushing water could then force your underwater, even with a life jacket on. If you and your raft go different directions through the rapids, and you cannot climb back in, get on your back and keep your feet up and facing downstream through the rapids.

We were part of a midday Sunday group that had about 15 rafts. In our raft were our group of 4 — Kathie, Laura, John and me — as well as 2 others that joined us, Liz and Numbnuts (that may not have been his actual name, but it’s what we now call him because we found him a little, shall we say, annoying).

After 20 minutes or so of instructions, we carried our rafts to the river. That’s when we discovered that the water temperature was 56 degrees! Talk about having an incentive to stay in the raft!


White Water Rapids Classifications


Class I: Class I rapids are the easiest. This is generally flat, moving water with few or no waves or obstructions. Very little steering is needed.

Class II: Class II rapids are slightly more difficult. This water may have medium-sized waves and may require some maneuvering around rocks.

Class III: Class III rapids have many moderate, irregular waves, fast currents and narrow passages. These rapids are less forgiving if you make a mistake. You may encounter large but easily navigable waves.

Class IV: Class IV rapids are very difficult and require advanced maneuvering skills. These rapids have cross-currents, fast and turbulent water and large, powerful waves.

Class V: Class V rapids are extremely difficult. These waters are intense and have powerful currents, cross-currents, large drops and holes as well as obstructed, turbulent rapids.

Class VI: Class VI rapids are impossible, or almost impossible, to navigate.

The Lower Yough has class II, III and IV rapids. (The Middle Yough is much tamer and the Upper Yough is for white water Class V maniacs.)

As we approached each rapid, our entire group gathered in an eddy at the side of the river and one of the guides “talked us up.” That’s guide-speak for telling us what the upcoming rapid is like and the best way to get through it with all your body parts intact.

As you go through each rapid, the idea is to stay in the raft and keep your raft off the rocks.

We did fairly well at staying in the raft. Over the course of the trip, we only had 2 flip outs, and they didn’t totally leave the raft. They thoughtfully left us a leg or an arm to use to drag them back in.

Missing the rocks was a different matter.

We kept getting stuck on rocks. Once we were just paddling down the river between rapids when we got stuck on a rock we didn’t even see (although we should have). How embarrassing.

Actually, getting stuck on rocks is easy to do. Getting unstuck isn’t always easy. If the water is not deep and not moving too rapidly, you can jump out of the raft and push it off the rock. Otherwise, you figure out where the rock is under your raft and get everyone to the opposite side of the raft, where you bounce up and down to free the raft. The bouncing looks incredibly silly, but it usually works.

As we went through one of the exhilarating Class IV rapids, we slammed into a gigantic rock . . . and got stuck there. While our pulses accelerated to NASCAR speeds, we struggled to free our raft while being bombarded by fast-rushing white water. Fortunately, there was a guide on the rock who helped get us off. He nonchalantly told us later that if another raft had hit us while we were stuck, our raft would have flipped for sure.

While it may not sound it, we actually got pretty good at handling our raft. We figured out when one side should be paddling harder than the other, when everyone should be paddling hard and straight, when to back paddle and when to just hang on.

Probably the most important thing we learned is to keep paddling through the rapids, to hold your raft on course. There’s a tendency to forget to paddle and just hang on as you are jerked to and fro by the river but you should keep paddling.

Going through the rapids was exhilarating, especially the 2 Class IVs. And we felt a real sense of accomplishment every time we came out of a rapid and were still in the raft.

The weather was great. The river was beautiful. We could have gone on indefinitely.

However, seven miles down the river, and 15 or so Class II, III and IV rapids after we started, we came to the end of our trip. We took our rafts out, carried them to waiting trucks and hopped on a bus which took us back to our cars.

How was it? Incredible! We all loved it! We can’t wait to go again.

Is White Water Rafting For You?

White Water Rafting On The Youghiogheny RiverWhat you trade for the excitement of white water rafting is some degree of danger. If you are not comfortable with that, or if you have physical limitations, you should skip white water rafting.

However, if your fitness level allows it, white water rafting can be a great activity for virtually any age. Most in our group were in their 20s and 30s.

And then there was us. Kathie and I were twice as old as most of the others, but we’re sure we had twice as much fun as them, too.

Life Expectancy Calculators: How Long Will You Live

Life Expectancy CalculatorsAccording to the 2010 census, there were 53,364 people in the United States who were at least 100 years old.

That means that, in the U.S., roughly 1 person in every 6,000 celebrates a 100th birthday.

Fifty years ago, only 1 person in every 67,000 reached the century mark. So the trends are clear.

How ‘bout you? Would you like to be a centenarian?

Even if you have no particular desire to live to 100, do you ever wonder how long you will live?

It turns out that there are quite a few life expectancy calculators online. Some are run by reputable authorities on longevity.

Of course, even legitimate scientifically-based life expectancy calculators can only estimate your likely life expectancy. Sorry, no guarantees.

These 3 life expectancy calculators are a good place to start your search for your life expectancy . . .

Social Security Administration Life Expectancy Tables

The Social Security Administration collects information about life expectancies to help beneficiaries decide the best age to begin collecting Social Security benefits.

At the Social Security website, there is a simple life expectancy calculator.

To use the SSA calculator, you simply enter your gender and date of birth and, presto, the calculator spits out your statistical life expectancy.

For example, if you are a 35-year-old male who was born on August 21, 1976, your life expectancy, according to United States Government Life Expectancy Tables, is another 45.6 years, to age 81.4. If you are a 26-year-old female who was born on February 25, 1985, you are likely to live to the age of 85.0, another 57.7 years.

The Social Security Administration life expectancy calculator is a good place to start calculating your longevity. But that calculator does not take into account a wide number of factors that could increase or decrease life expectancy, such as current health, lifestyle, and family history.

Living To 100 Life Expectancy Calculator

Living To 100 is a website created by Thomas Perls, M.D., MPH, FACP, who is the founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world. (You can learn more about the study here.)

The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator poses 40 questions about your health and family history. Plan on spending about 10 minutes completing the questionnaire.

Based on your responses, using the most current and carefully researched medical and scientific data, the Calculator gives your life expectancy as well as personalized feedback for each of your answers.

It also provides a list of things you can do differently and how many years you will add if you do.

Virtual Age And Life Expectancy Calculator

This Life Expectancy Calculator is also a “virtual age” calculator. Your “virtual age” is your chronological age adjusted for longevity factors such as family history, current health and lifestyle choices.

You start by entering your actual age and then, as you answer a series of questions, the Calculator simultaneously displays both your virtual age and your life expectancy. This calculator lacks the authority of the other two, but it is pretty cool stuff.

The valuable information to take from these calculators is this list of the main factors that affect your longevity . . .

  • Family history, especially for cancer and heart disease.
  • Exercise frequency, duration and intensity.
  • Diet.
  • Height, weight and body composition.
  • Cholesterol level.
  • Blood sugar level.
  • Blood pressure.
  • Stress.
  • Sleep.
  • Relationship status.
  • Attitude about aging.
  • Number and closeness of friends.
  • Smoking.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Regular medical checkups.
  • Time spent working.
  • Whether your work is physical or sedentary.
  • Educational level.
  • Miles driven each year.
  • Seatbelt use.
  • Safe sex practices.
  • Eating breakfast.
  • Pets.
  • Religiosity.

  • Flossing!

(These factors are not necessarily listed in order, although the first factor listed, family history, is believed to be somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 responsible for your longevity. So, I hope you chose the right parents.)

My First Colonoscopy: I’m Glad It’s Behind Me

After putting it off for years, I recently had my first colonoscopy. And I’m glad I did.

Like many others, I had put off having a colonoscopy because of the unpleasant preparation that is required. And, yes, the preparation is somewhat unpleasant; but it’s not that bad and the benefits of the test far outweigh the inconvenience of the preparation.

Read on to learn more about the colonoscopy procedure and my experience with my first colonoscopy.

What Is Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure in which a physician inserts a flexible instrument which allows her to look inside your colon and rectum, primarily to search for cancerous or pre-cancerous growths called polyps.

Colonoscopy can be done by primary care physicians or surgeons, but it is usually performed by a gastroenterologist.

How Is A Colonoscopy Done

Colonoscopy
Large Intestine
First, some basic biology.

The large intestine consists of the colon and the rectum. The beginning of the large intestine, where partially digested food goes after it leaves the small intestine, is called the cecum. Typically, the distance from the cecum to the rectum is about 4-6 feet. The rectum is about 6 inches long. The rectum leads to the anus.

The colonoscopy procedure involves the insertion of a flexible instrument about the size of your index finger, called a colonoscope, or “scope,” through your anus and into your colon.

The scope has a light on the tip and a camera which takes pictures of the inside of your colon.

The colonoscope is carefully inserted through the anus into the rectum, through the sigmoid colon, then up the descending colon, across the transverse colon and down the ascending colon to the upper end of your large intestine. Then, the scope is carefully withdrawn. Both coming and going, the doctor looks for growths and abnormalities and makes pictures through the scope’s camera.

If they are found, a doctor can remove growths, called polyps, during colonoscopy and later test them in a laboratory for signs of cancer.

Polyps are common in adults and are usually harmless. However, most colorectal cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.

Anesthesia For Colonoscopy

While it is possible to have the procedure without sedation, 99% of colonoscopies in the United States are done using sedation.

The sedation can be administered by the doctor performing the colonoscopy or by an anesthesiologist. In my case, a nurse anesthetist administered the sedation and monitored me.

I was extremely impressed by the anesthesia used in my case, Propofol. It was administered through an IV and took effect very quickly. At least, that is how it seemed to me. The next thing I knew, it was 15 minutes later and I was awakening in the procedure room.

I had absolutely no memory of the procedure. And there was no discomfort of any kind.

As soon as I awoke from the effects of the Propofol, I was surprisingly alert. There was no groggy, drugged feeling. After only about 15 minutes in their recovery area, I was able to walk out, feeling good. (Nonetheless, following the recommended procedure, my wife drove me home.)

Preparation For Colonoscopy

The part of the process that kept me from following my primary care physician’s annual recommendation to have a colonoscopy — not to mention my wife’s persistent entreaties — was the preparation that is required.

Since I had no abnormal symptoms and no family history of colorectal cancer, I didn’t see a reason to go through the inconvenience. However, based on my research, and my experience with my first colonoscopy, I now think I was wrong.

Before your colonoscopy, your colon must be completely cleaned out so that the doctor can see any abnormal areas. To clean the colon, you have to stop eating and take a strong laxative to empty your bowels.

My doctor’s office gave me specific, written instructions for how to prepare. Because my procedure was scheduled for mid-afternoon, I had to avoid solid food for what ended up being almost 2 days. By then, I was pretty hungry.

Late in the afternoon on the day before the procedure, I had to take a laxative pill and a laxative powder which I mixed with Gatorade.

The result was what you would expect, a series of trips to the bathroom which, in my case, lasted for several hours. I was able to sleep that night without interruption.

For me, the worst part of the preparation was being hungry. Next time, I will schedule my colonoscopy first thing in the morning. I also had withdrawal headaches because I chose to not drink my favorite caffeinated soft drink during the preparation.

Who Should Have A Colonoscopy

For those with a normal risk of colorectal cancer, colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50. That is because more than 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people ages 50 and over.

Those with symptoms or a family history of colorectal cancer, and those with a higher-than-normal risk such as African Americans, may have to be tested sooner. Consult with your doctor.

Some guidelines recommend that routine screening continue until age 76, with screening an option between ages 76 and 85, depending on overall health and risk factors. Screening is not recommended after age 85.

Studies show that too few people get colonoscopy or any of the other recommended screenings (which are listed below).

The Government Accountability Office found that only a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 to 75 had undergone any of the recommended screenings from 2005 to 2009. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute found that only 58.6 percent of men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 got screened in 2010, far short of the national goal of 70.5 percent.

It is recommended that colonoscopy be done every 10 years unless polyps are found. In that case, the test should be repeated in 5 years.

In my case, a small non-cancerous polyp was found, and removed, so I intend to return for my second colonoscopy in 5 years.

Why Should You Have A Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is used for a number of specific reasons including investigation of these problems::

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits, like persistent diarrhea
  • Iron deficiency anemia (a decrease in blood count due to loss of iron)
  • Chronic, unexplained abdominal or rectal pain
  • An abnormal x-ray exam, like a barium enema or CT scan
  • Unexplained weight loss

However, the most common reason for colonoscopy is to screen for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the fourth worldwide. While deaths from colorectal cancer have been declining for more than two decades – mostly because of screening such as colonoscopies – more than 143,000 new cases of cancers of the colon or rectum are expected in the U.S. this year and nearly 52,000 people will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because of these realities, don’t be as naive as I was. Remember this: Just because you don’t have any pain, bleeding or other symptoms does not automatically mean that you don’t have colorectal cancer.

How Effective Is Colonoscopy

A study done at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and reported in the February, 2012, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, removed any lingering doubt about whether colonoscopy is effective in preventing deaths from cancer.

That study, which involved following patients who had polyps removed for as much as 20 years, concluded that removing precancerous growths spotted during colonoscopies can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer in half – by 53% actually.

What Are The Alternatives To Colonoscopy

There are alternative screening tests for colorectal cancer.

One is a stool test, such as the fecal occult blood test (FOBT), the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), or the stool DNA test (sDNA). If this is what you use, it is recommended that you do the FOBT and FIT every year or the sDNA every 5 years.

Another option is the Sigmoidoscopy, which involves inserting an instrument which allows your doctor to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon, but not the rest of the colon. This test is recommended every 5 years.

Still another option is the Computed tomographic colonography (CTC), which is also called a virtual colonoscopy. This test should be done every 5 years

Colonoscopy Negatives

Colonoscopy finds more polyps and cancers than other screening test and permits their immediate removal or biopsy. But there are some downsides.

For one, it is expensive, and insurance doesn’t always cover the cost. (However, the new health care reforms will greatly expand the number of people who can get colonoscopies and other proven preventive services without paying anything out of pocket.)

Another downside is that the bowel preparation done in advance is unpleasant, as I have discussed.

Also, most patients are sedated during the procedure, so they can’t go home on their own afterward.

Most importantly, in one of every 400 colonoscopies, there are complications — serious bleeding, colon perforation, infection, abdominal pain, or a cardiovascular event.

Obviously, the risk of complications is reduced if you are being treated by an experienced and skilled colonoscopist. See tip 1, below.

Tips for Your First Colonoscopy

1. Before choosing a doctor to do your colonoscopy, ask about the doctor’s polyp detection rate. Doctors doing colonoscopy should find one or more polyps in at least 25 percent of men and 15 percent of women who are age 50 or older and undergoing screening colonoscopy. Practitioners who find fewer than that may not be careful or thorough enough.

2. Ask for a copy of the report and the photos that were taken. If there is a video, you can ask for that; but there will probably be a charge. You can look at the pictures and assure yourself that there were no polyps that were missed, or you can show them to another doctor for a second opinion if you have any doubt.

3. Be smarter than me, don’t put off your first colonoscopy. Talking with my doctor before my test, I admitted that I was still not sure why I was having the procedure done, other than to keep my wife happy. So, I asked him: with no symptoms or any kind and no family history of colorectal cancer, why am I having a colonoscopy? He said, “because colorectal cancer is a terrible way to die, and it’s completely preventable.”

In short, colonoscopies save lives.

The Right Way To Wash Your Hands

Keeping your hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

When to wash your hands

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

What Is The Right Way To Wash Your Hands?

How to wash your hands

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice
  • Rinse your hands well under running water
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them

What If You Don’t Have Soap And Clean, Running Water?

Using hand sanitizerWashing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. However, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. And, hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.

How do you use hand sanitizers?

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand
  • Rub your hands together
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry

This information comes from the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention who also have provided this 3 1/2 minute video that tells you why hand washing is important and demonstrates how to wash your hands the right way.

CDC Video Player.  Flash Player 9 is required.
CDC Video Player.
Flash Player 9 is required.

Kiss Those Senior Moments Goodbye: Studies Show That Physical Fitness Delays Brain Aging

A "Senior Moment" -- Physical fitness delays brain agingAre you plagued by senior moments?

If so, or if you want to avoid them as long as possible, lace up your sneakers and get moving.

According to two recent studies, there is a definite link between good physical fitness and delayed brain aging.

In one of the studies, done at the University of Arizona, the researchers studied 58 men and 65 women between 50 and 89 years old and matched their patterns of neural activation against their performance on treadmill tests.

The result?

According to psychologist Gene Alexander, who led the study team, “Better brain aging is associated with better physical fitness.”

This study is consistent with a growing body of research showing that regular aerobic exercise can help stave off the mild cognitive failings of normal aging and can spur the growth of new neurons in the area of the brain associated with memory and learning (the hippocampus).

One such research study was done at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and it consisted of comparing the brain structure and function in 10 athletes and 10 sedentary people.

The investigators found that the brain’s white matter fiber was better preserved among the athletes than the inactive people.

What’s white matter, and why is it important?

In the human brain, white matter plays the critical role of transmitting messages between different regions of gray matter — areas where functions such as seeing, hearing, speaking, memory and emotions take place.

So, without sufficient white matter, gray matter can’t do its job (as is the case for many people with various forms of dementia).

Physical fitness delays brain aging“Without properly functioning white matter, people can begin to show signs of neurological problems,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, one of the Texas researchers. “They can lose the ability to do simple daily tasks that we take for granted.”

One of the conclusions of the Texas study, according to Dr. Levine, is that long-term aerobic exercise has definitive, measurable impact on brain health.

In short, we can fight off dementia and some of the other classic signs of aging with a purposeful, consistent exercise regimen.

That, my friends, is the take-away.

A consistent aerobic exercise regimen benefits your brain as well as your heart. It’s a health two-fer.

Medical disclaimer: I am not a physician and I have never played one on television. I haven’t even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Therefore, always consult with your real doctor before starting or altering your exercise program, especially if you have existing medical conditions.

You Are Never Too Old To Accomplish Great Things

100-year-old Fauja Singh completes marathonDo you think that after a certain age you are no longer capable of major achievements?

If so, I disagree.

People over 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and even 100, are accomplishing incredible things.

Nobel Prizes

You are probably familiar with the prestigious Nobel Prizes which recognize excellence in the sciences and in working for peace.

Did you know that there have been Nobel Laureates in theirs 80s and 90s?

  • In 2002, 88-year-old Raymond Davis Jr. received a Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • 85-year-old John B. Fenn was a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 2002.
  • Peyton Rous, when he was 87, received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
  • Doris Lessing, while 88 years old, was a Nobel Laureate in Literature in 2007.
  • Joseph Rotblat was honored for his work in promoting peace in 1995, when he was 87.
  • And Leonid Hurwicz received a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2007. He was 90 when the prize was awarded!

Business And Finance

How about business and finance? Are people over 50, 60, 70 and 80 successful in business?

Of course.

The list of the 10 wealthiest individuals in the United States in 2011 included 55-year-old Bill Gates (of Microsoft, the youngest of the group), 81-year-old Warren Buffett (of Berkshire Hathaway) and 67-year-old Larry Ellison (of Oracle).

The list also included 81-year-old George Soros, a hedge fund manager, and 79-year-old Sheldon Adelson who owns casinos, mostly in Las Vegas.

And they are certainly not the only seniors who are successful in business.

As an example, I recently heard about Jerome Oxman who started Oxman’s Surplus back in 1961 and, at 96, is still running his business in Santa Fe Springs, California. In fact, as I write this, he’s in the process of expanding.

You Are Never Too Old To Accomplish Great Things

Physical Achievements

What about physical accomplishments? Are people over 50 physically “over the hill?”

Hardly.

Have you heard of 100-year-old Fauja Singh, the first centenarian to complete a marathon? Singh didn’t even take up competitive running until he was 89! Not only did he complete a marathon; but, just a few days before running the marathon in October, 2011, he also set 8 more running records at shorter distances!

At 62, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad made a valiant attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida through shark infested waters. She swam about 60 miles before she was forced to give up her attempt . . . for now.

Want more examples?

Bill Anderson, at 78, bicycled from San Diego to Jacksonville. George Brunstad swam the English Chanel at 70. Lucille Borgen won a water skiing championship on her 91st birthday.

And the list goes on . . . and on.

No, age is not a reason to forego your dreams. It’s never too late to become the person you always dreamed of being. Actress Mae West said it well when she said: “You’re never too old to become younger.”

With life spans increasing, standards of living improving and health care advancing, there is no doubt that more and more incredible things will be done by people whose odometers have gone around more than once.

Study: At 50 You Can Be As Fit As A 20-Year-Old

50 years old and fit

(One message of this blog is that, with persistence, you can be healthy, vibrant and highly productive throughout your life. Here is still another scientific study that proves our point.)

According to Norwegian researchers, a 50-year-old who exercises regularly can be as fit as a 20-year-old who doesn’t exercise.

The study showed that:

  1. Youth is not necessarily the most important factor when it comes to being fit.
  2. Activity is far more important than age in determining fitness.
  3. Both the amount and the intensity of the exercise are important.
  4. These researchers found that by increasing the intensity of exercise, people are able to reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome, the cluster of risk factors that increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

  5. The least fit people, no matter what their age, have the poorest measures of cardiovascular health, such as higher blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The process of getting healthy and staying healthy is simple . . . but it’s not always easy. To receive the health benefits of exercise, you have to exercise with intensity.

One way to do this is through interval training where you alternate short bursts of high intensity exercise with short periods of lower intensity exercise.

For example, you might run for 1 to 4 minutes followed by 1 to 4 minutes of walking. Then, when you progress, you could alternate hard running with slower, easier running.

Your goal is to work up to 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Of course, especially if you are a couch potato now, you should consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program . . . and always use common sense. The first rule of exercise is: don’t hurt yourself.

If you are a complete newbie at exercise, or just want some instruction and encouragement, you would be wise to consult a qualified personal trainer.

Shrinkage! How Our Body Parts Get Smaller As We Age

ShrinkageWhen I say “shrinkage,” what do you think of?

Many of you immediately thought of the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza was seen naked by Jerry’s girlfriend after he came out of the pool. He tried to explain his teeny weenie by claiming “shrinkage.”

Well, it turns out that’s just part of the story.

As we get older there’s plenty of shrinkage, including our height, heart, brain, bladder, facial bones and, yes, sex organs.

Height Shrinkage

Most of us lose at least 1/3 of an inch in height every decade after the age of 40.

By 80, most men will be 2 inches shorter than they were in their prime, and women will be as much as 3.15 inches shorter.

What causes this?

Beginning at about 35, our bones lose minerals, especially calcium. Because our body’s ability to grow new bone tissue slows, our bones shrink slightly (and become more brittle and more likely to collapse as well as more likely to break, a condition known as osteoporosis).

In addition, the discs between the bones of our spine flatten over time, also contributing to making us shorter.

Temporary Height Shrinkage: Did you know that our discs temporarily flatten daily as we stand and move around? When we lie down at night, the discs reabsorb fluid and return to normal. That’s why we shrink by as much as ½ inch during the day but regain the height over night.

What can you do to protect yourself against height shrinkage?

First, choose the right parents. Not everyone get shorter, or shortens as much. There is a definite hereditary component.

Beyond that, a healthy lifestyle is your best protection.

Research has shown that people who engaged in moderately vigorous aerobic activity lost only about half as much height as those who stopped exercising in middle age or never exercised at all.

To help stave off osteoporosis, you should stick to a healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D.

Smoking, alcohol and excess caffeine (more than eight cups of coffee or tea a day) can affect bone health, too.

Maintaining good posture will also protect ageing discs.

Heart Shrinkage

Our heart shrinks by an average 0.3 grams per year beginning in middle age.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, with every year it takes longer for the heart muscles to squeeze and relax, by around 2 to 5 %, and the amount of blood pumped out of the heart falls by 9 millilitres a year.

A poor blood supply leaves you more prone to heart failure.

How do you protect yourself against the effects of a shrinking heart?

Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and less likely to shrink if it is exercised.

Exercises that benefit your heart include walking, climbing stairs, gardening, vigorous housework, dancing or using home or gym exercise equipment.

Brain Shrinkage

Starting around the age of 20, your brain shrinks by as much as 10 to 15 % over your lifetime.

Doctors don’t know why this is, but studies show the process appears to be accelerated by smoking, drinking alcohol and diabetes.

Being overweight and having high cholesterol levels also appear to have an impact.

Scans show the frontal and temporal lobes (which control thinking, planning and memory) shrink most.

However, contrary to expectation, the shrinkage doesn’t necessarily affect our thinking capacity, and cognitive tests have shown men and women perform similarly despite increasingly different brain sizes.

Can we protect against brain shrinkage?

Keeping mentally active throughout your life is key.

Avoiding excess alcohol also helps (post-mortems show alcoholics have smaller, shrunken brains), as does getting adequate sleep.

Bladder Shrinkage

At the age of 25, the average person’s bladder can hold 2 cups of liquid, but by 65 its capacity is half that.

Capacity and function shrink with age because of physiological changes to the muscle structure.

Is bladder shrinkage inevitable?

Avoid excess caffeine or alcohol because they irritate the bladder.

Men and women should also do regular pelvic floor exercises to boost bladder control.

Facial Bone Shrinkage

Scientists used to think loss of muscle tone and gravity led to facial ageing, but more recent thinking is that the facial bones actually shrink in size, sucking in the skin and muscle around them.

The jawbone is most prone to shrinkage.

Experts believe women lose facial bone structure earlier than men (women in their early 40s, men 10 to 15 years later).

Is there any hope of avoiding or slowing facial bone shrinkage?

The key is to practice good dental hygiene to prevent tooth decay and loss which can aggravate the process.

Sex Organ Shrinkage

Both male and female sexual organs shrink with age.

With men this occurs for two reasons.

First, fatty substances (plaques) are deposited inside tiny arteries in the penis, restricting blood flow. This poor circulation leads to ‘atrophy’ of the tissue within the penis — leading to loss of length and thickness.

Second, there is a gradual build-up of relatively inelastic collagen (scar tissue) within the stretchy, fibrous sheath that makes erections possible.

If a man’s erect penis is 6 inches long when he is in his 30s, it might be 5 inches or 5½ inches when he reaches his 60s or 70s.

In addition, beginning around the age of 40, the testicles begin to shrink, by up to a 1/3 inch in diameter between the ages of 30 and 60.

In women, changes are related to reduced levels of estrogen, which reduce blood flow to the area. The uterus also shrinks, returning to the size of a pre-adolescent girl, as the body registers that the organ is no longer active and so spares vital resources that other, still active organs can use.

Dwindling estrogen levels mean mammary glands and milk-producing tissue wither, to be replaced by fat, so the breasts lose their bulk. Natural wear-and-tear on the supporting skin and ligaments makes them more likely to drop.

Is there anything you can do to protect against sex organ shrinkage?

For men, a healthy diet that is good for your heart will also be good for your sex life — as healthy arteries all over your body mean better blood flow to the penis.

Women can do little about breast changes (apart from wear a well-fitting bra), but for both men and women, regular sex can slow the shrinking process.

Largely, it’s a case of use it or lose it.

These Body Parts Don’t Shrink, They Keep Growing!

While all this shrinking is going on, our nose, ears and feet keep growing.

The inner part of the ear lobe (the ‘concha’) remains the same size, but most ears become steadily longer.

The traditional explanation has been they are made up cartilage, which continues to grow after bones.

However, gravity is another factor. Cartilage, like skin, becomes thinner and loses its elasticity as we age, with collagen and elastin fibres breaking down.

This allows skin to stretch and sag, the tip of the nose to lengthen and droop, and the ears to stretch down.

Our feet become longer and wider with age, as the tendons and ligaments which link the many tiny bones lose elasticity.

Podiatrists estimate that the over-40s can gain as much as one shoe size every ten years.

The tiny joints between the toe bones deteriorate, allowing the toes to spread out, and the arch of the foot to flatten.

The protective fat pads on the heels and balls of the feet also flatten through wear and tear.

What’s the take-away from all this? Eat right and exercise regularly to put the most life in your years.