Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bits About Aging

Why are people so obsessed with anti-aging? Why this fear of dying? Whatever happened to quality of life rather than quantity of life? Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy with my life and hope to live a lot longer enjoying my time on this earth. But I’m more concerned now with how I can be healthy and feel good while getting older - which is why I’ve spent so many of these past years studying holistic health care and learning how to improve my lifestyle

There are a couple interesting articles about aging in the December 2007 issue of Discover magazine. One is called “Can We Cure Aging?” the title of which I find ludicrous right off the bat as it reminds me so much of the modern approach to ‘curing’ menopause!!! Hello, but these aren’t diseases! Is everyone oblivious to the entire ‘cycle of life’ aspect here? Yes, absolutely, let’s take care of ourselves, eat well, get plenty of exercise, and, very important in my mind, LOVE who we are, what we do, and who we live with. And, sure, let’s provide our bodies with all the health-building support they need in the form of nutrients on a physical level  and vibrational remedies on a mental, emotional and subtle energy level. These things build health and promote wellness so that we can achieve that quality of life and fulfill our life’s purpose for however long we are here. To me, none of this translates into taking drugs to suppress or repress the body’s natural efforts to heal and/or age ‘gracefully.’ This particular article discusses the negative effects of inflammation upon the physical body and its possible causation of ‘aging.’ People today are experiencing extended life spans but, as the article says, “longer life today often simply means taking longer to die - slowly, expensively, and with more disease and disability.” Well, yuck, who wants that? Not me! One clue may lay in the comment “As we get older, acute episodes of inflammation tend to turn into chronic ones, perhaps because the regulation of the immune system becomes less efficient.” My question is, why does the immune system get less efficient? And what could we do to help it so that we feel good each day and our immune system then functions more efficiently? 

I touched on this already in my post Healing Mind-Body, i.e. chronic stress results in a poorly operating immune system. I’m not sure that I think the trade-off in the past 100 years has been worth it -- while more people have longer life spans than before, their lives are way more stressful (mentally and emotionally, not just physically) and they don’t necessarily live longer, they just die longer. Our bodies have intricate systems of integrated processes, so what happens when we use drugs to suppress inflammation? Even the Discover article admits “The caveat with these experiments is that by modifying inflammation, we are playing with fire. After all, fighting off infection is an absolutely essential bodily function.” So why not work within our own selves to become stronger on all levels?

The article I actually liked - surprisingly - was one titled “The Body Engineers” which was a discussion panel involving six attendees of the 2007 meeting of the Endocrine Society. I say “surprisingly” because these are medical doctors and researchers so I was pleasantly surprised at many of the holistic sounding comments! They posit questions as to whether it is appropriate to try to halt aging - what is natural and what should be left alone? One person points out that “in reality, many of the diseases can be treated and prevented from a lifestyle point of view.” And the part that pleased me the most was the very last section so I want to share those comments as well. 

“Ultimately, we might do a very good job of preserving ourselves physiologically, but there are tremendous problems that people still suffer from in terms of psychological issues and spiritual issues - the absence of a rich life in the parts that you can’t see.” [Rosenthal]

“The whole point of living is to live and to make a contribution, not to live your life in fear of aging.” [Rosenthal]

“The whole philosophy [concept of antiaging] implies that aging is inherently something to be prevented and avoided rather than understood - rather than learning to live one’s life with grace in each epoch of life. Our country is unusual in that it no longer venerates the wisdom and experience of aging.” [Blackman]

Those are wise words indeed!!! 

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