I am not a medical doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any medical condition. What I share with you today is information widely available. I am keeping it as simple as I can so I don’t make any egregious errors. It certainly has been interesting and enlightening–and motivating–to read on this topic this week.
The first thing that came to mind as I started looking for information this week was the scripture verse John 14: 1, “Let not your heart be troubled. . . .”
Before I talk today about some physical changes, I want to make application as well to emotional changes that occur as we age. I’ve probably mentioned before that I heard a speaker years ago at a women’s conference who said, “If you are a negative, whiny, complaining, criticial young woman, you’re going to be a nasty, mean, miserable and lonely old woman. You are becoming what you will be.”
That statement is true not only of our spiritual and emotional selves, but also of our physical selves. We need to be good stewards of these incredible bodies with which God has gifted us.
“A man is as old as his arteries.”
Thomas Sydenham, MD, English Physician, 1624-1689
Stretched end-to-end, the arteries, veins, and other vessels of the human circulatory system would measure about 60,000 miles. On any given day, the heart pumps about 1,800 gallons of blood through this vast network. In an average lifetime, the heart pumps approximately one million barrels of blood—enough to fill more than 3 supertankers—through the circulatory system.
High blood pressure and atherosclerosis commonly develop as we age. At age 65, nearly 40% of all deaths are heart-disease related. As we grow older, that statisitic increases a whole lot.
Unless you live with your head in the sand, you know how important a healthy lifestyle is to the heart. Smoking, lack of exercise, a diet rich in salt and unhealthy fats all increase the risk of heart disease; that risk includes diseases of the blood vessels and arteries as well. You can read in depth about cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis here. Right now, I’d like to talk just a bit about how we can slow down the process so that our years here on earth are more productive, healthier, and less of a burden on our loved ones.
There is so much written about how we eat. If you’re going to believe all the hype out there, you really can’t eat much of anything without risking cancer, heart disease, and general pollywoggles of the diflammatorium. Health gurus and nutritionial specialists can’t seem to agree on a lot of things–butter or not butter? Bacon or not bacon? That list is endless. I remember when margarine was touted as the savior of the health of mankind, and it has since turned out that the stuff is only one little molecule away from being plastic. Blech. There is NO margarine in my refrigerator!
Food is obviously important, but I want to stress here is the common sense approach. It’s a no-brainer that we need to avoid too much sugar and fat. If you shop on the perimeter if your grocery store, you will do pretty well. All the processed empty calories are in the middle shelves. Most of those aisles we can blow right by without missing much. What’s on the perimeter? Produce, dairy, meat and seafood. Usually the bakery, too, which you have to close your eyes to as you whip your cart past it at lightning speed :)
The key is deep, dark color, whole unprocessed foods, and no added sugar or fat. It’s the way our grandparents lived, and their rate of heart disease was a lot lower than ours.
Exercise never loses its importance. This is my biggest stumbling block. Inherently lazy, I find a lot more pleasure in a cup of tea and a good book than I do in a brisk walk on a cold/hot/windy/humid/wet/snowy/icey day. Get the picture? I KNOW how important it is for my heart that I move, walk, get up off the couch. I wish there were a pill to give me the will. A “will pill.”
We’ll talk about diabetes in another post, but I mention here because I have learned that the minute you are diagnosed with Type II, you are also a heart patient. Type II can be controlled with a little self-discipline. Diet and exercise play a huge role
What happens to the emotional and spiritual condition of an aging person who develops heart disease? Most typically, depression can set in, and old-age depression is not the same as depression that younger people can experience. Older people who are sick or debilitated because of heart disease often feel useless and hopeless, and their last years become nothing more than ticking off the days until they die.
That’s not cool. There is help out there, tons of information on how to improve your heart health and thereby improve your overall health. We need to live as much as we can until we lay these old bodies down to die. Live until you die. Don’t die years before your body gives out on you.