If you are in your late 30s to 50s, and desire to age well, do not confuse neglect with “normal aging”

Younger folks may want to pay attention to this too but they won’t, since YOLO.

Medical doctor here, board certified in primary care, also had few years of surgical training. Currently serving disabled U.S. veterans of all ages, many chronic debilitating medical conditions, and disabling injuries.

One of the biggest privileges that I have in my position, as do many medical doctors, is to see the incredible diversity and wide range of functioning and health in my senior patients.

Through my years of practice, I have met many 50 to 60 year olds who “look” and “move” like they’re 70 to 80 year olds, and at times have even worse functioning than most 70 to 80 year olds.

On the flip side, I have also met 70 to 80 year olds (much fewer, they are the exceptions), who look and function better than those aforementioned 50 to 60 year olds.

Because of my line of work, I have trained eyes on paying special attention to all of my patients’ disabilities, the way they move, the way they speak, and the way they present themselves. Towards the latter years of my practice, I was keen on asking my vivacious and highly functioning 70 to 80 year olds, “so tell me, what’s your secret?” and I take extra time to listen and learn.

The answer shares a common theme that is simple in concept but complicated to practice daily. I will share it below but I want to include a caveat. Their advice does not really apply to folks who have disabling medical conditions that cannot be prevented, such as genetic conditions, severe injuries, certain cancers, etc.

Also, there are many aspects of disability and decline in function that cannot be prevented with advancing age. This post is not a “fountain of youth”, and “aging” cannot be prevented… however some people “age well” with healthful effort, and others don’t at times due to neglect — this post is highlighting this specific area.

The common theme from all of their advice is: they don’t neglect themselves.

They take good care of their brain and their bodies and have developed or learned habits to continue this for all of their lives.

They don’t neglect their most important relationships (typically long-term marriages or long-term partnerships). The ones with long-term relationships are still having sex with one another and eye each other with joy and glee when they ask for a Viagra prescription. They tend to make each other smile and laugh, even in a short office visit.

Not all of them exercise, but all of them have reasons to keep moving their bodies. These are usually jobs and/or hobbies that keep their bodies moving in positions other than the usual sitting or standing or laying down during most of their waking moments.

Most of all, they wake up each morning with a sense of purpose or duty to a service that they are passionate about, even after they retire.

I know I am making some broad over-generalizations, and that there are many more factors to “aging” and chronic disabilities other than just neglecting the aforementioned “advice” that my vivacious seniors have shared. These factors can include the medical conditions that one does not have control over that I previously mentioned, socio-economic status, debilitating mental health conditions (especially those that have not improved with professional help), etc. So take what I share with a grain of salt.

The word “neglect” may cause some readers to feel angry and/or resentful, but I am not writing this to make those people feel judged. It is not my battle to change peoples’ personal beliefs, opinions, and attitudes — I respect everyone’s decision to choose and think for themselves. I wrote this post to share what I have learned from my patients over the years.

Neglect is very insidious, and often times, the health harms caused by certain forms of neglectful behaviors fly under the radar for decades before clinical symptoms start to become felt or noticed. I have noticed that my patients who chronically suffer from (mostly) preventable medical conditions, seem to turn a blind eye, or not be aware, about how their usual way of thinking, eating, or using their bodies, and most importantly, their personal beliefs about themselves, their health conditions, and their bodies may be causing subtle and slow harm over the long run.

This seems to be very common among my patients with worsening multiple chronic illnesses, who tell themselves that their declining health and functioning is just “normal aging”, and are reliant on medications that don’t do more than just fixing their “health numbers” (blood pressure, fasting glucose, cholesterol, etc).

These medications do not address the underlying behaviors and beliefs that may be driving their illnesses for preventable and reversible diseases like Hypertension or Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 (yes these conditions are reversible, and yes, it does take significant lifestyle changes, a lifelong commitment to learning and practicing behaviors that are more healthful than harmful, and at times, professional help from doctors, dietitians, physical therapists, mental health professionals, etc).

I am not saying to stop taking your meds, do take your meds especially if your numbers are warning you that if you don’t take your meds… heart attack or stroke soon.

If you read this far, thank you for your interest! May you all advance into your 70s to 80s with as much functioning and enjoyment out of life as possible.

Much Love!

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Doctors R Us

Doctors R Us

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Medical Doc in primary care, hubby & dad. Recovering from chronic unwellness and addictions. Healing from ego driven suffering. Inspiring others to self-heal