Most people who are either wanting or actively trying to eat nutritiously and fit physical activity into their daily lives do so because they want to be healthier. They may have other reasons, but health usually fits in there somewhere.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, “being healthier” can be kind of a vague, hard-to-grasp motivator, unless you are in the midst of a health crisis that can be solved or lessened with better lifestyle habits. In that case, the cause and effect can be pretty clear.
But what if you’re reasonably healthy right now, at least on the surface? What does “being healthier” look like?
In the short term, it could mean feeling less tired. It could mean losing weight so there is less stress on achy knees. It could mean bringing blood sugar, blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels that are “just a touch high” back to squarely normal levels. Real benefits, to be sure, but not very…chewy.
Well, here’s something to chew on. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average 75-year-old takes five prescription medications and suffers from three chronic medical conditions. Do you want that to be you when you’re 75? Do you?
Chronic health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure (and the heart disease that all three of these can lead to) can largely be prevented–or at least delayed or lessened–with nutrition and exercise.
How do you want to spend the later decades of your life? Your golden years, if you will. Do you want to be keeping track of multiple doctor’s appointments and multiple medications? Do you want to be coping with medication side effects and worrying that two of the many medications you take might interact with each other, or with something you eat? (Don’t even look at a grapefruit if you take a statin.)
Personally I plan to wake up every morning feeling refreshed, enjoy my days gardening, reading, walking, dancing, weight lifting, cooking, sewing, working or volunteering. I look forward to doing lots of hiking, traveling, camping, maybe learning another language. I will be able to get down on the floor and play with my grandnieces and grandnephews. Sounds nice, right?
Around the time that I decided that if I ever broke another limb (heaven forbid) I was going to be strong and fit and light enough that I could get around with relative ease, I decided one more thing. I was not going to be facing a medicine cabinet full of prescription drug bottles when I was 75. That will not be me. I am completely, totally, deadly serious. And yes, I do think about this when I don’t “feel like” exercising. Then I do exercise.
When I switched to a new doctor last fall and went in for a physical, I told her point blank, “I will do whatever it takes to be as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I do not ever want to be taking half a pharmacy’s worth of medication.” I actually chose the doctor I did because she clearly takes care of herself and stays in shape. My previous doctor did not. If I’m going to be about the talk and the action, I expect no less from my healthcare providers. Doctor, heal thyself.
We live in a culture of instant gratification. It’s so easy to think one pill will cure this, and another will cure that. Doctors are all too willing to dispense prescriptions because, lets face it, they know that most patients will not make the lifestyle modifications necessary to heal themselves.
Why go through the challenge of eating right and exercising on a regular basis when you can take a medication and keep eating fast food takeout and maintain a rigorous TV watching schedule? Because you don’t get something for nothing, that’s why. Yes, medications can “take care of” an lot of problems. But medications create an awful lot of their own problems. Sorry, but I’ve read enough about the side effects of statin drugs to know they are not for me.
But hey, guess what? The only “side effects” of tasty, nutritious food and regular, get-the-blood-flowing and clear-the-cobwebs-out-of -the-brain exercise is better health, more energy and (hey!) probably a better appearance. Plus, eating healthy and being fit doesn’t just help you prevent or fight one disease–it helps you fight a whole slew of them. No medication can accomplish that.
So eat right. Get some exercise. Because you’ll never be too old to be smoking hot to someone.