Getting older has some challenges, doesn’t it? It’s definitely tough getting older, and it’s not always what we expected it to be. When we are young, we think we understand what to expect as we get older, or more likely we figure we will get to it later. We just “go with the flow.” The reality is that one of the biggest changes as we get older relates to our health. And most of us aren’t prepared for the changes.
We study for our professional careers often creating five and ten-year plans. We think about when we want to get married and even where we might live. Most of us plan for our financial health but we largely ignore our physical and mental health – until there’s a symptom that needs to be addressed.
And that’s what surprises most of us, and it often is harder than we imagined.
It quickly becomes complicated to figure out what is a normal part of aging versus what’s a more serious health condition. We don’t even know what we don’t know about our bodies when we are younger. We get scrape or bruises, and they heal quickly. We can eat whatever we want with no heartburn, stomach pains, or even weight gain. No one thinks about their health until they get “old.”
And then once we hit 30, and especially 40 – all the rules seem to change. How do you know if that stomach pain is just ingestion or a more serious gastrointestinal issue? Is that blurry vision “normal” to have or do you need to go urgently to the ER?
As a physician, I often see two types of patients: One is a person who comes in with every cough, rash, body ache or bruise and think’s it’s a life-threatening event. The second is a person who dismisses every complaint thinking it’s a normal part of aging — so she ends up tolerating chronic pain that we likely could treat.
Our bodies change as we get older in ways that most of us don’t realize. So we need to start listening to, and taking care of our bodies throughout our lives. That includes getting screening tests, and yes – going to the doctor yearly. You did it as children and you should do it throughout life.
“But, Doc, I have other things to worry about.” I hear that a lot from patients. Yet, we spend time in youth, sometimes sacrificing our health, trying to develop wealth to enjoy later in life, when our health may not be as good as it should.
So take the time to also focus on your physical and mental health as you enter your Second Act. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fish, fruit, dairy, and whole grains. Don’t sit around all day. Get up and move. Too much sitting is almost as deadly as smoking. Recognize the importance of sleep – it is the time to refresh and regenerate. Finally, go “old-school” and spend time with real friends not just those in the virtual world!