Born at 60

Life can begin at 60; it is all in our hands! Many people feel unhappy, health-wise and security-wise, after 60 years of age, owing to the diminishing importance given to them, and to their opinions. But, it need not be so, if only we understand the basic principles of life and follow them as scrupulously as possible.

It is now very well known that our body is made up of trillions of cells. Science has proved that our cells regenerate every 7 years leading into an entirely new existence. Even Einstein said that 98% of the intelligence and energy renews every year. It has been seen that for some mysterious reason, the cells suddenly stop regenerating as though there is an in-built time device inside them, and then deterioration sets in. For some people it happens very late; so aging is delayed while for others it happens relatively sooner.

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” said Benjamin Franklin. We may not have grown very wise till date, but we know that with years of rich experience and reflection, we can rise above our own circumstances and live an old age of variety, creativity, and fulfillment despite physical limitations that we may have; for the ability to learn and adjust continues throughout one’s life and is strongly influenced by interests, activities, and motivation. If we take preventive measures now, we can literally reduce the chances of unnecessary damage to our body and soul, and age more gracefully.

Aging inspires introspection, and growing gracefully is something that we should aspire to do. With the physical challenges that maturity brings, having a sense of humour, dignity, and a better perspective on things can help in a large measure. Given the physical and cognitive decline, a surprising finding is that emotional experience improves with age. Old are better at regulating their emotions and experience negative effects less frequently than younger adults. The emotional improvements show up in longitudinal studies as well as in cross-sectional studies and so cannot be entirely due to only the happier individuals surviving. The cultivation of a positive attitude is of great help in leading a healthy life.

There are three ages, chronological, biological, and psychological. The first is calculated based on our date of birth, the second is determined by the health conditions, and the third is how old we feel we are. While we don’t have control over the first, we can take care of our health with good diet, exercise and a cheerful attitude. A positive attitude and optimistic thinking can reverse the third age. Never say or even think “I am aged”.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”, said Mark Twain. To understand ageing, it must be understood that all that exists in this universe is matter and life. And it is life that is responsible for holding the matter together. When there is no life, matter decays – just like in the case of a dead body. Our body is nothing but matter. Life, in turn, is the outcome of thought. It would naturally follow that ourbody is the expression of thinking and the mind. Just like dream is an outcome of thinking, so is the body an expression of thought. If we have beautiful, young thoughts, this will form ‘autosuggestion’ to each body cell to mould itself accordingly. Taken together the cells form the body and so the body as a whole gets molded accordingly. So, if we can condition our thoughts to be right, it follows that our body will also be right.

Before middle age one should not fear; after middle age one should not regret. Let us enjoy our life while we can. If we really love our kith and kin, taking care of our health should be our priority. Thus, we will not be a burden to them. An annual health check-up is imperative and taking the prescribed medicines regularly is the need. A health insurance cover is much more than just desirable.

Sickness should be treated with optimism, whether we are rich or poor.  If worry could prolong life, we would advise to go ahead and worry. If worry could exchange for happiness, then again we would recommend worry. But in reality it is not so; therefore the least one can do is to stop worrying. The two most important things we must do every day – smile and laugh. “You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.”

The need to reverse or slow down aging is important to extend the lifespan of a human being. The best and the surest way to do it is through natural means. Eliminating stress is a sine-quo-non for healthy aging. Stress is an important factor in people aging quickly because it damages the part of DNA responsible for controlling aging of the cells. Research has shown that people who are chronically stressed because of various factors, such as poor health, caring for terminally ill, etc., age much more quickly than people who are stress free. Regular exercise relieves stress because the brain produces endomorphisns, which keep the body in a better state of mind and improve its well-being.  Some people suffer stress because of lack of sleep. A short nap during the day can help such people overcome stress. Consciously keeping oneself busy in activities that may interest one also helps relieve stress because they have the psychological effect of putting one’s mind into subconscious of a world without any worries and negative thoughts while participating in the activity.

A regular exercise at least five days a week will prove of immense benefit. Biologically, exercise helps to improve the body’s muscle tone and anatomical condition in many ways. It also helps to improve one’s lung capacity significantly and strengthens the bones that help reduce the risk of arthritic condition developing. For older people, gentle aerobic activity is more suitable as it eliminates the risk of injury.

The human body is made up of 50 – 70% water. Our body loses about three liters of water each day through perspiration, urination and respiration. Taking plenty of water every day helps to neutralize acids in the body by washing out toxins. Waiting until you are thirsty isn’t always the best barometer. Thirst is a response to dehydration. It is recommended that the average person should drink at least two to three liters of clean, pure water each day. Water prevents pre-mature aging and also benefits our skin by acting as an internal moisturizer.

Diet plays a crucial role in the process of aging. It can either expedite the process or help to slow it down. A bad diet high in sugars, fats and intoxicating foods can contribute in reducing acidic regulatory elements within the body. Foods that are good for health – eat plenty and more; but that is not everything. Foods that are not good for health – eat less once in a while but do not abstain from them totally. At occasions eat whatever you feel like eating; it is more important to be happy.

Two Tufts University studies have found that just a cup of blueberries or an ounce of walnuts a day can protect the body against age-related nerve damage that can affect thinking, motor skills, and coordination. Dark chocolate contains magnesium and flavonol, which improve the supply of oxygen to the brain. The resveratrol found in red and purple grape skins contains impressive anti-aging properties, according to a Harvard study. Blue fruits in general—purple grapes, blackberries, plums, boysenberries, black currants—top the list of anti-aging foods. Obviously one can benefit immensely by introducing these useful items in one’s dietary routine.

It goes without saying, however, that restricting calorie intake while maintaining the minimum needed level has been shown to improve the condition of the heart and has the potential of increasing the lifespan significantly. The diet would require cutting out bad and saturated fats and having a balanced protein, carbohydrate and fat diet. The research carried out by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine had also shown blood pressure to be significantly lower in people following a balanced calorie restricting diet.

Vitamins are thought to be a good source of antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals, which lead to aging because of the damage they cause to the cells. Even though we may get much of the required vitamins from having a healthy diet containing lots of fruit and vegetables, we can supplement that source with multivitamin pills. Use of  Vitamins C and D and vegetables and seeds having zinc as an ingredient help boost one’s immune system.This should, however, be done in moderation.

One should get moving to get a life. Gardening, dancing, running around the mall and similar activities keep one’s muscles in shape, one’s heart rate elevated, and one’s neurons firing. Scientists may one day slow down aging with a simple injection of youthful stem cells. They’ve just proven this can be done in mice, according to a study published recently in Nature Communications. “It was mind boggling,” remarked study co-author Johnny Huard, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “When I saw them I thought, ‘Oh my God, I must have made a mistake and put the normal mice in the wrong cage.’ But they were indeed the mice we’d injected with the stem cells.” Sorry that we may not be around when such a simple prick would inject in us the elixir of youth.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh, is a plantation enthusiast.

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