LOOK AND FEEL YOUNGER

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By:  John Morley, M.D.

“There is no magic potion to keep us from becoming old,” says John Morley, M.D., director of the division of geriatric medicine for Saint Louis University. “However, there are things we can do to keep us healthier longer.”

“If you want to look and feel younger, the prescription is fairly simple. Get regular physicals and dental check-ups twice a year, don’t smoke, have a job you like, exercise regularly, wear your seatbelt, eat nutritious foods and maintain a positive attitude.”

Those who are overweight, single, middle-aged and who consume more than four cups of coffee a day and have cholesterol levels that top 220 are prime candidates for premature aging, Morley says.

That’s because factors that make you older than your chronological years include being 20 pounds over or under your ideal weight, having bacterial pneumonia more than three times, having cholesterol levels over 220, driving more than 20,000 miles annually, being unmarried and over 40, drinking more than four cups of caffeinated beverages a day and having untreated depression.

So what’s the best way to age successfully? Morley has strategies that fit all ages.

“There are some things such as wearing your seatbelt, saying no to smoking and exercising regularly that you should do at any age.” Morley says. “But there are other suggestions that take into account the way your body changes through the years.”

That in mind, Morley has designed a guide to health promotion to keep you in top shape at different times during your life:

  • Up to 20 years:  Avoid obesity; get enough calcium; eat nutritious foods; don’t drink; get vaccinations; and avoid violence and illicit drugs.

  • 20 to 40 years:  Avoid obesity; get enough calcium and vitamin D; eat fish; drink in moderation; have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose checked; screen for breast and colon cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes; females should get pap smears; and everyone keep his or her mind active and social.

  • 60 to 80 years:  Include balance and resistance exercises to your workout; avoid weight loss; get enough calcium and vitamin D; eat fish, drink in moderation; screen for breast and colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and diabetes; check cholesterol; get flu and pneumococcal vaccinations; females should get pap smears, keep your mind active and socialize; and avoid taking too many medications.

  • 80 and up:  Safety-proof your home to prevent falls; use a cane and consider hip protectors if you are unsteady; keep doing balance and resistance exercises; avoid weight loss; get enough calcium and vitamin D; get screened for osteoporosis; have blood pressure checked; drink in moderation; females should do monthly breast exams; get flu and pneumococcal vaccinations; keep your mind active and your mood upbeat; socialize; and avoid taking too many medications.

“If you’ve hit 80, you probably can keep doing what you’ve been doing,” Morley says. “Remember, most of your physicians won’t reach that age.”

By:  John Morley, M.D. 10:2 (May 2003)