Episode 222 Keeping Healthy Part 2
A whirlpool on the Noatak River in Alaska almost sucked the life right out of me just a few days after my fortieth. I pause sometimes and consider the close calls I have had in accidents while climbing mountains, driving a car, riding a motorcycle, being caught the whirlpool or whatever. Luck seemed to always step in to rescue me from what could have been irreparable or, in fact, deadly. We should never get to self congratulatory when it comes to maintaining good health. Some things we don't get credit for.
But when we make good decisions and our actions have positive results. We do get credit. We need to keep track of what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong. And we need to be aware of what we can't control. We don't want to swallow a big dose of guilt that only creates needless stress. Which of course doesn't improve anyone's health.
This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.
Staying healthy is not a part time pursuit. It requires effort and persistence. In Episode 221 I talked about the importance of red wine, diet and exercise. Of course those are important but no more important than stress. And I'm not talking about trying to incur more.
A barista that serves us coffee in Vancouver is from Istanbul. I asked her about noticeable differences between living in the two cities. "There don't seem to be any old people in Vancouver", she said. She went on, "There doesn't seem to any stress in this city. Everyone looks so young. In Istanbul everyone looks old. The traffic is so bad. Everyone is in such a hurry. It takes a long time to get anywhere. It creates lots of stress. The people don't live long and they look so old."
I think she was right on concerning stress and aging. My blood pressure dropped significantly when I retired. Studies concerning stress never suggest that it is something we should pursue.I guess we need a little just to keep life interesting. But for my money it is one of the main obstacles to maintaining good health.
Going to our doctor on a regular basis is another action we can all take to improve our own health. Without the assistance of "life through better chemistry" my time as a living human being would have ended long ago. I have always felt lucky that I have never spent time in a hospital - one night other than my tonsillectomy as a young lad many years ago. But the yearly visit to the doctor's office has continued now for more than forty years.
These visits are a luxury of having health insurance on the job and an excellent health plan as a retiree. Three little chemical adjustments to my body have been required to maintain life itself. They are considered minor adjustments and they seem that way to me but they are necessary for existence. I would say that a very important factor to staying healthy is a annual visit to a doctor. I maintain my own medical records folder. I have blood tests results that go back nearly forty years. It comes in handy when I try to judge the importance of any changes. And it is stress reducing to be able to keep your own record and ruminate on any changes.
Good sleep has to be another important factor in maintaining good health. Not only is it important but it is just so pleasurable. Sometimes I think sleeping is when we come closest to pure happiness. Barring nightmares it is always just so satisfying. They say we need seven to nine hours each night. I also like to include a little nap if possible. I recall life in Iowa when after a big dinner the farmers would sit back; lay on the couch, or the floor, or on the grass and close their eyes for ten to twenty minutes. It seemed to serve them well. And it certainly added a bit of energy to let the body reboot in the middle of the day.
Perhaps the most important factor in this pursuit of good health is a lucky roll of the dice. The genes we are given by our parents at birth have to be a major player. We have good vision or we don't. We have a bad heart or we don't. We have a blood disease or we don't. Certainly some actions by us can help determine our health but some factors are completely out of our control. We need to understand the difference.
My mind goes back to two different examples. One was my Dad. He was a heavy smoker, never exercised, had a diet filled with meat and thick cream and lived a life filled with stress. He could have made some changes. But he didn't. He died at age 52. On the other hand Jimmy Fix was a health celebrity who ate well, ran mile after mile, day after day and year after year. He wrote a popular book entitled, "The Complete Book of Running". He is credited with starting the running movement in America in the mid seventies. He had also been over weight and a heavy smoker early in life but he did make changes. He was the picture of health when he died of a heart attack; age 52.
There are many ways around the mountain. I guess it is up to each of us to find our own route. We know that without good health life itself disappears. That tells us how important it is when we consider what we are doing with our life on a daily basis. It is always best to put put health in first position.