Saturday, October 27, 2007

NPR - When age catches up with you

I had my annual physical recently. While I still have to take the blood test, you know the one you can't eat for 12-plus hours before so they can get your "baseline" values. I have a great physician. The first questions she asks when she sits down to discuss what's happened over the last year is, "So, how is your life going?" And if you've had any tests from specialists, she'll actually explain the whole results than read the summary. Not that you can fully understand it, but she'll interpret.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about some of those problems I've slowly felt get worse over the recent years, you know those after turning 50. I realized that what I, and I suspect all of us, thought was a new problem was really an old one which has simply caught up with me enough to be in the forefront of my consciousness. And they're not just something you get over and are back to normal, they're the new normal, and anything else is simply that they're not significant or you're not noticing.

And I guess that's my point, how much do we tolerate the accumulation of our genes, epigenomes, environment, experience and health. That's the choice in our life after 50. We don't run as fast or as often, and sometimes we walk a little more during those runs. And we just try to keep even with our weight training, building muscle isn't in the cards anymore, just staying level. And the hiking gets less often with longer days of rest.

And the number of pill bottles we look at every day increases, ever so slowly, if only for short periods, but some are for the rest of our life. And some you take as a precaution, as the doctor says, "It doesn't hurt." That's the reality we all face as we age and when we pass the point of diminishing returns, meaning, as my dentist says, "You don't get better. We can only keep things from getting worse."

So the alternative is what? It's the one thing I keep asking myself when I start to become a couch potato, I can get better or get worse. It's my choice and down the road I'll discover the worse was exactly that. While the better isn't necessarily better, meaning it's working longer and harder to stave off the inevitable, it's keeps you alert and active. And you really appreciate the off days when the muscles hurt. You have an excuse to just sit.

It's why instead of running I've learned to enjoy long walks, 6-8 miles and working up to longer distances. I'll eventually get back to running, something I've done for 30 years, but until then, I take my backpack and camera to places on rural roads. And there's always a Starbucks to justify the destination.

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