It is worth reviewing the basics of how to increase life expectancy and improve quality of life as we grow older
In previous issues of Elite+, I have primarily focused on how to age gracefully, since worldwide demographic changes are making this an increasingly relevant topic. Thailand in particular is getting closer to the demographic imbalance of Japan, making this issue applicable to readers in Thailand. And although I have explained many factors and influences relevant to ageing, along with scientific recommendations on how to look after our bodies and souls efficiently, the basics of how to grow older gracefully are worth repeating. Therefore in this issue, I return to the basics of how to achieve an old age with a good quality of life.
The foundations of a good quality of life
The foundations for having a good quality of life are not only important for seniors but for all walks of life and all ages. The basics are as follows:
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Lead an active lifestyle
• Get an annual physical check-up
• Consume good quality food and drink
• Selectively take supplements In this issue, I will discuss the first three items.
Maintain a healthy weight A healthy human body weight is linked to having a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. BMI can be calculated by dividing our weight in kilograms by the square of our height in metres. For example, my height is 1.72 metres and my weight is 66.4kg, so my BMI can be calculated as 66.4/(1.72)2, which equals 22.5, considered healthy. The table defining our weight is shown below.
A BMI of under 18.5 indicates that you are underweight. This may make your more prone to ailments, since immune response will be on the low side due to the low body mass. You should try to gain a little weight. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 indicates you have a healthy weight for your height and you should maintain this. A BMI of 25-29.9 indicates you are slightly overweight and you are advised to lose some. A BMI of over 30 indicates you are heavily overweight; your health may be at risk if you do not lose weight. If weight loss is too difficult to achieve, consult your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian for advice.
Remember that the basic principle of controlling weight is monitoring your diet and what you eat in a given day. If you consume more calories than you use for daily activities, you will gain some surplus and vice versa; if you use up more calories than you eat, either through exercise or by dieting, weight will decrease. It sounds simple, but in daily life it is easy to deviate from the plan, so stay disciplined.
Lead an active lifestyle
Active lifestyle in terms of exercise means doing a vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes a day. Before and after exercise, stretch body and muscles to prepare flexibility for the activity (which we call the warm-up and cool down). If you can’t exercise, don’t worry, you can still be active by having good movement, such as sitting down less and walking longer, say for over 40-minute intervals. Use the stairs instead of elevator if possible. Have lunch outside the office and take a walk after lunch for improved digestion.
The benefits of having an active lifestyle with regular exercise include the following:
• Increasing the efficiency of heart activity and strengthening the heart.
• Decreasing the resistance of the peripheral blood vessels, thus improving blood flow and decreasing numbness in the extremities.
• Decreasing systolic blood pressure, preventing hypertension.
• Reducing body fat, thus also lowering weight.
• Increasing good fat, or high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC), providing more protection from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
• Increasing the sensitivity of lipid cells and muscles to insulin, improving metabolism.
• Improving flexibility and movement of muscles and joints.
• Strengthening the muscles.
• Improving the coordination of organs designed for movement, thus improving balance and posture.
• Decreasing the rate of bone mass loss.
• Increasing blood flow to the brain.
• Inducing the brain to release endorphins, improving mood and mental health.
Get an annual check-up
It is strongly recommended for adults 25 years of age and up to undergo an annual check-up. The reason is that physically, our body reaches its maximum body strength at the age of 30. After that, body health tends to decrease, therefore we should prepare ourselves, and a physical check-up is the best tool to warn us of any deviation to our health.
A basic annual check-up covers the general physical examination (height and weight, BMI etc.), eyesight, lung X-ray, urine test and blood test to check levels of blood glucose and lipid profile including cholesterol, triglycerides (TG), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). It can also provide a snapshot of liver and kidney efficiency and general health status. Adult women should undergo a normal gynaecological check-up as well as a mammogram. Men over 50 are strongly recommended to undergo prostate gland testing (PSA). And both genders over 50 should also check for liver and colon cancers, since these are more common in the ageing population. Basic testing in a private hospital will not cost more than 8,000 baht, and as an annual activity is worth doing, since the report can alert you to a trigger or deviation that might lead to a serious health problem.
You have seen that in this issue, I have talked about three basic points on how to enjoy a better quality of life as we age. In the next issue, I will give you more information on the food and supplements than can help us get the best out of life. Stay tuned!