(Health Secrets) What does aging gracefully mean to you? For some of us, aging gracefully is not much different than living life as it has always been — daily work to survive. Some put emphasis on finding spiritual meaning. For others, aging gracefully means an acceptance of decline, and sitting down to finally have a chance to rest after a lifetime of putting others ahead of themselves. Still others focus on family and caring for grandchildren, or pursue dreams to travel and try new activities. However you view aging gracefully, the last third of life brings many physical challenges. Activities we once took for granted may not flow as smoothly as they once did, but with a little effort, most of us should be fully functional well into the 90s or beyond.
The difference between an effective aging lifestyle and feeling limited by aging is knowledge and follow-through. We now know that those individuals who said, “The brain is like a muscle—use it or loose it,” were actually right. We have also learned that body-mind strategies can help maintain our vitality as we age.
Neuroplasticity is the word used to describe this brain attribute. The brain and nervous system have the capacity for adaptation or regeneration. The brain has a natural ability to form new connections in order to compensate for injury or changes in one’s environment.
Current questions being researched concern the manner in which the brain will modify its structure and function throughout one’s lifetime. Recent research has identified the extensiveness of experience-dependent alterations that take place in the brain.
“…we were oblivious to our enormous creative capabilities,” says author Dr. Helena Popovic, “We had no idea that our brains were changing in response to our actions and attitudes, every day of our lives. So we unconsciously and randomly shaped our brains and our latter years because we believed we had an immutable brain that was at the mercy of our genes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The human brain is continually altering its structure, cell number, circuitry and chemistry as a direct result of everything we do, experience, think and believe.”
The implications of neuroplasticity are enormous: we have the ability to keep our brains sharp, effective and capable of learning new skills well into our 90s, if we protect our brains from damaging habits and give them ongoing stimulation and appropriate fuel.
“As little as three hours a week of brisk walking has been shown to halt, and even reverse, the brain atrophy (shrinkage) that starts in a person’s forties, especially in the regions responsible for memory and higher cognition. Exercise increases the brain’s volume of gray matter (actual neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons)…it is also important to maintain emotional connections. Not only with ourselves, to have self-confidence and self-esteem, but also with our family our friends…. Sleep and overall health conditions are other factors that also matter”, says Dr. Popovic.
To take Dr Popovic’s advice we need to maintain our activity level. This means we need to accept that as we age, falls are a symptom telling us there is something in our life style we need to address. We should always start with the easiest lifestyle changes such as removing tripping hazards in the home (remove loose wires and throw rugs) and having a yearly vision exam. As we live in our bodies we accommodate to them and over time we do not consider that there might actually be something we can do to improve our situation.
Proprioception is a neurological feedback process between the brain, sensory organs and muscles. As our muscles, tendons, joints, and inner ear detect motion and our body’s position in space, we respond to the physical environment. The body’s awareness of posture, movement, equilibrium, position, weight, and resistance of objects can be adversely impacted by diseases, alcohol, medication, hormone imbalance or deficiencies, and previous injuries.
Fall-related injuries, such as hip fracture, can have a serious impact on life. If you fall, it could limit your activities or make it impossible to live independently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that roughly more than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older fall each year. In this age group falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths. Falls are not a normal part of aging. Most falls are preventable. As we age we must develop a wellness lifestyle that includes adequate exercise, and a review of our living environment for hazards.
Whatever our age the desire to be independent and self-sufficient is human nature. Physical activities help us stay independent. Although we do lose muscle as we age if we are not using bioidentical hormones, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. Strength and balance exercises can be designed for you by a physical therapist who will address the body’s awareness of posture, movement, equilibrium, position, weight, and resistance of objects.
Aging Gracefully is about creating a wellness lifestyle tailored to you. There is no one-size-fits-all wellness lifestyle because we are all unique. The difference between an effective aging lifestyle and feeling limited by aging is the knowledge you accumulate to deal with your circumstances Being knowledgeable gives you the personal power to know what is right for you, and opens new opportunities for a happier, healthier life.
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Published with permission from AlignLife. Original article link is here.