Prior to my recent three-year hiatus, I authored the Body Shop column in The Courier Journal for 42 consecutive years. It was always a labor of love, and I am thankful and blessed to be back. I’m also blessed to have reached another milestone in my life as 75-years ago on Sept. 10, 1946, I was born in Pittsburgh. Writing my column again is a wonderful birthday present.
Speaking of folks in their 70s, one of my former columns discussed a survey that was conducted among 70-year-olds, asking them if they hoped to live to be 100. To my surprise, the vast majority of respondents proclaimed that they couldn’t bear to think of living another 30-years, given the poor quality of their life at age 70.
In that column, I took issue with the gloomy outlook of respondents to the survey and touted the “golden years,” waxing poetic about how grateful I am, and how much better my life is now than it was way back when. Again, I was surprised, but this time it was because folks who responded pounded me for being naïve and ignoring the assaults heaped upon us by old age, beginning with aches and pains, the litany of prescription drugs, the infirmity of lost mobility, etc.
My first thought was, gee, I really blew that one. Then, I rationalized and told myself that their quality of life would be much improved if they took better care of themselves by exercising regularly, healthy eating, and watching their weight. If they did these things, they would do as I’m doing, gliding easily into the latter stages of life, and enjoying the golden years.
Lesson # 1: Pride goeth before a fall
A major life lesson I should have learned along the way is that when my arrogance gets the better of me, the Good Lord has a way of attracting my attention, and believe me, it’s not pretty. So, how has aging intervened in my life recently to teach me a lesson I so richly deserve?
I have always been smug about not needing to take any prescription medications. Over the past few years, even though my diet has been consistently very healthy, my total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind that clogs arteries) crept up and were no longer stellar and fodder for bragging rights. In response, my doctor, Keith Krawiec, who, thankfully, is very preventive oriented and really on top of things, convinced me to begin taking a low dose of a statin drug.
Score one for aging.
I used to be a good sleeper, but a few years ago I noticed that my sleep was not deep nor satisfying. In addition, despite my regular intensive workouts, my muscle mass was dwindling at an alarming rate. I suspected it might have something to do with my testosterone level, so I had it checked. Sure enough, my levels were so low, they weren’t even in the normal range. From there, I started on a low dose of prescription testosterone.
Another score for aging.
You see the trend here. Eventually, aging slapped me around and grabbed my attention.
Want more? OK, here are two more embarrassing admissions. As an elder, my immune system isn’t what it used to be, and when we got a new hot tub, I immediately came down with a severe and stubborn case of folliculitis, an infection of one or more of the pockets from which hair grows. More prescription drugs and another score for aging.
And, speaking of aches and pains, here is the ultimate zinger. Just a few weeks ago, I had complete right hip replacement surgery.
Yes, the Golden Years can be great, but I now humbly admit that no matter who you are or what you do, aging will exact a price. And if the price is too great, I now understand that it makes sense to not want to live to be 100.
Lesson # 2: When it comes to health issues, listen to your wife
Science supports Lesson # 2. Here’s why. I tell my students at Hanover College that as we mapped out the human genome (our complete set of genes that provide genetic instructions), we discovered a new “health gene,” and each of us has one of two subtypes of this gene. One subtype is common sense, quite prevalent among females. The other subtype is denial, overwhelmingly present in us males.
For the past three years, I have been nursing my right hip, knowing it was getting progressively worse. In watching me grimace in pain as I dragged my leg around the house, my wife, on a few thousand occasions, suggested “gently” that I have someone look at it.
“Naw, I can manage it.”
But it had become obvious, even to me, that I had to do something and do it now. Unfortunately, I had two major obstacles to overcome. First, in researching my issue, I learned that the source of the problem could be from nerves in my lower back, or it could be in the hip joint itself. This had to be determined as a first step. Second, the timing was a huge problem. When I finally decided I had to do something, it was late July, and I start teaching at Hanover College on Aug. 30.
That gave me about five weeks to get an appointment with a busy back specialist, and possibly rule out a back problem. If it’s not my back, then I needed to get an appointment with a busy hip surgeon, schedule surgery (likely a long waiting list), get cleared for anesthesia by seeing another doc for an EKG and blood tests, and, of course, rehabbing after surgery to the point that would allow me to drive my 60-mile one-way commute to Hanover. To get all this done in time would take a miracle.
Why didn’t I listen to my wife and do something years ago and avoid the ridiculous situation I found myself in?
The answer in one word: denial.
Stay tuned to see how I dealt with that issue next week.
Reach Bryant Stamford, a professor of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Hanover College, at [email protected]