Monday, February 21, 2011

Tips on Aging Gracefully

My dear wife recently turned thirty, finally joining the 30-something club. She had been looking forward to the momentous birthday for sometime, eagerly looking to turn the big three-oh.

I think most of my friends and colleagues who are well into their 30s or 40s thought it was endearing at how excited she was to step into the beginning of her fourth decade; meanwhile, the rest of us are all starting to sweat a little as we approach our next "big" birthday.

There are definitely physical changes that we notice as we get deeper into our thirties. Strange little cues from our body telling us that it is actually mortal, and, at least physically, we are past our peak.

For the first time, you notice you have to put in more effort to get the same outcome. To run or play sports as hard as you did in your teens and twenties, you have to monitor and tweak your diet, hit the gym regularly and keep an eye on your stress levels to maintain your lung capacity and strength. In your earlier years, a Big Mac meal and an exercise routine that only worked your thumbs on Nintendo would do to keep you running around for hours. Keep in mind that most professional athletes retire in their mid- to late- thirties.

And what is up with hair as we age? Sure, hair loss is well-known as well as a random influx of white hairs; but, in a weird type of second coming of puberty, random hair growth pops up in new places...but all the wrong places! Eyebrows, back, nostrils...ears?? Come on, give us a break.

Of course, we also start to notice the development of fine lines and wrinkles on our face, random new aches and pains, and start keeping count of our daily sodium or fibre or protein or whatever it might be to balance out your genetic predispositions.

Going to the doctor may mean a prescription for your ailments or the start of regularly scheduled and highly undesirable testing method (mammograms, prostate exams, colonoscopies).

The one thing I have noticed from patients in my practice, who teach me something new and inspire me on a daily basis, is how to age gracefully. I can almost guarantee that any patient whose date of birth surprises me incorporates exercise very regularly. The majority of the time this is accompanied by a relatively healthy diet. I use these extraordinary people as models for prevention for others and now, for myself.

Rules to live by as all of us human beings age together in the same speed, but at different paces:

  1. Know your genetic susceptibilities, and take extra precautions to thwart them.
  2. EXERCISE!! This means at age-relative high intensities and activities that are enjoyable to you, at least 3x/week, with other moderate daily exercise in-between.
  3. A diet chock-full of naturally occurring anti-aging whole foods and deplete of pro-inflammatory (re: processed) foods.
  4. Maintain a balanced life, and keep an eye on your stress levels (big-time age-accelerators).
  5. Got a nagging problem...GET IT CHECKED OUT! (yes, guys, I'm talking to you)
  6. Be cautious about settling for prescription medication that may be avoidable by lifestyle/diet modifications (see #2-#4). Once you get on the medication bandwagon, it's difficult to get out. Make sure to talk to your family doc or a licensed naturopath to make a fully informed decision that works for you.
  7. Always keep an eye on your piss and poops...they are great indicators of what is going on inside your body.
  8. Don't forget the basics: Get a good sleep and drink water regularly.
  9. Roll with the punches of Father Time; acceptance of aging and finding humour in it definitely helps ease the inevitable.

Oh, and always keep in mind that although aging may be noticeable in physical decline, boy is it made up for in expanding knowledge and experience.

The ear hairs sure don't make me look forward to getting older, but wisdom certainly is appealing.

Happy Family Day!!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's SooOooo Cold!! Beat the February Blues Now.

Last year, around this time, we were doing this (Tulum, Mayan Riviera, Mexico):

Today, this is what our local dog park looks like (Riverdale Park, Toronto):

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!! :(:(  I'm from Calgary, Alberta so I know I should be used to the cold but I'm sooo not!!  When it snows in Calgary, I know this just means that we are going to have an awesome ski weekend in Toronto, this much snow means that everyone will lock themselves at home for the weekend.  So sad.  So sad.

Even though I'm Korean and my very Korean mom, grandma and aunts have brainwashed me into believing that tanning my skin is the equivalent of selling my soul to Satan himself, I still live for basking in the wonderful, glorious rays of direct beautiful sunshine (thank heavens for Sprout Botanicals SPF 30 sunscreen :)).  Makoto and I worship the sun and we are definitely summer people.  So, it's no surprise that we become a taaaaaaaaaaaaaad bit miserable in February. 

This year, I was determined to not get hit by the usual February blues.  Here are some things we did to prevent ourselves from feeling the effects of the dark, cold winter days of our Canadian winters:

1.  Vitamin D - we both take Vitamin D religiously (make sure to see your Naturopath or GP to make sure that you are on a correct dose).  Winter time is a busy time for us at the clinic so that means it's dark outside by the time we get home.  No sunshine for poor Aileen and Makoto :(  When the weather is nice, we go for a coffee break at the park across the street from our office but there is no way I'm even going to pretend to enjoy hanging out in the park when I'm freezing my buns off.  Since we are not getting the usual dose of natural Vitamin D production that we would in the summer, we supplement with a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement.

2.  Bundle up! - It's amazing how you can actually enjoy the winter when you're dressed appropriately.  Invest in a great down jacket, earmuffs, scarf and mitts and get out and enjoy the winter!  We try to go for a walk around Toronto with a yummy warm cappuccino/tea/hot chocolate on the weekends instead of staying holed up in our house and cursing the snow. 

3.  Cut the carbs - try cutting your carb intake by even just 50g per day.  The last thing you need when you're less active and feeling glum is forcing your body to regulate another influx of excess carbs. 

4.  Stay active - I can't stress enough how important it is to get some constant activity all throughout the winter.  We tend to be less active in the winter (hey....I totally understand.....I make Makoto drive us to the office on cold's a 10min walk from our front door to the office :(...SHAME) so that means we have to make an extra effort to get to the gym.  Make sure to incorporate cardio 2-3 times a week to boost your circulation and get your blood pumping. 

5.  Do things that you LOVE - whether it's going for a facial at your favorite spa, taking that language or art class that you've always wanted to or just roasting a yummy chicken and inviting friends over for dinner and gossip......don't let the cold weather interrupt your life!!

I didn't have my annual February breakdown this year (the one where I start packing our belongings...promising that we will forever move to a warm location and never endure another cold, dark and gloomy winter day ever again) and instead embraced this refrigerator that we call Canada, eh!!
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