21st century healthcare and aging
What was the greatest gift to healthcare in the 20th Century? Nobel laureate Gary Becker suggests it is the extending of the human lifespan – anti-aging – and he has a point.
Go back 100 years
In 1900, the expected lifespan in the western world was 45 years. In 2000 it had extended by two thirds – to 75 years. Aging has ‘come of age’, so to speak.
In 1900, birth was a very dangerous business; one in every ten babies – and about the same number of mothers – died during, or soon after, childbirth. Today, the comparable figures for the West are near zero.
In those distant days 100 years ago, death was mainly caused by matters beyond our control. If you survived the risks of childbirth, fatal infections were common. Until the discovery of Penicillin in the late 1920’s, there was little protection against diphtheria, polio, syphilis and tuberculosis. Even influenza was frequently a killer.
Life expectation was still increasing slowly for many people.
The Industrial Revolution meant that by 1900, most people lived in towns. Any connections with country knowledge – such as the herbal tradition – had largely been lost.
Today – death is habit related
In the 21st century, however, the causes of death are mainly related to our habits and behaviours.
So aging is directly affected by our habits.
- Over-consumption of fats and non-nutritious (junk) food
- Insufficient exercise
- Overdoses of recreational drugs
- Drunk driving
The fact that most people contribute to their own early death through their bad habits could be a bit depressing …. but hold on – turn it around, and you can say:
A long, healthy life is within your conscious control!
YES – a long, healthy life really is YOURS for the choosing – by changing your habits! You can affect your own aging.
Of course, there is the odd person who is going to fall under a bus! But for the majority, you really can choose to live a long and healthy life –
- You are willing to change your habits!
- You can do this progressively, and gradually over a period of years.
You already know it makes sense
If you are reading this article, you are already interested in natural healthcare to a greater or lesser degree.
So, I am going to appeal to those of you who know it makes sense to change your habits – but are having some trouble!
Three important points to help you change from unhealthy habits, to healthy habits….
1. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect in your approach to healthcare.
In other words – don’t criticise yourself for failing to change. This is a common habit which is very destructive for you – so it is unhealthy. Just say to yourself the affirmation: “I am always always doing the best I can for my health, in the situation in which I find myself, considering the resources I have at my disposal.”
This is a great belief which I would recommend you adopt. If you say it over and over many times over the next couple of months, it will get into your subconscious and become your own. Keep it up, and this time next year you will believe it 100%! Try it – you may be pleasantly surprised.
The reason this is such a good belief is that it takes away guilt.
But isn’t some guilt good? I don’t think so. The problem with guilt is, if you beat yourself up for a bad habit, and then pile guilt on top of that – you double the negative effect on yourself. This makes it much harder to deal with the original problem.
Instead, accept that you will never be perfect (which is obviously true); and accept that you are going to try your hardest to do things a tiny bit better each day.
Think it through – improving things just a tiny bit better each day adds up to a lot over the course of a month, or a year. But you must do that tiny bit each day – however tiny it may be.
Be kind to yourself – you’re doing the best you can!
2. Adopt some easy health habits first.
All things in their own time. Trying hard to change something which is difficult for you may be counter-productive. Try and change the easy things first. Just keep it in mind that you want to change the tougher things when the time is right. That time will arrive. As long as you are moving forward – regularly changing a bad habit for a better one – however small it may be – you can relax and know you’re doing well.
‘When the time arrives’ means that a new health habit which seems very, very hard now will, at some time in the future, be much easier. Wait confidently for this time to arrive – and it will. It’s the way life works. Be patient, and wait. Until then, concentrate on improvements which come more easily.
This patient attitude will make you more and more confident in your approach to healthcare – and it will make you happier in life – very good for your health! 🙂
Focus on: ‘Small and consistent change’ – a good way to go.
3. Associate with people who have the healthy habits you would like.
It’s no good knocking around regularly with people who have many habits which are bad for health.
You are affected tremendously by the people who you see regularly. Don’t let them drag you down! You need to be with people who encourage you to be healthy.
It may seem like a wrench to part from people who you are used to being with – but remember – a long, healthy life is all about changing your habits. Who you see regularly is largely a matter of habit. You can get used to negative comments of others – and because you get used to them, fail to see the negative effect they’re having on you.
You don’t have to change suddenly – just try seeing a bit less of people who discourage your new, healthy habits, and a bit more of people who encourage them. Try it out for a while – and see which you prefer. Question everything and make your own mind up afresh.
Don’t be a victim of old habits!
What about my partner – my ‘significant other’?
If your partner is discouraging of your efforts to enhance your life, it is more tricky! Similarly with family – parents, brothers, sisters and children. One thing is certain – you can’t make others change. You can only change yourself, and help others if they want it.
If a close family member is frequently criticising you, you have to look on it as an opportunity to help you to deal with criticism. This is the only attitude I know which will enable you to deal with this type of situation in a positive way, and emerge from it stronger.
Choose positive people
This thought might help: Why deprive other more positive, helpful people of the benefit of your fine company, because you are in the habit of spending too much of your time with negative people? If you spend just a little more time with positive people you, and they, will benefit.
Don’t forget you have a free choice
Remember – when you change a habit, you are just trying out a new way of doing things. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from consciously choosing to go back to your previous way, if you realise you preferred it.
You always have the choice. Trying out a new habit simply gives you more choices. If you really don’t like it – change back again.
So what do you want to change?
Whichever habit you want to change – the approach is similar. But which ones do you want to focus on? Some of the common ones are:
- Smoking cigarettes, or taking other addictive/recreational drugs
- Over eating – or over-indulgence in certain types of food
- Lack of exercise
These habits will be focused on further on in this article.
Self improvement in the 21st century
To accept our increasing age (yes – we are going to live longer!) I think we need to focus on self-improvement.
So, if bad habits condemn us to an early death – what can we do to change these bad habits to good ones? And which are the most important ones to change?
This is where ‘self improvement’ kicks in. We can change our attitudes to health slowly but surely.
All at once – or a little bit at a time?
For the dynamic few, the approach of: “I will change now” can work well!
But let’s be realistic! For most of us, it is best to start off with small changes which we can more easily stick to.
For this to work, it is essential to keep doing what you start. So don’t aim unrealistically high; try to improve habits which are not too tough, at first. Save the trickier ones to change later!
Also, you really need the support of sympathetic friends and acquaintances. You certainly have our support at Alternative HealthZine.
It is also worth looking for discussion groups or newsgroups who would be supportive for you.
The idea of sitting down and planning may wrankle for some. But, for most people, it is true that;
‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail’
The number one thing to do for most people is to plan your approach to changing habits.
Feelings vs. Habits
You just cannot possibly get anywhere consistently without planning. You just cannot wait until you ‘feel like it’ before you get started – that approach is useful sometimes; but it cannot bring you what you really want consistently. You have to start doing things in spite of your feelings, rather than waiting until you ‘feel like it’.
Try something new
Again, some may say ‘I don’t work like that – I have to feel right first’. Well – changing habits is all about trying new ways of doing things. Only then can you see if they work. If they do – keep them up; If they don’t – change them again. You are in control – completely. But you have to try out different approaches to life if you want your life to change and improve. You can always change back if things don’t work out. One important key to good mental and physical health is to develop flexibility, and not be afraid to try something new.
Take time to make a plan
It only needs to take a few minutes a day to start planning. Just jot down half a dozen simple habits you could change. Or six small new habits to introduce, which would improve your health.
Here are a few suggestions for your plan:
- Drink a litre of water a day
- Chew your food better every time you eat – as a guide, chew until the food is liquid
- Cut out tea/coffee – or reduce by a specified amount
- Cut out/reduce the amount of meat eaten
- Cut out/reduce starchy food eaten
- Increase the proportion of fruit/non-starchy vegetables in your diet – it can usefully be up to 80%!
- Have some salad with every meal
- Have 2/3/4 pieces of fruit a day (unless fruit doesn’t suit you, obviously)
- Stop eating BEFORE you actually feel full. Leave space in your stomach for digestion! You don’t have to feel ‘stuffed’ before you stop!
- Don’t eat when you’re not hungry – do something else if you need to take your mind off it. Go for a run; walk around; play a game; have a shower; clean something!
- Take a 1/2/3 day fruit-juice fast once a month. (On these days, drink only fruit juice all day – it’s cleansing for the system. Preferably, do this when you can be fairly relaxed)
- Drink herbal teas every day
- Drink Motherwort tea. An old herbal (book of herbs) says “Drink Motherwort tea and live to be a source of grief to waiting heirs”! Motherwort has the reputation not only of being great for women, and for the heart, but a general tonic too!
- Stop work earlier 1/2/3/4/5 times week
- Have regular relaxation periods 1/2/3 times a day
- Spend more time regularly with spouse/family
- Crash out of a ‘past-its-sell-by-date’ relationship
- Spend more time socialising
- Start that course of alternative therapy you’ve been meaning to – massage, reflexology, acupuncture, homoeopathy
- Take time off regularly – for yourself (this is for workaholics!)
- Increase the amount of time doing productive work (this is for couch potatoes!)
- Spend 5 mintues a day planning what you want (this is if you’re not sure what you are…!)
- Cut down/stop smoking
- Cut down alcohol
- Get exercise every week
- Learn something new; increase your skills. Study at ‘night school’; learn typing, shorthand (‘Teeline’ is fast to learn!), computing/internet, etc etc. Is there something you’ve been meaning to find the time to begin? Now may be the time!
- Read that book! Or a book each week, or month
- Reduce TV time
- Do more creative things – write, art, music, dance, singing, design a website, planning your life (yes – planning is very creative)
- Spend more time on spiritual pursuits – whatever that means for you. If it means little – then perhaps you could spend more time looking for the spiritual in life!
Searching for the inner you is personal. If you cannot relate to this, my suggestion is: keep questioning.
All these good habits will have a very beneficial effect on your health – especially if they become ingrained. They will help you to live life to the full, and your health will certainly benefit.
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