Benefits of Aging Well

Traditional Chinese (Oriental) medicine was passed down from master instructor to student.  Often, the best “ancient Chinese secrets” were untold until the master was on his death-bed, when he would tell his top disciple.  I imagine many times a surprise death left many secrets untold!  

I can’t wait to grow old.  We shun aging in American culture, but it should be respected.   Ever hear of the saying “old wise woman”?  It came from the fact that many women from ancient cultures died during childbirth.  If a woman made it into old age, she had surely knew some things beyond common knowledge.

It’s a common myth that we have to become decrepit when we age.  Have you ever seen an 80-year-old run a marathon?  I have.  What makes the difference between a healthy octogenarian  and one in a nursing home, on 13 medications?  Maybe it’s good / bad genes.  I prefer to liken it to an onion.  

Oh, Gawd.  Not another onion analogy.  

Yes.

Each unresolved health symptom becomes a layer.  

For example, you injure your ankle playing soccer in middle school (layer 1).  The bone heals, and the doctors pronounce it “cured.”  However, you now notice that it swells a little bit and is more prone to sprains (layer 2).  You quit playing soccer because of it.  You gain a little bit of weight (layer 3).  Now you have a wobbly ankle and more pressure on your knees, so they start hurting (layer 4).  

I would like to think that most people at this point would seek some help.  I think you would seek help.

However, MOST people would not seek help.  They would pop some Advil and keep going.  

Then the stomach problems start.  Maybe it’s black, tarry stools.  Or maybe just some excess stomach acid (layer 5).

Better take something for that.  Let’s try some Prilosec or Nexium.  These medications (which you couldn’t pay me to take) inhibit the release of digestive acid.  In order for your intestines to absorb calcium, your digestive tract needs to be slightly acidic.  So, layer 6 becomes a nice case of osteoporosis.  Or maybe disc problems in the back or neck.     

This whole story was purely an example.  I don’t know anyone whose history is like this exactly, but I do see similar patterns every day.  That’s why I always advocate getting a problem handled as soon as possible.  Don’t wait for another layer to develop.  Even slow, steady progress on a problem is better than ignoring it, or seeing when Mercury is not retrograde and the stars align to magically heal your body.  Well, sometimes I do that.  

One of my favorite aging jokes:  

Patient:  “Doctor, my right knee hurts.  I think it’s because I’m 58 years old.”  

Doctor:  “Does the other knee hurt?”  

Patient:  “No.”  

Doctor:  “How old is it?”

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