September was Healthy Aging month, an annual observance which is reaffirmation that, regardless of age, no one is getting younger and we are, (hopefully) as the old expression goes “aging gracefully.”
For the second year in a row, America’s life expectancy declined to 76.1 years, the lowest since 1996. The two year drop of 2.7 years is the largest decline in 100 years. Factors included in the decline range from COVID-19 to accidental deaths, drug overdoses and an unhealthy lifestyle.
On the other hand, 97,000 Americans have achieved the distinction of being centenarians, a term denoting more than 100 years in age, the most of any nation on earth. Men should take note that 85 percent of centenarians are women.
In a recent interview, a 105-year old farmer in Minnesota attributed his longevity to maintaining an active mind and body.
As a healthcare professional, I am often asked for an opinion on healthy living. Although some may say genetics is the ultimate factor in our longevity, we can all slow potential medical problems by mere changes in lifestyle. So, if cardiovascular issues are common in your family tree, it should be a warning sign that exercise and healthy eating habits may reduce the chances of that occurring to you.
Driving to work early each morning, it is encouraging to observe Hutchonians starting their day with a brisk walk. And, in my trips to a local gym it is apparent that more people are starting their day with a workout. There are days I almost want to say “power to you and keep it up.”
Medical journals are unanimous in stating smart food choices, a good night’s sleep of seven to nine hours, avoidance of tobacco products and no more than a moderation consumption of alcohol are important factors in longevity.
Many non-consumption factors that are often overlooked deal with the mind and include everything from adaptability to change, maintaining a sense of humor, determination, optimism, and maintaining social relationships.
It is never too late to take control of your health; so, let’s all make the commitment to do so today and by next September we will be reaping the benefits of a healthier and happier life.
BY KEN JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF HUTCHINSON REGIONAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM