If I Could Give You Anything To Start Your Healthy Lifestyle, Here’s What It Would Be…

Looking back and reflecting on my love for healthy living, what is the one thing that could be deemed the prime mover?

I don’t know that sharing this with you will make a difference in your life; but then, I don’t know that it won’t. And it’s easy for you to skip past these observations if you find them of no use, so I won’t feel guilty about wasting your time.

If these words can move you to be a healthier you, I’ll be a happier me.

This body that is me has always been a source of wonderment and fascination. From the complex issues of mind/body interaction, to the amazing intricacies of the cellular machines which comprise our corporeal reality; I am in awe.

I think, therefore I move. I touch and my brain signals that I feel. Soundwaves move a membrane in my ears causing tiny hairs to transfer a signal to my brain, and the glorious laughter of a little child stirs my heart.

I enjoy these capacities to feel and experience life and I feel they are worth caring for. I do not worship this body. And whatever your religious beliefs and understandings; or skepticism thereof, there is nothing stopping you from being as amazed as l.

Amazement, for me, has led to the act of caring for and appreciating what I see as something precious and transitory–my good health.

I wish for you this same amazement…or any other positive emotion that just might be your prime mover.

To Your Healthy Lifestyle,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Know Your Numbers: Ignorance and Inaction Can Cause Serious Side Effects

You can certainly make some guesses about your health based on what you see in the mirror. And the daily feedback your body gives you is, indeed, a helpful status indicator.

But nothing compares to plotting the course of your wellbeing using the numbers of your personal chemistry.

I have chosen to share my health information with you in the hope that you will become proactive about your future. You, however, must react to your own unique set of circumstances.

For the past thirty years, the measurements included in this basic battery of tests have been my guide posts. Let’s take a look at them, and I’ll share with you my personal decisions regarding recommendations given to me over the years.

Never have I been prescribed medication to treat a chronic condition, although I have been advised in the past to consider it with regard to blood pressure and cholesterol. Being prescription free and healthy at 65 puts me in the company of a very small minority.

By way of background, my father and mother were both on medication for blood pressure and cholesterol. In spite of strict dieting and being an avid and dedicated swimmer, Mom had continued cholesterol problems even while on medication. My father had a quadruple bypass in his fifties and a second heart surgery before he died in his seventies. The genetic deck was stacked against me regarding the most troublesome health issues of the day. The expectation, as a young man, was that these same cholesterol and blood pressure problems would be mine by way of inherited tendencies.

Serious research done while in college ingrained in me a respect for the power of pharmaceuticals–both the benefits, and the inevitable side effects. My approach to good health became the pursuit of what the body could do best on its own first–fortified with the benefits of exercise, nutrition, recuperation, and a calm spirit.

Let’s look at the numbers:

1. Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol levels above 200 typically raised concern on the part of my doctors, with drug recommendations following. I was advised years ago, with my level at 230, to be on medication. I chose to continue doing what I was doing and felt comfortable with my situation. Data have been available for years regarding the numerous controversies surrounding these drugs, and I made my choices accordingly, keeping my opinions to myself. In later years, under a different primary care physician, I was advised that the concern over cholesterol at a 220-230 level was mitigated by the HDL/LDL ratio and my commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Finally, a doctor who felt the way I did about my wellbeing.

2. Blood Pressure

For many years, BP hovered in the 130/85 range – – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. When advised to bring the numbers down with drugs, I kept on course without them. The goal was to remain heart healthy without drugs beyond the age at which my father had his first quadruple bypass.

I succeeded.

3. Blood Glucose Levels

This has been the biggest surprise to me. You can readily see that it is borderline healthy. Even though I pay close attention to sugar and carbohydrate intake, the numbers are revealing. My first takeaway was, “What would it be if I wasn’t so careful?” By all outward appearances–my weight, BMI, exercise level, food consumption –you’d think that blood glucose levels would be toward the lower limits. Looking in the mirror would make me think that there’s no hint of a reason to be concerned.

In this case, however, the mirror is blatantly misleading.

Summary and Conclusions

The decisions you make about your health are the most personal and important that you will make. I am not recommending that you make the decisions that I made, but that you make the best decisions for yourself, armed with the best information you can have, and understanding your own commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Making decisions based on a few pieces of the puzzle can lead you in the wrong direction. I had always thought, based on my total profile, that taking drugs for either my cholesterol or blood pressure would have created issues with side effects more devastating than the slightly elevated risk posed by being at the edge of normal.

There is no doubt whatsoever that America’s treatment of choice for practically all ailments is some sort of pharmaceutical. We can’t blame this situation on the industry, as much as we’d like to. You must take responsibility for your own health–each and every day with the lifestyle decisions that you make.

The journey of good health is not an easy one. Along the way, if you’ll make the effort to incorporate more healthy responses and less dependence on others making your decisions, you will be glad you did.

I promise!

Steven Siemons
5/18/16 Research Update:
“…heightened blood pressure was associated with a 62 per cent higher risk of vascular dementia between the ages of 30-50.”
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160518120124.htm

5/11/16 Research Update: Has Good Cholesterol Been Hyped? :
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160510165110.htm

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

For Balance, Bones, And Belonging– Tai Chi and Seniors Are Perfect Together!

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Many years ago, while experiencing the unique and beautiful city of San Francisco, I happened upon a sight that, to this day, brings a smile to my face.

It was about eight in the morning, on a foggy, cool Saturday. As I ambled along, turning a corner, I headed down a quaint, short street that angled into another. In the distance appeared, through the hovering mist, a large group of people in a small neighborhood park, all moving in perfectly synchronized slow motion. As I neared, the grayed hair and wrinkled faces came into focus. I was captivated by the beauty of the flowing motion of these unusually agile seniors as they practiced their Tai Chi.

This I have never forgotten.

These are some of the benefits they experienced on that still and tranquil Saturday morning.

Hip Strengthening and Development     It may be difficult for you to see how this is so, if you were to view a video on You Tube. What happens during the movements is a subtle shift in weight from one leg to the other. It’s a constant shifting of body weight and its benefits are many. Each time the foot is moved forward, backward, or to the side, positive stresses are placed on critical joints. Because these movements are performed so slowly, and within your capabilities, it is ideal for strengthening the vital hip-joint and the bones involved. Remember, hip strength and flexibility are critical because they form the core of your body movement. It is also the most vulnerable area when you slip and fall.
Balance Improvement     With each movement involving any type of pivot, or extension of arms or legs, your brain has to do a lot of work processing the incoming signals to keep you balanced. It, then, instantly directs all the other muscles used in stabilizing your body to keep you from falling. Tai Chi is excellent for improving balance.
Coordination Development     Don’t let the slow pace fool you. To achieve the beautiful, flowing movements exhibited by the instructor takes much practice. You will absolutely improve your coordination.
Breathing Coordination     Breathing properly involves focus and control. This is also an important component of relaxation techniques. The systematic and regular breathing will help you to relax. Efficient and effective breathing results in better oxygenation of the body, which, in itself, has numerous positive side effects.
Greater Body Awareness     This is your ability to sense and understand the feedback that your body is giving you. This body awareness becomes an important guide for you as you begin to push beyond your normal limits. With Tai Chi, those limits are approached gently and with confidence. That’s important because an injury at this stage presents more difficulties than in earlier years.
Increased Strength     Primarily in the body center and legs, as discussed above; but critically important. Because of the slow pace of movement, you’ll definitely get a shoulder workout. The important emphasis on posture is not to be minimized, either. All these muscles involved will be summoned to perform, if the forms are to manifest their inherent beauty.
Increased Range of Motion      One of my favorite things about Tai Chi is the gentle movement of the joints. It offers the practitioner a safe and effective way to increase mobility and range. Why do I continually focus on this? If you have trouble reaching over your head, how can you safely function in the kitchen? If your knees are stiff, every staircase is an obstacle course. You need your range of motion for your personal safety and independence.
Memory Improvement
The movements are done in a specific progression. Every move and every important point of the move must be learned and memorized. They are actually movements of self defense, but have the appearance of a slow motion ballet performance. Your learning of their sequence and subtle nuances of movement is a great brain exercise!

Why You Need An Instructor

There are many excellent videos about Tai Chi on You Tube showing all the movements with explanations. You could certainly try the ‘do it yourself’ method. Here’s the problem that won’t be obvious to you if you’ve never been coached in an athletic endeavor before: you will not know when your form is incorrect. As well as you may be able to imitate the motions on the screen in front of you, it is not possible for you to see the flaws in your movement and stance unless they are grossly wrong. Part of the benefit is gleaned from the emphasis on posture and alignment. You may not know that you’re slightly leaning or tilted because that’s what you always do. Yet, that’s what needs to be corrected. Learning anything the wrong way and continually practicing wrong technique is counter-productive. During the years that I studied Shotokan, even at the advanced level, the Sensei (teacher) would constantly correct my stance that was slightly off, or my timing that was wrong. The stances, the movements, and the philosophical understanding, are the essence of Tai Chi, and only a qualified instructor who is watching you can be sure that you are moving correctly and understanding the deeper concepts.

And last but not least...

From the data gleaned studying the societies with the longest lifespans, high on the list of important components is ‘belonging’… being a valued part of other people’s lives and receiving the same. Get involved and open yourself to others.

You will learn something from everyone, and you, indeed, have something special to share, as well.

That, in my opinion, is the defining difference between health and wellness.

To Your Health And Fitness Wellness  (As A Lifestyle),

More on Facebook:
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Steven

Excellent article for further enlightenment:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

Become a part of ‘Senior Fitness Issues And Ideas’–a Google+ Community, (even if you’re not a senior) and I will gladly answer your exercise and fitness questions personally!

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.