Pathways to Wisdom

January 22, 2017 Joe Brady

Healthy Aging in Mind, Body and Spirit

Healthy mind/body practices like Tai Chi, Qigong and yoga help reestablish the connection between mind and body and prevent many of the debilitations we see in aging. A review of 77 studies, found strong evidence that such practices improve cardiorespiratory fitness, physical function and bone health, balance and fall prevention, mental health and quality of life. Healthy Aging is crucial for the health of our health care system. Healthy fully functional people are money in the bank for all of society.

According to former Surgeon General C Everett Koop we can empty 1/2 of the hospitals and 1/2 of the nursing homes in the U.S. if we could just get people to eat right, get some exercise and quit smoking!

At 3.8 trillion dollars per year the United States is spending far more on health care than any other country in the world. Despite this our health care system is ranked 44th in the world for best/worst/most efficient health care (Bloomberg 2014) and life expectancies in the US are falling. We are currently 34th in the world for life expectancy. (World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency)

If we are spending more money than any other country on health care, how is it possible that others enjoy the benefits of longer, healthier lives more than we do?  The answer is simple we have become so addicted to high tech/big pharma, big dollar technological approaches that people no longer take care of themselves. Other countries that do better and live longer teach people to assume responsibility for their own health by living healthier lifestyles. While evidence from all over the world points to the wisdom contained in “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, our traditional health care system is racing away from prevention.  Why?  Health Care has become an industry and treating disease is simply more profitable than preventing it.

Claude Bernard vs Louis Pasteur

In the 1860’s, French physiologist, Claude Bernard, theorized that resistance to disease was determined partly by the health and internal strength of an individual to respond to germs in the environment.  For more than a century, Western medicine instead embraced and followed Louis Pasteur’s germ theory that disease could be traced to a single bacterium, virus or biochemical/genetic defect.  This choice allowed for great advances in medicine’s ability to poison and kill germs and cut out or replace defective parts – at enormous economic expense.

On his deathbed, Louis Pasteur conceded, “Bernard was right.”   He realized that the health of an individual depends upon the strength, fitness and nourishment of  a healthy body.  A strong mind and body are capable of fending off the onslaught of most (but not all) germs, viruses and other threats from the environment.  Even when infected with the same cold virus, only 18 out of every hundred people will actually get sick.  By emphasizing technology and neglecting lifestyle factors, we have driven health care costs to the point of absurdity.  By the year 2057, health care costs are expected to consume 100% of the U.S. gross national product.  It is time to reevaluate.

The Yellow Emperors Classic on Internal Medicine

The oldest medical book in the world is the 5000-year-old Yellow Emperor’s Classic..  The first line in the book states: “It is the inferior doctor who waits for the patient to become ill.  The superior doctor seeks to cultivate health and prevent disease.”  Today, this ancient advice is being spoon fed to our health care system, along with a hefty dose of economic reality.

Better Living Through Chemistry

With the completion of the genome project, the race is on to patent, control and profit from human biology.  We currently know of approximately 55,000 genes that make a protein to keep us alive and healthy.  Pharmaceutical companies, medical schools and Wall Street are tripping over themselves for the mining rights to all of them.  They intend to create a pill or machine to control every bodily function needed for life.  “Better living through chemistry” was the battle cry of Dr. Timothy Leary in the sixties and has become the battle cry of Wall Street in the year 2017.

Imagine what life will be like when we no longer have to exercise or eat right.  We will merely have to take 55,000 pills each day and let technology do for us what our ancestors had to do for themselves.  For example, take two of these 55,000 proteins – norepinephrine and serotonin- neurotransmitter hormones that Prozac, Zoloft, and all the tricyclic antidepressants try to mimic.  Our ancestors had to take a walk in the sunshine, fall in love, pray or meditate, laugh, and seek the company of others to be happy and release these hormones naturally.  With so many Americans currently taking antidepressants, we no longer have to laugh or fall in love to enjoy life.  We can just take drugs.  Dr. Leary would be proud.

Do not misunderstand these drugs can be lifesavers when used properly.  But when they are used to replace living naturally, they spell out a future of increasing economic dependency on technology.   An average cost of $40 a month for Prozac multiplied by 280 million people equals one hundred and thirty-five billion dollars annually.  Multiply by the other 54,998 possible drugs and, like turning lead into gold in the laboratory, this situation quickly becomes too expensive for society to maintain.

Taking Back Health Care From the corporations

lntervention in the aging process is the wave of the future.  Preventing and reversing many of the aging-related changes that cause disability, frailty and disease in older ages is now well within everyone’s grasp.   The decision of whether to pursue high tech expensive remedies or take back control of our own health is up to us.

Dr. Robert Butler, former head of The National Institute of Aging, said that “personal

power” (having control over one’s life) is one of the least talked about factors in living long.   As we get older, we need to gain a sense of mastery over our lives.   For life to make sense, we have to synthesize what we have learned through a lifetime of experiences.  Knowledge is power, but only if we act upon that knowledge do we claim the power of what we know as our own.  To achieve a healthy longevity, we need to use our knowledge to enhance control of our own lives not to become slaves to our own technology.  Our actions will set the example for generations to come.  The most valuable legacy we can leave future generations is to guide technology to serve people, not to let technology rule our lives .

Research into the effects of lifestyle factors and their effect on healthy genetic expression give us more control of our own health on a personal level.  The way we live our lives on a daily basis alters gene expression for good or for ill.  Learning the effects of diet, exercise and other factors offers new possibilities for empowering individuals to take control of their own health.

Health Education and Lifelong Learning

Increasing longevity has resulted in a increase in the need for well developed, education programs to teach older adults the skills needed to maintain healthy and independent lifestyles. Fortunately, other private institutions are picking up the banner of health education.  At Harvard University, Dartmouth, and the University of Denver, attempts are being made to provide higher education and programming for older adults – giving them the information generated in research so they can choose for themselves the level and type of intervention most appropriate in their own lives.  There is a movement in higher education to give science back to those people whose taxes paid for it.

The University of Denver’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute   offers a “back to school” opportunity for older adults to learn about those factors found to influence the way we age.

With something as complex as the issues involved in aging, the most appropriate and cost effective intervention is to allow people to learn to take control of their own health.  Whether we like it or not we are evolving into a longer living species. The only question remaining is “Do we maintain control of our lives or become increasingly dependent on our own technology?”  As Joseph Campbell put it, “Does technology control our lives or do we control the technology?”

The Oxford Study Lectures

Bridging the gap between world class research, and local community health promotion
The Institute seeks to be proactive in the community and connect with local health care providers and community groups. Entertaining and inspiring these lectures are designed to increase knowledge and motivation for participants to live a healthier more vigorous life.

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