Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for November, 2011

A Fighting Spirit at 93

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Whenever I need a dose of inspiration, I think of a special woman - my mother!  She has been through so much lately and yet the strength of her spirit and sheer determination keep her moving forward.

A number of years ago, Mom had both knees and both hips replaced, a total of five surgeries in five years (one hip was done twice).  The recovery from the surgeries was painful and slow, but the joint replacements enabled her to extend her walking ability into her early 90's and maintain her independent living status.  Up until last April she frequently traveled independently on trips to New York and Florida.

However, on May 17 she fell in her apartment and fractured her femur (thigh bone) in the type of fracture that's been associated with long term use of certain bone-building drugs.  Her leg was immobilized in a cast for seven weeks and without medical permission to do weight bearing work, her therapy was limited.

Finally the bone healed and she began aggressive therapy to develop strength and stamina in her legs in order to walk again.   After months in rehab, she was finally discharged to the assisted living floor of her own building and has been continuing to work at resuming an independent lifestyle.

Mom's indomitable spirit, coupled with the incredible support offered by her continuing care community, Judson Retirement Organization, have proven to be the best prescription for her recovery.  There are moments of frustration, but those with a less vibrant spirit might not be able to fight the fight.

The Well Healed Woman: Health, Healing and Humor

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Last week I joined approximately 699 other women to attend the 12th anniversary of the Well Healed Woman Conference.  This dynamic event, sponsored by Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in Groton, CT, delivered a generous dose of everything it promised– health, healing and humor.

Deborah Norville kept us totally rapt in her keynote address, sharing hilarious and poignant life stories; but it was Dr. Valerie Popkin who gripped me with statistics on heart disease in her talk, "One Heart, Keep it Healthy."  Age is a risk factor for developing heart disease, and at my age of 65, it seems only a matter of time before I join the majority of women over the age of 70 who've been diagnosed. (To see what your risk of having a heart attack is, take the Framingham Heart Study risk assessment.

So what to do?   Cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important indicators of health and longevity in humans. And new evidence suggests the corollary is also true:  low cardio fitness is as strong a predictor of cardiovascular disease as are well-established risk factors like smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Given the research, you can be confident that you can reduce your disease risk by improving your fitness level.

The 2020 U. S. "Impact Goals" recently introduced by the American Heart Association declares that you can experience a healthier life if you raise your levels of physical activity by increasing the intensity/frequency and/or duration of your cardio activity.  In other words, if you are currently accumulating 30 minutes of walking most days of the week, you should aim to increase your sessions to 20-60 minutes of continuous activity and include intervals of faster pace.  Improving your cardio fitness from low to moderate and/or high levels significantly reduces your risk of disease.

Marathon Day

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

I used to watch the NYC Marathon flow by First Avenue with awe, and wonder what it takes to get there, how it feels in your body, and what kind of mind set you need to run it.

Finally, my curiosity got the best of me.  I had studied exercise physiology and anatomy but wanted to experience the science in my own body.  I signed up for my first marathon and proceeded to complete seven in five years – five NYC, one Long Island and one Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.

While training, I made lifelong friends with my running partners and enjoyed a healthy social life of carbo-loading pasta dinners.  We got to experience the heart beat of NYC in the spirit of the spectators as they cheer the runners on. We felt the pride of crossing the finish line and receiving the medal around our necks.

I learned lessons in goal-setting, physical training and mental motivation, including pushing myself to the limit.  Concern about the risk of overuse injuries and their potential long-term effects, however, convinced me to return to a more moderate, balanced exercise program.
My sense of awe for the runners has only grown with the personal knowledge of what it takes to get to the finish line.