My daughter just turned 30. She looks really stunning from this picture taken on her birthday, and so does her mum at double her age! Good genes, you might say, but scientists are now discovering more and more that what we do, that is, how we choose to live, may have far more impact on how we age than our genetic makeup. Yes, aging is a natural process but our lifestyle choices can in fact slow or accelerate the aging process. What is killing most people today are diseases of affluence, the price we are paying for success.
I belong to the baby boomers generation – born between 1946 and 1964 – a generation that acquired more education than any previous generation, who grew up questioning the status quo and searching out alternatives; a generation that has not shied away from innovating and experimenting and, sadly, a generation that is dying young. Why? Look at them, if you can find them – they are entering their 50s and 60s paunchier, more fatigued, more depressed, and more medication-strapped than they would ever have imagined.
This has all to do with their lifestyles. They are affluent. They eat the best their pockets can afford, drink the best wines and whiskeys, and when they become addicted and can no longer afford the best of their daily dose because they have wasted money made during their productive years on an expensive lifestyle, kumi kumi will do just fine (do you know how many graduates from this generation are wasting their lives away in illicit brew dens?), they have most probably experimented with drugs, have multiple sexual partners because they can afford to pay for sex (and so HIV is killing them in their thousands), and they have no time to exercise because they are busy chasing money and stuff…
They may have all the money but they are in real bad physical shape. Most suffer from lifestyle diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, and several common cancers.
Ask them how they feel and the answer will most likely be in the form of a question: “Can I age better than this?” “How can I stay vibrant and healthy?” “How can I enhance the quality of my life in my 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond?” “After all the money I have made, will I spend my retirement in and out of hospitals or living a life supported by drugs?” All these are good questions and you need to be asking them too.
There is evidence that most lifestyle diseases can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a healthy diet and positive living. A healthy lifestyle is the most potent weapon against the diseases ravaging our generation including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and alcoholism. I have watched friends and relatives die young from alcoholism and other lifestyles diseases and you are left asking why, why?
Embracing a healthy lifestyle is not only good for our country where the government and its citizens are spending billions of shillings each year on preventable diseases, it is also very good for each one of us. We can look better, feel better and live better, no matter our age. And an added bonus – we don’t have to do fundraisers to send family members and friends to India, the new health Mecca.
We are not only eating unhealthy refined foods and not exercising; we are also so stressed out juggling through many tasks to find success and satisfy our egos. The problem is, our human bodies were not designed to sit in computer chairs all day and nosh on fried chicken, chama choma and burgers then drain them down with lots of alcohol. We were designed to be hunter-foragers. When we hunted, we moved – a lot. And what we foraged was whole, straight-from-the earth food.
So, if you have not been moving it, get up and move – walk, join a gym, swim or do anything that exercises your body. If you have been feeding on unhealthy foods, change your diet to whole grains, fruit, vegetables and where possible straight from the garden, not in a packet or bottle. Also, cut down on sugar, salt and fat. If you have been drinking alcohol excessively, cut down – no more than one drink a day and for God’s sake don’t take drugs. Find ways of relaxing such as yoga, massage, steam/sauna, meditation – anything that allows you ‘me time’ and does not put you under pressure. Let your life not be all work and no play.
Published in October 2014