Good health in senior years begins now
With the summer Olympics just around the corner, Ashtabula County Medical Center Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Ben Meola used the theme to remind everyone that to preserve our health, we should stay active throughout our lifetime.
“I call it the centennial Olympics. What kind of health do you want into your 70s, 80s, 90s or even 100s?” he asked. “That question became real to me when I turned 60. I thought of all the things I wanted to do with my children and grandchildren as I grow older. I realized I have to start planning and training now for those special activities as I age.”
When most people think of long lives, they think of the length of their lifepan. Mr. Meola said we should also think about healthspan – the quality of life. “I divide healthspan into three categories. One is cognitive abilities, or how well is your brain working. The second is your physical abilities; how well you can move or move without pain. The third is your emotional resilience, your ability to handle stress.”
As a medical professional, Mr. Meola said he sees people not dying quickly due to a heart attack or sudden trauma, but a slow decline that eventually leads to death. “Either their brain stops working in manner that they are used too or physically they can no longer find joy because they live daily in pain, or they can no longer do the activities they enjoy doing. Thirdly, I see people get emotionally despondent and live every day in despair or depression.”
He said people often wait until they experience severe symptoms before they go see their primary care provider, but the truth is, the chronic illness causing those symptoms could’ve started years or decades earlier.
Mr. Meola said chronic health problems such as diabetes or inflammation can often be traced back to a carbohydrate metabolic intolerance, which can affect the body’s ability to use or process glucose. The body’s ability to create or properly use insulin slowly diminishes over time leading to problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, polycystic ovary syndrome, and more.
“Talk to your primary care provider and get the right screening tests to determine the root cause of your chronic symptoms,” Mr. Meola said. “You also need to begin lifestyle modification – this is good advice for any of us, but those who suffer from the chronic symptoms we discussed should begin immediately – under the advice of their provider.”
Those lifestyle modifications include eating more fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, tree nuts, and food similar to that of a Mediterranean diet.
Mr. Meola said people may not relate the food they eat to the symptoms they experience, so they continue to eat foods that are detrimental to their health. “You are in control of how your body reacts to food. If it doesn’t like something, it responds with inflammation or other health issues. You can give your body what it needs and improve your overall health.”
Along with eating healthy, exercise and getting quality sleep are key lifestyle changes.
“Caffeine is a large contributor to poor sleep. I agree with my patients that caffeine doesn’t affect their ability to sleep, but it does affect the quality – decreasing the much-needed deep sleep by as much as 25 percent.”
About exercise, Mr. Meola said it is proven that those with a stronger grip strength live longer, so strength training to improve our body’s core muscles (from sternum to pelvic floor) will have long-lasting benefits. Plus, we improve our stamina and are able to enjoy things for longer at a time.
Mr. Meola said many patients don’t want to consider lifestyle modifications. “I remind them that this is something under their control. They can begin improving their health immediately without medication and without potentially expensive or painful treatment.”
To view the full presentation on Centennial Olympics by Mr. Meola, please visit https://www.youtube.com/user/ACMCHealth/videos and search for Meola. At the August Premiere Fitness Lunch ‘n’ Learn, Mr. Meola will continue his discussion with a focus on Preventative Cardiology.
To schedule an appointment with an ACMC family medicine provider or internal medicine specialist, call 440-997-6969.