Lunch Time with Suki Salad
REBLOG FROM Thursday, March 19, 2015
How Can We Live Longer. Fuller Lives?
Last night I watched an inspirational speaker on Public Broadcast Television. I was intrigued. The speaker was Dr. Christiane Northrup whom I had first heard of when I purchased her New York Times best seller, “The Wisdom of Menopause” in 2003.
She has undoubtedly earned her place as a trusted medical adviser as a board certified obstetrician/gynecologist with both clinical and teaching experience. This particular speaking engagement, which premiered on February 28, 2015 was entitled “Glorious Women Never Age.” A title like that will always reel me in.
A peculiarity I noticed right off the bat was that there were men in the audience. I wondered if they were there supporting their women or they thought they might also benefit somehow. It turned out to be an inspiring and motivating speech from which all adults could draw information and solid advice.
During the entire program, she spoke freely to the audience, pacing back and forth on the stage looking completely at ease, but energetic. During one particular segment of her speech, she told us about the many surveys surrounding folks who have lived to be 100 or more years old. She referred to them as “centenarians”, the title given to an apparently ageless over-achiever who has seen a century of family, friendships and worldly events. Dr. Northrup told us that when asked specific questions, these long term survivors have quite a bit in common and many of their answers coincide.
The questions and answers they gave when asked how they managed to live so long under the same circumstances that we all share were very based on common sense. The answers they gave contained many common trait characteristics involving humor, courage, determination and self-love. But one question really amazed me. When asked what practices they tended to do more regularly toward the end of the century, they answered that they hardly ever went to see a doctor!
Now when I thought about this, it made sense. Surgery is risky at that late age and I suppose at some point it wouldn’t even be an option so they don’t want to hear about it. Coupled with that line of thinking, they answered that they almost never thought about the future. They lived in the present, productively in a day-by-day behavior pattern enjoying precisely what they were doing at the moment. To them, tomorrow was another day and they would wait to see what would come of it as opposed to planning.
Some of them, when asked “when was the last time you saw a doctor?” couldn’t remember because they had stopped long before the question was asked. I had to think about this statement. What is a benefit, in very old age, of skipping doctor visits?
Perhaps less poking and probing to find conditions that need to be “fixed?” Maybe when these doctor appointments among the very elderly are skipped there is less drug prescribing, less joint replacement recommendations, less over-the-counter medication discussions where things like sleep aids, antacids and constipation concoctions are often encouraged. Think about that for a moment.
As Dr. Northrup revealed this answer I began to think back to the time when my beloved mother-in-law began the process of her downward health spiral. She was a loving and physically strong Irish woman who lived her life to the fullest. She raised six children with her husband. After he passed away when the youngest child turned twenty, she found her calling as a much needed matriarch to her enormous brood. She lived vigorously and effortlessly spending her retirement with her children and many grandchildren often helping to raise and nurture each child from infancy. She had her own place, but spent many nights traveling between her children’s homes to stay for prolonged visits. She was sought after but shared her life fairly among everyone and we were all amazed at her ability to sleep anywhere, anytime, while attacking any obstacle that arose. She was the strong one and the glue that held us together as they say.
When she turned 70, things started to change for her. Yearly visits to the doctor had been resulting in more and more prescription drugs as various conditions were diagnosed and “treated.” Her counter top became crowded with a cluster of pills and creams. She still seemed strong but rested more often and at some point began to nap frequently. “The medicines make me sleepy”, she would say. The inter-family travel became less frequent. She gained weight from the inactivity. Eventually, without exercise, prediabetes set in. Treatment for this condition required more drugs that made her sleepier.The downward spiral began to pick up momentum.
I asked her, at one point what would happen if all the “medication” were stopped. If she could just turn the clocks back a few years to where there were none. She told me she trusted her doctor, whom she had known for years and everything she was taking would “cure” her, so she was told and she was waiting for that day to come. I asked her why, if a medicine was a cure, would she have to take it for the rest of her life? Cure to me, means you are better and returned to a normal, previous state of “non-medicated” being.
After a few years of waiting to get better, she was referred for knee replacement surgery. It was necessary she thought, to have a new and improved joint which would aid in her over-all treatment. He body was getting weaker with every passing year and I was surprised she would opt for a surgery that would inevitably cause her much pain and a prolonged recovery period. After her surgery and a grueling rehabilitation stint, she was grateful to be back home to rest quietly and comfortably. She was still relatively young (in her mid 70s) and hoped to regain her mobility. She was waiting for that time when she could once again travel to see her family members. That time would never come.
While re-cooperating at home, she would have a bad fall, require stitches in her forehead and more pain and anxiety medication. I’m not exactly sure what happened but sometime after this, her health declined further and she was placed in hospice. She believed this was another rehabilitation endeavor and once cured, she would return home. She lied in bed dreaming of her former life and I visited often. When I asked how she felt, her answer was always, “I am fine, but they are trying to kill me with all this medicine!”
I think in the end, the tables turned and she no longer saw drugs as a saving grace and avenue to change for the better. Every drug had a bad side effect that required more drugs and comfort drugs for the new symptoms that came about. She realized she was in a vicious cycle. In the end, her kidneys failed and she was subject to constant dialysis which is difficult. The cycle never ended. Eventually, each vital bodily function gave up and gave out and she fell into a deep life supported scenario in which she stayed until her last breath. It was so devastating to see her in that last state that I passed on visitation, wanting only to remember her past and the youthful, vibrant woman she always was.
It took about seven years to go from alive, youthful and vibrant to medicated, inactive and death.
Seven short years.
This woman did not have cancer or a sudden heart attack. Her yearly physicals always yielded great results. I will never understand how this happened.
I rationalized it like everyone else did. I am not a doctor. I don’t know and didn’t see the results or findings of any tests she may have had. I thought that her trust in her primary care physician was a private friendship that she felt was enough to sustain her. Maybe something dreadful had invaded her and we just didn’t know about it. I will never understand this unnatural progression.
So this survey answer, how centenarians tend to stay away from doctors, may be worth thinking about. Maybe due to their unavoidable haste which results in hurried, fragmented care, our doctors may recommend unnecessary treatments that can truly make us weaker. Maybe in this weakened state our body starts to fail. Maybe at a time and age when we should be encouraged to exercise and eat better we are told to rest and food is not looked at as an issue. I don’t know the answer but I know I will be watching my life very closely in this second half. I am going to put daily behaviors in place at age 60 that I will not change no matter how old I get. I will nourish my body with foods that have no adverse side effects and resort to man-made drugs only as a life-saving option. I will never take over-the-counter drugs just to “feel better.” I will gage my weakness and counteract with strength building routines.
I want to be the person who is asked how I’ve lived my life so long and in such a youthful way, cutting no corners. If 100 years can be enjoyed by others, I will be no exception to that rule. My doctor will have to find someone else to “fix.”
Originally posted by Suki Salad here:
Thanks so much Suki!
Take back your health America!
Wendy Love Edge