Unless you are part of a microscopic minority, something has probably happened within the last 10 years to serve as a reminder that you are not as physically young as you used to be. Perhaps you're a little stiffer in the morning. Maybe your tennis game is a bit slower. Or maybe you've developed an illness that has seriously affected the way you live. Whatever has happened, this is the time we all need to get serious and proactive about protecting our health.
Of course, we all need to maintain a good relationship with our health care providers. And those regular checkups, tests and procedures (colonoscopy, anyone?) are designed to help us monitor the ever-evolving state of our health — so no wimping out. But for decades, way too many Americans have complacently assumed that a visit to the doctor's office will automatically fix whatever ails them physically.
As we have learned during the last decade, it takes a lot more than a prescription from an M.D. to keep you truly healthy these days. That's why I strongly urge you to join the resourceful and determined baby boomers who have made it a long-term priority and lifestyle to keep themselves as healthy and fit as possible. We are the ones who read health books, devour research papers and avoid processed food (well, food-like substances), which is kryptonite to our well-being.
Before she was even 30 years old, Harvard University psychology professor Ellen J. Langer fainted, and doctors suspected she was epileptic. That harrowing experience was the catalyst for her lifelong interest in maintaining optimal health. Langer's 2009 book, "Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility," is a mini-encyclopedia of salient information on ways to maintain peak health. It became my favorite nonfiction title of the year.
Langer's 1989 book "Mindfulness" established her credentials as a thorough and objective researcher who was more than willing to walk the walk. Both of her informative books are loaded with sensible, entertaining and inspiring suggestions.
Miranda Esmonde-White is considered a world-class expert on age-reversing exercise routines. Her continuous-movement exercise technique, described in her soothing book "Aging Backwards," is designed to help people maintain strength, flexibility and range of motion — regardless of age. I consider her to be our era's anti-aerobic fitness instructor.
If like me, you really want to fight Father Time, there's no better or more enjoyable guide than Bill Gifford's humorous book "Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever (or Die Trying)." Reading about his health quest is a priceless experience.
What these three accomplished experts have in common is the determination to help people hold on to the inner and outer benefits of health and fitness regardless of their chronological age.
By accepting as much responsibility as possible for the state of our well-being — this means monitoring what and how much we eat and drink, keeping up with an exercise routine, and being conscientious about our physical and emotional state — we gain countless benefits. It's an easy way to avoid being or feeling like a victim of a complicated, industrialized toxin-filled environment.
I may sound a tad cynical, but at this stage in our lives we are old enough to understand that there simply isn't anyone else we can truly rely on — not the American Medical Association, not big pharma, not our employers — to care for us the way we need to be cared for. Learning how to protect and improve your health just might turn out to be the most interesting and rewarding challenge of your life. It certainly has been for me.
Sadly, it took me 25 years in a wheelchair and the arrival of a milestone birthday to finally get serious (really serious) about protecting my health. My sincere wish for you is that you choose to become a totally committed, self-motivated health advocate — ASAP.
After all, if not now, when?
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.