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Posted: 12:00am by & filed under Tips and Advice

Most seniors want to live longer, but even more important, they want to enjoy a good quality of life. Dr. Art Hister, an award winning physician, educator and media personality from Vancouver, tackles this issue head-on. And we should listen, for he knows this subject. He is currently a health analyst on The Morning News on Global TV in BC. Dr. Hister is also the author of two Canadian bestsellers, Midlife Man and Dr. Art Hister’s Guide to a Longer and Healthier Life, as well as numerous articles for publications such as Reader’s DigestThe Globe and Mail, and The Medical Post.

"Quality of life is really important,” says Dr. Art. “I want to enjoy the rest of my years, especially with my grandchildren. I want to walk on the beach with them, not have to sit waiting for them to visit me.”

“The single most important thing you can do,” he advises, “is to be more active. Just keep going. The more active you are, the better. There is less chance for your body to deteriorate. Being mobile and active is more important than diet or other factors.” Dr. Art doesn’t like to use the word “exercise” preferring to say keep moving, keep active.

“Furthermore, it’s easy. There’s nothing to prevent you; simply make up your mind to be more active. Sadly, our culture does not encourage us to do exercise, quite the opposite.” One only has to look at the parking lots, cars, elevators, and escalators all around us to see that Dr. Art is right.

“Numerous studies have shown that when previously sedentary people become more active, their health improves,” he says. He describes how living a healthier life has several almost immediate benefits including sleeping better, having more energy, having lower stress, and suffering less anxiety. Long-term benefits include living longer, being happier, and reducing the negative effects of chronic diseases. The last benefit is particularly significant.

Dr. Art remembers back in medical school when he was waiting for an elevator to go up one-storey. A friend came and chastised him and told him to take the stairs. Dr. Art took the advice and, in fact, has followed that counsel ever since. He adds, “If you climb stairs or do something similar, you feel good, you feel self-righteous.”

Dr. Art stresses that you should also strive to follow these seven objectives:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Exercise regularly – that is, become more active.
  • Eat sensibly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Minimize your stress.
  • Get enough good quality sleep.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.

“It’s not rocket science,” he says. “In fact, these actions are simple common sense, the kind of advice your grandmother would give.”

He also emphasizes you’re never too old to change your habits. Studies show that even 80-year olds benefit from becoming more active and embracing these recommendations.

Memory loss is a common problem with seniors. “I don’t know how to save the brain from aging, but the more you use it the better,” says Dr. Art. “I don’t mean brain-training exercises like Sudoku, but being active physically and mentally is important. Social connections are essential. They make you more active and also make you use your brain more. He urges seniors to spend time with family, friends, clubs and groups. Being a part of a church group, for example, is good he says. “Maybe God is listening, or maybe not, but you will definitely benefit from the social exchange.”

Dr. Art also speaks out on other health topics of concern to seniors. Regarding weight, he believes that being grossly overweight is a grave problem, but that being only a few pounds in excess is not serious for seniors and is more relevant for youngsters.

He feels, in many cases, there is no proof that pills help. Often, he says, pills are double edged. Calcium supplements, for example, help bones, but may raise the chance of heart attack by causing deposits in arteries. He also worries that many people feel that if a little is good, then more is better. “This is wrong,” he stresses. He considers that pills are used far too much in modern society.

“Falls and loss of balance are a specific problem,” says Dr. Art, who works with Hip Health BC. “However, you can re-train your balance. Everyone over 50 should do balance and weight-bearing exercises regularly. Tai Chi and yoga are excellent.” Loose carpets and other tripping hazards in the home should be fixed.

Humour and a positive attitude are also important and help to lift the spirit and make life less stressful. “There is even one - admittedly controversial - study that concluded that even a fake smile can help people feel better,” he adds. His advice is simple: Always look at the glass as half-full.

“My goal is to inspire people to follow this advice and become more active. I speak to hundreds and thousands,” says Dr. Art, “and I feel good if even five people listen.”  Let’s hope he’s grossly underestimating his influence, and you, the readers, will prove him wrong!

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January 2017 INSPIRED Senior Living

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