This month I did a batch of standard health tests — a general blood test, a bone density scan and a sun cancer check — and for possibly the first time in my adult life I felt I came out on top in all of them. In my mid-60s.
My health challenges started early. I was diagnosed with a kidney infection when I was 11 and the kidney was removed a year later. Before and after the operation I was on antibiotics.
At age 13 I started getting pimples and the local GP prescribed a long-term low dose of Tetracycline, another antibiotic.
I’ve no idea how many years I took it. But by my early 20s I had immune system problems, courtesy no doubt of my depleted gut.
At first it was glandular fever. After a few more episodes it was post-viral fatigue, or ‘chronic fatigue’.
My 20s and 30s were up and down. In the up phases I tried to make up for lost time, throwing myself into work, running marathons competitively and overdoing everything. Not the smartest way to get better. In the down phases I did little more than sleep.
Eventually I found a practitioner who could help and by my 40th birthday I was living a more-or-less normal life, with a careful diet, no late nights and definitely no more marathons.
By then I’d had a sun cancer which the plastic surgeon pointed out I was too young to have. I’d also discovered that my bone density was far lower than it should be for my age. What I now know is that gut health can influence both, though it’s impossible to pinpoint causes.
I’ve mostly been healthy since, albeit having to manage that legacy from the first part of my life.
After being misdiagnosed with a string of urinary tract infections and taking the obligatory antibiotics I ended up with another sun cancer and another trip to a plastic surgeon. And my bone density in my 50s was too close to osteoporosis for comfort.
So when my recent blood test looked great, my bone density is better this decade than last, and the skin doctor declared I had ‘good skin for a Queenslander’ it felt like my efforts over a long period had paid off.
Of course, I’m diligent with diet, exercise and sleep. I’ll never not be. I’ve also made a particular effort to support my gut health.
I stopped drinking alcohol in my 40s, mostly because I felt I was doing it out of habit rather than love, but given my health history it was probably a good move.
I started using bioidentical hormone therapy in my late 50s to support my bones. It was a calculated risk because research on bioidenticals barely exists and studies on hormone use generally have been mixed. But so far I’ve had no issues and hopefully the benefits are showing up in these test results.
While I’m pleased with where I’m at, my point in sharing this isn’t to pat myself on the back.
It’s to challenge the assumption that it’s all downhill by this stage of our lives and that we should expect our health to get worse rather than better.
Ultimately ageing wins out, but I want to be in the best place I can to deal with it. I feel the same about the women I work with: I want to help them lay the best foundation they can for the rest of their lives.
I recently read something someone said about wanting to live to 100 but still being healthy at 99 and a half. Regardless of how many years any of us end up with, being healthy and vital for as long as possible is a worthwhile aim.
(By the way that’s not me in the photo but she looks like a good advertisement for healthy ageing.)
Photo Source: Bigstock