What I have learnt over 30 years about thriving as you age

It’s 30 years on Monday since my dad died of a sudden heart attack when he was only 47.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of research conducted and information available about health and wellness. It’s never been easier to gain the knowledge necessary to live a healthy life, prevent many diseases and thrive as we age.

However, despite the advances in medicine, research and information, lifestyle diseases don’t seem to be going away. For example, cardiovascular disease is not only the number 1 killer in Australia but also globally. 17.9 million lives are currently lost each year. It’s estimated that 80% of premature heart disease and strokes are preventable.

I sit here today, contemplating how things may have been different in my dad’s situation 30 years on. The problem is, I’m not sure it would have made a difference. And, that is really concerning – for all of us.

The majority of people know that in order to live their healthiest life, they need to eat mostly nutritious foods, move their bodies regularly and manage stress etc – all in a sustainable way. However, despite this very simple formula, in reality it’s not always that easy.

As I’m sure you are aware, simply having access to information does not guarantee that you will use it. When there is an abundance of information, contradictory research findings, marketing and individual views, then it can become totally confusing. In addition, there is the complex interplay between individual behaviour, societal and environmental factors.

Basically, it can be really hard to be healthy an thrive. Maybe even harder than it was 30 years ago.

I think back to my dad’s struggles. He rarely drank alcohol but was a smoker who tried to quit so many times (he used smoking as a stress release). He also struggled with his weight (he was not obese but what I remember as a little overweight and he held a lot of fat around his stomach) and I can still picture the little pocket calorie counter book he often carried around when he was dieting – which was on a semi-regular basis.

My dad was an intelligent, educated man but struggled to adopt the healthy behaviours and habits necessary to live his best life and perhaps even save his life.

The actual details may be different but I know that many people are in similar situations as my dad. Despite being totally organised with some areas of their life, they cannot get their health and wellness issues under control.

As a personal trainer for 30 year and more recently as a health coach, I see and hear my clients struggling. Honestly, it’s the same struggles that people were experiencing 30 years ago. Personally, I have had my own struggles as well – again, just because I know what to do, it doesn’t always mean I do it!

If not a lot has changed in the last 30 years, despite more research, knowledge and information available, what’s the way forward?

My personal opinion involves a few aspects:

  • Getting back to basics – not sexy, a little boring but very effective. Move regularly, eat mostly nutritious foods, manage stress, get enough sleep etc etc
  • Simplifying – often when we overcomplicate anything, it creates confusion and overwhelm and we find it hard to take or maintain action
  • Utilising methods such as health coaching – health coaching serves as the missing link in behaviour change by providing personalised support, guidance and accountability that empowers people to identify and overcome barriers to change, develop self-awareness and self efficacy and ultimately achieving a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

As a 54 year old post-menopausal women, I’m hopefully right smack bang in the middle of what I call the ‘crucial’ part of my life journey. Regardless of what’s happened in the past, what I do right now may mean the difference between me just surviving or thriving as I age.

I’m not sure about you but personally, I want to thrive.

What that means for me?

On Monday, when I once again sit and contemplate the influence my dad’s premature death has had on my own life, I will be once again be inspired to continue to read, research and study more about healthy ageing. However I will also be trying to walk my talk and show others that maybe it’s time to do things a little differently.

By differently, I mean getting back to basics, simplifying and utilising health coaching myself when needed. For me, this is what I need to create a healthy but sustainable lifestyle that will allow me to thrive now and as I age – my life depends on it.


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