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Thu, Feb

Living Healthy After 40 - Niran Adedokun

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As a child, one of the things I looked forward to most was attaining the age of 40. I noticed that a lot of wisdom was associated with turning 40 as I heard older people constantly talking about how anyone who was a fool at 40 would be a fool forever. So I assumed that all wisdom waited for you to become 40 and quickly wanted to attain that landmark of wisdom.

The other expression which made the age of 40 fascinating is the one which goes thus: “Life begins at 40” As a child, I imagined that the first 39 years of life was preparatory to the real thing, which is the one that begins at 40 and I looked forward to the “beginning of life.” However general life expectancy in Nigeria and the actual loss of really young people would make you wonder if life truly begins at 40.

 

An old article in the New York Times pointed out that Mrs. Theodore Parsons who was Physical Director of Schools in Chicago wrote a book, Brain culture through scientific body building in 1912 where she spoke about the newly found importance of the age of 40. She was quoted in an article reportedly published in The Pittsburgh Press sometime in 1912 as follows: “The average woman does not know how to breathe, sit, stand or walk… Attention to diet and exercise would enable men and women to live a great deal longer than they do today.

 

The best part of a woman’s life begins at forty.” Whichever way we look at it, the truth is that the age of 40 comes with a lot of baggage. There is deterioration in the capacity of our bodies when we attain the age of 40. It is like checking out the performance of a brand new car, five years after we bought it. You will discover that each part of the car has suffered different levels of depreciation and that being able to continue to use the car would demand more than mere routine service. It is more or less the same with our bodies. Although it is hard to accept the fact, human beings have started a downward slope by the time they attain the age of 40. This is more so in this side of the world where a lot of 40-year-olds are still struggling with the vicissitudes of life. Unlike in the days of our fathers, more people in their 40s are still raising children as more people have delayed marriages and childbearing. At a stage in which our parents began to think about consolidation or even retirement, today’s 40-yearolds are paying school fees and struggling to make ends meet. The current political climate has also fostered career crashes and unemployment with the result that men and women have to re-invent themselves, find new directions and make new choices in their lives.

 

These days, the number of struggling 40-year-olds far outweighs the ones with stable lives and accomplishments. This position in which a lot of 40-year-olds currently find themselves would unfortunately likely increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, which are three of the most common conditions to which men and women over the age of 40 are susceptible. The propensity for such afflictions and the complications associated with them is worsened by the poor health infrastructure in our country, the lack of neither adequate health education nor health care delivery. A country where superstitions and assumptions still dictate the ways in which people live. These superstitions and assumptions work together to stop most Nigerians, especially those above the age of 40, from regularly checking the state of their health and taking precautions that could be life saving.

 

While it is impossible to change our age, family background and race, it is important to understand habits which increase exposure to these ailments and change those habits. To keep strong and healthy, everyone who is 40 years old and above must observe a wellness plan which is not necessarily expensive to maintain. Habits which are important to reducing the risk of these conditions include avoiding the sedentary life by maintaining an exercise regime, reducing the intake of alcohol and tobacco, limiting the consumption of sweets, cutting down on meat, especially red meat and other fatty foods, eating enough fruits and vegetables, restricting sodium intake and getting as much rest as possible. It is also important to embark on regular check of blood pressure, blood sugar level as well as cancers like prostrate, cervical and breast which are common in men and women who have attained the age of 40. I guess that part of the wisdom that is attributed to the age of 40 is the realisation that, from the age of 40, life, as a Fortune Magazine article once said “... has evolved into a phase of maintaining health, preventing and detecting stuff that can kill us, and managing whatever problems we do have.” Wisdom is not to wait for government or other people to keep you well and healthy. It is taking your wellbeing into your own hands and deciding to avoid anything which may bring premature death your way.

 

True, the life and death of man is not in his hands but choices about the quality of life that we live are in our hands. I think seeking information about the best choices and making those choices is the wisdom which comes with the age and one sure way to see that live truly begins at 40.

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