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Improving as we age
by Betsy Hart
Scripps Howard News Service

January 10, 2005

I've always thought that it was my relationship with the movie "The Big Chill" that best demonstrated the fact that I was, well, getting older. (I hate the term "aging.")

One of my all-time favorite movies - with one of the best dialogues to ever hit the big screen - the movie came out while I was in college. It's set around the theme of some once-idealistic baby boomers, coming back together a decade or so after graduating from the University of Michigan, to re-examine their lives in the wake of the suicide of one of their group.

Watching it "back then," I thought the characters were so cool, so "deep" and _ in their mid-30s _ so much older than I. Watching it now, I think the characters are so foolish, so shallow and so very young! (It still has one of the best dialogues to ever hit the big screen and is one of my favorite movies ever. That hasn't changed.)

But recently I've noticed something else that tells me the years are flying by: I now find myself automatically reading everything that has "midlife" in the title. Technically, I'm not quite old enough to be a baby boomer. But now that I've hit 40, well, I feel like we're sort of all in this together anyway.

So it was that I was drawn, like someone who can't keep from looking at a car wreck, to a column this week in the Wall Street Journal's Personal Journal section. "The Baby Boomer Tuneup: Research Pinpoints Key Actions That Can Improve Health and Longevity After Midlife."

The bottom line? We don't have to "give up" and do nothing because living healthfully is hard. Even doing a little to live better has great benefits.


Yes, we're supposed to eat better. It turns out that of all the fruits and vegetables one can consume, the green leafy stuff is the best. So, eat your spinach. But here's the good news: While there are some national guidelines that ridiculously suggest one should have up to 13 servings of fruits and veggies a day (are they nuts?), researchers are finding that just a few servings a day confers huge health advantages. And the marginal benefits of going from two to three servings of fruits and veggies a day are a lot bigger than they are for some health nut going from eight to nine servings a day.

And, floss those teeth! This can actually help prevent heart attack and stroke. When your gums are inflamed it can lead to inflammation in the blood, and that potentially leads to heart disease.

Take vitamin supplements, because our bodies don't metabolize vitamins like B12 and D very well as we get older.

Here's one of my favorites. Lift weights. Not only does this lead to more muscle and bone mass, but it reduces "levels of homocysteine, a blood marker that can indicate risk for heart attacks and strokes." This is why I love this recommendation: For several years, I've been a devotee of a weight-training system called "super-slow." Twice a week, for only 20 minutes, I go to a gym and very slowly lift or push ridiculously heavy weights while a sadist stands over me and makes me do it right. There are times I am literally close to tears because it's so difficult and exhausting. But, the increase in my muscle mass, and overall energy and strength, has been amazing. Naysayer friends and family, some of whom slave away for hours at a gym each week, have been telling me that whatever I'm doing for my muscles I couldn't possibly be helping my heart in the process. Ha! Now I have proof otherwise.

Also according to the Journal, getting good sleep and investing in friendships is key. And regularly taking a walk - or in my case running after four little kids - is great for the heart. It turns out aerobic activity doesn't have to be all at once to have good heart benefits.

Oh, and get checked for skin cancer.

None of this stuff is hard, and all of it will help us age well.

(The article did not mention anything about what might be the psychic benefits of plastic surgery, but maybe that will be in a follow-up.)

Unfortunately, this all leads me to realize I've engaged in what is the most annoying hallmark of "aging" that I know: The older people get, the more they like to talk about their health.


Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel,
can be reached by e-mail at letterstohart(at)


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