By Theresa Stratford
Dr. William Simpson is a retired professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, where he worked for almost 40 years. He now volunteers part-time, seeing patients at several free medical clinics in the area. During his tenure, he served as vice chairman, acting chairman, director of undergraduate education, director of the Division of Public Health and Public Service and as director of geriatric education.
You could say Dr. Simpson knows a thing or two about living a healthy life. He’s been published in more than 70 publications and currently writes a newspaper column on aging. According to Dr. Simpson, there are 12 actions, or choices, that we should all make in order to grow old gracefully in mind, body and spirit.
12 Choices for Successful Aging
1. PLACE YOURSELF UNDER THE CARE OF A COMPETENT PHYSICIAN WHO WILL BE INTERESTED IN YOUR TOTAL WELL-BEING.
“It is important to have a relationship with a doctor who is interested in your whole body health, not just a specialist who primarily helps you with only one part of your body,” Dr. Simpson said.
2. EAT A VARIED AND NUTRITIONALLY BALANCED DIET COMPOSED OF ITEMS FROM ALL FOUR FOOD GROUPS – MEAT, DAIRY, FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, AND GRAIN.
In addition, limit your consumption of fats; restrict your intake of salt and refined sugars; consume more dietary fiber; do not skip breakfast; avoid snacking between meals; and maintain your weight. Dr. Simpson recommended eating a more plant-based diet, as opposed to processed food. He said to always be conscious of your weight and body mass index, or BMI, level. And on the subject of supplements, Dr. Simpson said he knows they are expensive. He actually would rather his patients eat a healthy diet than take supplements. He noted that organic is fine, but he still would rather his patients eat fruits and vegetables even if they are not labeled organic.
3. PARTICIPATE IN REGULAR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY WITHIN THE LIMITS ESTABLISHED BY YOUR PERSONAL PHYSICIAN.
Dr. Simpson suggested at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week. He also said that twice-a-week sessions of weight lifting are always suggested as well and that Kegel exercises are helpful to ward off incontinence.
4. GET ADEQUATE REST.
Dr. Simpson suggested seven to eight hours a night. “We need to regenerate. Some people are on the lower end of seven hours. I think that more than eight hours can actually increase fatigue,” he said. He warned of too much screen time just before bed, saying it can decrease the quality of sleep.
5. AVOID SMOKING AND ALL OTHER FORMS OF TOBACCO.
He said, “Smoking is the worst thing you can do to your lungs, heart and all of your blood vessels. If you smoke, you need to quit.”
6. AVOID ALL MEDICATIONS NOT PRESCRIBED BY YOUR PHYSICIAN; USE ALCOHOL SPARINGLY AND AVOID ALL RECREATIONAL AND ADDICTIVE DRUGS.
Dr. Simpson said one of the major issues he sees with seniors is that they aren’t telling every doctor all of the medications they are taking. A tip he has is to use one pharmacy that at least can keep track of drug interactions. With alcohol, he said, “It impairs judgment and fine motor skills. There is no real safe level of alcohol intake.”
7. AVOID ACCIDENTS AND HEALTH HAZARDS AT WORK, IN THE HOME, ON THE HIGHWAY AND AT PLAY BY KNOWING AND HEEDING THE POTENTIAL DANGERS.
Dr. Simpson advised to wear protective equipment at work, such as helmets, ear and eye protection and masks and to avoid multitasking while driving.
8. KEEP MENTALLY ALERT BY REMAINING INQUISITIVE, LEARNING NEW THINGS, KEEPING UP WITH CURRENT EVENTS AND PARTICIPATING IN PLEASURABLE ACTIVITIES.
This is an important one, according to Dr. Simpson: “Keep learning. I suggest learning a new language or a new dance, which is a great combination of physical, mental and social activity.”
9. THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS, LAUGH AND ENJOY LIFE. DO NOT SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS SO HIGH THAT YOU WILL BE CONSTANTLY DISAPPOINTED.
Dr. Simpson pointed out that our brains are affected by our attitude: “Think positive. Try to keep stressful situations light and make lemonade out of lemons.”
10. MANAGE THE EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED STRESSES IN YOUR LIFE. DO NOT BOTTLE UP EMOTIONAL TENSION. RELAX THROUGH REST, RECREATION, MEDITATION OR PRAYER.
Meditation is a practice that Dr. Simpson utilizes himself to relax, and something he recommends it to his patients: “Loosen up. Relax and be conscious of the body.”
11. DEVELOP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD ILLNESS AND DISABILITY. DO NOT USE YOUR PROBLEMS EITHER AS A CRUTCH OR AS A MEANS TO MANIPULATE OTHERS.
Dr. Simpson said, “Figure out a way to overcome it. You can do all sorts of things to heal the body through a positive attitude.”
12. DEMONSTRATE YOUR LOVE TO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. SHOW YOUR FEELINGS: TOUCH, HUG, CARE, SHARE, AND BE OUTGOING – NOT SELF-CENTERED.
Dr. Simpson referenced a way to hug people in spite of the pandemic: “Go in quick and come away quick. Turn your face away from the person’s face. If you can’t be affectionate with loved ones physically, then show your love in other ways with notes, texts or phone calls.”
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