I woke up feeling somewhat blithe about life. Finally, it sinks in, I am truly a senior citizen. There is no longer the need for any pretentious actions or words to please others. It is exhilarating. The air smells fresher, cleaner, intoxicating. I can be myself, warts and all. I can look into the mirror and be comfortable with the ugly reflection of a sixty-one-year-old bloke. Who cares what others think? So what if they frown at my behaviour? Be it childish, selfish, impulsive or even irrational. So long as we are not abusive, repulsive or dismissive of other people’s rights, we have every right to be honest with ourselves and therefore with them, right? Writing has been a catharsis for me. Past demons have since not returned and I am more apt in keeping my emotions in check now. I can be blithely ignorant of societal norms, be who I want to be and not be subjected to restrictive rules that try to mould me into someone different. In actual fact, I have shown little regard for unsolicited opinions for much of my adult life. Maybe, that is the unintended benefit of being my own boss in my own business for almost thirty years. I am indifferent to what people say about me. “Be silent! You’re truculent.” Even today, I am described as argumentative, provocative, even annoying. Unintended consequences, perhaps, for being honest and direct or foolish. I rather prefer to call a spade a spade – after determining it is a spade – there’s no need to beat around the bush. After all, I am not in politics and I see being political as being untrue to myself.
But, who am I kidding? I forget I have someone in my life who I refer to as The Mrs, she who must be obeyed unless I fancy an “eventful” day or week. My uncontrolled sneeze from a Spring allergy roused The Mrs from her deep sleep. That woke me up too. Time to get ready for work. And then it dawns on me, it is Saturday today! I can continue with my dream. It’s reassuring to note that ageing has not interfered with both the ionotropic receptors and metabotropic GABA receptors that inhibit me from acting out my dreams during REM phase of deep sleep. It is these receptors that prevent us from physically moving during our dreams. If either receptor is blocked, The Mrs might very well wake up totally bruised by my kungfu kicks and Superman punches which I execute with perfection in my dreams. Unfortunately, she will not get the opportunity to experience my stupendous sexual prowess which I repeatedly exhibit in my dreams. The difference between reality and dreams sometimes is opportunity. Other times, it is our physical impairment that limits us from our full potential. Having gotten a year older – a silly notion, since ageing is a daily occurrence – I woke up with a renewed resolution to improve my physical fitness, and as silly as it may sound, the incentive comes from the sudden enthusiasm to gain a better physique rather than a quest to demonstrate to The Mrs the prowess I possess in my dreams. Dinner finished late last night, breaking my fast of sixteen hours will be at 1.15pm today. Whilst indulging in a strong cup of black coffee, my Kiwi friend directs my attention to an article in the Weekend Australian. “Hey bro, 61 is the new 41!” John is a real nice guy who recently retired as a GP. He is the bloke who inspired me to go out and buy a floral shirt. A rare breed, he refused to charge those patients who couldn’t afford his fees. The newspaper article is about an international study of mortality. Singapore, three days ago, emerged as the world’s most competitive economy. It is also ranked number one in life expectancy. For me, that is incongruous, intense competition leads to stress which usually means a blight on life expectancy. Australia is ranked 12 in life expectancy (82.4 years) and 14 in healthy life expectancy (70.4 years). This means that since 1990, my life expectancy has increased 5.5 years but of this increase, four years has been in “health-adjusted” life expectancy. So, what’s the point of living longer but in less than full health?
As I dwell on the prospect of enjoying only nine more years of healthy life, my eldest son uncannily shares with me a podcast about Ben Greenfield’s top basic and ancestral anti-ageing tactics. Greenfield talks about lobsters with the capability to prevent the shrinking of the telomeres, thereby slowing down ageing. Lobsters can live for hundreds of years by producing an enzyme called telomerase that acts to constantly fix the bits of the telomere that are lost with each cell division. Similarly the humming bird doesn’t die as early as we expect as they can produce their own endogenous antioxidants. Their internal degradation is slow even though they have extremely high metabolism. The immortal jellyfish is called that because it can live forever; the sexually mature jellyfish has the ability to revert to an immature one using a cell development process called cell transdifferentiation which transforms differentiated cells into new cells. Greenfield recommends a multi model approach to slow down the ageing process, after analysing societies that show a high concentration of centenarians. These are his twelve rules. The 13th is mine.
1. Don’t smoke. Avoid air pollution. Clean up the air around you. Outfit your home with an air filtration system. Air pollution has been linked in epidemiological studies to increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Reduce cortisol or stress hormones by adding plants that exude polyphenols to your environment.
2. High intake of wild herbs, bitter plants and spices e.g. Kale, Turmeric, Dandelion. These provide a hormesis response when taking things that, in large amounts are bad for us can actually help us in small amounts. Read Eating On The Wild Side by Jo Robinson.
3. Avoid processed packaged foods, they usually contain sugar and vegetable oil which wreck our blood sugar level, and inflammation (CRP level).
4. Consume legumes. Purple potato and taro. Select lowest glycemic index (GI) foods that are slow-release carbohydrates.
5. Exercise. Use standing work stations, walk as much as possible and casually lift things during the day, avoid sitting down. Going to the gym should be an option, we ought to get enough exercise during our normal day engaging in low level activity.
6. Social physical interaction. Eat at the dinner table with family. Mingle with friends. Chat and laugh.
7. One drink a day for females, two for males. Gin or vodka mixed with bitters. Bitters are packed with immune boosters, help suppress appetite, ease indigestion and help detox the liver. Non-herbicide wine is also beneficial as it is high in antioxidants.
8. Calorie restriction, e.g. Intermittent Fasting. Daily 14-16 hour fast. Cellular autophagy occurs when the body is deprived of food during fasting. Read The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo.
9. Purpose of existence. We must be able to have a single succinct statement of our purpose in life. What makes our day fly past? Do things that make us forget to eat and poo.
10. Avoid stress. Breathe. Learn to breathe to control stress.
11. Spiritual discipline. Meditation, silence, solitude, prayer. Or writing a simple daily journal of three things that you are grateful for.
12. Engage in sex. When your body knows you’re trying to make babies on a regular basis, it will realise your organs need to be healthy, robust and virile. Nature doesn’t keep living organisms around for a long time unless it knows it is useful for the propagation of the species.
13. Eat slowly. This allows you to digest the food you eat properly. An indirect benefit from this is we consume a lot less given the same time to eat. My mother is the perfect example; a slow eater and therefore eats till she is only 70% full.
This is the morning after. Now I am ready for the final phase of my life.