I had my annual physical recently, and my doctor said that I’m the healthiest 67-year-old he’s ever seen! And I’m consistent – last year I was the healthiest 66-year-old he’d ever seen! That doesn’t mean I’m not in decline, though.
Most people’s health and fitness start to irrevocably decline after about age 50, and as they get older their health and fitness decline more rapidly. This is called the geriatric curve. As I’ve written in several eArticles, you can slow down the rate of decline – but you can’t stop it.
I told my doctor that I want to flatten the rate of aging as much as possible and then die suddenly in my 90s. He told me that this is known as “squaring the geriatric curve.”
What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
What do you want to do with the rest of your life? And how should you manage your life to accomplish those goals? These are questions I’ve been asking myself lately – and researching to find the answers to what I can and should be doing to flatten the geriatric curve.
In this new series of columns I’ll use my own sitation as a guidepost to provide information you can use yourself to help flatten the geriatric curve and achieve your own life goals.
How long will you live?
According to the Social Security estimates Americans have the following life expectancies. These are the average life expectancies for each cohort. Since you’re healthier than most Americans, your predicted life expectancy is longer. And, of course, you may live longer or die sooner than your predicted life expectancy.
|Current Age||Life Expectancy
|Age at Death||Current Age||Life Expectancy
|Age at Death|
|50||29.6 yrs.||79.6 yrs.||50||33.2 yrs.||83.2 yrs.|
|60||21.5 yrs.||81.5 yrs.||60||24.5 yrs.||84.5 yrs.|
|70||14.2 yrs.||84.2 yrs.||70||16.4 yrs.||86.4 yrs.|
|80||8.2 yrs.||88.2 yrs.||80||9.6 yrs.||89.6 yrs.|
(2013 data – the latest available)
Interesting: the older you are now, the longer your predicated life! Why? Because, for example, at age 60 more of the less healthy people have died off, raising the average life expectancy
I’ll be 68 in April, and the estimate is that I’ll live to an age of 83.6 years. Since I’m very fit and healthy, I should make it into my 90s unless my genes catch up with me. My dad had cardiovascular disease – but he still lived to be 87. Or if I get hit by a truck – again.
What determines how long you’ll live?
At my physical, my doctor told me that three different factors contribute to my how long I will live:
- My lifestyle is by far the most important and the one factor over which I have total control.
- My medical care is the joint responsibility of my health care professionals and me, i.e., whether I take a proactive role, e.g., going for my annual physical, getting the recommended tests and following up on the recommendations, getting my recommended immunization, getting my annual flu shot, etc.,
- My genetics are outside my control. Fortunately, my genes are pretty good (except I don’t have any fast-twitch muscle fibers).
Kaiser Permanente is my health care provider. Online they have a proprietary Total Health Assessment that looks at the following factors:
- Stress – I manage my stress through exercise and meditation.
- Physical Activity – I’m well above the guidelines.
- Nutrition – I eat a healthy Mediterranean-type diet.
- Skin Protection – I’ve had several basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas removed, and I get a monthly skin check.
- Tobacco – I haven’t smoked since 1975.
- Weight – My weight is slightly above normal; however, more of that is muscle than normal so my weight isn’t an issue.
- Alcohol – I don’t drink.
- Injury Prevention – Simple stuff like staying fit with good balance so I don’t fall.
- Blood Pressure and Cholesterol – Everything is normal except my LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) is 107 mg /dl, <100 is optimal.
- Screenings and Immunizations – I’m up-to-date because I get an annual physical.
I scored 96 out of 100 points on the Total Health Assessment. The slightly high cholesterol number is holding me back a bit. I could improve that by not eating cheese, my one vice.
I love road riding, mountain biking (going out this afternoon), hiking, XC skiing, snow-shoeing and weight lifting. These are much of what makes my life good, and I want to continue these until I suddenly drop dead. So I do my best to live a healthy lifestyle that includes all 10 of the above.
How are you doing on the 10 lifestyle factors above?
Kaiser’s Total Health Assessment is for members only; however, your health care provider may have a similar quiz, which I urge you to take.
What can you do?
Think about how you want to live the final one-third or even one-half of your life. How does your vitality support your future life?
Get a physical and talk with your health care professional about all that goes into a healthy and active rest of your life. Last March, as part of Issue No. 705 of RBR Newsletter, a special issue devoted to heart health, in You Can’t Outrun Your Genes John Marsh talked about the importance of ongoing checkups and tests his doctor urged him to get in light of his own family history.
As part of that special issue, our Question of the Week then was: Do you get a regular physical exam or otherwise monitor your heart health?
The good news is that out of the just under 1,000 of you who voted, 576 get an annual physical, and 160 get a physical every couple of years. Another 43 said you have heart problems and closely monitor your condition.
The bad news is that 74 said you only get a physical “every few years.” Another 51 said: “Not really. I’m one of those who just doesn’t like going to the doctor.” And an alarming 72 more said: “No. I pretty much never go to the doctor.”
That’s 20 percent of you who seldom, if ever, proactively manage your medical care! I urge you to quickly re-read the section above, What determines how long you’ll live?
Next week, we’ll look at Athletic Maturity, which is a way to gauge how well you are managing the normal aging process, i.e., how close you are to squaring the geriatric curve.
The more mature that you are as an athlete, the fitter you are overall, and the more you’ve slowed the inevitable decline that comes with aging. The athletic maturity scale includes nine parameters, which assess how fit you are overall, not just your fitness as a cyclist:
- Years you’ve been riding and doing other aerobic exercise.
- How much you ride a year.
- How long is your longest annual ride.
- Lower body strength
- Upper body strength
- Core strength
- How much you weigh
Additional Resources: Coach Hughes’ Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond Bundle, which includes 3 eArticles in the series: Fit for Life, Peak Fitness and Training with Intensity.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.