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Aging well with Dr. Mark Williams

In his book, The Art and Science of Aging Well, Dr. Mark Williams writes about the current science on aging in a way that give insight into how we should live to make sure we have the highest quality of life as we age.  He notes a statistic that is quite relevant to aging.  The death rate for humans is one per person, in other words, we all die.  It is all just a matter of how and why.

Eight myths

  1. All old people are the same and they are falling apart.  We all age at different rates.  Even the organ systems age at different rates.  Because of the nature of growth and experience, as we age we become more valuable, not less.
  2. Losing weight will make you live longer.  We are very weight conscious, yet severe dieting can increase your chance of death.
  3. As we age we become more forgetful and senile.  It is true dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's are more common when we are older, but those are disease states.  Forgetting names, walking into a room and forgetting why you're there, and losing car keys are all symptoms of being normal.
  4. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.  We don't naturally lose productivity as we age.
  5. There is nothing we can do about aging.  We can make choices.  Only about 30% of our longevity is genetics.  That gives us 70% of the puzzle for aging well.
  6. Old people are an economic burden.  We can ensure we have systems that don't cause a larger, older population to be a burden on the young.  In fact, older people provide a lot of uncompensated productivity through volunteer activities.
  7. Old people are not interested in sex.  Older couples do remain active and are happier with their sex life.
  8. You're going to end up in a nursing home.  Only 3% of people end up living in a nursing home.

Cell Aging

It used to be thought that cells live forever.  This was disproved by Leonard Hayflick.  A cell can replicate approximately 50 times before they effectively die.  The only way to break out of the aging control is when the cell becomes malignant.

Cells count the number of times they can replicate.  Each time a cell replicates the end is slightly shorter.  A telomere is an end-cap that causes the cell to stop replicating and the cell dies (apoptosis).

Sugar and Aging

If our blood sugar is high, which is typically measured in blood work as A1C.  This shows advanced glycation end products (AGE), which gums up the works.  High consumption of high glycemic and processed foods age us faster.  Avoiding these kinds of foods are important for aging well.

Benefits of Exercise for Aging Well

We were made to move.  Physical exercise is a key requirement for aging well.

Proven benefits of exercise:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of sudden death
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved mood
  • Less of depression
  • Weight loss and loss of fat
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • And most likely a reduced risk of cancer

How much exercise should we get?  An answer came from one of Dr. Williams' clients.  Work up a good sweat every day.

Three Keys of Aging

  1. The amount we lose is surprising small due to aging itself versus other things.
  2. The older we get the more important self-maintenance activities become.
  3. The opportunity to improve goes up if we're not on the extreme ends of the fitness continuum.


Facebook – Mark Williams, MD


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