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"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"


Leroy Satchel Paige


How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?

Quote from Leroy "Satchel" Paige


In my cardiothoracic surgery practice, I often saw young patients that were old and old patients that were young!


Sometimes I operated on patients who were well into their eighties but were upbeat, active and vital. They recuperated from surgery rapidly and without difficulty and continued their positive attitude post-operatively. Other times I operated on young patients who looked old, acted old and had worn out arteries and hearts. Some of them didn't do as well as the older patients who had younger physiology. It became second nature to me, when assessing patients’ risks for surgery, to pay more attention to their physiological age rather than their date of birth.


Physiological age rarely correlates with chronological age.


Aging, being a natural phenomenon, is unavoidable. However, the way we live determines whether we are younger or older than what our date of birth dictates. Although we cannot control our “aging genes”, we do have a lot of control over how fast or how slow we age and how healthy or sick we will be as we go through life.


Most people are aware of the benefits of healthy nutrition, exercise and avoiding tobacco, drugs and excess alcohol. Attention to those factors alone would eliminate millions of unnecessary illnesses and deaths every year. For example, if no one smoked, we would save 550,000 lives in the US and over 20,000,000 lives worldwide, in one year alone! And that is in addition to of tens of millions more in disabilities and illnesses that we would avoid.


However, majority of people are not aware of the health price tag for poorly managed stress and its effects on aging.


During my studies at the Canadian Institute of Stress, I learned research has shown that our vitality has a great deal to do with how we use our stress energy. If the rate of return on stress energy expenditure is good, we become vital and age slower. If the return is poor, we become sick, disabled and age faster.


What does good return on investment of stress energy consists of?


In a nut shell, it is personal life satisfaction, social life satisfaction, work life satisfaction, personal feelings of high esteem, the feeling of being in control of our lives, body health, mental health, emotional health and financial health. That looks like a long list! If you insisted on further summarizing it in one word, that word would be “satisfaction”.


Living in modern times inevitably exposes us to numerous stressors every day. Our body reacts to them the only way it knows, as if to save our lives! There is only one kind of stress response and its main function is to keep us alive and to meet the excess physical demands.


Because the majority of our daily stressors are not life and death circumstances, we are often over-stressed, much like a car engine that is being revved all day in neutral. The car doesn’t need it and it is certainly not going anywhere but the engine is wearing out fast. It will become an old, beat up and sick engine in no time without having accomplished anything! Stress without reward and satisfaction does the same thing to our bodies. We age faster and become fatigued, ill and beat up.


If you want to stay young, healthy and vital, you need to take care of your wellness and manage your stressors.

Pay close attention to your physical health but don’t stop there. You need to have healthy emotions and mind, healthy family and social relationships, healthy work relationships, work satisfaction and freedom from financial worries. You need to bring as much satisfaction and fullfilment into your daily life as possible. It might seem daunting at first but once you get the hang of it, you will go on auto-pilot and you will enjoy the ride!


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