Richard G. Petty, MD

Aging in Style

It happens to all of us as we reach a certain vintage, that we begin to wonder how we will engage with and negotiate the inevitable process of aging. Billions of dollars a year are spent on trying to avoid the inevitable, and we are seeing people who have had not one, but layers of cosmetic surgery, botox and an array of other attempts to postpone or camouflage the effects of the passage of time.
For over two decades Andrew Weil has been one of the most sensible voices in the field of whole-person medicine, and he has recently turned his attention to aging, driven in part, as he says, by himself passing age 60 in 2002. His latest book Healthy Aging is full of common-sense ideas and is well worth reading. His approach to healthy aging was described in an article in the Washington Post by Agigail Trafford.
In a nutshell: Learn to breathe deeply, eat fruit and vegetables, walk, dance, play golf, do yoga, develop a positive mental attitude, learn a second language, get a massage, put fresh flowers in the house, be sure to love, and pay attention to spiritual health. He also makes another point, which is brought out in the Washington Post article, but has not been in many of the other reviews of the book. Weil is firmly of the view – as am I – that there has been altogether too much emphasis on personal responsibility for poor health choices, and not enough on an individual’s genetic predisposition to some problems, like obesity, as well as social and environmental pressures. As a "for instance," there has been a chronic lack of governmental and corporate will to improve the quality of food or to encourage exercise. Though I think that this was written before the Department of Agriculture’s new initiatives on healthy living, which are making bold, if belated, attempts to improve the quality of life of people not just in the United States but around the world. And Weil points out that many Departments of Government have a part if we are to improve the prospects for healthy aging.
It is difficult to disagree with any of these things. But I have two nagging worries about his book, though to be fair, I suspect that he would agree with me about both.
The first is that what he proposes is mainly something for the relatively affluent classes. Although I have no problem with a counsel of perfection, I wonder how realistic are his plans. I have spent years trying to help people in the most deprived circumstances, and for many of them, the prospects that they will be able to find or afford healthy nutrition are scant, and even walking outside may be dangerous. That is, of course, why we need corporate and Government help.
The second point is about acceptance: accepting the passage of the years with grace, serenity and equanimity, instead of fighting the inevitable. Of accepting that increasing age can be a time of deepening spiritual insights and of the progress growth of understanding and wisdom. I know that is Weil’s position, and it comes up in the later stages of his book, but I would hate to see such an important aspect of healthy aging lost in the rush to try his sage advice about diet, sleep and supplements.
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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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