Some good advice for a long, happy and healthy life

You can only live to the advanced age if you take care of your health, writes Hari Chand Aneja.

Health for the elderly is a case of use it or lose it. (iStockphoto)
Powered by automated translation

‘Have you visited the doctor?” asked my nervous father, as I suffered from a cruel cold. We were seated in his office in Tandalianwala in Punjab in 1930. When I maintained a guilty silence, he counselled me: “The best asset you have is good health. Money comes and goes. Opportunities come, but so do adversaries. With good health, you can always seek riches and opportunities. With a sound body, there is always a future”. Over the decades I have pondered his advice and I have learnt some lessons of my own.

It is important to take action on the early symptoms of any health issue. In 2002, my voice started to go hoarse. The family doctor immediately referred me to an oncologist. Cancerous cells were getting hold of my voice box. The doctors were apprehensive that they may have to remove it. However, they were able to treat me with radiation and save my voice. In health matters, a stitch in time can literally save nine.

Try to select a doctor who does not merely treat the symptoms with some pills, but also studies the underlying health pattern. It is useful to get the best medical attention that is possible. Going to the best specialists ensures that you access the latest medical developments.

Medical services are becoming increasingly pricey, however, and senior citizens don’t enjoy free medical services in developing countries like India. However, many hospitals and top doctors provide some services ex-gratia.

Having found a good doctor, it is important to maintain faith in him or her and be patient. As we get older, our bodies take longer to respond to treatment. It is important to go through the prescribed programme, rather than be impatient and change doctors or medicines hastily. Give nature and time a chance to heal.

It is important to keep a positive attitude when you fall ill. This is as important as the medicine. A patient must want to recover; he must want to live. And, he should look forward to enjoying life even after a morale-crippling ailment such as cancer.

My friend Sharma is 78 and suffers from rheumatism. Every step is painful for him. However, his passion is dabbling in real estate. So he moves around new constructions, keeping abreast of developments in Mumbai. He does not give up, so he keeps fit.

Chitnis, an 81-year-old friend who shares my morning walk, has a unique formula for keeping healthy: “I surround myself with positive-minded friends and discuss current topics.”

He is full of life, debating the US presidential candidates, Narendra Modi’s successes and failures, and so on. We often jest that Chitnis is so immersed in rearranging the world that he has no time to be ill.

Good health in your later years is not automatic. The design of the human body is brilliant, but one has to nurture it for sound health and performance in later years. I follow a plan:

First, however repetitive it may sound, it is best to eschew tobacco products like cigarettes. Smoking has a severe impact on the heart and lungs. Second, it is important to undertake some physical activity or daily exercise. As one gets older, even a morning walk is sufficient to energise the muscles and tissues.

Next, live by moderation. Whether it’s food or fun, practise restraint. Those spicy Punjabi samosas may be delectable, but one must know when to stop.

Follow the adage “early to bed and early to rise”. I try to get to bed by 10pm, so I can wake up by 5.30 am. By 8am, I am shaved and ready to spend four hours in my office.

Finally, you must be tranquil when confronted with setbacks. Keep your cool. Negative emotions, loss of temper and anger can create avoidable blood-pressure issues. Whatever the calamity, things fall in place after a good night’s sleep. Good times do not last forever, nor do bad times.

Thus good health in old age cannot be taken for granted. It has to be planned for. It involves being vigilant, getting the best medical attention, enjoying life, but also being spartan and saying no to the second helping of tiramisu for dessert.

Hari Chand Aneja is a 95-year-old former corporate executive who now keeps busy with charity work