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Give ‘Quality of Life’ to Yourself

As a health care provider, I encounter a great variety of patients. They are all very special to me. My patients include the young and the elderly, and they present along a spectrum of overall health. Although I practice in the somewhat specialized area of eye care, my interaction with the patient gives me a good impression of overall well-being.

What continues to impress me is the high level of physical fitness and mental acuity (many times, visual acuity) in some elderly patients. These individuals provide a striking contrast to some younger, sometimes much younger, patients.

Of course, the typical caveats apply. Everyone is different, and we all contend with our individual health difficulties. With this in mind, I will share with you one general pattern I see with those sharp geriatric specimens among us: they are all physically and mentally engaged on a regular basis.

When I ask them how it is that they maintain themselves, they offer some variation of the same reply. They read, do puzzles, pursue hobbies… and use their bodies! They hike, bicycle, row, etc.

I find myself making an analogy in the office to my patients, and indirectly, to myself:

“You are born with a FINE vintage car. Sure, along the way it gets a few dings, dents, replaced parts, maybe even an overhaul or two. Maybe the frame isn’t as straight as it once was, and the headlights are a bit dimmer. But you only get one. If you don’t run it, the parts freeze. If you feed it terrible gas, things tend to gum up. It becomes much harder to keep it running in top shape.”

A common and convenient rebuttal takes the form of a question: what about genetics? To be sure, our genes play a role in our health. I will indulge here and tire my analogy. Even if we are given a premium, high-performance luxury vehicle, it will still run into problems if it is not properly maintained. The oil, brakes and rotors still need to be changed. The mundane sedan that is well cared for will always outclass a race car out of a destruction derby.

I am reluctant to perpetuate buzzwords and catch-phrases, but there are consistent patterns that lend themselves to ‘quality of life’. I’ve become particularly fond of a saying from Dr. Jordan Peterson: “Treat yourself as if you’re someone you care about”. There are small things we can do on a daily basis to do just that. The weather is warming up and the majority of us have access to the beauty outside, so let’s use it! I feel obligated to encourage protecting yourself from excessive sun exposure and ticks so I will do so here. Enjoy that sweet ride you’ve been given!

-Dr. Ryan Watari