Welcome to A Woman’s Guide to Healthy Aging: Seven Proven Ways to Keep You Vibrant, Happy, & Strong. If you are like me, you want to remain sound in body and mind well into old age. For most of us, a healthy old age is our final destination. And as with every destination, it involves a journey.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” That quotation expresses an underlying theme of this book: it is never too early, or too late, to start moving in the direction of a vital and independent old age.
As with every worthwhile journey, it is not just the destination that matters but also the journey itself. This book is not just about living into your 90s and still being healthy; it is also about enjoying the journey of getting there-it is about a journey that includes the friendships, the motivations, the activities, and the healthy choices you make along the way so that when you do get to 90 you can look back and say, “I feel good about what I did to get here. And I feel good now!”
When I started practising medicine 35 years ago, women were undervalued by the medical community in a variety of ways. For example, the model for determining drug dosages for women was very much a male model. When doctors pre- scribed a medication for a woman, they might consider her “two-thirds of a man,” based on average body weights, and therefore prescribe about two-thirds of the dose a man would get. There was little understanding that metabolically women and men are quite different, that drugs do not always work the same way in a woman as they do in a man.
Perhaps in your journey through life you have always been on the path to a healthy old age-you’ve made life- style choices that enhance your chances of avoiding physical diseases and cognitive impairment. Perhaps you are just stepping onto that path for the first time-you’ve recently realized that it’s time to change some potentially damaging habits. Or perhaps you remain reluctant to take that first step-you think, “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. So why worry?” Whichever of these descriptions reflects where you are today, my hope is that this book will prove to be a useful guide-a companion-to keep you on the path if you’re already on it, to reassure you that your recent decision to follow it is the right decision, to urge you to take that first step if you are still not convinced it’s the right path for you.
Nor was there much of an appreciation of the fact that a particular health problem might present differently in men and women. We have learned, however, that this is true in cardiac health as well as in brain health. There is also a greater understanding today of how hormones and the state of hormonal balance affect a woman’s health. And we now know that women are more prone to certain diseases than are men.
We have learned a lot-are learning a lot-specifically about women’s health, but this is not a medical encyclopedia. It is not a treatise. You will not find a thousand technical terms and their definitions. You will not need a dictionary by your side as you read. You will not find footnotes on each page; in fact, you will not find footnotes on any page, although I do acknowledge the contribution of important sources in a separate section at the back of the book.
I see this book as a conversation between you and me, a conversation about your health now, about aging, and about not only maintaining your health as you age but also improving it. As a family doctor I have worked primarily in one-on-one patient care, and women’s health has always been a very important focus of my practice. In the past few years I have also taken on a teaching role—teaching new physicians so that they can apply in their own work what 35 years of practice has taught me, and teaching in the community so that women become knowledgeable about medical issues that they absolutely should be aware of. This book marries what I have learned from my patients and what I have learned as a teacher; it marries information from the latest research with practical steps you can take to apply that information. My hope is that you will learn from it the things you need to know to take control of and enhance your own health.