Friday, September 16, 2011

Genetics or Lifestyle: Which is The Real Fountain of Youth?

One day, The Colonel, Yam and I were shopping at Wal-Mart when Yam spotted an elderly gentleman shopping all alone. (The photos used here are stock photos from the Internet).

"Aw, I bet he lives all alone and does his own cooking too," Yam said, "I feel sorry for him and I just want to give him a hug."

I admit, I felt the same way.

We discussed the old man's possible life scenario some more as I pulled out a gallon of 1% milk that had an acceptable expiration date stamped upon it (The Colonel was in the cat food section, we would meet up with him near the checkout lanes).

As we finished with our checkout and made our way to the exit, we spotted the same elderly gentleman. He and his cart were at the exit door at the same time we were. We looked over to him as he was gathering up three or four full, plastic Wal-Mart bags into his hands.

"Can I help you with your bags?" asked Yam.

"No, but you can help me with the cart by putting it back for me," said the elderly man.

So, Yam did.

We walked to our vehicle and noticed the elderly man following us. His vehicle was parked near ours.

Before going to his car, he came over to our truck.

"I should probably be helping you with your bags," he said to Yam, as he lifted all of his plastic bags using just one arm.

"I am 97-years-old, I live alone, still drive, take care of my own yard and run on the treadmill three times a week at the wellness center," he said as he smiled.

He told us he still drives his two cars that he bought new, 29 and 31 years ago. His car looked brand spanking new. He takes as much great care with it as he does himself obviously.

I asked him what his secret to longevity was and he said it was hard work.

He was impressive.

We said our goodbyes.

Our encounter with this sprightly, mentally sharp, elderly gentleman got me to thinking...

First, I have to start taking better care of myself.

Second, what matters more in ensuring one's longevity, mental acuity and physical agility in old age... genetic make-up or lifestyle choices?

We've all heard the stories of people who have reached 100 and drink alcohol or smoke daily.

Then there is the story of Jim Fixx, the running guru and author of the 1977 best seller, The Complete Book of Running, who was found dead of a heart attack on the side of a New England road at 52 years of age.

I don't think genetic make-up or lifestyle choices can ever be independent of one another when it comes to aging well. Having great genes is an excellent foundation upon which wise lifestyle choices can be laid when building a long, healthy life.

Take what you were born with and take care of it.

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