Dr. Bortz by Walter M Bortz II, MD
When you get through dealing with the daily debris which crowds our life, reflection leads to "so what?" Just what is this lifetime all about after all? As a geriatrician, I have concluded that the fundamental issue we all confront is living up to our potential. Norman Cousins remarked "Worry less about whether there is life after death. Worry, instead, whether there is life before."
There is a growing consensus that 100 healthy years is our birthright. The centenarians are the most rapidly growing age cohort. Evolutionary biology has deeded us 10 decades - no whimsy, no hyperbole, just our biology. If we don't mess it up. Almost all of our illnesses are preventable. Health is no longer a platitude, but a sturdy science.
It's long been a truism that we can't run away from our genes. But you think very differently - that the emphasis on the "heredity card" is largely misplaced. That's a pretty radical notion. What do you have to back up your claim?
Caleb Finch in his sentinel Science article on the genetics of aging gives heredity a 15% portion. To me, this is generous. The way we learn whether heredity impacts is to examine twins. If heredity were dominantly important then twins, sharing precisely the same genetic profile, would die simultaneously of the same condition. They don't.
Bortz's new book by Walter M Bortz II, MD
Well, if we can no longer just sit back and blame our parents and their parents for our ill health, that puts the responsibility back into our own hands, doesn't it? So, if heredity only accounts for 10-15% of what happens to us as we age, which factors do play a major part?
70-80% of our health and well-being is the predictable result of decisions made and not made.
The serenity prayer teaches "change what you can, accept what you must, AND know the difference." Most of what happens to us is not Fate, but Choice. Choose health!
We are newly fortunate that we can assign "accept" (genes and aging, alpha and omega) and "change" (accidents and maintenance) to the proper category. We are also fortunate that the more quantitatively important determinants are accidents and maintenance, the changeable ones.
As we are alert to avoid accidents and vigilant about our self-care, diet and exercise, we can approach our potential of 100 healthy years.
Fair enough. So, we've chosen health. What should we be doing specifically to maximize our chances?
After its choice, health requires three active strategies for pursuit, summated in I-O-I: information, opportunity, and incentive.