“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” – George Orwell
Earlier this month I was coming down the stairs in my building where my studio is located. In front of me working his way down was a gentlemen who had finished his appointment with one of the other professionals who work upstairs. He was struggling and moving quite slowly. I of course was in no hurry and upon seeing me slowly moving behind him he apologized. I said it was fine and don’t rush, I am in no hurry. But I am sure it is natural to still feel self-conscious and try and pick up the pace. Now whether he felt more rushed or not doesn’t change the fact that after stepping off the last step, he did lose his balance, miss-stepped and fell. Pretty hard to, I might add. Fortunately, he seemed okay and I helped him to his feet. But here is where this turns from just a discussion about an accident to something more poignant, or dare I say tragic. His first response was to blame the building and the builder who built it. He blamed my landlord for not building better steps and building it in such a way that would make it more accessible for older people like himself. This gentleman is in his sixties, nothing really wrong with him that I could tell, except for what I can only perceive as being overly weak and not strong enough, on top of being over-weight, to be able to go up and down stairs. I handed him my business card and asked him to seriously consider letting me help him rebuild his strength so that what just happened doesn’t continue to happen with more regularity. We will have to wait and see if I ever get that call, but my point to this blog is that the majority of the ailments and conditions we experience with age has nothing to do with age. Except that in our society we stop doing the very things that would keep us young, strong and healthy. We blame it on age, but its laziness! Stop it! Now granted a guy who deadlifts 500lbs in his 20’s might not be able to do that in his 60’s, but if he stays active, he’ll still be able to do pretty much everything else. His age and the building, is not why this gentlemen (senor) fell. Not having sufficient strength and flexibility is. Don’t let that become you. While I’m on this age related topic a study has been released proposing that lack of sleep may set the stage for Alzheimer’s. Now researchers are always careful to never make steadfast conclusions, but I think once in a while it is okay for us to say “yep that makes sense!” “Nailed that conclusion.” Here is why I’m going to sound far more confident. We need sleep, we need adequate sleep. In the same way we need nutrients and adequate amounts to enjoy a long healthy life, we need sleep. So if you go the majority of your life not getting enough, should we be surprised that we will break down and fall prey to degenerative age related diseases? No I don’t think so. So a few highlights of the study. They found in mice that those sticky amyloid plaques, which are associated with Alzheimer’s develop more quickly in the brains of sleep-deprived mice. Also an amazing thing happens when we sleep, our brains has a system known as the glymphatic system, which allows our brains to go through a cleansing process to remove and clear out all the bad toxins. Including the plaques and toxins associated with Alzheimers.
Anecdotally I will say this; my grandmother went the bulk of her life getting enough sleep often going to be around 11 and getting up between 7 and 8 am. My grandfather didn’t sleep much. He’d go to bed around 11, but he always woke up around 4, and he did that for decades. Bragged about it, was really proud of it. Now I will admit there are other factors regarding his health he experienced (cholesterol medication for the ticker being one major factor) But he didn’t sleep very much and he developed Alzheimer’s. My last point is just to remind everyone that with age related degenerative diseases, is that they do not come on suddenly. You don’t wake fine one day and then wake up the next day with this problem. These diseases are years in the making and take decades to develop and get to the level where we can no longer cope without extensive medical interventions. Doesn’t mean you have to avoid “all-nighters” and the occasional red eye flight or really fun party staying up all night dancing to Salsa. But if you habitually have trouble getting a full night of sleeping. This study just adds another scientific reason to try and solve it.