Never too late for good health
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella was the guest speaker at Friday’s monthly brown bag lunch event held by the Shepherds-town Area Independent Living group (SAIL).
Cucuzzella addressed some concerns and unique challenges for the “seasoned citizens,” but stressed that it’s never too late to improve health by taking ownership and striving for a better quality of life through shared decision making with doctors and believing that the body can recover from many conditions.
“It’s so important to maintain elasticity in your muscles and joints,” said Cucuzzella. “Find something in your day that wakes your system back up. Move, walk, swim, yoga-something that makes you feel good when you’re done. Exercise shouldn’t hurt. All movement is good. If you need to start somewhere, water is a good place.”
Cucuzzella explained that mobility is connected with balance and if a person can improve balance, they are less likely to fall and break a bone. Going barefoot, at minimum around the house, allows the more than 200 thousand nerve endings in the foot to better feel the ground.
“Being barefoot is another way to increase the ‘spring in your step’,” said Cucuzzella. “Wearing so-called ‘supportive’ shoes braces your foot and ankles unnaturally and prevents you from maintaining elasticity in those joints.”
Cucuzzella also said that many health conditions can be improved by changes in diet. Lowering carbohydrate intake and eating whole, natural foods can reverse the need for a multitude of medications.
“Data shows that by the time people are age 50, they are on at least one prescription drug,” said Cucuzzella. “Starting back in the 1980s, 60 percent of calories consumed comes out of packages. It’s all related with your health. If you’re taking pills to control blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, migraines, etc., and you go to the doctor and are given a clean bill of health because all those conditions are being ‘controlled,’ it doesn’t mean you’re healthy. You still have these conditions. I really want people to believe that they can be healthy and reverse illness. Even as we get older, we are a biologic organism. Our cells are turning over all the time.”
Common sense and knowing one’s own body are also key components to communicating well with the doctor.
Cucuzzella said, “Shared decision making is non-negotiable in my world, and it doesn’t happen often enough. That means that the doctor and the patient discuss a situation and decide together the best course of action for the patient. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get other opinions.”
One of the SAIL members, Kris MacNichols, shared an experience from 2014. She lost both her daughter and her husband in the same year and her doctor automatically prescribed anti-depressants.
“I read all the information that came with the medicine,” said MacNichols. “I called the doctor and said I was taking myself off the medication. They wanted to know why. They thought I might be suicidal. I told the doctor that this medicine is not going to bring them back (husband and daughter). I have a few years to live and I’m not going to spend those years taking this medicine. I’m experiencing normal grieving.”
“We want you to have a healthy lifestyle for life,” said Cucuzzella. “It is possible by making a few changes. And studies show that people who smile a lot live an average of 7 years longer. So don’t forget to smile.”
Both the Shepherd University Wellness Center and the fitness center at the Clarion Hotel offer classes tailored to older citizens. For more information about SAIL, visit: sail.clubexpress. com or call 304-870-7245.