Everybody talks about the speed bumps of aging but few do anything about it.

Recent surveys and statistics show that about 30 per cent of the North American over-50 population suffer from some form of chronic health problem. Many of these are lifestyle illnesses that are mostly preventable – although not always the case – and include cardiorespiratory disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression, autoimmune disease, substance abuse, dementia and cancer.

Enter the positive and refreshing concept of “healthy aging.” It’s a basic life skill (and aging skill) for Dr. Garth Mann, director of Calgary’s Academy of Aging, the non-profit group associated with the Manor Village Life Centers. The academy is committed to developing important educational programs, exercise programs, de-stressing programs, and diet and nutrition programs for all ages.

“It’s been documented that chronic health diseases can be dramatically reduced and even prevented with lifestyle changes,” he points out. “Our focus is coaching Canadians about avoiding chronic health conditions that often result in memory loss with aging.

“Because our brain is impacted by the same abuses to which we subject our bodies, it is not possible to differentiate between body and brain.”

The good news, according to Dr. Mann: “It is never too late to start lifestyle changes. How we choose to live today has a huge impact on our health, our future wellness and the prevention of memory loss with aging.”

According to Dr. Mann, the four pillars of prevention include:

  • Energy rejuvenation: improving flexibility, aerobic coaching to maintain an individualized target heart rate for 12 to 15 minutes, and resistance training for stamina and strength enhancement. • Nutrition and diet education: learning about the aging process of the human body as it extracts necessary nutrition from food (for example, red meat becomes more difficult to metabolize).
  • Sleep enhancement therapy: relates to the mind and body achieving resilience from restful and restorative sleep.
  • De-stressing coaching: mindful-meditation techniques to help calm breathing and negative thoughts Dr. Mann sheds refreshing and thought-provoking new light on a telltale fact of everyday life.

According to research and medical care stats, fewer than five per cent of people understand test results after their doctor has referred them to a lab for blood work and other tests. “That means more than 95 per cent of the population is unaware of their A1C levels, their HDL/LDL (cholesterol) ratios, understand their electrolytes or even the significance of their blood pressure or resting heart rate.”

A key part of the Academy of Aging’s curriculum is teaching people how to effectively read lab results and vitals, so they better understand what their body is telling them about their health.

“Ideally, the human body is perfectly capable of aging gracefully,” Dr. Mann smiles. “And that’s what enables a person to enjoy a lifestyle without chronic health diseases. With good genetics, we are capable of aging to 100 and being healthy most of the way.