Whether you’re 30, 45 or 65, these tests will tell you how you can expect you body to perform
WHATEVER age we are, whatever generation we belong to, one thing is for sure. We all want to be healthy and fit. But what does that mean exactly? Of course, when you’re 20, you ought to be full of beans and as strong as the proverbial ox. But does a 50-year-old have to be able to sprint up the stairs like a teenager? Our little guide tells you exactly how you can expect a healthy body to perform at different ages. It also tells you the warning signals you need to pay special heed to at your stage of life, and what you can do to keep in trim – whatever age you are.
Up to 29
Walking in the park, you can hear the wind wafting through the trees. And when a leaf goes sailing to the ground, you can see it 30 metres away. After 10 minutes at rest, your pulse settles down to 60 beats a minute. And when you bend forward, you have no difficulty touching the ground with your fingertips. No doubt about it, your body is in perfect shape.
“The human body is completely grown by the age of 20,” says Dr Dilip Nadkarni, a Mumbai orthopaedic surgeon and sports injury consultant, “although the muscles go on developing even after that.” That means you now have the chance to prevent health problems without too much effort. Change your posture from time to time at work, get up when you’re on the phone, take the stairs rather than the lift, go swimming regularly. That way you can nip back problems in the bud.
It’s easy to test whether your mobility corresponds to the age you’re at.
How mobile are you?
|How close you can get the floor?||How old your sinews and ligaments are|
|You can put your hands flat on the floor||20 years old|
|You can touch the floor with your finger-tips||30 years old|
|You can get within 10 cms||40 years old|
|The gap is 20 cms, or more||50 years and older|
(after Peter Axt and Michaela Axt-Gadermannr: Die Kunst, longer zu leben (The Art of Living Longer), Verlag Herbig, 14,90 Euro)
Apart from that, just keep your eyes and ears open. Can you read registration plates 70 metres away? Going for a walk, can you hear the wind ruffling the leaves equally well with both ears? Unfortunately, many 20-year-olds who have been exposed to loud music, have a 25-decibel impairment of their hearing, frequently without realizing it. And the stress ambitious young careerists are exposed to can lead to inflammations of the retina that need medical treatment.
Normally, you won’t need to worry about your heart and circulation – unless, that is, you’ve inherited a metabolism problem, your blood pressure is higher than 130/85 mmHg, or smoking and fat foods are among your pet vices. If in doubt, do the same as you would for vision and hearing defects. Get an appointment with your doctor!
30 to 45
You’ve been around now for three decades and longer, so some initial signs of wear and tear are quite normal and usually harmless. It does not matter whether you wear spectacles or not, but your vision should be acute! And an ear test should reveal a hearing loss of no more than 10 decibels. That’s the volume at which healthy ears can hear a wristwatch ticking one metre away. But even if you can hear the proverbial pin drop and are eagle-eyed into the bargain, your eyes and ears will be grateful for extra care.
Take a brief from time to time if you spend long hours at the computer. That will stop to protective film over your eyes from drying out and causing irritation. And blink a bit more often than usual when you’re working at the monitor.
Constant noise means constant stress. If that noise gets too much for your inner ear, it may well respond with a complete refusal to cooperate. The consequence is acute hearing loss involving a tormenting range of sounds in the ear. So do something abouth the permanent din in your immediate vicinity. And it won’t only be good for your ears! A study indicates that people who have to put up with a permanent noise level of 55 decibels outside their bedroom window (normal speaking volume) are almost twice as likely to need medical treatment for high blood pressure.
The time has come to start thinking about your heart. Measure your pulse at rest. A count of anything between 55 and 75 per minute is fine. A simple rule of thumb says that the faster your heart beats on average, the more likely you are to die of a cardiovascular disorder in the next three decades.
One simple way of doing your heart some good is eating healthy. A look in the mirror is one way of telling if you dietary habits are as they should be, but a more reliable indicator is your cholesterol count, something you should have your doctor check up on a t least once a year. I should never be higher than 200 mg/dl, whatever your age. Keep it down to that and the risk of a heart attack or a stroke is slight. An increase up to 240mg/dl doubles the risk of a heart attack in comparison to a count of 200mg/dl.
The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to prevent too much cholesterol in the blood. If you’re overweight, and slim down by as little as 12 percent, that will cut down your blood fat count by 20 percent. Losing weight would also be good for your blood pressure, which can sometimes go up a bit in people over 30. It should never be higher than 140/90 mm Hg at rest.
In this age-span there may be other serious health hazards lurking and waiting to pounce, not just heart attacks or strokes. Cancer is another illness that can strike in relatively early years. Women over 30 must go for preventive breast-cancer test once a year for the first three years, and later every alternate year. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer should go for prostate examinations every year after the age of 45.
46 to 65
Your best years are over? Don’t you believe it! A healthy heart won’t pack up on you, however great the strain you put on it. With the right training, you can still run a marathon at 65. But vice versa, do go and see your doctor before you start taking up sports again after a lengthy interval. “Fifteen percent of Indians between the ages of 45 and 55 suffer from coronary disorders,” says Dr Arun Srinivas, chief cardiologist at Mysore’s Vikram Hospital and Heart Care. That’s why taking up sport again after years of inactivity can be a risky business without a doctor’s ok.
But an annual check-up for heart and circulation is recommended even if you’re not thinking of hitting the track again. To find out quickly how “old” your heart really is, a simple test will suffice. Measure your pulse after you’ve spent 10 minutes sitting quietly.
How old is your heart ?
|Pulse count per minute is||How old your heart|
(after Peter Axt and Michaela Axt-Gadermann: Die Kunst, langer zu leben (The Art of Living Longer), Verlag Herbig, 14,90 Euro)
If this has given you the motivation to do something for your heart, then our suggestion would be “cross training.” This means basically anything that you find enjoyable and does you good at the same time – jogging, walking, tennis, gymnastics, and so forth. And it means mixing them up as the fancy takes you, cycling today, swimming tomorrow, volleyball the day after. Your programme is entirely up to you, in line with the motto: Whatever you need, whenever you like. The advantage of this mix is that each component trains different sets of muscles and sinews every day. And that means that the likelihood of fractures or sprains caused by overstrain on individual parts of the body is kept to a minimum. Whatever sports you happen to prefer, a training unit should last at least 20 minutes.
When you’ve got your heart up to scratch, then of course you don’t want the rest of your body lagging behind. Be honest! Are you’re arms getting longer as you read this article? If they are, you may have a visual disorder of the kind that frequently occurs as the years advance. It can easily be compensated by a suitable pair of spectacles. But be careful…! 4% of all people over 40 develop a glaucoma that damages the retina of the eye. And of that group 10% actually go blind! So go and see your opthalmologist once a year, and ask him to test you for cataract, and opacity of the crystalline lens of the eye.
At this age, the intervertebral discs can also cause trouble. Typical symptoms are backache, pins and needles and numbness in the legs. “No symptom should be neglected. You should not wait till it becomes somethings serious like a slipped disk,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Dilip Nadkarni.
Here are some strategies that can help you avoid disc trouble:
- Wear soft-soled shoes.
- Do your jogging on soft ground.
- If you’re picking up somethings heavy, go into a crouch and then raise the object with your back straight.
- Sleep on a suitable mattress with only one pillow. The heavier you are, the firmer the mattress should be.
66 and over
There’s no reason at all to be in poor physical condition, whether you’re 66 or 86. Naturally, the body gets older, and the wear and tear won’t get any less. But an active life and sporting activity are still very possible.
Two simple tests can tell you a lot about your “biological age.” Close your eyes and balance on one leg. Now measure how long it takes before you have to put the other leg on the ground. The following scores give you the “age” of your sense of balance:
|over 51 seconds :||20 years|
|41-50 seconds :||30 years|
|31-40 seconds :||40 years|
|25-30 seconds :||50 years|
|less than 25 seconds :||over 60 years|
Light a candle and blow it out again. The distance from which you can manage to do this will tell you the “age” of your respiratory organs.
|1.5 metres :||20 years|
|1.25 metres :||30 years|
|1 metre :||40 years|
|0.75 metres :||50 years|
|under 0.75 metres :||over 60 years|
Many people of your generation suffer from late-onset or Type 2 diabetes. So keep on eye on your blood sugar count. Measured on an empty stomach, it should be between 60 and 98 mg/dl. Counts higher than 110 mg/dl indicate that you are at high risk for a heart attack or a stroke. At your age, three out of ten heart attacks are fatal. So at this stage pay close attention to your heart, and exclude these risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- high blood-fat counts
- lack of exercise
To find out how much exercise you should be taking, observe the following rule of thumb: the best way of training your heart is to use up 2500 kcal a week taking stamina enhancing exercise. The following table tells you what that means in terms of physical activity:
|Kind of Sport||Hours Per Week|
|Jogging / walking||4|
|Volleyball / basketball||5|
Even if you play sports and live a healthy life, you should go for a medical check-up once a year, and be familiar with the early warning signals of a heart attack:
- exhaustion without any plausible reason
- bouts of depression
- general listlessness
- inexplicable sleep disturbances
Acute danger is indicated by the following alarm signals. Notify your doctor immediately!
- pains in the chest, possibly (but not necessarily) spreading out into the arms and neck
- Pains emanating from the upper abdomen
- Sudden breathing trouble
If you want to enjoy your later years to the full and lead and active life, then your bones have to be in good shape too. Loss of bone mass usually starts at around age 40. Every year, one percent of your bone mass will swindle. Osteoporosis (bone brittleness due to loss of calcium) can exacerbate this process and even lead to fractures. Typically, this disorder affects women after menopause, but more than 12 million Indian men also suffer from it.
One of the causes of osteoporosis is a demineralization of the bones due to lack of exercise – and there’s plenty you can do about that. In addition, make sure you get at least 1 gram of calcium per day. An cut down on alcohol and cigarettes.
WHATEVER your age, a healthy lifestyle with sufficient exercise and regular tests for your heart, metabolism, hearing, vision, and mobility will help you keep fit. Your health is worth the trouble, right?