A layman’s view of health

Seniors doing yoga
Yoga can help seniors both physically and mentally.

Upon being accepted into medical school and almost graduating from pharmacy school in the late-1960s, my good friend Ron Kenmir dramatically switched career paths and became an airline pilot.

Now long retired from flying, Ron’s passion for medicine is still intact. He frequents many lectures on the subject, particularly on issues of aging.

Carol: Can you share some of what you’ve learned with Good Age readers, Ron?

Ron: Well, arthritis, memory loss and cancer seem to be the most prevalent health concerns for us retirees. However, we have far more control over dealing with each of these conditions than is popularly assumed.

C: OK, start with arthritis, something I know you’ve done much research on.

R: I’ve discovered we can often totally alleviate arthritis pain through exercise, such as walking, strength building, etcetera — especially walking! This is relatively new thinking. In the past, people mostly just lived with the pain, some winding up in wheelchairs unable to walk, and now, more commonly, having joint-replacement surgery.

C: Haven’t you personally proved this walking theory to work?

R: Yes. Three years ago, I felt the slow onset of sharp right hip pain that left me limping and unable to do stairs. My cartilage research revealed it wouldn’t hurt to exercise, so I began walking three miles a day and climbing stairs. It was really painful at first, but after several weeks, the pain went away and hasn’t come back. I now regularly walk three miles daily and haven’t needed hip-replacement surgery.

C: That’s pretty impressive. Now what are the latest findings on memory loss?

R: Keeping your body healthy and your mind passionately active both play a gigantic role in staving off mental decline — the passion part is critical. Also, when you sleep, your brain cleanses itself with pulsations and a newly discovered lymph drainage system. It follows that good sleep is important in preventing memory loss. And lastly, I’ve heard complete remission of memory loss has been achieved with vitamin B12 injections.

C: Now for the big one: Cancer.

R: The leading cause of most cancers used to be something of a mystery. But according to recent U of M Masonic Cancer Center research, compromised lifestyle factors, like smoking, stress and trauma, seem to account for up to about half the reasons people get cancer today. Genetics and even some bacterial/viral infections can play a role, as well.

Also, cancer often appears 1 to 1½ years after a major life loss, such as the death of a spouse or diagnosis of a cataclysmic disease. I found it especially interesting that we all get many tumors each year, which are handled by the immune system; you don’t even know you have them unless you scrutinize those areas
at the wrong time.

C: Any comments about mental health during retirement — particularly the loss of identity and sense of purpose that come with stopping work?

R: Delve into something you feel passionate about. Studying medicine is made to order for me.

C: And for me, it’s writing this wonderful column!

Carol Hall lives in Woodbury. She’s a longtime freelance writer, a University of Minnesota graduate and a former Northwest Airlines stewardess. Send comments and questions to [email protected].