Instead of taking advantage of the holiday sales, I spent my “Christmas money” on a trip to the cardiologist for a nuclear stress test. As the treadmill speeded up and the incline became steeper, the goal was to see how long it took my heart to reach 129 beats a minutes. It took 9.8 minutes, which statistically speaking, means I have the stats of a 28-year-old female. That’s incredible because statistically women my age—68—reach a heart rate of 129 beats a minute in only 3.2 minutes.
While that’s great news, I still don’t know what caused me to almost pass out in Neiman Marcus.
(What to wear for a nuclear stress test: gym clothes, tennis shoes and since it was freezing outside and cold inside, I wore my fur shawl.)
The stress test technicians were amazed at my “performance” and wanted to know details about my diet, exercise and my life. Even though I’ve always eaten right and exercised, I didn’t tell them I’d been an adrenaline junkie who sought extreme adventure at every turn with things that should have killed me or, at the very least, taken years off my life. Even in my 50’s, I spent time with Mexican drug lords and a serial killer… none of whom were safely in prison.
After I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, my “need for speed” simmered down, and I became even more vigilant about diet and exercise, hoping to lessen my risk of recurrence. My physical needs changed as well. Since then I require seven hours of sleep, and I feel even a single glass of wine I drank the night before.
As someone who had the Top Breast Cancer Blog and researched and wrote about women’s health, imagine my surprise when I discovered one of the biggest health risks for women over 50 isn’t breast cancer or heart disease but losing our sense of purpose.
If we lose our sense of purpose, it can result in a loss of positivity, our sense of well-being, fewer social relationships and ultimately… poor health.
After 50, most of us no longer want to “set the world on fire” like we did when we were younger. For many of us our sense of purpose changes from raising a family or working outside the home to writing, learning a new language, volunteering, even starting a new career.
In the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Series: A National Longitudinal Study of Health and Well-Being, 10,000 people were followed for 14 years. The results shouldn’t come as a surprise: Those who had a sense of purpose and community had a lowered risk of mortality. Similar studies have shown “purpose” reduces risk of heart failure and Alzheimer’s.
Annie and Lulu, 1010ParkPlace, another business I run, church and friends give me a sense of purpose and community. Since my Neiman’s episode, however, every morning I listen to guided imagery affirmations to help with depression and panic attacks.
As you think about aging, are there any things you need to work on that would benefit you healthwise? Do you have a sense of purpose and community?
Happy New Year, dear friends! I want all of us to stay healthy!