Are Chronic Diseases a Normal Consequence of Aging?

Are Chronic Diseases a Normal Consequence of Aging?



By Michael J. Dorfman

A friend of mine was concerned about plaque buildup in her aorta that showed up on a heart scan. She was told by her cardiologist not to worry about it and that plaque buildup “is quite normal as you age.” Have you heard that explanation? I have. Twelve years ago, I took a bone density test and was diagnosed with osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. When I took the results to my physical therapist, who was also an MD, she said that loss of bone density is a normal consequence of aging. That I shouldn’t worry about it. Not only have I heard statements like that from doctors and caregivers, but friends and family often reply the same way when talking or complaining about some illness they have–“it’s the age.” And it’s not only plaque buildup or osteoporosis that is often blamed on age, but high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, high cholesterol, as well.

I’m not saying that as we get older, we’re not more susceptible to the body breaking down, but to write certain diseases off, including chronic diseases, as a “natural” result of aging means that there’s little we can do about them. At the age of 78, I’m well aware of the importance of taking better care of myself because of the wear and tear my body has gone through during my three-quarters of a century on the planet. But I’m definitely not going to throw my hands up and accept what fate has to offer. It’s like “climate change.” If you believe it’s a natural process of nature and man has nothing to do with it, then you will just accept destiny and whatever catastrophes might come along. However, if you see that humans are at least partially responsible for “climate change,” then there is hope. Now there is something that can be done: there is action that can be taken. Similarly, if we don’t accept the “it’s the age” adage, we now have options. There are lifestyle choices that can be made and actions that can be taken, like eating healthier, exercising, reducing stress, having positive relationships. Whole plant-based foods are more nutrient-dense and less calorie-dense than meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods, which makes it easier to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off! Only plants contain fiber for intestinal regularity and gut health, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. They also provide zero cholesterol and don’t contain the inflammatory saturated fats that are linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type-2 diabetes.

I believe that a long and healthy life is not a matter of chance. It’s largely a matter of the informed choices we make.

Michael, author of The Thriving Vegan, is an accomplished speaker and coach on the topic of plant-strong nutrition. Consider joining The Vegan Wave SMA Facebook support group (175 members).