10 Things My Mom Does To Support Feeling VIBRANT at 77

My mom is almost 77 and my role model for health and a rich life. She has always said that each decade gets better, as she grows wiser;) Here are 10 things I see her doing to support a vibrant, strong, and vital life in her 70s, from a functional health and systems biology perspective.

There are, of course, things we cannot control in our life and with our health. This is not about that. This is instead about the things we can impact. Because there is also a lot we can influence, when we consider epigenetics and what drives health and disease.

My moms parents both died in their early 60s. My grandmother had a stroke in her sleep and she also had breast cancer. My grandfather passed away from prostate cancer far too early. Thankfully, new genetic research tells us that our environment directly impacts our genes, this is called epigenetics. So yes we may be predisposed to different things, but our lifestyle and nutrition turn those genes up/down and on/off.

When we think functionally, including epigenetics, we also know that these factors can and do drive every chronic disease that we associate with aging. 1. chronic inflammation (including immune stressors, emotional stressors, toxic stressors, lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, etc), as well as 2. digestive problems (including microbiome imbalances), and 3. metabolic problems (including blood sugar imbalances)

So what does that mean for you?

We all have a lot of control over our health and how we age. We just need to understand what drives health and disease, how to address those root causes, and how to listen to our body when it starts to speak up.

These are the top 10 things I see my mom doing that support long term vitality and health as she nears 80-

1. Actively finds joy everyday. From singing in a chorus group, to playing the piano, to meeting her friends out downtown, to throwing parties, playing pickleball, playing cards, reading new books, celebrating each and every holiday, playing games around the table, counting her blessings, and more. My mom actively looks for and chooses joy in her life. Her life has not always been perfect or easy. She has certainly felt and experienced her fair share of pain. But, she has taught me to and chooses to savor the good times, look for happiness, and practice gratitude each and every day.

2. Stays connected to friends, community, and family. My mom has dear, rich, and long lasting friendships that she regularly nurtures. She visits family and friends, hosts reunions, shows up to support sick friends, organizes get togethers, meets for walks, hugs, feeds, and is endlessly loyal to her people. Family always comes first and has been know to literally gives her people the shirt off their back.

3. Eats mostly at home, whole foods, not restrictive, and always a salad. Growing up we always a fat, loads of fiber, and protein- and this was way before we needed research or wearables to tell us this was the magic formula for health. My mom always sat to eat (and still does). We gathered every night for a family dinner. We prayed. We passed the food. We always had a salad and a veggie along with anything else. We ate home cooked deserts that we sat around and enjoyed together. Our kitchen truly was and still is the heart beat of our home. My mom is not restrictive with her diet. She eats just about everything. But she does have celiac, and for that reason avoids gluten. Although it may be inconvenient to cook and our modern world has a lot of options so we don’t have to, there is magic that comes from preparing food in the kitchen.

4. Walks! Moves, Everyday. My mom has always walked. She walks alone, with friends, in any weather, at any time of day, and she always notices the weather. Movement is part of her everyday life. She is not agro about moving, but joyful. She plays tennis with her friends, ping pong with her grandkids, is always up for a hike, or a yoga class, and is the first to dance and last to leave the dancefloor at any party.

5. Listens to her body. When something is off, she knows it is a sign and is proactive around resolving the issue, or more importantly at resolving what is driving it. This includes when poop changes, if sleep changes, if digestion is off, mood feels off, lab markers change, etc. Our symptoms are messages. How loudly they talk is up to us. Symptoms serve as a ‘check engine light’. I know I have helped her to understand this more in recent years. As a nurse she learned to treat symptoms, as her daughter who practices functionally, I have encouraged her to instead see symptoms as a message that something is off and needs attention. She has incorporated this brilliantly and is wise about listening to her body.

6. Builds muscle. My mom is no gym rat or crazy athlete. But she is serious about consistently working to build her muscles. In the health world, we are starting to understand now that muscle is health. I don’t think we need to have huge muscles, if that is not our preference, but actively building them with resistance training and getting enough protein are both key. My mom still does yoga regularly, works with a trainer once a week, and uses her resistance band daily (she brings even bring thems with her every time she travels). When she was just here visiting she joined me in my daily strength and she still crushes it.

7. LOVES her job. My mom jokes about retiring but she truly loves her job. Although she does not work nearly as much as she once did, her job brings her great joy. She is an RN and a school nurse in the town I grew up in. She knows every teacher, administrator, and many of the children. She has adapted her job over the years to match her needs and interests at different times. She is creative and proactive around keeping her job interesting and in alignment with her goals and needs. She has worked in fast paced ventilator units, taught CPR, worked for hospice, taught non smoking classes, and other creative variations.

8. Does not stress much or spin out. My mom can let things go. She can forgive people and does not hold much of a grudge. I love the phrase ‘spin out’. It refers to the reaction we have to what happens to us in life. Things happen. Yes, that is inevitable. But it is how we react to them that makes a big difference. For example, if we burn our hand on the stove, that hurts. No need to cover that up or pretend it doesn’t. I am not talking about toxic optimism. However, what happens after that is what matters. Do we ‘spin out’ and go into ‘why does this always happen to me? now I can’t cook! I don’t have time for this! What will a burn look like on my hand? Will it cause me problems tomorrow? Next week? What if I do it again? and so on and so on. Yes, hurts. Feel it. Then, we move on. My mom does not spin out much. This is incredible for mental health, the nervous system, blood sugar, as well as the biochemistry that goes along with all of it.

9. Rests. My mom can charge hard, don’t get me wrong. But I have memories of her regularly throwing out a blanket out back and laying under the sky and trees to rest in the summers. Putting on the fire and sitting to rest on the couch in the winter. Sitting in a rocking chair with a child often. She takes the time to rest and has even improved at this as the decades have progressed. Rest is so important for our health and how we age.

10. Takes foundational supplements. This is not as sexy as the other ones but my mom does this well. She does not take a lot of extra supplements or chase a lot of symptoms, but she does cover the important bases that have the biggest impacts on overall health. My mom takes a probiotic for her microbiome (which impacts every cell in the body), she takes omega 3 fatty acids for her brain, her nervous system, and the integrity of all of her cells, she takes vitamin D3 and regularly checks those levels so she knows how much to take.

When we understand how these four factors impact our long term health, we can take effective steps to impact how health or disease takes root in our body.

  1. Epigenetics (how our environment impacts our gene expression)
  2. Chronic Inflammation (from emotional stress, immune activation, toxins, poor sleep, nutrient deficiencies, etc)
  3. Digestion (including our microbiome as well as how we break down and absorb nutrients)
  4. Metabolic issues (including blood sugar, energy production)

Again, we cannot control everything. But when we focus our attention on the roots of health and tap into what our body is trying to tell us early on, we can do a lot. This is especially true today, when we can monitor and dig deep into any of these four factors that are relevant.

What do you think contributes to long term health?

Did you have good role models or did you have to establish healthy habits on your own?

Do you find yourself listening to your body before it has to talk too loudly?

Are you trying to avoid chronic disease states that run in your family?

I would love to hear! Please share below.

Janel Ferrin Anderson (and mom here) FNLP, DNM, NC

Janel is obsessed with how the body works and helping people understand how food and lifestyle impact how they feel today and how they age.

Functional Foundations of Health- Easy, Clear, Effective steps to help you address the root causes of health so you feel and function better

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