Thursday, 18 April 2019

Bad habits

The journalist Virginia Ironside doesn't see why old age should mean kicking bad habits and taking up healthier ones. If you're going to die soon anyway, what does it matter if a bad habit might take a year or two off your life?

At the age of 75, she still smokes and drinks, she loves butter and cream, she takes strong painkillers against the doctor's advice, and in general she scoffs at health warnings.

I both agree and disagree. I agree that slavishly adopting healthier habits in order to live slightly longer is a bit pointless. Especially if the habits in question really go against the grain. But I also disagree because if your bad habits make you ill, then someone else has to step in and make you healthy again - if they can. Why should other people be burdened with that?

Not that it's a big issue in my case, because I've never had any bad habits to speak of. Perhaps I should be adopting a few rather than avoiding them. Would life be more fun, I wonder?

The fact is I've never smoked, I seldom drink more than one glass of wine, I've only taken "fun drugs" like marijuana and LSD on four occasions, I don't eat anything with too much salt, sugar or fat, I eat very little chocolate, and I don't spend all day on the sofa. I don't find any of this abstinence tiresome or alien, it all comes quite naturally and has done for decades.

But as Kingsley Amis once said "No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home." So if you're prone to dangerous habits, why not carry on with them and to hell with the consequences?

Well, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. So I'm unlikely to be stuffing myself with booze, drugs or double cream any time soon.

20 comments:

Bijoux said...

I think she's missing the point. It's not 1-2 years of living longer, it's the chance to live your remaining years healthier (without cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.)

Ms Scarlet said...

What Bijoux said.
Healthy habits may keep you out of the care home and improve quality of life.
Sx

Mike Goad said...

Bad habits -- overeating and sedentary lifestyle -- led me to high blood pressure, a heart condition and pre-diabetes. The inability of my heart to pump enough oxygen rich blood from my lungs to the rest of my body made even the walk from the car into a store difficult due to shortness of breath -- and I had no idea why until the middle of June 2017. When I went to our local clinic for the shortness of breath, one of the doctor's fit me in his schedule that day.

I'm 67 years old and my quality of life has improved immensely and my plan is to maintain or improve on it.

Today I exercise an hour and a half to 2 hours a day, usually six days a week, nearly all strenuous cardio. I now seldom have a problem with shortness of breath. While I've lost some weight, it's not enough as I still succumb somewhat to food cravings. I see my primary every 3 months and my cardiologist every 6 months.

nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed, it's not just that other people might have to look after you, it's also the possibility of your own quality of life being drastically reduced.

Ms Scarlet: True, hopefully I can avoid care homes altogether and retain my independence.

nick said...

Mike: You're lucky you found out what was wrong before it was too late. That's quite a fitness regime you're on! I'm sure the main cause of food cravings is all the sugar, salt and fat that's in our food nowadays. It creates an addictive taste that's hard to resist.

Wisewebwoman said...

I agree it's missing the point. It's all about the quality of life. I live in a building that has seniors drinking themselves into a coma every night and those who stride out and take their constitutional every day or avail themselves of the two mini-gyms in the building and who is happier?

I've had to make drastic adjustments to my own way of living in the past wee while and not for life extension purposes but for my own well-being and hopeful improvement to my legs.

XO
WWW

Rummuser said...

I smoked on an average 15 cigarettes a day for 55 years and quit when I acquired COPD. I stopped too late. In retrospect, I regret not having quit earlier. I was what you would call a hard drinking hard living type till twenty years ago when I quit alcohol for good. I also got religion 21 years ago and became a vegetarian and I would call my living up to my present age of 76 for the latter two quits!

I am not a specimen that you would find in literature showing off healthy old geezers but, I am living a comfortable and reasonably trouble free life now.

I have no comments to offer to either Ironside or others of her ilk. Each to her/his poison I dare say!

Liz Hinds said...

You and I are too good for our own good, Nick. But I do love chocolate and cheese.

nick said...

www: True, who is to say which group of people is the happiest? And those of us with supposedly healthy lifestyles can succumb to nasty illnesses just the same as those who ignore all the health warnings.

nick said...

Ramana: Good for you, quitting the hard drinking hard living routine and deciding to live more sensibly. It's obviously paid off if you've reached the ripe old age of 76.

CheerfulMonk said...

Yes, quality of life vs longevity. I have ridiculously healthy habits because they make me high on life. I'm 79, so it won't last forever, but I'm making the most of it while it's still here. One size dosn't fit all, but it works for me.

nick said...

Liz: So you're as health-conscious as I am? We just aren't the reckless sort, I guess.

Jean: Your ridiculously healthy habits are clearly serving you well if you've clocked up 79 years.

Joanne Noragon said...

I quit smoking when I could no longer afford it. It's been a good choice all around.

nick said...

Joanne: I've never smoked, but my dad smoked about 15 fags a day, gave up smoking at 55 but died of lung cancer at the age of 70.

tammy j said...

heart disease runs in my father's family. and cancer runs in my mother's.
so it's 50/50 whatever is to get me first. I've had both now and still here to talk about it. :)
but to give up ice cream for the rest of my life? nope. not gonna do it.
but I know what you mean. just a few changes in lifestyle (stress etc.) have lowered my blood pressure now to normal! I've learned to 'go with the flow.'
and I think vegetarianism has helped immensely. when absolutely have to I will eat some chicken or fish. but it's not often. and I feel better in all ways.

Linda Sand said...

My Dad smoked all through my childhood. He quit when he married my step-mother in his early 50s. He died of lung cancer but not until he was 94 years old. Was it those years of smoking that caused the lung cancer? Was it quitting smoking that let him live that long? Who knows?

nick said...

Tammy: Yep, I'm not giving up ice cream and chocolate - they're far too delicious. I have slightly raised blood pressure and I take a pill that brings it down quite a lot.

You can't do much about illnesses that run in the family. But I hope you have many more years ahead of you!

nick said...

Linda: It's impossible to say, isn't it? My dad died of lung cancer, but people who've never ever smoked also get lung cancer, so who knows? I must say 94 is a grand old age!

Joared said...


I guess it all boils down to the risks a person wants to take with their health and the quality of life a person wants to have in their older years -- if they're risking COPD or worse from smoking, for example, and don't mind the idea they could be having trouble breathing -- curtailing their activities, unable to speak normally, experiencing feelings of a lack of oxygen even with their oxygen tank and nasal cannula. I recall seeing wheelchair bound individuals who had to breath through a stoma due to having had cancer surgery who resumed smoking but had to do so through that same stoma. There was more misery in store for them.

nick said...

Joared: I just can't understand people who go on doing something despite the high risk of serious illness and disability. As you say, they're setting themselves up for misery when they get older. Jenny and I had a friend who had had both lower legs amputated (after a suicide attempt) but continued to smoke heavily despite the risk to her remaining upper legs.