Center on Psychiatric Disability and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

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Center on Psychiatric Disability & Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

Promoting Physical Health and Wellness Among Peers Who are 50+ - Andrea Schmook

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When I turned 50, I started having the type of lifestyle illnesses caused by years of unhealthy stress buildup and toxins in my body. This buildup comes from years of unhealthy daily living habits and being a workaholic. It wasn’t until I turned 55 that I found out at a routine checkup that I had high blood pressure. I was put on medication, but I did not always take it. I also did not take time to educate myself about high blood pressure. I had always been physically healthy or so I thought.

But it wasn’t until 2011, when I turned 67, that I was diagnosed with borderline diabetes and fatty liver, along with high blood pressure. These lifestyle illnesses got my attention and I began to take responsibility and educate myself. Besides seeing a doctor and taking medication, I wanted to know what I could do to turn these conditions around if it was possible. I realized if it was my lifestyle that got me here then changing my lifestyle possibly could heal these conditions. My health – good or bad – was in my hands. To become healthy and increase longevity, I learned I needed to reduce the amount of stress and toxins accumulated in my body over the years if I wanted to impact my health and increase longevity. I am doing this through a variety of ways.

First, I work with my doctor, but I’m definitely in the driver’s seat on my own behavioral health and wellness practices that I do every day. I decided to retire from my job in 2012 so I could devote more time to my health and wellness. Now, through my blog, I promote health and wellness practices that you can do every day in your own home. These practices have not only improved my health and wellness, but the quality of my life too.

I educated myself about fatty liver and discovered that fatty liver could be reversed by eating a very different diet than I had been eating. I had to rid my liver of the toxins from the unhealthy processed food I was eating. I discovered that fatty liver is connected to obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar levels. These were all of the conditions that I was diagnosed as having. To clean my liver I had to exclude sugar, refined flour, and grains. I had to increase the amount of raw vegetables and fruit to help repair my liver. I ate an abundance of salads, along with onions, garlic, broccoli and other raw vegetables to detox my liver. I used cold press olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar for my salad dressing, including drinking 8 glasses of water daily and juicing fresh vegetables often. Within three months, I reversed the fatty liver condition and repaired my liver.

Silver Sneakers is a fitness program offered to retirees through Medicare which provides seniors with a free membership at a fitness center. I am a member at 24 Hour Fitness Hollywood in Los Angeles. I attend three times a week. I use the stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, resistance machines, TRX, and weights. I also walk on the days that I don’t go to 24 Hour Fitness and practice tai chi for health and spiritual benefits. My fitness program is helping me to develop my core so I will be able to walk, sit, stand, climb stairs, bend and lift without pain and injury. It also helps me reduce body fat, increase my bone density, lose weight, improve my balance, and reduce the symptoms of my chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, and blood sugar. My stress level is reduced. I have more energy and I sleep restfully.

Besides my physical fitness program, I also eat healthy, nutritious food, which I call “food as medicine.” I eat a variety of organic vegetables and fruit, and I eat only free range chicken and turkey, and wild caught fish such as salmon. I prepare my vegetables raw with healthy seasonings and dressing. I start my day with a smoothie made with bananas, blueberries and coconut milk and maybe some quinoa. These ingredients help keep my blood pressure down and improve the performance of my medication. I monitor my blood pressure every day with a home blood pressure monitor. I monitor my blood sugar too and make sure that I eat only complex carbohydrates, instead of eating such things as bread and pasta that are made up of simple carbohydrates.

For my spiritual wellbeing, I practice tai chi sitting and standing meditation. I focus my meditation practice on cultivating my values of love, gratitude, wisdom, understanding and forgiveness. When things begin to get away from me, I stop and slow down, sit or stand quietly, and practice my meditation for a few minutes by living in the moment. I am gentle with myself and being non-judgmental by observing myself and the world around me. When I practice tai chi it is a gentle exercise to cultivate my spiritual enlightenment and balance and integrate everything within me from the ordinary to the spiritual. It takes time to learn tai chi movements, but even while you’re learning, and they may not be smooth, you are still achieving the health and spiritual benefits of the practice.

Although wellness components include financial, social, occupational, environmental, and intellectual, the wellness practices I am promoting here combine to complete a holistic circle of connections mentally, spiritually, and physically for healthier living and an improved quality of life so you can enjoy the other components of wellness. You are never too old to start and find ways to help you achieve health and longevity.

Here are five tips you can start right now at home:

1. Educate yourself about any health condition you have so you can understand it and find ways to help yourself improve your health.

2. Begin an exercise routine that benefits your core so you can walk, sit, climb stairs, bend and lift without pain or injury. Make sure you and your doctor or provider talk about what is safe for you in terms of exercise.

3. Eat healthy, nutritious food so you can use food as medicine to eliminate toxins and as a way to heal and prevent lifestyle illnesses. Be sure that the foods you eat are safe with any medications you are taking.

4. Develop a daily spiritual or well-being practice for inner peace.

5. Go to my blog,, to find more ways to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle for wellness and longevity.

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