A ground breaking new book coming soon from Canadian publisher Borealis Press
An Interview with Elizabeth Rigley, R.N., M.H.S.
Author of SMART AGING FOR WOMEN:
A Guide to a Healthier, Happier and Longer Life
© Copyright 2016, Margaret Langstaff
All Rights Reserved
Elizabeth Rigley is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing from St. Francis Xavier University (2002) and a Master of Health Studies from Athabasca University (2007). In addition she has earned certificates in gerontology and continuing care from St. Francis Xavier University (2002). She has worked for many years in acute care hospitals as a front-line critical care nurse and more recently as a healthcare manager improving quality of care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities across Canada. She is a passionate advocate for healthy living and smart aging, and has done extensive research on the impact of lifestyle on aging. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband Jack, and near her three sons and their families while pursuing her hobbies of physical fitness, and playing the piano, as well as a lifelong passion for learning.
As a veteran editor, I can tell you that nothing is more gratifying in my work than playing “midwife” to important books that will improve the quality of people’s lives. Books, especially significant ones with a message that demonstrably helps people, last a long time. Over the course of their publishing history, they can become ”backlist” staples that can inform and enlighten generations of readers and spur further research in a critical area.
Recently I have had the privilege of editing for publication a half dozen such titles, and would welcome the opportunity to continue in this vein.
Yet in this recent assortment of worthy manuscripts coming my way from clients, none is more significant and potentially life enhancing than Elizabeth Rigley’s Smart Aging for Women. For it distills the wisdom and hands-on experience acquired during a distinguished nursing career specializing in female gerontology and healthcare management, and incorporates the latest ground-breaking research and medical findings about women’s longevity.
And it’s a great read! The writing in Smart Aging for Women is lively, very convincing and full of fascinating real life examples, anecdotes and individual narratives. Without beating around the bush, Elizabeth Rigley tells women clearly and persuasively exactly what they must do in order to live a long and happy life.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that the Rx is healthy lifestyle choices and behavior, but the myth persists that women are ultimately helpless in this respect and that they have a foregone destiny locked up in the genes they inherit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After winding up the editing of the book, I recently had a “post-partum” discussion with Elizabeth about it that most women will find interesting and a boon to their own health and joie de vivre.
Here are some highlights—
Elizabeth, writing a book, any book, is an arduous process, a marathon really, and usually the author has no guarantee of success, let alone publication. What stimulated you to undertake this feat and kept you going?
I have always loved writing, particularly short stories. I began this project by writing the short story, which begins the book, and then it just evolved from there. I had no idea of the work involved in writing a book although I found it to be very enjoyable and a valuable learning experience. The motivation that kept me going was my desire to help women become smart agers, free from chronic diseases.
Throughout my nursing career, I have seen so many people become ill due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. I have also seen people in perfect health in their eighties and nineties because of healthy lifestyle choices. I want to share what I have learned with women about how to extend their active life in good health. I have spent numerous hours reading and researching in an effort to extract important and vital information and in this book, I share some of the best and most credible information available today—information that will deliver the kind of results that women want and deserve.
As a health care professional, I have often seen what happens when people do not practice preventative health care. So many times, I have heard doctors sigh with frustration when something could easily have been avoided with some very small preventative intervention, such as a routine screening test. And unfortunately, the consequences of that omission are often fatal.
I would like women to know that by keeping a watchful eye on their health they can often mitigate the development of diseases or lessen their severity through early detection. One important way to do this is by having an annual physical examination and age-appropriate screening tests and blood work.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Smart Aging for Women?
Clearly, when we look at the statistics, many women are not getting the message about the impact of lifestyle on healthy living and aging. For example in 1997, the obesity rates in the US were 20%. Today, in 2015, a large study of a nationally representative group of 15,208 people recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that the number of obese women is 37%. The percentage for combined overweight and obese women in the US is now 67%, which is an alarming increase.
And along with getting fatter, people are getting sicker and sicker, and the costs to care for them are growing higher and higher. Obesity is incompatible with healthy aging because it increases the risk of a number of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and osteoarthritis, which often lead to premature disability, suffering, and an early death.
(above) Elizabeth, participating in a Half Marathon in 2015
A WOMAN IS IN CONTROL OF HER HEALTH DESTINY
I want women to understand that they are in control of their health destiny, for the most part, and that they can dramatically improve their odds of living healthier, happier, and longer well into their senior years by making good lifestyle and attitudinal choices. They need to understand that chronic diseases are not an inevitable aspect of aging but the result of poor lifestyle choices.
If you had to boil your message down into a few sentences, what would you say?
At 60, most of us still have thirty years left, and whether they’re downhill or not is up to us. We may be alert, vigorous, and sexy through this latter third of our lives or we may descend into Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, pulmonary disease, or other chronic diseases that torture the elderly. Mostly it depends on us.
90 PERCENT OF US COULD LIVE TO AGE 90
Studies reveal that many common chronic diseases associated with aging are, for the most part, preventable. For example, 90% of type 2 diabetes, 82% of cardiovascular disease, and 70% of strokes and cancer are preventable. While genes account for a very small part of one’s health and longevity, environment and lifestyle account for the majority. In fact, 90% of us could live to age 90, free from chronic diseases, by simply making healthier lifestyle choices.
Chronic diseases rob people of their independence and the treatments required such as surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis can often cause great suffering. They represent a substantial loss of the benefit gained from living a longer lifespan, which is to stay in good health for as many years as possible.
There are certainly many diseases over which we have limited to no control, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes, which are autoimmune diseases. No amount of exercise will prevent or cure them. But diseases that arrive because of poor lifestyle choices are a very different matter.
Heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. Fifty percent of all adults over the age of 50 in the U.S. have one or more chronic diseases. Seven of the top 10 causes of death are from chronic diseases, with heart disease and cancer leading the way.
While there is no single thing that can prevent cancer or guarantee that you will live a long and healthy life, by making some simple lifestyle changes you may substantially improve the odds that you will live healthier, happier, and longer.
Can you list briefly the most important changes women can make in their lives to improve their health and extend their life expectancy?
7 SIMPLE CHANGES THAT CAN ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE
The vast majority of chronic diseases that have such a huge impact on healthy aging could be prevented or significantly delayed with the following lifestyle changes:
- Foster a positive attitude
- Stop smoking
- Reduce consumption of mass-produced processed foods
- Consume a diet rich in plant foods
- Maintain a normal weight (Body Mass Index, or BMI, between 19 and 24)
- Do regular vigorous exercise (30 minutes a day minimum).
- Self-monitor blood pressure and blood sugar.
While the list may be short, the adherence can be challenging. This is because people often try to make too many changes all at once. And when they fail, they just give up and go back to their bad habits. The goal is to make more good choices in the run of a day than bad ones. These good choices all add up to smart aging!
By implementing these lifestyle changes, women can greatly decrease the likelihood that they will be afflicted with preventable diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, many cancers, lung disease, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, strokes, liver and kidney disease, as well as other medical conditions such as depression, orthopedic problems, and sleep apnea.
YOU CAN TURN BACK THE CLOCK!
With these simple lifestyle changes, women will become younger on the inside and the outside and reap the unbelievable benefits that go along with that. They will look healthier, with younger-looking skin and nails, shinier hair, and clearer eyes. They will lose weight, tone muscles, and retain their quick mind and interest in life while warding off depression. Their libido will increase, allowing them to continue enjoying a healthy sex life. And the most important benefit of all is that they will stop the chronic diseases of aging like type 2 diabetes and hypertension from ever becoming part of their lives.
THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE
The single most important change that women can make in their lives is to exercise daily. Exercise is undisputedly the be-all and end-all. It is by far the single most important and smartest thing women can do for themselves each day in their quest for a healthier, happier, and longer life.
And while lifestyle is the main focus of this book, other relevant issues for women will also be discussed, such as
- non-surgical and surgical cosmetic procedures
- preventative health care
- housing options
… and much more. There are a myriad of things that can impact aging and the more information women have, the better. The years simply fly by and they know it, they are there. I want to make sure they arrive safely!
PROMISING NEW DEVELOPMENTS
Are you watching any new promising developments in gerontology that could materially improve the aging experience for women?
Today, one in ten thousand people make it to one hundred years old and the majority of them are women. Dr. Nir Barzili, Director of the Institute for Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, currently leads the longevity genes project, whose goal is to try and discover the genes that allow some people to live to a very old age free from the chronic diseases of aging. The discovery of such genes could lead to drug therapies that might help people live longer, healthier lives and avoid or significantly delay age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There are still many things to be learned about the aging body and why the genetic make-up of some people predisposes them to a longer life than others, but one thing is certain. While there are things in our bodies and in our susceptibility to disease and aging that we cannot control, we have the ability to ward off many chronic diseases and increase our longevity by the lifestyle we choose. By making healthy lifestyle choices now, like eating healthy food and exercising daily, we have the power to significantly decrease the likelihood that we will spend our older years tortured by debility and chronic diseases.
Thank you, Elizabeth! You have done a great service to all women and the men who love them with Smart Aging for Women. It certainly deserves a large audience. We wish you every success!
Questions for Elizabeth? Any observations or concerns? Fire away, fellow bloggers!