I’m 44 and my body is going downhill. What do I do?

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When I first envisioned writing this article several weeks ago, the headline was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I obsess about my health a fair bit, but overall I was a reasonably healthy guy. There were no serious challenges, though I suppose I always harbored some concern that an unknown health issue could ultimately be my undoing at some point down the road. We all worry from time to time about these things. Well, most of us do. But a few weeks ago, I got hit with something real, and now I’m left wondering exactly how I’m going to adapt. 

Several weeks ago I developed tinnitus. Essentially, it’s a persistent ringing in the ears that never stops. Mine sounds like a dental drill in my head. It’s usually very loud, and I can hear it over everything (except the shower). My tinnitus could resolve on its own, but I’m confronting the possibility that it won’t and struggling to make sense of that. 

One thing I have realized is that the tinnitus has changed the way I think about health, and life for that matter — I’m hardly alone. Bodies start to change more noticeably when you hit your forties and people face all sorts of health challenges. Weight is a big one.

“Our society attributes the weight gain and lack of exercise at midlife—approximately 30–60 years—primarily to poor lifestyle choices and lack of willpower, Jay H. Chung, an endocrinologist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told the NIH Catalyst. “But [our] study shows that there is a genetic program driven by an overactive enzyme that promotes weight gain and loss of exercise capacity at midlife.”

That can be good news for a lot of people who struggle with weight. And there’s good news on many fronts when it comes to body and health changes that happen around middle age. How do you find out that good news? It requires actually talking to your doctor, getting the right information from reliable studies and taking your health care seriously, including regular doctor visits and screenings. Just take a look at the screenings the U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests for men aged 40 – 64:

  • Blood pressure

  • Cholesterol

  • Heart Disease Prevention

  • Diabetes

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Teeth

  • Eyes

  • Immunizations

  • Osteoporosis

  • Annual Physical

  • Prostate Cancer Screening

  • Testicular Exam

  • Lung Cancer Screening

I’ve dealt with issues related to my cholesterol, blood pressure, skin, stomach and more. But as I now deal with this tinnitus situation I’ve realized that it’s changed the way I think about health in general. My goal now is to approach health in a more holistic way, to improve my wellbeing in general, without stressing about any one thing in particular, whether that’s tinnitus, or any of the other issues I’ve faced.

For help with this, I consulted with doctors, friends and family and have begun to develop a growing list of strategies aimed at helping me live more healthfully and positively as I confront tinnitus, and whatever else comes my way (I’m not getting any younger, after all).

Take your health seriously. 

As distasteful as all this seems, I’m not going to ignore potential issues through simple avoidance. I’m going to see my GP for my annual physical and make sure I do the prescribed screenings prescribed over time. 

Get good sleep. 

I’ll be going to be earlier every night and do away with the screens in bed. Sleep has been a challenge since the tinnitus came on but I’m working on it. 

Eat right. 

I’m cutting on or cutting out sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol and eating more vegetables and lean proteins. 

Exercise daily. 

Doing even a little bit of activity every day is great, but if I can really work up a sweat several times a week, even better. That’s not just great for physical fitness, but it helps one develop a more positive outlook. It’s also obviously great for blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and more.

Drink more water. 

I’ve known for ages that hydration is vital, but for whatever reason I’ve never been great about that. These days there’s always a big glass of water near me.

Stay positive. 

Plenty of people are dealing with serious health challenges, but there’s also a good chance that you’re surrounded by some pretty great people who care about you. Take a moment — or a few — every day to think about that and if that’s missing from your life, work on creating it, with the help of a therapist if necessary.

Meditate. 

I’ve begun meditating daily — just for a few minutes — to help focus on the here and now, rather that the truly unknown future. I’ve also tried Tai Chi, which is kind of like a movement-based meditation.

So these are my first steps on the road to wellness and recovery. There will be fits and starts, I have no doubt. Tinnitus has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced and I’ll be honest, there are times where I doubt my ability to conquer it. But I’m trying not to give those thoughts too much credence, and instead look at this as an opportunity for transformational change towards a healthier, fuller life. I try to remind myself that there are all sorts of afflictions out there — many far worse than tinnitus. When it comes to taking care of your health — whether it’s eating right, exercising or fighting a serious condition, I think the key is finding your strength. 

As Henry Rollins once said, “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.”

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: Motortion / iStock.

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Michael Schreiber

Michael Schreiber is MediaFeed’s founder and Editor-in-Chief. Michael is an Emmy- and duPont-winning journalist and media executive. He’s worked with the New York Times, Frontline, HBO, ABC News and NBC News (where he currently writes for NBC Nightly News from time to time). He’s the founder and principal of Amalgamated Unlimited (a company that helps organizations develop and execute content and editorial strategies) and MediaFeed.org (a content syndication network).