Prescription for Healthy Aging

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian

September marks Healthy Aging® Month, a good time to evaluate your health. In the 1899 Good Health article “The Road from Life to Death,” Dr. David Paulson suggests that “the velocity with which men travel down grade toward ill health and death is largely regulated by themselves.” At any time a person can change deleterious habits and return to the road toward health. The worse your habits the harder it is to change course.1

From: Paulson D. The road from life to death. Good Health. 1899;34(8):481-482.

From: Paulson D. The road from life to death. Good Health. 1899;34(8):481-482. Click to enlarge.

In the diagram above Paulson describes certain stations as turning points. The “Business Pressure” station is marked by mental worry and sedentary habits. “Wretched Sanitation” refers to lack of fresh air and abundance of germs. The “Unnatural Demands of Modern Society” places blame on late hours and evening entertainment. The final station, “Intemperance and Dissipation,” is plagued by immorality, tobacco, and poor diet. Notice that at every station there is a “Reform” signal, a marker to let you know it’s time to make a U-turn toward health.

Even 116 years after the publication of Paulson’s article, we can still relate to the demands of each station. According to a 2013 CDC report, heart disease has been the leading cause of death since 1900, except during the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920.2 The authors offer a prescription: “Practicing healthy behaviors from an early age and getting recommended screenings can substantially reduce a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases and associated disabilities.”

It’s never too late to start living a healthier life. A list from 1954—which holds up well today—gives further specifics on how to make the switch to better health (if only we could all reside in temperate climates):3

From Walker, K. Living Your Later Years. New York: Oxford University Press; c1954.

From: Walker, K. Living Your Later Years. New York: Oxford University Press; c1954.

References

1. Paulson D. The road from life to death. Good Health. 1899;34(8):481-482.

2. The State of Aging and Health in America 2013. Atlanta: CDC; 2013:60. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/agingandhealth/state_of_aging_and_health_in_america_2013.pdf.

3. Walker, K. Living Your Later Years. New York: Oxford University Press; c1954.