Is aging only bad news? It need not be, if you make a cumulative effort towards it and not treat it like a crash course, according to Srikala Bharath, Professor of Psychiatry, NIMHANS.

She was speaking on “Healthy Aging: No more an Oxymoron,” at a programme organised by the Bangalore International Centre, Indian Psychiatric Society (Karnataka branch) and The Hindu here on Friday.

Dr. Bharath said it was important to discuss the aspects of healthy aging as nearly 10 per cent of India's population comprised senior citizens. “Normal aging does not necessarily mean disease, but it does come with the baggage of developing chronic diseases,” she said.

Obstacles

Some of the impediments in treating chronic diseases, she said, were exit events like retirement or loss of spouse, lack of insurance or existing favourable environment.

More importantly, Dr. Bharath emphasised on improving one's social life. “No man is an island. A satisfying marriage, intellectual activity or even mentoring someone can be imparted only by elderly people,” she said.

A healthy diet, consisting of 30 per cent good fat and protein, is vital. One should eat colourfully, in the sense that one should include vegetables of various colours to broaden nutrition, and keep the body mass index (BMI) at less than 23.

Dr. Bharath threw light on certain notions regarding healthy aging, and pointed out some extreme concepts had proven right only for other species. About starvation, celibacy and no reproduction, she said they were known to have increased the lifespan of some animals, but had not been proven in the case of humans.

However, abstaining from alcohol, smoking and tobacco, maintaining a healthy BMI, staying active and keeping stress levels low contributed greatly in increasing one's lifespan.