The Thinker

More adventures in aging

Aging is an experience we only go through once, thank goodness. Perhaps that the ultimate effect of aging is death is not an entirely bad thing. At some point, the downsides of aging outweigh the benefits of being alive. As readers know, last December I received another unpleasant wakeup call that I too was aging. It resulted in subjecting myself to myriad medical tests and finding myself on Weight Watchers. Some of the more common aging signs I have experienced in my now fifty two years on this planet: loss of near term vision, age spots, odd aches and pain, joint pains, back aches, a diminished sex drive and an inability to hear very high frequencies. Now I can add one I did not expect to my list: I get colder easier.

It used to be that I was the most comfortable around seventy degrees. Now seventy degrees, even with a sweater on just feels cold. Why is this? Apparently, it isn’t due to a paucity of body fat, or I would not be on Weight Watchers. The only thing I can infer, since this was never a problem in my younger years, is that this is yet another symptom of aging.

I remember being amused when I visited my late grandmother and found that it was eighty degrees in her house and she was wearing a sweater. She was one of these petite women with neither much body fat, nor much in the way of muscles (but was always in a dress). I could rather see why she might want to wear a sweater. I found the time I spent in her home both enjoyable (in being able to see her) and oppressive (in that I wanted her to crank down the air conditioner, but I couldn’t work up the nerve to ask her).

My office is maintained at a uniform temperature of seventy degrees, which should feel comfortable. Most of the people on my floor seem perfectly comfortable. Me? I have a heater on. The moment I open my office door I rush to the heater by my window and crank it up. It could be that because I have an office with a view, it would be naturally colder in the mornings. Yet, if I leave the heater off, it feels just as cold to me at noon as it does at eight in the morning.

Often using the heater does not do the trick. So I keep a pullover sweater behind my door and put that on. It seems to work well for my upper extremities but not on my lower ones. Since I typically wear jeans to work, you would think that would keep my legs sufficiently warm, but it does not. My legs feel cold. Relief does not really arrive until the afternoon. Then the sun comes through my window. This heats up my office nicely. Sometime after two p.m. I can take off the sweater and turn off the radiator.

During the summer, you would think the situation would be reversed, but it gets worse. The uniform seventy degrees is maintained in the summer as well as the winter. However, my radiator vent will only blow out cool air in the summer. Since the sun is higher up in the sky, less sun shines through my windows, meaning my office is less likely to warm up in the afternoons. Therefore, I am more likely to wear my sweater in the office during the summer than in the winter.

At home, we keep the thermostat at seventy-two. I would like to notch it up a few degrees to maybe seventy-four, but my wife simply cannot tolerate it that warm. This often means I am putting on a sweater at home too. I am hoping since she is only three years younger than I am that she will eventually develop my condition so I can feel more comfortable around the house.

Yes, aging is full of discoveries that you can no longer take things for granted anymore. Exercise used to be optional. Now it is required. Eating healthy all the time used to be optional. Now it is required, or you may suffer devastating consequences to your health. I recently found something else that used to be optional: drinking water only when you get thirsty.

Since I am a largely indoor denizen, I tend to only sweat when I exercise or am outdoors in a temperate climate. If I need water, I always thought my body would tell me by sending the hitherto reliable thirst signal. Now I am learning that is not sufficient. If like me you are one of the Dilbert’s of the world, you need to start guzzling water. Keep a water bottle at your desk and plan to go through three or four bottles a day at work. You may think you are doing a disservice to your kidneys by running to the bathroom so often, but in actuality, you are doing a kindness to them. You are also being kind to your body in general. If you do not regularly replenish your body’s water, your body will assume that you need to retain water because your survival is at stake. Retaining water is not a good thing because it can raise your blood pressure. At worst, it can lead to heart disease and other conditions.

Because it is a complicated machine, your body should come with an owner’s manual. The body has its own needs. Some it will tell you what they are and sometimes it will leave you blissfully ignorant. That is the purpose of getting a physical: to discover those things that it is not telling you.

At least my body is quite clear about preferred temperatures. Seventy degrees is about four degrees too cold to be comfortable. As I write this, I just returned from exercise. For a while, I can coast in the glow of the extra heat that I put out during exercise. It will be an hour, perhaps less, before I will find myself reaching for my sweater.

 

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