We are profoundly ignorant about many things in life – what happens after death is just one of them. In our everyday lives, few of us are experts in things like electrics or telecommunications equipment, not to mention the economic system or global climate issues.
At the same time, there is a popular distrust of many ‘experts,’ with fears that there are hidden or self-serving agendas at play.
How do we make decisions from a position of ignorance? How can we evaluate beliefs – such as the existence of God, or life after death – for which there is a general scarcity of evidence?
Ageing Well series Nutrition Dr Jitka Vseteckova:
Hello, my name is Jitka Vseteckova and I am Senior Lecturer in Adult Health in Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University.
Today, I would like to draw your attention to a series of public talks titled ‘Ageing Well’. These 6 lectures are presented on a monthly basis and aim to facilitate your learning about agerelated changes and things we need to be mindful of, as we grow older.
All the way through the ‘Ageing Well’ series we discuss how important it is to maintain a wellbalanced nutrition and hydration as well as regular physical and social activity in the older age. We explore how using this knowledge might facilitate self-management and delay the ageing processes. Five main pillars of the Ageing Well series are nutrition, hydration, physical, social and cognitive stimulation.
Today I am going to talk about nutrition.
You may know already that our basic metabolic rate and functions slow down with ageing. Regular physical activity and good hydration are known to help raising the basic metabolic rate. Together with good nutritional habits, these are very important elements when it comes to ageing well.
Food provides a variety of substances that are essential for building, upkeep and repair of body tissues in general and for the efficient functioning of the body.
With ageing naturally occurs muscle atrophy, which means that our muscles are decreasing in size/volume and we become weaker. Keeping good quality protein in our daily meals and snacks helps us, together with regular physical activity and hydration, preserve muscles in good function for longer. This means we feel better, stronger, can enjoy being active, are less prone to falls and falls related injuries and in the end, we live independent and in better health for longer.
Not only protein but also carbohydrates, lipids/ fat, vitamins, minerals and again water represent necessary components for healthy blood bringing all the necessary nutrient to all our organs, including our brain (which takes about 20% of glucose and 20% of oxygen consumed in whole by our body). The food we are eating should be varied and fresh, of good quality, and should for sure include fruits, vegetables. General recommendations for ageing well and keeping good nutritional habits are:
• Enjoyable and varied with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
• We opt for healthier fats and include oily fish in our diet.
• Get enough fibre and reduce salt intake.
• Boost vitamins B & D eat calcium rich food, although we need to remember that supplements cannot replace a balanced diet.
• Get enough sleep.
• Reduce the medication/amount of drugs we are taking daily, if possible.
• Don’t smoke, go easy on alcohol and look after our teeth.
• Watch our weight and waist size and thyroid function.
• Keep well hydrated (strict minimum is 1.5 litre per day of ideally water (coffee, tea and alcohol are dehydrating beverages)
• Have regular physical activities and stay outdoor for at least a little every day and stay social.
• Socialising over a meal is a great opportunity to enjoy our meals in a stimulating company.
The same practices that contribute to healthy ageing and physical vitality also contribute to a healthy memory. So, by taking steps early to prevent cognitive decline, we are also improving all other aspects of our life.
There are some genetic predispositions that may slightly speed up or slow down the ageing processes or show us what we need to be aware of in terms of age-related conditioning in our predecessors. However, the genetic predisposition does not affect 100% of how our ageing might look like especially if we decide to help it.
The way we live our lives and the choices we make affect the way we age – IT IS ABOUT THE CHOICES WE MAKE.
So, are we ready to live longer while having a better quality of lives? This will depend mostly on choices we are going to make from now on.
(End of Mini Lecture)
We don’t have enough information for many important decisions in our lives.
In these cases, we act from a position of relative ignorance. What to believe, or who to trust is becomes a subjective and social decision.
In exploring why people might give credence to ideas which may seem inexplicable, my colleague Amanda van Eck Duymaer van Twist and I have identified several important strategies:
1) Trust in experts: We might look towards external certifications, peer review, or life experience in trying to seek the testimony of those who know more than we do about a subject.
2) Trust in peer groups: Friends or colleagues’ opinions about ‘who to trust’ can be very influential. Sometimes offering contrary opinions or promoting alternative authorities can lead to ostracization from social networks.
3) Trust in personal experience: We each have our past experiences which moderate our judgement of experts and peer groups. But sometimes we all use ‘gut instincts’ or ‘intuition’ as an important deciding factor in who or what to trust.
By thinking about sources for trust and asking critical questions about the effects of beliefs and practices, we can start to more judiciously evaluate beliefs and their associated actions.
For example, we can ask:
- Do these beliefs provide hope and meaning to those who hold them?
- What are the actions people take in response to specific beliefs?
- To what extent do these beliefs and associated activities serve to enrich and help the lives of those who hold them?
- Do associated actions or activities cause harm?
- Are harmful practices or experiences being reinterpreted, rationalised or explained away?
By asking these kinds of questions, it also becomes easier to raise specific objections to beliefs and practices which might cause harm. While other beliefs and practices, even if they cannot be proved ‘true’ – can be very useful and even beneficial for their adherents.
Even if we remain relatively ignorant about things - like what happens after death, we can still evaluate the application of these beliefs and associated practices in people’s lives.
For Further Information
For more information about research on South Asian beliefs in immortality and practices relating to life-extension see www.ayuyog.org.
van Eck Duymaer van Twist, A. and Newcombe, S. (2018) ‘“Trust Me, You Can't Trust Them”: Stigmatised Knowledge in Cults and Conspiracies,’ in Asbjørn Dyrendal, David Robertson and Egil Asprem (eds.) Brill Handbook of Conspiracy Theory and Contemporary Religion. Brill: 152-179.
Newcombe, S. (2017) ‘Yogis, Ayurveda and Kayakalpa– The Rejuvenation of Pandit Malaviya’ History of Science in South Asia 5(2): 85–120. DOI: 10.18732/hssa.v5i2.29