Everyone has a marginal decade. You could even have a marginal 30 years if you're not careful.
Let’s back up for a second; what is a marginal decade?
A marginal decade is the last decade of your life when your physical health and, likely, your cognitive ability take a big hit. The severity of that hit depends largely on what you were working with before the decade began.
If your physical, mental, and emotional health are subpar, your life will be impacted more severely than someone with more physical, mental, and emotional health in reserve.
You can think of it like a savings account; the more you have saved up, the less of a burden it is to deal with unexpected expenses. If you don’t have any savings and those expenses go straight to the credit card, it’s an entirely different experience if you’re struggling to pay it off while making ends meet with your current expenses.
Here’s the wild part.
You’ll have no idea when your marginal decade begins.
You could be 5 years deep into it before you realize what’s happening; even worse, a marginal decade can expand to engulf a significant portion of the latter third of your life.
This sounds bleak, right?
It seems like the older we get, the more unmarked landmines there are for us to stumble over and send us into a spiral of worsening disability.
If you’re passively participating in your health, that’s true.
The good news is that you get to have a say in what your marginal decade looks like, and you can build a moat to keep it from expanding and taking over more of your life.
Remember the savings account analogy?
You make deposits or withdraw from that account through your consistent lifestyle choices.
Your lifestyle choices can be divided into 5 general categories:
Exercise- Your VO2 max (your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen) and your muscle mass are some of the strongest predictors of lifespan and independence. These must be your top exercise priorities if you want a long, healthy, and independent life.
Recovery- Sleep is the big one in this category. As we age, our sleep architecture becomes less reliable; we also release less growth hormone during sleep the older we get, which is why it seems to take more sleep to feel fully recovered. Sleep is a non-negotiable asset for healthy physical and cognitive aging. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Diet- You need more protein as you age because the older we get, the less efficient we are processing and utilizing protein which supplies the building blocks for muscle mass. Recent research suggests we need AT LEAST 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight to maintain muscle mass as we age.
Relationships- According to the CDC, social isolation can be as detrimental to your health as smoking, obesity, and living a sedentary lifestyle. We’re herd animals who are wired to be with other humans. Connection is key.
Stress management- Similar isolation stress management leaks into every facet of your life and affects your physical and mental health. A valuable way to frame stress management is to view stress as something to be properly channeled rather than minimized. We need stress to survive, think of the positive side effects of exercise, so trying to minimize it isn’t a helpful strategy. It’s far more useful to strive to build a healthy relationship with the stress you have/need and then try and funnel away the chronic stress that would wear you down.
We all have a marginal decade on the horizon, it’s not something we need to be afraid of, but we do need to respect it as a reality, a reality that we have a say in.
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