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As you age, keep your body in good working order


Flu season is an important time to take care for ourselves. And this is one heck of a flu season.

Like many others, in spite of a flu shot, I caught the flu over the holidays. I was in recovery when I plopped on the couch to watch the recent Redskins playoff game.

You probably have some knowledge of RGIII’s late-game knee buckle, which landed him in surgery and the Redskins out of the running for the Super Bowl.

I’m not a huge football fan, but it was amazing to see the quarterback stay so focused on the goal, even while his knee failed him. All I could think was, “Boy, is he going to regret this at 60!”

By the time I went back to work after the flu, I thought I was fully recovered. But by the end of the day, it was apparent I still had a problem: I couldn’t speak. Well into my second speechless night I got worried.

So I called a hotline just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I spoke with a very caring but direct nurse: “Honey, I hear you struggling to whisper, and you should know you could be damaging your vocal chords right now.”

“Permanently?” I coughed out in disbelief.

“Anything can be permanently damaged if it is stressed hard enough,” she said.

I thought of RGIII’s knee and went into silence immediately. In my silence, I’ve had of time to ponder how to best keep all our parts in good working order. Here are my thoughts:

The best offense is a good defense. Our bodies have more working parts than most of us could ever name, and we take most of them for granted. I confess I never once thought to be grateful for a healthy voice box.

As we age, some of our working parts will wear out. My grandmother sadly lost her eyesight late in life. She was in an assisted living home and found the family style meals really comical.

“Just passing the salt is a bit of a puzzle,” she shared. “Being blind, I have to ask the one who can still hear to tap the one who’s deaf but doesn’t have arthritis just to get the salt.”

Our parts are not going to last forever, but even so we should defend them all vigorously. Talk with your doctor to make sure you are taking preventive measures to keep your parts working

You can’t play with fear. Some people don’t take advantage of preventive measures because of fear. I once knew a 40-year-old man who had never been to the dentist. Each year he was more afraid something would be wrong. He knew he had cavities and some jaw pain. He just couldn’t face the verdict.

Most of us have some fear in those moments just before the doctor or dentist gives the verdict. But we can’t let that stop us.

Have a good coaching team. Recently, more clients are inviting me to be a part of their team, which often includes doctors, dietitians, physical therapists, mental health professionals and others. If you are fighting any mental or physical ailments, develop a team to help you recover as fully and quickly as possible.

Sometimes we just get blind-sided. No amount of preventive care can protect us from everything. When bad things happen, we can beat ourselves up emotionally, as if we could have done something. But eventually, we have to grieve the loss and come to terms with the fact that any of us can get blind-sided, no matter how careful we are.

When it comes to your health, remember that you carry the ball. Your doctors can serve as your coaches along the way. But it’s your body. You have the biggest investment in your health, and the greatest responsibility for your own health.

Dr. Delise Dickard is a life coach, psychotherapist and director of Riverside Counseling. She welcomes reader feedback. Visit for contact information.