Keeping up with the latest health care advice can be confusing. What I’ve learned in the many years I’ve been a health care provider is to help people learn or continue to be content and happy. That’s what many centenarians claim is their secret to a long life. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s not confusing.

It reminds me of when I was a young nurse, advising a woman who was at that time 89 years old. Now I would say that she was 89 years young. We discussed her lifestyle: She smoked at least a pack of cigarettes daily, ate eggs and bacon every day, consumed sweets, and was overweight. She also was active, spent time with friends, did not complain, and was not in debt—she was happy. Her heart rate and rhythm and blood pressure were fine. Although her blood sugar was a bit elevated, it wasn’t high enough to be considered diabetes. What was I going to tell this woman? Stop smoking? Eat differently? Lose weight? No! I told her that whatever she was doing—go ahead and continue. She had made it to an enjoyable, active 89 years of age. I was not going to take that away from her.

I have also learned that every “body” is different. We each have different diseases or health problems that need to be taken care of, but what most of us have in common is that we want to be happy, independent, and pain free (HIP).

Try these five habits for a HIP life.

Be content with what you have. Rather than comparing yourself with someone else (what they have or don’t have) realize that this is not wise. Comparing takes away your contentment. For example, you may be perfectly content with your home…that is until you see other peoples’ homes and start thinking that theirs is better than yours.

Live within your means. Be it money or energy, know what you have, appreciate it, and spend wisely. Money woes can cause a lot of stress and worry. Know your energy level. You may have the energy to go, go, go, or you may tire easily. Live within your energy level. Don’t overspend and don’t compare. Don’t feel obligated to invest more money and energy than you have. It robs you of happiness.

Change your thoughts. True, you may have a chronic illness and/or aches and pains. Take care of yourself but don’t dwell on your “ills.” The more you think about them, the worse the symptoms can be. For example, you may have real back pain, but rather than thinking about it all day, set your mind on something else. Doing that, you may not even be aware of the pain.

Be active. As the saying goes, “Use it or lose it.” This saying is truer as we age. We do lose muscle, and we may get stiffer but you can slow that process by moving—even some days when it’s tough to do. It helps you stay independent.

Be involved. Find something to be involved in. You may not be able to get out much, but you can still be an active member of your family or community. Learn to use the computer, make a phone call, and read. In fact, you are being involved right now by reading WestView News. Continue and contribute and—Enjoy!

Joy Pape is an internationally known board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care, and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1756 or

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