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When you’re 64 (05/30/2012)
By Frances Edstrom
Someday when you are old enough, your doctor will suggest a bone scan, to detect bone weakness and how likely you are to break your bones. It’s about the easiest test there is. You just lie on a table, an arm attached to it runs the length of your body without touching it, you get up and leave. No taking off your clothes, no paper “gown,” no crazy cold gel, no squeezing your tender parts. Nothing! You’re done. Then they call you or send you a letter and tell you what they found. Sometimes you have to take a medication to keep your bones strong and take care of osteoporosis, but sometimes you don’t.

After my scan, my nurse practitioner, Katie, called to say that I have the bones of an eighteen-year-old. I’ve never talked to an eighteen-year-old who has had the test, so I don’t know how they know what eighteen-year-old bones look like. But I was happy.

When I hung up, I started thinking about how unfair it is. Really, if you were to choose, would you choose the bones of an eighteen-year-old or the face of an eighteen-year-old—or the tummy, or the thighs, or the chest? Bones? Come on!

Before I had surgery to repair the mitral valve in my heart, they ordered an angiogram to look at my arteries to see if they were blocked and would complicate the repair. The cardiologist told me afterward that I have the arteries of a baby. How about the skin of a baby? How about the shiny hair of a baby? How about the eyes of a baby? Arteries? Give me a break.

What I want to know is who decides what portions of your body are going to age (and even aging gracefully means you are getting old). Who decided that I should have young bones and young arteries all the while my skin is sagging, my forehead wrinkling and things generally looking worse for the wear?

Think of all the brain power that has gone into fighting the effects of aging. All those lotions, creams, vitamin pills and crazy concoctions. Not to mention hair dye, synthetic wigs, foundation make-up, and foundation garments. Think of the percentage of the medical community devoted to the cosmetic plastic surgery business.

There were over 9 million surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the United States in 2011. Surgical procedures accounted for 18% of the total number of procedures and 63% of the total expenditures, with nonsurgical procedures making up 82% of the total number of procedures and 37% of total expenditures. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, this included at whopping 13% increase in the number of liposuction procedures performed over 2010. Since 1997, there has been over 197% increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures. Surgical procedures increased by more than 73%, and nonsurgical procedures increased by 356%.

So I guess I’m not the only one who would opt for the body of an eighteen-year-old, given the chance. The top five surgical procedures for women were: breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tuck, breast lift, and eyelid surgery. And women weren’t the only ones!

Men had almost 800,000 cosmetic procedures, 9% of the total. The number of cosmetic procedures for men increased over 121% from 1997. The top five surgical procedures for men were: liposuction, rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, breast reduction to treat enlarged male breast, and facelift.

What is the U.S. economy going to do without the Baby Boomers? Not only do we pay most of the taxes, but we fuel this economy in myriad ways with our eighteen-year-old bones—and appetites. I remember well being 18, and saying, “Why is it that all the cool sports cars are driven by old farts?” If only I knew then that one day I would be jealous of my eighteen-year-old self, maybe I would have started saving for a facelift instead of a sports car. 


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