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Thurston column: New math for old students

When our children were in primary school, we were suddenly exposed to the ěnew mathî when they asked for help on their homework. I just exchanged notes with a grandson starting high school. He said that he is taking ěHonors Geometryî ó which has an ominous ring to it ó but next year he moves on to Algebra II and ěother stuff.î Set theory? Matrices? Modular arithmetic? I pointed out that my generation put a man on the moon and we didnít even have laptops.
But the kids we helped back then have moved on to jobs and family, as will our grandchildren in their time. We seniors manage to fill our days with happy pursuits. ěWhen you are through learning, you are through,î is a favorite saying of ours, so we find ourselves students once again, learning how to make the most of our senior years.
A lot of this focus is on trying to stay fit. It is probably the most important ějobî that all of us have when we retire. You can do it on your own, but joining a program is more fun – and a motivator — when others are involved to help and encourage. Frankly, most good advice is built around a simple axiom: ěEat less, move more.î Thatís it. You can support this simple truth with facts and figures ń you might think of this as the ěnew mathî for seniors. Donít be discouraged if you were never any good in school. I have designed some simple word number problems which you can work on ń answers at the end of this column.
1. Your doctor tells you that your cholesterol level is 265 ń too high, he says, and you should lower it by 30 percent. What level would he be recommending, and what is the best method of accomplishing this?
a. attend all the church suppers you can
b. drink more diet cola
c. pray
d. ignore him; the stress of dieting is more dangerous than high cholesterol
2. You had bacon and eggs for breakfast and you plan on having the meatloaf special at Momís Diner tonight. You recently read an article that said you should limit your fat intake to 30 percent of your daily caloric intake. Is it OK for you to have a BLT for lunch?
3) You recently dusted off your treadmill and found that the slope setting the last time it was used ó in 1987 ó was 7.5. You are 65 years old. Is this a safe setting for you to use in resuming your exercise program?
4. You understand that meaningful cardio-vascular exercise calls for a heart rate 65 to 85 percent of the maximum heart rate for your age and you purchased a heart rate monitor to track it. You are 71. You have heard that Lance Armstrong routinely exercises at 95 percent of his maximum heart rate. You decide to try it and discover that your monitor suddenly stops working. Are these devices designed to cut off at certain levels?
I hope you didnít cheat by looking ahead. It is in your best interest to take this little test seriously. Here are the answers:
1. If you can find a church supper without green beans boiled for three hours in country ham, fried chicken and biscuits and banana pudding, ń go for it! Otherwise, c is your best option.
2. Good news. You can actually have a BLT sandwich. Just eliminate the bread, bacon and mayo.
3. No. A slope of 7.5 is roughly the grade on Route 40 from Swannanoa up to Asheville. (Perhaps you have noticed the runoffs for trucks with no brakes on the way down this stretch.) Donít take the chance. See if you can walk back and forth to your mailbox without breathing hard first.
4. No. This may be a graver problem than you think. First, see if you can fog a mirror. If this little test is inconclusive, call your doctor, but it may require an out-of-body effort.
Donít be discouraged if you donít get a 100 on the first try. Staying healthy is a day by day effort for all of us. I understand the occasional temptations to skip the exercise, cheat on the diet, and ignore the good advice and the warnings. Just do the best you can. Iím rooting for you.
Chuck Thurston is semi-retired and lives in Kannapolis, NC. His email address is cthurston@ctc.net

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