A number of studies have been published recently that indicate that there are in fact connections between our lifestyle – especially our eating habits – and aging. This should not come as a surprise. As most of us can expect to live longer nowadays, the consequences of our youthful indiscretions may become more obvious as we get to the golden years.
Any Age Is the Right Time
To Take Good Care of Our Health
Both Physically and Mentally
One study claims to have shown direct links between calorie restriction and memory improvement – even at a mature age. In tests that involved intense memorization, the participants with the most calorie- and fat restricted diet reportedly performed up to 20 percent better than their counterparts who were allowed to consume as much food as they wanted, including foods high in fat. The cognitive functions of the human brain seem especially afflicted by poor eating habits. Conversely, this would suggest that the mind benefits from sound nutrition, just like the body does.
Quite possibly, our cognitive abilities, especially our memory, may be influenced by the flow of insulin and perhaps inflammation resulting from food-induced toxins. If a correlation between memory and insulin flow can be shown, we may be able to identify a physiological base for the health of the mind.
Unfortunately, none of these studies have produced yet enough compelling evidence that there is indeed a direct causal relationship between the food we eat and our mental capacities, neither at old age nor at any other stage in life. What has been demonstrated in animal studies is that calorie restriction can play a positive role for disease prevention and perhaps help increase longevity. This is not as clear when it comes to people, however, partly because humans have more complex cognitive capacities than animals – and so the causes for their decline may be more complicated as well.
What we can say with some confidence is this: Even moderately elevated blood sugar levels can adversely affect our cognitive functions as we age. Some researchers have gone as far as to say that people with more severely elevated blood glucose levels, such as type 2 diabetes patients, run a disproportionately high risk to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss as they get older. The reasoning is that high levels of blood sugar can cause a reduction of blood flow to the brain. Blood sugar appears to be responsible for the creation of “sticky” clumps of protein, which hinder blood to flow freely to the brain, and can thereby cause progressive and irreversible damage – resulting in memory loss and worse.
Based on these studies and the growing acceptance among the experts that there may be indeed a connection between physical health and mental health, we can better understand how interwoven all aspects of our health are with each other.
This is something important to consider, not only for each of us who are concerned with our own well-being but also for the health care profession. It is common knowledge that our approach to health care is mainly designed to take “re-active” and not “pro-active” measures. When it comes to curing illnesses, we mostly rely on fixing the damages that have already occurred as best we can. By contrast, pro-active health care that focuses on prevention is much less practiced.
We know that taking care of our health is a complex task. It involves more than the treatment of aches and pains. We need to be concerned with nutrition, exercise, avoidance of alcohol and drug abuse, but also with our mental-, emotional- and social health. If we are negligent in one area, we will inevitably face negative consequences in others. It’s all part of the same – the health of the entire person.
Especially since we can expect to live longer now, it is important that we take good care of our health from early on. A doctor-friend of mine used to say: “Health always begins now.”
So, wherever you are in life and whatever your health status at this point may be, this is the right time to begin, start over or continue to take care of your health needs – for now and for later…