The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Don’t Hold It In!

9 Jul

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, the reality is that scientists have conducted over 1,000 clinical trials and none of the drugs tested seem to have any major positive effects on changing the course of the disease. However, researchers have found that lifestyle choices that you can make now—such as eating a healthier diet, making sure you get enough sleep, managing stress, getting regular exercise, maintaining social connections, avoiding toxins, and keeping your mind stimulated—can keep your brain healthy, delaying or even preventing cognitive decline.

Here is a weird one that you may not have thought can affect your brain: don’t pass a bathroom up. Yes, Manny did it behind the Green Monster while playing left field for the Boston Red Sox. LeBron has taken himself out of the game for it. Michael Phelps did it in the pool. “Every single athlete has to deal with this,” reports U.S. women’s national hockey team forward, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, “No one ever talks about it.”

It? Coping with the need to pee.

Uber-hydrated athletes often have to confront the urgent feeling, but on a long drive or in an intense meeting, chances are you’ve had to decide, should I excuse myself or just hold it in?

Medically speaking, urologists say it’s always better to respect nature’s calling. But the truth is, before the age of 50, you have the ability to hold urine in for about eight hours and that’s okay to do as long as you don’t do it all the time.

However, some professions, such as a nurse, teacher, surgeon, or truck driver seem to demand that you hold it in frequently. In those cases, you’re risking infections, long-term damage to your bladder, and even possible damage to your kidneys.

Dr. Peter Snyder, a neurologist from Brown University, notes that there is another drawback to holding it in: it impairs higher-order cognitive functions on a level similar to drunken driving. Snyder found that the longer study participants avoided the bathroom, the higher their self-reported pain levels increased, which led to worse performance on cognitive assessments. We do not know if this has long-term effects, but I imagine that bouts of pain can cause destruction of neuronal connections in your brain.

So when nature calls, it’s okay to hold it in for a little while but avoid making it a habit or one day you may lose the ability to hold it in at all.  And when you find that urge to pee relieved, vow to and develop a plan to immediately implement some lifestyle choices that preserve and increase brain function. Because when it comes to your brain, an ounce of prevention is really worth a ton of non-effective cures.


Next month, we’ll talk about another choice that keeps you young.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to:

Dr. Mike Roizen

PS: Please continue to order the new book by Jean Chatzky and myself, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip


NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.
This article is of the opinion of its author.
Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.
You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have two newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr OzThese makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens.  
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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