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The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Intention and Prevention

12 Nov

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.

This month, let’s talk about intention and prevention, starting with findings from two recent studies that led to the following dogma-contradicting headline: Data from nearly 20,000 older adults showed that taking aspirin as a preventative measure had no effect on survival rates of healthy, elderly individuals. That conclusion raised eyebrows in the medical community because taking aspirin has been associated with positive health outcomes—fewer heart attacks and strokes, as well as a lower risk for nine cancers. But the “no-benefit” conclusion also raised our eyebrows for another reason: The method used—an “intention-to-treat analysis” in both studies—may be misleading if it’s the only way used to report outcomes of various preventive behaviors such as exercise, smoking cessation, and lowering stress.

Here’s how it works, in simple terms. In an intention-to-treat analysis, you can divide study subjects into various groups. Say you want to measure the effect of exercise on bodyweight. One group is assigned to exercise (the investigators “intend” them to exercise) and one group is asked not to exercise (is “intended” not to exercise). And then researchers would measure bodyweight at the end of the allotted time period and draw conclusions about the effect of exercise on bodyweight.

See the problem? The methodology doesn’t even look at if the study subjects actually even exercised.

So, what happens to the data if many of those who intended to exercise never did and some of those who didn’t intend to exercise decided at some point to sweat their tail off five days a week?

Exactly. The data becomes more mixed up than a vat of jambalaya. And there’s no way to draw any conclusions about what effect actual exercise did or didn’t have on a person’s bodyweight. What’s really measured is how well participants in the study were motivated to follow the behaviors assigned to their group.

This is what happened in these two studies. In the first study, an intention-to-treat analysis involving almost 7,000 people in each group, the researchers concluded that taking a low-dose aspirin provided no benefit in reducing cardiovascular deaths, strokes, or heart attacks. That was the headline.  But the research team also separately examined the data of almost 4,000 people in each group who followed the protocol at least 60 percent of the time. The researchers observed a very significant 47 percent reduction in heart attacks. That was never mentioned in the mainstream news coverage I saw.  (Disclosure:  I have no commercial or equity interest in any company known to produce aspirin.)

The same issue came up in the other study. In the group that intended to take the aspirin, 38 percent of the group intending to take aspirin didn’t do it 80 percent of the time. And in the group that didn’t intend to take it, some—it looks like 8 percent; it is unclear—in the placebo group did take it. This means it’s a jumbled-up batch of data and where, in my opinion, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine could have insisted the authors analyze the data of those who followed the protocols, as no place in the three articles about that study is there analysis of actual takers or non-takers.

Using only intention-to-treat analysis looks at this question: Did people assigned to preventive measures like exercise, smoking cessation, or taking a daily low-dose aspirin actually do so? However, it may be more useful to ask a question like, “Is exercise or smoking cessation or aspirin effective when done as prescribed?”

It should be noted that the study authors and others maintain that an intention-to-treat analysis is a good way to do studies about preventive medicine, because they say it’s a “real-life scenario” of how well patients follow protocol—sometimes they do, something they don’t do what they’re supposed to do. However, I maintain that—while it may simulate how people follow preventative guidelines—it doesn’t show whether a treatment is effective or not. Preventative lifestyle behaviors only work when you actually carry them out, not if you merely intend to do so.

 Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to: AgeProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com 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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The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Do Physical Activity Outdoors

18 Oct

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.

This month, we want to talk about an important and wonderful study done in Philadelphia that you can advocate for (or copy) no matter what city you are in. It involves how to make you happier if you live near a vacant lot or abandoned home. Now, there are a lot of benefits from the great outdoors for the body and soul. Research shows a walk in a park or woods can decrease arterial stiffness, improve lung function, lower blood pressure, and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And in a new study, researchers found being around even a bit of green can transform your outlook.

In the study, researchers tracked the mental health of over 300 Philadelphians after doing one of three things with an abandoned plot of land near their residence: by clearing trash and planting trees and grass and keeping the area maintained in 37 abandoned plots of land; by only removing trash and maintaining grass in 36; and by leaving 37 vacant lots as they were. Over three years, the research team observed that the participants living near the spaces with new plantings of grass and trees experienced a 40%+ decline in depressive symptoms and a sense of worthlessness.

So, advocate for converting vacant land into a garden. And bring plants indoors too. They boost your mood by reducing stress, and NASA says they can remove 87 percent of air-borne toxins in 24 hours.

Now, moving plants inside relates to moving your exercise plan indoors as the winter approaches or when smog from forest fires decreases the value of exercise outdoors. If you enjoy gardening, walking, cycling, or other warmer-weather activities, it’s hard when a serious chill, snow storm, or smog from a fire or other cause makes it impossible to relish your outdoor activity as much. Fortunately, there are many indoor activities like indoor gardening, jumping rope, swimming, strength training, yoga, aerobics classes, and using the treadmill or other exercise equipment that can take the place of enjoying physical activity outdoors—keeping you fit, happy, and looking great and getting healthier.

To encourage you to embrace working out during winter (inside or outside, when you can), here’s some info that will help you gain the body-and-soul benefits that come from daily physical activity. They’ll give you a younger RealAge, a better love life, improved stress management, less wrinkles, a stronger ticker, and reduce your risk for many cancers, diabetes, some cancers, depression, dementia, and a roster of maladies from constipation to insomnia.

Outdoor Benefits in the Winter

One 2011 study found that “compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.” The researchers did caution there weren’t a lot of high quality studies on the topic, but you know how great it makes you feel!

Outdoor Risks in the Winter

To help you feel more positive about exercising indoors in the winter, here are some potential health hazards associated with outdoor winter exercising:

  • Cold air can be hard on the lungs and cardiovascular system (not smart if you have asthma, heart disease, poor circulation, or Reynaud’s disease).
  • Falling on icy patches can cause serious injury.
  • If you get too cold, hypothermia is a 911 emergency. It happens when the body automatically starts shuttling blood from your skin to your vital organs to keep them warm. It’s signaled by shivering, slurred speech, lack of coordination, and fatigue.
  • Frostnip and frostbite are always a danger. Frostnip says “Get inside!” Frostbite is a medical concern; tissue can be damaged permanently. A wind chill of minus 16.6 F can cause frostbite in less than 30 minutes.
  • Cold air traps particulate matter and other pollutants close to the ground, so air quality can suffer (air pollution is worse in Denver and Beijing in the winter, for example). You can check http://www.airnow.gov for air quality in your area before you head out.

The Benefits of Indoor Physical Activity in the Winter

  • Even if you’re resistant to exercising indoors, we’re betting we can convince you of its virtues!
  • Think about how much less time it takes if you’re at home, where you’re going to do that 45-minute yoga routine or sweat along with a Jillian Michaels video.
  • At a gym, you get the reinforcement and socialization that comes with going to a designated place for a specific committed workout.
  • And at home or at the gym, it’s so easy to mix up your routines. One day you can jog or walk the treadmill or ride the stationary bike. The next you’re doing an aerobics or stretch class, and after that there’s strength training with bands or hand weights!

But Indoors or Out, Be Aware of Air Quality

Exercising means you’re breathing more often and more deeply than usual and taking more air into your lungs, so if air quality is poor, you may breathe in more harmful pollutants. Also breathing through our mouth (it’s only natural when you exercise) doesn’t filter air like breathing through your nose. More pollutants enter your airways and smaller inhaled particles can get deeper into your lungs. The more pollutants you breathe in, the more likely you are to experience their negative effects.  You can learn more about how spices and foods you can grow can help you have better lungs, see Dr Roizen’s upcoming book to be published by Ntl Geo entitled “What To Eat When”.

So make sure you workout or garden (and gardening is working out) in well-ventilated environments with low pollution levels— whether at home or the gym. Everything from animal hairs to dust mites and particulate matter from a fireplace or wood-burning stove can provoke allergies and asthma. And remember, when heading outdoors, pay attention to air quality reports—parks are generally better than roadways.

Hope you choose to do these steps now—exercise outdoors if possible, check air quality, convert vacant lots to gardens, exercise indoors (plan now on how to do it) if you can’t do it outdoors and bring plants indoors too—that will help you live at the top of your curve.

 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to: geProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Five Ways to Help Your Gut Bacteria Keep You Younger!

13 Sep

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.

Last month, we reported on how taking a daily probiotic to improve the health of the gut microbiome resulted in surprising benefits like bone strengthening and better blood pressure control. Maintaining a healthy population of gut bacteria can also benefit the immune system, glucose levels, mood, and even help prevent acne. When your microbiome is out of whack because of an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics, chronic infection and inflammation, or lack of physical activity, then you may face an elevated risk for some cancers, heart disease, depression, obesity, and autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s or irritable bowel disease (IBD). This month, we’ll talk about five ways to avoid and five choices to make to help your microbes keep you younger.

How to throw off the healthy balance of microbes in your gut…

#1 Eating highly-processed foods that are short on fiber and loaded with chemical additives, sugars and syrups, unhealthy oils (trans fats and saturated fat-containing foods like egg yolks), and emulsifiers. Processed foods starve your good gut bacteria while letting bad ones thrive.

#2 Eating red and processed meat. Red (that includes pork) and processed meats change your gut biome, trigger inflammation, and are associated with everything from heart disease and depression to obesity, mental dysfunction, and cancer (especially breast and prostate).

#3 Eating the same old, same old. A narrow diet limits the diversity of your gut microbiome and its adaptability when battling disease and working to keep you healthy.

#4 Taking un-needed antibiotics—often mis-prescribed for viral infections. At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed for outpatients are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all.

#5 The 3 S’s: Sitting too much; Sleeping to little; Stressing too often. This triumvirate kills off gut diversity, which damages your endocrine and immune systems.

Five ways you can build—or rebuild—a healthy balance of microbes in the gut:

#1 Exercise. A 2017 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that in healthy-weight folks, six weeks of endurance training three days a week, increasing from 30 to 60 minutes a session, created measurable changes in the composition, functional capacity, and metabolic output of gut microbiota—but you have to keep up the exercise to maintain the improvements. So get a buddy and a pedometer and get going—heading for 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent.

#2 Eat Prebiotics. These foods provide fuel for health-promoting gut bacteria. Prebiotic foods include oats and other 100 percent whole grains, legumes, nuts, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus.

#3 Eat Fermented Foods. Sauerkraut, low-fat, no-sugar added yogurt, and kimchee, for example, deliver probiotics directly to your gut. As we stated in prior articles, you can get probiotics from yogurt and keifer, etc., but you have to eat more than several quarts a day of those to get the same number of Lactobacillus colonies as you get from one of the probiotics we favor (we like Culturelle—I am on the company’s scientific advisory board—and Digestive Advantage—which are both designed to survive the trip through corrosive stomach acids).

#4 Embrace Diversity. Chemical messages from gut bacteria can alter chemical markers throughout the human genome that may help fight infection and chronic diseases. And those messages are produced when bacteria digest fruits and vegetables! So adopt a diverse, plant-heavy diet! You’ll be rewarded, because your gut biome reacts to the input of healthy food pretty quickly.

#5 De-Stress and Sleep Well. Just two days of sleep deprivation can increase the amount of gut bacteria you have that are associated with weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and slower fat metabolism.  Chronic stress also affects the balance of gut bacteria, allowing for a less vigorous response to disease. So check out the Cleveland Clinic’s free StressFreeNow and Go! To Sleep apps at iTunes.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to: AgeProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Two More Reasons to Take a Daily Probiotic!

9 Aug

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.

From your passage through the birth canal to your first taste of breast milk, encounter with your pet dog or cat, and handful of not-so-tasty dirt in the backyard, you built your gut biome—that super-dense world of trillions of microbes that live in your gastrointestinal system (as well as on your skin and in your mouth). And you want them in and on there!

If you don’t already take a daily probiotic, a new study just came out that gives even more data to encourage you to do so because, as it turns out, a daily probiotic can also help strengthen your bones. Thicker bones help prevent hip fractures and decrease low back pain (especially when combined with spongier discs that often are part of the same process).

Swedish researchers looked at the impact of giving a daily dose of the lactobacillus bacteria as a probiotic for one year to 90 women age 76 or older and found it reduced their bone loss by 50 percent! And unlike medications given for osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), the probiotics had no undesirable side effects.

It is estimated that around 8.2 million women and 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis, and an additional 27.3 million women and 16.1 million men have low bone mass (osteopenia). Fractures of the hip are a common result of osteopenia and osteoporosis when a fall occurs. Hip fractures severely compromise independent living and increase risk of premature death.

So take note: If these data prove relevant to all of us (not just older men and women), then to strengthen our bones, we should all consider starting a daily regimen of probiotic supplements (we like Culturelle—which has lactobacillus as was the species in the study—I am on the company’s scientific advisory board—and Digestive Advantage—both are designed to survive the trip through corrosive stomach acids) and enjoy fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha. Plus, eat lots of prebiotic foods that nurture theour gut bacteria. That includes garlic, onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, walnuts, wheat bran, asparagus, and all high-fiber 100 percent whole grains, veggies, and fruits.

There are other substantial benefits of the specific strain of bacteria used in the study mentioned above.  Lactobacillus is one of the bacteria charged with keeping a proper balance between competing microbes in your gastrointestinal system, so you can maintain good digestion, steady blood glucose levels, a healthy immune system, and avoid over-the-top, body-wide inflammation.  If you’re short on lactobacillus, you may trigger or worsen ulcerative colitis and other gastro-inflammatory problems.

New research has also revealed that lactobacillus may play a role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers explain that lactobacillus can restore the proper balance of salt in your system. When these researchers fed certain lab rodents a high-salt diet, it raised their blood pressure to hypertension levels. But when the researchers gave the animals lactobacillus, low and behold, their blood pressure dropped. So if you’re combating HBP and are feeling frustrated with your efforts to get it under 120 over 70, or fighting low bone mass, or osteopenia, that’s another reason to give a regimen of lactobacillus supplements a try.  As we stated, you can also get smaller lactobacillus doses from yogurt and kefir, but you have to eat more than several quarts a day of those to get the same number of Lactobacillus colonies.

There are other choices you make that help or hurt your gut biome; those choices not only influence you gut and whether it acts up, and your blood pressure and bone mass, but also they’re essential for everything from a healthy immune system, to controlling your weight and glucose levels, to helping prevent acne, and for helping maintain a positive mood. When they’re out of whack because of an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, overuse of antibiotics, or chronic infection and inflammation, lack of physical activity, you’re at risk for some cancers, heart disease, depression, obesity, and autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s or irritable bowel disease (IBD).

Next month, we’ll tell you of five choices to avoid and five to make to keep your microbes keeping you younger.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to: AgeProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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: AgeProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

The Most Important Principles for Staying Young: Veg Out to Keep Your Brain Young!!!

11 Jun

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.

In previous articles, I’ve told you that the only organ in your body where size matters is your hippocampus—the memory relay center in your brain.  For those of you who would simply like to improve your memory and keep your cognitive powers as sharp as possible, a study—across ten different countries where folks eat various diets—may offer a simple solution: eat a plant-based diet, starting at as young an age as you can.

Basically, it works like this… To recall information, your neurons need to communicate with each other.  When your neurons make a connection, it creates a bridge, so to speak. The more information travels on those bridges, the more robust they become, the bigger your hippocampus gets, and the better your mind works. On the other hand, if you don’t constantly send and receive messages, those bridges won’t get traveled on, nobody will maintain them, and they’ll eventually crumble and fall apart. (This is the main reason for the “use it or lose it” mantra you hear so much about. When you stop using your brain, your neural “muscles” atrophy.)

Here’s the other thing about those bridges of information: they can get enhanced—or compromised—by all kinds of elements and influences. That’s where this new study about food comes in.  The wrong kind of food can lead to your inflammatory mediators tearing the bridges down. The right kind of food, as you also might imagine, works as bridge-builders and bridge-protectors (like two coats of paint covering the bridge structures)—keeping your hippocampus big and working, and working faster.

We want to be clear here: We’re not suggesting that an apple a day will prevent Alzheimer’s (there are genetic and environmental predispositions and even lifestyle choices—like smoking—that can increase your risk), but the whole point of this column is that you can –and should—leverage food in your favor. In this case—and especially if you have a family history of memory problems or have genetic tests that indicate you are at increased risk of these problems—food is a great opportunity to have what goes into your mouth influence what goes on between your ears.

That’s where these new data reinforce prior data. Researchers, writing in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that “the most important dietary link to Alzheimer’s disease appears to be meat consumption, with eggs and high-fat dairy also contributing.”

So, to protect your brain and heart while slashing your risk of dementia, eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, and fresh produce—foods packed with polyphenols that help reduce inflammation. Add a healthy exercise routine of 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent.  And if you want to really rev-up your cognitive processing skills, practice the brain game Double Decision from BrainHQ. You can try it at no charge and then decide if you want to be a gamer.

Next month, we’ll talk about another choice that keeps your brain young:  don’t hold it in.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions to: AgeProoflife@gmail.com

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 http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.