While there has been so much attention as of late focused on infectious diseases, there is another epidemic that may have even wider implications—type 2 diabetes. In and of itself, diabetes is a significant life-threatening condition. In addition, it is strongly associated with other important and potentially life-threatening diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke, kidney disease, coronary artery disease, and even cancer.
According to CDC data from 2018, some 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of our population, have diabetes. The percentage of adults with this diagnosis increased with age, affecting more than 25% of those aged 65 years or older. And clearly, the data indicates that these numbers are progressively worsening with time. Continue reading
The number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease has continued to grow at a dramatic rate. Currently, it is estimated that some 5.8 million Americans (of all ages) have Alzheimer’s disease. By and large, this is a disease of elderly individuals, with approximately 5.6 million of those diagnosed age 65 or older. To put that number into context, consider that this means 1 in 10 people age 65 or older suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Further, it is instructive to note that there are some 200,000 individuals here in America under age 65 years who have also been given the diagnosis.
Despite heroic research efforts, Alzheimer’s remains a disease for which there is no cure or meaningful treatment whatsoever. That said, it is critical that we ask ourselves if there is any evidence that the disease could be prevented, or at least explore what could be done to lower one’s risk. Continue reading
Like eating healthy food, it can be challenging to see the short-term benefits from exercising. In fact, engaging in exercise can be downright uncomfortable at the start. But as we describe in Brain Wash, once started, exercise feeds upon itself to improve your brain and your body. It is the perfect positive feedback loop once you’re able to get it started. Here are three additional ways to overcome the hurdles to consistent exercise.
- Redefine yourself. One of the things we’ve learned from behavioral psychology is that we strongly value internal consistency. We are willing to go to incredible lengths to make sure that what we do is in keeping with who we believe ourselves to be. This bias can create problems for us, but it can also be harnessed to our advantage. The key is to redefine your identity in a healthier way, so that you develop a desire to stay consistent with the new identity. To make the consistency bias work for your benefit, make a commitment to engaging in some form of exercise each day—something you’re sure you can manage. For example, I (Austin) started doing 20 daily push-ups. Once I had done 20 push-ups a day for a week, I started to feel uncomfortable when it got later in the day and I hadn’t done my push-ups. This then became a strong motivation for me to be consistent in my exercise.
- Remember, you’re always training for a marathon. It’s tempting to jump onto the latest exercise kick, to buy expensive new equipment and sign up for the most intense workout classes you can find. The problem with these options is that they tend to be unsustainable. Your goal is to spend as much of your life as possible with a healthy, active body, not to go all out for two weeks and then revert to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Incorporate new routines. There may not be a substitute for a dedicated 30-minute exercise period. But one way to supplement your base workout is by incorporating brief exercises into your usual routine. For example, if you find yourself watching an hour of TV each night, make a deal with yourself that you have to do 20 push-ups and 30 crunches before you watch the show. I like to make all commercial breaks into an obligatory exercise interval. In this way, the TV show becomes a reward for doing the exercise, and you build movement into your day.
For more on exercise, discover our exercise focus page!
I recently had the unique opportunity to serve as an advisor for the development of the next XPRIZE. Many of you may have heard of the XPRIZE for space, and this new prize is, to a degree, similar. The new XPRIZE is being developed to help spur research in the field of longevity. As such, unlike the space prize, in which a finite goal could be easily established, developing a goal that would serve as a surrogate for longevity is more of a challenge. Nonetheless, it is a work in progress.
How does simply moving around affect the brain? For the past several years I’ve been doing my best to get out the information that shows how aerobic exercise benefits the brain by increasing the growth of new brain cells, as well as reducing the risk for brain degeneration. However, it looks like most adults are not achieving the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity/week recommended by the 2018 US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines. In fact, this level of physical activity is only achieved by 57% of adults aged 40-49, and a paltry 26% of those aged 60-69.
That said, researchers recently set about exploring whether simply moving around would have a beneficial impact on brain health. They designed a study of 2,354 participants (with an average age of 53) that ran for three years. The subjects wore an accelerometer that basically determined both the number of steps they took each day as well as the intensity level of their activity. Continue reading