Taking Steps Toward Health

September 7, 2012 in Diabetes Management, Exercise, General, Health by Mary Ireland

It seems as I get older, more and more of my friends and acquaintances are of the type Dr. Grandma described in her blog post Worrywarts and Fretters. Maybe it is just normal that as we get older, worries about health and losing cognitive ability comes more to the forefront of our thoughts; but sometimes I wonder, if this naturally tendency isn't fueled by all of the advertising we see for different drugs and supplements.

Dr. Grandma's blog posts have done a lot to discredit the concept of nutritionism -- singling out one or a few important nutrients in certain whole foods as contributing the entire of benefits from those foods. Nutritionism leads to the conclusion that we can just "pop a pill" -- take a drug or a supplement -- and attain or regain health. The Mediterranean style of living that Dr. Grandma's promotes is based on eating whole, natural foods (with an emphasis on plant-based foods, especially greens), exercise and-low stress living.

I like to think of myself as a person of action; but I guess I should clarify too, that most of my motivation for action is that I have those nagging frets and worries. A recent study, Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life, reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine is helping to allay some of my worries. The study looked at the correlation between fitness in middle age and the risk of developing chronic diseases in later life.

The basis of this cohort study began in 1970 and involved 18,670 healthy middle-aged adults, with an average age of 49. At that time all participants took a treadmill test to determine their aerobic fitness. Based on the results of this initial fitness test, the researchers divided the group into five fitness categories. Beginning in 1999 through 2009, the participant's Medicare claim records were analyzed.

The analysis revealed a direct correlation between level of fitness and the development of any of eight serious or chronic conditions. The chronic conditions included heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer. Of particular interest was the finding that more than prolonging life, fitness delayed being afflicted by chronic disease. The higher the level of fitness, the later in life a participant developed a chronic disease.

According to Dr. Benjamin Willis, a staff epidemiologist at the Cooper Institute who led the study, the fit and the unfit alike generally became infirm at some point. He views the result as encouraging because the results show that being physically fit “compresses the time” that someone is likely to spend being debilitated during old age. This compression of morbidity makes it possible to have a higher quality of life in later years.

Findings from another study affirming the benefits of exercise were presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention. In this study, cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that was consistently found to have an impact on both boys' and girls' grades on reading and math tests. Other factors considered were self-esteem, social support, socioeconomic status and self-reported academic ability.

If you frequently read my blog posts, you know that I am a big proponent of exercise. It is much more reliable than popping a pill and can even help alleviate the worrying and fretting. Take some time to explore Dr. Grandma's website and learn more about the ways the Mediterranean style of living can help improve your quality of life. From ideas about exercise to great tips on weight control and recipes, Dr. Grandma's can be an excellent resource.