Crossroads confront us throughout life. Taking one path often means abandoning another, whether the decision is a big one like marrying, or less significant like buying a car.
In a recent study published in March in the journal Science, Stefanie Brassen and fellow researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Germany studied the brains of 60 volunteers with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while they were engaged in a game of chance. Participants could potentially win gold by choosing and opening boxes or could lose it all if they opened the wrong one.
Those who were healthy and young and those who were old and depressed both took greater risks on the subsequent rounds of the game after they stopped playing too early and learned they could have won more by continuing. Yet emotionally healthy senior citizens didn't alter their strategies, because they didn't regret the decisions they had made.
The brain scans focused on the subjects' ventral striatum which reacts to regrets. The MRIs revealed that more regret was showed by the brains of young people and depressed senior citizens than by the brains of mentally balanced older adults.
For the young, regret can spur somebody to make better decisions, but for older people, Brassen noted that as people age, “the opportunities to undo regrettable behavior are limited.”
The behavior of the healthy seniors, “may be a protective strategy to maintain emotional well-being and thus can be seen as a resilience factor,” wrote Brassen
In other words, senior citizens with the healthiest attitudes did not dwell on the past. They moved on and dealt with the reality of now, a good coping strategy to keep in mind for healthy aging.
Some of the best writing on this subject comes from a familiar source:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” - Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
If you reacted to last month's piece on avoiding red or processed meat and have upped your consumption of chicken, you should choose to be selective about which birds you eat. A new study by Johns Hopkins showed that mass produced poultry are often fed caffeine, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac), antibiotics and arsenic (used in rat poison.)
The results were stumbled upon. The researchers had intended to just test for antibiotics but since testing for the other chemicals didn't cost any more, they asked the lab to look into the other feed additives.
This month, Maryland became the only state in the nation to ban arsenic in chicken feed. For the rest of us, organic chicken is the healthier choice, admittedly more expensive, but a better for preserving health.
Remember, the best animal food source remains cold, deep water wild caught fish, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
In the anti-aging documentary, “Reverse Aging Now,” Walter Willett, MD, the Nutrition Chair at Harvard Medical School touts the benefits of exercise, essentially concluding that the more that people exercise the better. A recent study at Cambridge University in England does not contradict Willett, but it does conclude that the greatest gain for adopting a regular exercise program occurs when going from sedentary to light physical activity such as walking a half hour a day five days a week. That improvement cuts the risk of dying prematurely by 20 percent.
Upping that activity to five 90 minute workouts a week, does increase survival rates, but only by 4 percent. Admittedly there are other benefits to increasing exercise intensity such as feeling and looking better, while boosting strength and stamina.
The most important step to take is to get off the couch and move, since even a moderate exercise program can make a big difference. According to the President's Council on Fitness, only 3 in 10 American adults get their recommended dose of physical activity.
Running Doesn't Ruin Your Knees
If your exercise of choice is running and you're worried about premature arthritis in your knees, you can take heart. Researchers at Stanford University have released results of study comparing runners' knee health to non-runners'. Decades ago the scientists began following a group of middle aged runners and the arthritic deterioration of their knees. At the start of the study a few showed damage to their knee joints. After 20 years, 32 percent of a control group of non-runners of a comparable aged showed arthritic changes, while only 20 percent of the runners had. One out of ten non-runners' knees showed signs of severe arthritis, while only 2 percent of non-runners were as bad.
As counter-intuitive as this is, the pounding of running might actually be healthy because it promotes the growth of cartilage cells which lubricates the joints. If your knees do hurt when you run, find a dirt path, a beach at low tide, or an indoor cushioned track before building up to street runs.
Finally, here's a helpful hint on stretching before you exercise. Rather than hold a pose, keep moving through your stretching to increase circulation and work the muscle fibers. Holding a stretch for 30 seconds may actually increase the risk of tears and sprains according to recent research. Keep moving through a stretching routine to make the most of your workout warm up.
Perfect For Bathing Suit Season
Now that spring is finally in full bloom, it's time to start looking good for the beach. Pick up your own copy of the anti-aging documentary , “Reverse Aging Now." Each has a 100+ page interactive longevity workbook on the DVD so viewers can track their own progress. The latest version also contains a TV interview with the producers about how they applied the precepts they learned to live better and younger. Preview the documentary here.
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To see how one baby boomer is applying anti-aging precepts to his own life, go to Anti Aging Diary.com. To embrace anti-aging you need to make a mental as well as physical journey. It's not always easy, but well worth the effort. Remember to watch our anti-aging documentary, “Reverse Aging Now.
Reverse Aging News c. 2012 Checkmate Pictures - Paul M. J. Suchecki, Editor
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