How you respond to poor lifestyle choices could produce positive effects later in life.
By James De Medeiros
It’s hard being wrong. Credit often comes in the form of blame. There aren’t any awards or accolades given to those who make mistakes. There’s certainly no reason to brag about it either. In fact, some people take making mistakes so hard that they decide to remove themselves from the situation, retreating to the comfortable confines of their home filled with poor lifestyle crutches and opting to do nothing instead of making more mistakes. Unfortunately, getting comfortable and doing nothing are the worst options to take. In fact, it’s doing nothing, or not enough, that can lead you down the path to unhealthy aging.
A lot people take the approach that if something isn’t broken, then you don’t fix it. Following that line of reasoning, doing nothing should mean that everything should remain the same. But, when it comes to your health it doesn’t work that way. You need to be continuously striving to maintain or even improve yourself in every conceivable way – in other words, you can’t win with a singular focus. Don’t believe it? There are countless studies that prove this to be the case. Two such studies showcase the effects poor lifestyle choices and physical inactivity can have on your heart, mind, and body in general.
AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, published a particularly revealing study in the journal Circulation illustrating just how bad things can get when people make poor lifestyle choices. They examined more than 5,000 people between the ages of 18 and 30 and then reassessed them 20 years later. The lifestyle factors they checked for were maintaining a healthy body weight, having little to no alcohol intake, not smoking, consuming a healthy diet, and being physical active.
They made a number of very important discoveries. Researchers found that for every negative lifestyle habit the study participants picked up during the two-decade period, the odds of the various heart disease risk factors increased. On the bright side, the opposite also appeared to be the case as for every positive lifestyle change made by adults in their thirties and forties, as there appeared to be a reduction in heart disease risk factors.
But, perhaps the greatest pieces of information that emerged from the study were that researchers were able to debunk a couple of long-held health care professional myths. For starters, it is possible to change your behavior. Yes, you really can teach old dogs new tricks. And, once that behavior is altered, regardless of when, there can be heart health benefits to come from those changes.
PROTECT YOUR HEART
While that’s certainly positive news, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association indicates that there may be even more at stake than what most of us would have even thought possible when it comes to the importance of heart health. The surprising aspect of this particular study was the findings as it relates to mental health.
Researchers evaluated more than 17,000 men and women over the age of 45 with no history of stroke and with normal mental function. Four years later, they reevaluated their cognitive function. Their results were striking to say the least. If you’re like most people, you might just think that there isn’t a connection between the heart and mind. But, this study could prove to be a game changer.
The study revealed that there was evidence of a connection between poor cardiovascular health and cognitive decline. In particular, memory and learning capabilities appeared to be the most affected by poor cardiovascular health.
A total of 2.6% and 2.7% of those in the best cardiovascular category and intermediate category were shown to have experienced cognitive impairment in only four years. That number rose to 4.6% – more than a 75% increase – for those who were in the worst cardiovascular category.
The good news is that it’s never too late to make a positive change and reap the healthful rewards. Equally positive news is that all signs appear to indicate you don’t really have to get too intense with your cardiovascular training either. However, if you’re one of those who are solely focused on huge and freaky muscle gains and strength, and you employ a strategy of incredibly heavy lifts with low rep counts to achieve that look, it might be time to become more flexible in your approach. No one’s telling you that you need to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and run for 20 miles only to get off at the exact same spot. But, cardiovascular conditioning needs to be one of your priorities if you are going to age gracefully.
MAKE SMART CHANGES
Simple changes help. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator to your office. Instead of performing heavy lifting with low reps, pick at least one day a week to do the opposite: high-intensity, high-rep counts with lighter weights. Even Arnold employed that strategy. There’s no reason why you can’t continue making impressive gains and maintaining your overall physical and mental health as long as you train smarter.
We’re all going to grow old, but spending a few minutes each day taking care of yourself today could save you countless hours, days, weeks or even months in the hospital later on in life. Even mistakes or poor lifestyle choices can be corrected. Remember: you control the outcome.