Tomorrow marks another birthday. As I age, I recognize that good health is more and more important than anything. It’s everything.
We’ve all heard the “be proactive” call to action. In a sense, this is assessment from a bird’s eye view. We can assess our lifestyle by repeating the mantras we’ve all heard before: Follow a healthful diet. Get plenty of exercise. Channel our stress. Don’t smoke. Moderation is key. Be engaged, be mindful. Okay, okay….let’s say that we do all that. Are we where we should be in the preventative health maze?
When I conduct an on-line search for “How to Assess Your Health”, my computer screen urges me to take a health report card quiz so that I can determine what my risk factors might be and use my overall score to evaluate my health. Been there, done that. I’m healthy, according to my on-line test results. Is there anything else included in proposed self-diagnostic test kit? Yes. One more thing: I need to trace my family history, which will give me clues about what diseases I might be susceptible to. According to my on-line guides, I am now complete. I can feel assured that I can head off problems before they ever come to the surface.
I’m not a medical professional and sincerely don’t profess to be, but through a devastating illness which my husband is currently combating, I’ve learned that assessment is key to everything. The assessment that my husband’s doctors and nurses speak of is that of learning about your own norms by following a road map and listening to your body. So this year, I’m challenging myself to actually learn something about my own norms, to “look under the hood of my engine” so to speak. I’m making my first attempt to understand how I run.
Last week, I had my annual physical. Although I get blood work done every year or so, this was the first time I requested a hard copy of my lab results. I also requested that my physician walk me through the results. He consented, and was happy to empower me to learn about the person whom I think I’ve known all too well for many-a year now. This was a valuable lesson. Having seen the same physician for years, he told me how my norms have been running for everything from blood sugar to iron, from blood pressure to cholesterol, both good and bad. I asked about hemoglobin, thyroid, and Vitamin D. And the list didn’t stop there.
I feel as though for the very first time, I’ve practiced the best prevention method: understanding. Not only did my physician take the time to teach, I became an inquisitive student. I followed up his assessment by utilizing a primer I found on the New York Times which allows the user to look at blood counts and understand what they mean. This served as a great follow up to help me interpret my test results.
As we continue to drown in this information age, it’s easy to get lost between multiple health blogs, hundreds of internet sites, and countless medical apps. The daily bombardment of drug advertisements and the conflicting (but well intentioned) studies about medical tests can be confusing at best. Ironically, the very best person to advise us, our doctor, is now more likely to spend less time with each and every patient. This is especially why we all need to get acquainted with ourselves, know our baselines and understand what they mean. How else will we recognize a change of status if and when a change happens?
Of course, when you’re sick, knowledge is power. But I’ve just learned that knowledge is power when you’re healthy as well.
Many of us love blueberries. And now we have another reason to love blueberries even more. A new study suggests that drinking wild blueberry juice daily may have the potential benefits of enhancing the memory of those at the risk of dementia and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
Although there has been earlier research exhibiting that blueberries can improve memory in mice, this is the first time that research was conducted to demonstrate a similar effect in human beings. Robert Krikorian, psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Centre, one of the authors of the study stated, “The ultimate goal is to find ways to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.” He added, “These preliminary memory findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate neurodegeneration.”
The researchers conducted a study to establish whether blueberry can help in keeping the mind sharper in those with failing memory. The investigators divided 16 participants, who showed signs of “early memory changes,” into two groups. All those recruited were in their 70’s. Nine of the subjects were asked to drink two or more cups of blueberry juice daily for two months while the remaining seven forming the control group drank a sweet placebo beverage minus the blueberry juice.
During the course of the study, the participants were closely monitored for adherence as well as any side effects. At the close of the study the subjects were once again tested on their cognitive abilities, learning skills and recall performance.
Observations by researchers:
The scientists noted that after 12 weeks, the subjects consuming blueberry juice exhibited a marked improvement in the learning and memory tests as opposed to those in the control group. In addition, the researchers observed a decline in symptoms of depression and lower glucose levels in the wild blueberry drinkers.
However, the researchers felt that there was need for more study to understand the health implications involved before confirming the results. “The important thing is that there are things people can do to prevent dementia, with little or no side effects,” said Krikorian.
Blueberries are rich in valuable nutrients, low in sugar, are healthy and have a great taste. They contain a host of wonderful ingredients from phytochemicals to vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber and antioxidants. The properties found in blueberries have been linked to lowering cholesterol levels, encouraging heart health, protecting the body against certain types of cancers, promoting healthy aging, reducing inflammation and cataracts.
Go figure. Like I need anymore reason to love blueberries.
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