In this crazy busy world when we are all focused on our jobs, and careers, and our research, don’t forget to focus on yourself. I’ve seen many articles lately that when taken together, make me think more about taking care of myself, especially if you are still young.
Eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially if you are a woman. This study found that women who ate 8-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables during their twenties were 40% less likely to have calcified plaque in their arteries during their forties. They didn’t find an association for men, but there were a lot less men in the study, so go figure.
Calculate your heart’s true age. Then, try to make it age slower than the rest of you. The Joint British Societies for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease developed a new calculation to figure out the true age of your heart (considering more than your biological age) that will estimate your 10-year and life risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Try it out. You even get lots of handy, colorful charts like this one to explain your results. My heart age was the same as my biological age. To be honest, I thought my heart would be younger because I exercise a lot, but I guess I should be glad its not older, right?
You can pledge interventions (lower cholesterol, or blood pressure) and see what that does to your life expectancy. What I love about this site is that it is plain language, anybody can understand it! Take the assessment here (they even helpfully do metric to English conversions).
Don’t exercise at higher than your peak heart rate. And don’t use outdated formulas to calculate your peak heart rate. The stand-by formula of 220 minus age doesn’t cut it anymore. If you are a man, your new formula is 216 minus 93% of age. If you are a woman, use 200 minus 67% of age (unless you are under 40, in which case there is not enough data yet to determine the right formula). Bummer, huh? These revisions to the formula are coming about because of reinvestigation into old studies that didn’t include enough women so the generic formula was skewed.
Even if you don’t like to exercise, keep at it and you just might change your mind. Literally. This study is in rats, but hey, we can extrapolate, right? Two populations of rats were selectively bred to either love running or hate running on wheels. Even when they weren’t running, the population that had been bred from the running-lovers had more mature neurons in the nucleus accumbus than the population that had been bred from the running-haters. However, when both populations of rats ran for six days, there was something interesting…. the runner-haters who ran anyway had more mature neurons in their nucleus accumbus than the runner-haters who weren’t allowed to run. As the New York Times puts it, “are we programmed to enjoy exercise?” Maybe. Well, at least these rats seem to be. But it also seems that even the runner-haters who do it anyway are able to overcome their “programming” and actually start enjoying it.
Which takes me right back to heart health and eating right. Don’t take it from me, take it from science! And do it for yourself.