Lifestylin’ Your Way to Better Health

NEARLY EVERY DAY there are new reports in the media regarding what we should eat, how we should eat, and when we should eat. I try to pay attention because I’m interested in better health, but the messages are confusing. I tend to have high cholesterol. It’s surprising because I eat a pretty healthy diet. I never eat junk food, but I do eat a lot of things like cheese, sausage, cold cuts, bread, and I do enjoy my beer. I should say I used to eat high cholesterol foods, but I quit about two months ago to stave off the medication my doctor wants to prescribe for me. Medication with side effects that I don’t like.

The TV shows, books, and articles all claim to have the “latest scientific data” on healthy eating, and it will drive a person crazy. Much of the information is contradictory and forever fickle, like the recent about-face regarding fats.

I've made a lifestyle change
During the last 60 days, I’ve lowered my cholesterol by about 60 points without medication. How, you might ask? By cutting out the foods mentioned above, eating oat bran every morning, increasing my green leafy vegetables, and cutting my alcohol consumption in half. I’ve also stepped up my physical activity. I walk when I can, I’ve been cycling more, and I bought a stand-up desk. Basically, I eat right and move more. It costs me no money and very little time. It’s a lifestyle change. The one thing that I feel most confident about advocating is having an ongoing relationship with the bicycle. I’ve been a serious road cyclist for 14 years, and I know it’s an essential activity in keeping me healthy. Here’s a brief article on the cellular benefits that cycling can deliver to older people. Give it a read, then get out there and crank it up a bit.

How’s your hippocampal health coming along?

IT'S PAINFUL TO SAY IT, but I've noticed that as I get older my brain function has gotten a little fuzzier than it used to be. Fatigue affects it. Stress affects it. Lack of sleep affects it quite a lot. I’ve known for years that exercise helps to maintain overall health, and I can feel how aerobic exercise truly does sharpen my thinking.

But what's exciting to me is the idea of neurogenesis. Exercise augments adult neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells in an already mature brain. (Now that's good news!)
Here’s a brief article, written by Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times: For Your Brain's Sake, Keep Moving, that talks about the studies being done it this area. It shows that exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, and some forms may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain. One study suggests, “sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health in humans.”

And, while the studies referenced here used rats and not people, and running, not cycling, could it be that humans riding bikes may have the same impact? Too bad they couldn’t have put the rats on indoor cycling bikes instead of treadmills.

I'm convinced that regular cycling at an aerobic level is good for my health and my brain. Have a read and see if it makes sense to you too.