The Road to Health is Paved with Good Relationships.


Are you on track?

The road to health probably includes diet, exercise, good genes, and a variety of other factors. What if it’s simpler than we think?

A friend recently told me that she is “basically like a toddler, and forgets to eat”.

“Forgets” to eat? How does this happen?

It puts people on a spectrum from having lost their minds to trying to keeping their minds as they age. Some health experts claim this is a sign of a food disorder. On the other end of the spectrum are people who are determined to have a body that keeps up with their mind, in old age. It is called the MIND diet and is followed by those who want a sharp mind as they age, while deterring the development of Alzheimer’s.

Both schools have merit. But, what if you’re in the zone–your nose is down, you’re focused on the task at hand–and time just slips away? It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. It’s normal; isn’t it?

I like the Scary Mommy approach. She wonders, How does a person “forget” to eat?
Her humor lives in the descriptions when the kiddo pounces her out of bed before 6:30 am, she packs lunch, and coaxes said kid into the car.

She can do these things because she is a mom who “remembers to eat”.

I can relate most mornings, and I occasionally “forget” to eat.

My alarm goes off to leave for a school event. I haven’t eaten. A handful of almonds will have to suffice. I didn’t forget to eat…exactly, but it is time to go. The consolation prize is that a roasted chicken awaits at home in the crockpot for dinner. It happens. Sometimes we “forget”.

It’s all in the MIND

Am I losing my mind? Some will debate this point. Maybe I never had it to begin with, but I was busy, and eating wasn’t top of mind. Speaking of mind, you might have heard of the MIND Diet. It’s a mesh of the Dash Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. Specifically, it’s the Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

The Dash Diet

The DASH Diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s a lifelong healthy way of eating, reducing sodium intake.

  • Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

The standard DASH diet may sound like a lot of sodium, but it pales in comparison to the 3,400 mg of sodium Americans typically consume in a day. It has a heavy emphasis on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts, while minimizing dairy and red meat intake.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet focuses on eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Butter is replaced with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil.
Herbs and spices sub in for salt to flavor foods. Red meat is limited to a few times a month and
eating fish and poultry is encouraged at least twice a week. Drinking red wine in moderation is okay, and
getting plenty of exercise is key. If you don’t consume alcohol it is not recommended that you begin drinking as part of this diet. Grape juice is an alternative. Many people who follow this diet say they won’t eat any other way, and the Mediterranean diet continues to top the Best Diets List.

The MIND Diet

The MIND Diet takes components of the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet and combines them with foods that specifically affect brain health. It was developed by Martha Clare Morris a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Morris and her team followed the food intake of Chicago area seniors for more than four and a half years. Although 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s the study revealed that the longer people followed the MIND Diet, the less risk they had of developing the disease. The risk dropped 35% for those who moderately followed the diet, and 53% for those who followed it rigorously.

The MIND diet emphasizes green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts berries and beans. Additionally it adds whole grains, fish, poultry and olive oil. De-emphasis is on red meat, butter or margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast foods.

A recent Harvard Study supports this idea. Research shows that sustained, thoughtful changes in diet can make the difference between health and illness, sometimes between life and death. People who are happiest, with good relationships at 50, are happiest at 80.

The Harvard Study began in 1938, following over 700 men, one of them being JFK. More than 60 men are still alive. Over 75 years of study reveals that relationships, combined with diet are instrumental in health.

Good genes are nice, but joy is better, and joy is found in good relationships. The subjects of the study have lived a good, long life, and are reportedly happy. Cells, stem cells, and genetic makeup are important, but the study offers relationships are equally as important.

Study Director Robert Waldinger says, 

The first generation seems happy enough that researchers want to see if their conclusions hold true for the second generation i.e. the children of the original subjects.

“When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment. But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.” says George Vaillant, Psychiatrist.

The study would have us believe that holding age at bay is easier than we think.

A Japanese poet wrote, [clickToTweet tweet=”‘If only, when one heard that Old Age was coming one could bolt the door,’ – Japanese poet.” quote=”‘If only, when one heard that Old Age was coming one could bolt the door,’ – Japanese poet.”]

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