Personal Health Care - Why We Need to Take Control
Canada’s growing and aging population is placing increasing pressures on the health care system as a result of experiencing the highest population growth of all G8 countries. This is especially evident for those in the 60 to 64 age bracket who accounted for an alarming 29.1 percent increase between the 2006 and 2011 census period. StatsCan.
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, “cognitive impairment in aging, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, affects one in four Canadians over the age of 65. The incidence of cognitive impairment rises dramatically to two out of three Canadians over the age of 85. With our aging population, the number of cases of cognitive impairment is expected to double in Canada over the next 30 years, reaching epidemic levels.” The report further notes that the effects of cognitive impairment exacts a considerable emotional and financial toll on the families and the loved ones that are impacted. Canadian Institute of Health Research.
Given these formidable challenges, the focus increasingly centers on proactively taking more personal control for our mental and physical health. There are of course many health compromising factors for which we only have limited control over, be they chemicals, pollutants and general work / life stressors that we may be exposed to.
Nonetheless, there are many lifestyle influencers that we do have control over to help us preserve, protect and boost the fitness of our personal health. Beyond the obvious ones of eating right, sleeping well and physical exercise, medical research is placing increasing emphasis on the importance of brain training and socializing.
Brain training keeps our mental acuity sharp just as physical activity keeps our bodies strong. The more we mentally engage our brains in learning new things, the better they function irrespective of one’s age. Without that constant mental challenge, cognitive abilities start their gradual decline in much the same way that our bodies’ unused muscle mass melts away.
Socializing has been shown to have a protective effect on the brain as it represents a form of mental exercise, whereas a strong social network has also been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancies. In a Harvard University study, researchers found that those with at least five social ties, be it church groups, social groups, regular visits, or simply phone calls with family and friends were less likely to suffer from cognitive decline than those with no social connections.
A Roman philosopher once wrote that the happiness of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts as they have a direct bearing on how we feel. Engaging those positive thoughts by mentally and physically challenging ourselves to proactively strive for optimal health on a daily basis might well be a good place to start.
We’ll explore each of these lifestyle components in more detail with our upcoming blogs.