LET'S TALK! About Your Health

September 2012
Finding the Fountain of Youth
Let's Talk HeartAs Mark Twain so aptly said, " Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."


Special Feature by Steven T. Forman, MD, FACC, FSCAI, RVT

What does it mean to be 50 or 60 or even 90 years old? Everyone will have his or her own answer to this question. As Mark Twain so aptly said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter."

During my 20 years as a practicing physician, I have cared for patients ranging in age from teenagers to centenarians, and what seems most clear to me is that the number of years you have lived does not define the age that you feel or act. I have seen 90-year-olds who move and act as if they are 50 and 50-year-olds who move and act as if they are ninety.

What is the difference? Why are some people so viable at advanced ages, while others deteriorate so rapidly? There is no simple answer to this question, but a key ingredient is how you spend your time as you age. An undriven car will age more rapidly than a car that is used and maintained. The same is true for a human being. A sedentary person will age much faster than an active person, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Alan Bleasdale, an English television dramatist, stated, "To resist the frigidity of old age, one must combine the body, the mind and the heart. And to keep these in parallel vigor one must exercise, study and love." The truth in his words should be seized and acted upon by everyone.

Regular exercise has been shown in multiple studies to improve physical and mental ability with age. Exercise lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, decreases diabetes and reduces mental stress; all of which lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in October 2002 showed that physically frail elderly people who followed a physical therapy program had a 45 percent reduction in disability after seven months. Exercise also spurs development of new nerve cells and increases connections between brain cells. A study at the University of Pittsburgh revealed that exercise improved the thinking speed of previously sedentary people in their eighties. Current recommendations, as stated in the U.S. Department of Health Physical Activity Guidelines, are for all adults to avoid inactivity. Adults should do no less than about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly and muscle strengthening activities at least two days a week.

Research has also demonstrated that brainy activities, such as word puzzles and math problems, stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even generate new cells. A study presented at the Radiological Society of North America in November 2012 established that mental activities, like reading and writing, could preserve the structural integrity of the brain.

In addition to physical and mental activities, strong social ties have been associated with lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy. In a study conducted over a 9-year period and published in 1979, Lisa Berkman showed that people with strong ties were three times less likely to die than those who had limited interpersonal contact. The type of social tie was not relevant. It could be family, friends or community attachments.

Perhaps the answer to staying young is not so complicated, and we do not need to find the proverbial Fountain of Youth. The magic elixir requires the proper mix of physical activity, mental activity and human contact.

About the author: Dr. Forman is board certified internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology and venous and lymphatic medicine. Dr. Forman is managing partner of Los Alamitos Cardiovascular and director of Performance Vein Institute of Los Alamitos. As of January of 2014, Dr. Forman assumes the Chief of Staff post at Los Alamitos Medical Center. Learn more about Dr. Forman.

Let's Talk! Library

In addition to frequently participating as guest lecturers throughout the community, our cardiologists write articles for local and regional print and e-publications as well as for this website. We regulary update the list below with new health-related content, so check back often.

What's the Deal with Sugar and My Heart?/ Dr. Bret Witter/ March 2015

arrow FEATURED! Healthy Resolutions: The KIS(S) IT! Approach/ Dr. Stuart Fischer/ August 2014

Heart Attack / Dr. Robert S. Lee / January 2014

Stroke Prevention / Dr. Bret A. Witter / May 2013

Women and Heart Disease / Dr. Steven T. Forman / February 2013

Caring for a Family Member with Heart Failure / Dr. Bret A. Witter / August 2013

Finding the Fountain of Youth / Dr. Steven T. Forman / September 2012

Exercise and Your Health / Dr. Steven T. Forman / December 2012

Making the Most Out of Your Office Visit / Staff / March 2012