Discover more from Wise & Well
Snakes on a Trail
Plus: How fear fuels anxiety fuels mental decline
While mountain biking the other day, I had to hit the brakes for a rattlesnake, the third of three I saw in two days here in the Phoenix area. This snake, at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, was stretched out across the trail and not inclined to move, until I skidded up. My biker buddy and I dismounted and walked well around it, of course.
I mention it because rattlesnakes are one of those things we humans fear inordinately. If you’re reasonably alert, it’s hard to get bit by one. They almost always offer notice before striking, and just ask that you give them a polite, wide berth. You are way, way, way more likely to die in a car accident or from cancer or a slew of other causes.
But we aren’t rational, are we? I imagine I’ll eventually write a story about our misplaced fears, and the things we should really worry about. Meantime, I just thought this was a great example of how irrational fear creates unnecessary anxiety, which induces stress that contributes to decline in mental and physical health. Which is the subject of my latest article on Medium…
Only about 10% of U.S. seniors have dementia. But it’s common to fear getting it, and to worry about all the other terrible things that’ll come with old age. Like your fear of rattlesnakes, these are concerns you might wish to face down. As I write:
There’s lots of evidence indicating positive thinking, in general and specifically about aging, can improve mental health and physical well-being and increase the odds you’ll live longer.
… and …
Older people with a positive view of aging at the start of the multi-year analysis were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, and 30% more likely to recover from MCI if they did have it, compared to those with a negative perspective on growing older.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is another thing that only some people get (between 12% and 18% of people over 60). You don’t want it, but now you know that a positive view of aging may help you avoid it. Learn more >
Short takes on new research
Is Exercise Hard? Depends on Who You Ask!
Your level of dopamine might affect whether exercise seems easy or hard, thus whether you want to do it. The research involved experiments on people with Parkinson’s disease, comparing their sense of effort and willingness to exercise when on their regular dopamine meds or not.
“Researchers have long been trying to understand why some people find physical effort easier than others,” says study leader Vikram Chib, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and research scientist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “This study’s results suggest that the amount of dopamine availability in the brain is a key factor.”
Will it apply to everyone? More study needed, but it raises the possibility of helping people find the motivation needed to get moving. Press release with link to study >
ALSO ON MEDIUM
Another of my recent articles
Modern Life is Making Us Myopic
Nearsightedness, called myopia, makes distant objects blurry. It can be annoying, but it’s also linked to higher risk for glaucoma, macular degeneration and blindness later in life. It’s also been linked to poor sleep. Prevalence is soaring, causing experts to call it an epidemic. New research bolsters the case for two primary culprits behind the increase: excessive screen time and lack of natural daylight—both products of our modern, more sedentary life.
BIT OF WISDOM
“You know what? I’m not young. And I’m OK with that. ... I feel so much more comfortable. It’s like I’ve taken off a mask.”
— Andie MacDowell
Until next week, wishing you health and happiness.
Thank you for your support. If you find this newsletter useful, go ahead and forward it to someone who might benefit. You can find more of my health and wellness writing on Medium. Also find me on YouTube, Instagram, Mastodon, Twitter, Linkedin. And if you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, check out my book, Make Sleep Your Superpower.