Because the campaign to get people to practice prevention isn’t being followed up with compliance, American health is at risk. This is true financially, of course, as the cost of caring for an aging population rises precipitously. But it’s even more alarming to consider that ninety-five cents of every health care dollar is spent after a disease has appeared. Preventive medicine isn’t part of a physician’s everyday routine, which is spent dispensing drugs and performing surgery.
In the previous posts, I proposed that the secret to lifelong health is letting your body take care of you, as it was designed to do. That is ultimately the point of prevention—to support the body’s own power to heal, balance, and regulate itself. Since the control switch for these processes is in the brain, we need to cover an all-important issue: creating the best inner environment for your brain. Your brain processes every experience you have, and it must function well in order for the real controller of your life—the mind—to make its best intentions known.
The intention to live as long as possible isn’t one of the mind’s best intentions, because quantity isn’t the same as quality. Intending to live in a state of well-being is a higher intention, since it focuses on quality, but few people have devised a credible recipe for well-being. There is no recipe. Well-being changes as we move through life, which is why a child’s version of it cannot be the same as an older person’s. So what is the common factor that never changes as we age?
When you have any experience, your mind is in one of three states: unconscious, aware, and self-aware. The first state leaves health—and well-being—to chance. If you light up your fifth cigarette of the day without thinking, you are doing something unconsciously, as is the nature of habits. If you see yourself lighting up the cigarette, you are aware of what you’re doing. But self-awareness goes further; it says, “What am I doing to myself?” Posing questions, reflecting on your behavior, looking at the larger picture, taking your life seriously—these are all self-aware behaviors.
The mind and body are connected in a feedback loop, and it will operate automatically without any awareness, much less self-awareness. Someone in a coma is an extreme example of the automatic nature of the body’s feedback loop being monitored by the brain’s automatic mechanisms. The feedback changes when you add awareness, which is why it is better to be awake than in a coma. The best way to participate in the feedback loop, however, is through self-awareness. In that state, you tune into your body and lead your brain’s responses in a positive way.
(which were drawn up by Dr. Rudy Tanzi and myself when we co-wrote the forthcoming book Super Brain)