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Learn steps to increase your healthspan

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

When Ashtabula County Medical Center Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Ben Meola spoke at Premiere Fitness’ June Lunch ‘n’ Learn, he offered tips for how we achieve the life we want to live when we’re in our 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. Now, he’s back for a September Lunch ‘n’ Learn discussion about other ways to improve our healthspan.

“When most people think of long lives, they think of the length of their lifepan. We also need to think about healthspan – the quality of life,” Mr. Meola said. “I divide healthspan into three categories. One is cognitive abilities, or how well is your brain working. The second is your physical abilities; how well you can move or move without pain. The third is your emotional resilience, your ability to handle stress.”

Mr. Meola will cover how people can work with a primary care provider to improve their healthspan. Tune into the Facebook Live discussion live at noon Wednesday, Sept. 29 on ACMC’s Facebook page. The message will also be shared on the hospital’s YouTube page and social media channels at a later date. To see Mr. Meola’s original discussion entitled “How to Train for the Centennial Olympics, an Overview of What we Know about Longevity,” please visit and search for Meola.

As a medical professional, Mr. Meola said he sees more people experiencing a slow decline that leads to their death than he does people dying quickly due to a heart attack or sudden trauma. “Their brain stops working in manner that they are used to. Or, physically they can no longer find joy because they live daily in pain or they can no longer do the activities they’ve always done. I also see people get emotionally despondent and live every day in despair or depression.”

He said people often wait until they experience severe symptoms before they go see their primary care provider. But, the chronic illness causing those symptoms could have started years or decades earlier.

Mr. Meola said chronic health problems such as diabetes or inflammation can often be traced back to a carbohydrate metabolic intolerance, which can affect the body’s ability to use or process glucose. The body’s ability to create or properly use insulin slowly diminishes over time leading to problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, polycystic ovary syndrome, and more.

“Talk to your primary care provider and get the right screening tests to determine the root cause of your chronic symptoms,” Mr. Meola said. “You also need to begin lifestyle modification. This is good advice for any of us, but those who suffer from the chronic symptoms we discussed should begin immediately – under the advice of their provider.”

Those lifestyle modifications include eating more fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, tree nuts, and food similar to that of a Mediterranean diet.

Mr. Meola said people may not relate the food they eat to the symptoms they experience, so they continue to eat foods that are detrimental to their health. “You are in control of how your body reacts to food. If it doesn’t like something, it responds with inflammation or other health issues. You can give your body what it needs and improve your overall health.”

Along with eating healthy, exercise and getting quality sleep are key lifestyle changes.

About exercise, Mr. Meola said it is proven that those with a stronger grip strength live longer, so strength training to improve our body’s core muscles (from sternum to pelvic floor) will have long-lasting benefits. Plus, we improve our stamina and are able to enjoy things for longer at a time.

Mr. Meola said many patients don’t want to consider lifestyle modifications. “I remind them that this is something under their control. They can begin improving their health immediately without medication and without potentially expensive or painful treatment.”

To schedule an appointment with an ACMC family medicine provider or internal medicine specialist, call 440-997-6969.