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Healthcare power couple sheds light on connection between diet, mindset, health

I’ve heard it said that the body and mind catch each other’s diseases.

That concept would come as no surprise to two recent Fried On Business guests: Drs. Joan and Peter Cohn.

Joan, a psychotherapist, and Peter, a cardiologist, established the Drs. Joan and Peter Cohn and Family Research Fund at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University.

The HNRCA is aimed at advancing scientific discovery and knowledge about the connections between nutrition, inflammation and chronic disease.

My wife Vivian and I have been focused on this issue for years as we’ve waited for Vivian’s now-successful kidney transplant.

But you can never learn too much, so we had pen and paper in-hand for this important interview.

First, they touched on what they called “aging with the right attitude.”

“There’s no question that the psychological frame that we’re in can influence the physiology of the body. It’s very possible that by being in a depressed mood you’re depressing your immune system, which means you cannot fight diseases as best you can,” Peter said.

“A positive approach to life is very, very important.”

Now, my own mother is a great example of this. Nearly 80 years old, she still serves as the weekend psychotherapist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. She makes people laugh, and everyone looks forward to seeing her.

Peter said humor can charge your immune system, and a fully charged immune system is vital in fighting cancer, heart disease, and more.

Joan and Peter were in Florida at the invitation of my longtime friend Don Weidenfeld, Managing Member at Magnum Energy Solutions. He wanted them to provide his business clients with some tools to deal with major life transitions, like retirement.

“Everybody and everything out there changes. A lot of people have trouble dealing with that. Some people have an easier time dealing with it,” he said.

For example, Joan said, some people tend to feel a loss, like their life is over. Well, that’s just not true, and research shows that older people have a greater psychological capacity to let things go more easily.

“We find that people are less anxious. They’re actually less depressed. They stay in the moment. They realize that much of the stress they had as a younger person, they no longer have,” she said.

“It’s really nice to think about this as an adventure, a new beginning. The ability to do something in a new way – perhaps a way you never done before.”

It’s also encouraging, Peter said, to remember that healthcare technology has gone a long way toward improving longevity and quality of life in our later years.

The research fund that Joan and Peter set up was funded by an investment in a company that was making a new medical device. The money they made was donated to Tufts University to pay for more study into the role of inflammation and disease.

There is a huge connection between inflammation and food, Joan said, adding that it pays big dividends to consume things like green tea, turmeric and broccoli florets.

This was a fantastic interview, and you can listen to the entire conversation here.

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