Published on August 30th, 2017 | by Dr. Joan Borysenko


Dr. Joan Borysenko on Musings on Conscious Aging

Dr. Joan Borysenko is a distinguished pioneer in integrative medicine and a world-renowned expert in the mind-body connection. Her work has been foundational in an international healthcare revolution that recognizes the role of meaning, and the spiritual dimensions of life, as an integral part of health and healing.

By now, we all realize that stress, at any stage of life, makes it harder for the body to renew itself. The shortening of telomeres necessary for cell division and renewal is associated with an increase in cancer, depression, pulmonary fibrosis, dementia, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Thankfully, short telomeres can regenerate through healthy lifestyle practices including:

• Exercise
• Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and Qi Gong
• Anti-inflammatory diet high in anti-oxidants and phytochemicals
• The shelter of each other
• Enjoyment of life

On the opposite end of the spectrum, stress, anxiety, depression and negative emotions increase pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammation is a commonality in heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, the frailty of aging, some cancers and virtually all chronic illnesses. So how do we prevent this?

Love is at the heart of all healing. TLC reduces inflammation and lowers cortisol levels while increasing beneficial HGH (Human Growth Hormone) levels. Loving feelings induce and sustain the self-healing mechanisms of the body. Love is an antagonist to stress. While it stimulates the body’s pleasure system—including increasing endorphins, endogenous cannabinoids, endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin and nitric oxide—it decreases anxiety and depression, enhances motivation and positive choices, increases overall well-being and decreases physical symptoms.



Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) helps neurons divide and create new connections.
Including the following in one’s diet can increase BDNF:

• Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, vegetables, fish and colored fruits
• Green tea
• Curcumin (found in turmeric)
• Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA)
• Walnuts and avocados
• Low carb diet
• Coffee
• Fasting and calorie restriction

BDNF is also increased by:

• Qigong
• Yoga
• Mindfulness
• Meditation
• Exercise
• Social connection
• Sleep and adherence to the Circadian Rhythm
• Sunlight

BDNF is decreased by diets high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, a sedentary lifestyle, and being constantly plugged in which can foster depression. Although most of us network electronically, in person social support is critical for both immunity and neuronal health.

Second Brain
Our second brain is located in our guts and it’s imperative to foster a healthy digestive system. We are an ecosystem of 100 trillion bacterial cells and 10 trillion mammalian cells. The bugs that reside in our bodies help to synthesize neurotransmitters, vitamins and other micronutrients; create short chain fatty acids to keep our gut lining intact preventing inflammation and autoimmunity; protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, autism, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety which have all been found to be related to gut dysbiosis.

Reducing our toxic load can help protect our brains, immunity, mood and overall health at any age. Foster a healthy relationship with the environment by using healthy building materials; organic foods, skincare products, laundry detergents, cleaning products, fragrances, etc.

We can learn a lot about living healthier lives later in life from those who live in Blue Zones. Residents of the “Blue Zones” live in very different parts of the world. They are Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda CA. Studies show that those who grow older in Blue Zones retain better health than U.S. citizens in the same age group. They experience more life enjoyment, less stress, live in supportive and loving communities, eat more real foods, and get more exercise.

Thankfully, we don’t have to live in Blue Zones to experience better health. By practicing the following on a regular basis we can cultivate greater health at any age.

• Practice mindfulness. Develop a curiosity and openness about your life’s experience
• Let go of resistance to what is–like aging
• Cultivate an attitude of forgiveness, gratefulness and love
• Integrate your brain and life through a noble narrative of your own story
• Follow Angeles Arrien’s Four Rules for Life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.

Did you know that health is intergenerational? What mom eats—and her pesticide exposure—affects future generations.






SyNAPSE, Dr. Borysenko’s latest project, encompasses a lifetime of her mind-body research and teachings. SyNAPSE delivers personalized, heart-centered, mindfulness-based, meaning-full tools for your healthcare practice and for your life.  A SyNAPSE retreat is being held October 17 to 20 at the serene IHM Center in the heart of Santa Fe. This event will incorporate the best of Science, Nutrition, Awareness Training, Positive Psychology, Spirituality and Epigenetics. Commuters are welcome. For more information, visit

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About the Author

SyNAPSE, Dr. Borysenko’s latest project, encompasses a lifetime of her mind-body research and teachings. SyNAPSE delivers personalized, heart-centered, mindfulness-based, meaning-full tools for your healthcare practice and for your life. For more information, visit

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