I grew up in Poth, Texas, a small town just about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio. My grandmother, who lived to be 101 years old (amazing, I know!), was an avid gardener and raised all the vegetables our family ate. How lucky we were!
Interestingly now, we read studies by Australian researchers who followed men and women into their sixties and found that those who regularly gardened actually had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts.
So could your green thumb help you live to be 100 or have a quality of life and health that means you could be less likely to develop aging-related neurodegenerative disease?
We definitely learned all about hard work as well as dedication in Granny’s garden. One of my fondest memories is that of working alongside her where she taught me early on to be grounded to the earth and to appreciate every living thing. I truly believe that these lessons contributed to what would ultimately be my professional path and personal desire to help heal my patients and educate more people about the opportunities to improve our health that may be right outside their back door.
There is definitely some history behind the value of gardening too. For the average American in World War II, the Victory Garden was a practical way to contribute to the war effort. Some 20 million Victory Gardens were planted during this time (remember that the US population in 1940 was 132 million so 20 million gardens is quite a significant number) and by 1943, these little plots produced 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the US. In just the last few decades, we’ve thankfully seen individual and community gardens making a big comeback too as more neighbors also find ways to connect with one another in a common goal.
It’s worth noting that while that gardening can certainly impact our healthier diets, maybe too there is the additional benefit of making those personal connections when we participate in a community project. Definitely some food for thought!
While there is no panacea for a long life, I do believe from personal and professional experience that gardening can certainly make a positive difference. Along with regular physical exercise, stress reduction, greeting each day with a sense of purpose and being connected with the healing powers of Mother Earth and plants all might explain why gardening is so good for the body and the soul.
So, get your garden on. And in the memorable words of my wonderful Czech grandparents, “Zivijio!,” which means “to a long life!”
Yours in health,
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology