S1E41. A Brain-Healthy Lifestyle Is…

…a full-time job!

When I first started learning about brain health back in May, I would come across the phrase ‘lifestyle changes’ pretty often. It referred to the likelihood that if you were a typical American, you would probably have to adopt several changes to your current lifestyle if you wanted to ward off cognitive decline and dementia.

These were things like changing your diet to minimize intake of sugars and saturated fats, and getting off your butt and exercising several times each week.

I thought: “Piece of cake…I can do this!”

I’ve been implementing those ‘lifestyle changes’ for about six months now and…you know what? Those changes make up the better part of my day! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I enjoy implementing the recommendations… but it’s turned into a full-time job.

Here is an accounting of what my new ‘lifestyle’ looks like from the perspective of the number of hours per day devoted to each of the five pillars of brain health:

1. Exercise: 1.7 hours. I’m working out six days each week. My workouts themselves take between 40-60 minutes, so I’m easily surpassing the 150-minutes/week brain health recommendation. But let’s add to that total my cool-down time (when I drink a pint of pomegranate juice mixed with filtered water) and the time it takes to shower. That gives me about 12 hours/week, or 1.7 hours/day devoted to my exercise regimen.

2. Diet:  2.0 hours. I’m still learning how to eat right which means that I’m still researching diet recommendations and recipes. Then there’s the grocery shopping, prep time (I’m now making my own granola and sauerkraut), cooking, and the actual eating. I’d say that this consumes an average of 2 hours each day.

3. Cognitive Challenge: 6.0 hours. I start my day by doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles. Figure 2½ hours there. I try to get half an hour of recorder practice in daily (but don’t always succeed) and then Sally and I listen to a vinyl album each night after dinner. Let’s call it 1 hour daily for music. Add another hour for reading books. I would like this to be a daily routine, but so far it’s more likely to be binge-reading the week before book club meets. I’ll add an hour for on-line activities like social media and reading the newspaper. Finally, I spend about half an hour each day thinking about, researching and writing this blog. If my math is correct, that adds up to 6 hours/day.

4. Social Engagement: 1 hour. This is my brain health weak spot. Compared to Sally who is out-and-about most of the day nearly every day, I am a veritable recluse. But I do manage to get together with others about twice each week. Although I work out in our apartment’s fitness center, there is rarely anyone else there. Same for when the pool was open. On nice days, my jogging path is the ⅓ mile loop around the building and I wave or say hello to everyone I see. On rare occasions, I will share the elevator with someone. None of this adds up to a ‘relationship,’ though, nor does it meet the criteria for ‘social engagement.’ So let’s be generous and round up to an average of 1 hour/day of ‘real’ social interaction with someone other than Sally.

5. Sleep: 9 hours. No…I don’t get 9 hours of sleep each night. It’s more like 7-8. But we do get in bed at 10:30pm and usually get up around 7:30am. This allows for time to fall asleep, wake up a few times in the middle of the night, lie awake for a little while in the morning before getting up, and still log the recommended 7-9 hours of solid sleep. It also facilitates our intermittent fasting schedule which has us stop eating at 7:30pm which is 3 hours before going to bed.

Here’s what it all adds up to:

1.7 Exercise

2.0 Diet

6.0 Cognitive Challenge

1.0 Social Engagement

9.0 Sleep

There you have it: 19.7 hours per day devoted to my newly-adopted brain healthy lifestyle. That leaves about 4 hours free for other pursuits. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, I’ll admit that I allocate about 1½ of them to my nap!

Now the question is: What will I do with all that free time?  😀

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6 Comments

  1. tencat9511771 says:

    In the context of comparing life style change to a job, do you really consider sleeping as ‘work’ and not part of your time off?
    RE: food-
    I really do hope the homemade granola is not consumed with the homemade sauerkraut.
    I’ve been making my own granola consistently for well over 17 years. I would be interested in your life style change recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing magic about this recipe, but it does eliminate added sugar and grains: 1 cup each of chopped walnuts, almonds and pecans; 1 cup mixed chia/flax seed; 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes; 1 tablespoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon each turmeric and cumin; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ cup olive oil. I add chopped dried figs and prunes each morning along with a pile of blueberries, raspberries, grapes and chopped apples, then wash it all down with flax milk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Does talking with your sister on the phone fall under the category of social interactions? If so, yayyyy!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry…the purists don’t even count ZOOM meetings. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zella Felzenberg says:

    My big challenges are nutrition and sleep. I eat too many sweets and I never get 8 hours of sleep a night. Last few days I have slept 6 hours without waking up—hasn’t happened in months and never three days in a row! I am trying to figure out what I am doing different that contributes to a good night’s sleep. 😴

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good luck…and sweet dreams…but don’t be surprised if getting better sleep triggers some lifestyle adjustments.

      Liked by 1 person

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