S2E52. The 2022 ‘Journey Awards’

The end of the year is traditionally a time to compile ’10 Best’ and ‘Best and Worst’ lists, so I thought I’d take a crack at it with some of the best and worst brain health events of the year for each of the 5 pillars of brain health. I thought about calling the list the ‘MOTYs’ for ‘Mistakes of the Year’ awards, but that didn’t seem to leave much room for celebrating the good news, so I went with the ‘Journeys’ instead.

Here they are:

1. Cognitive Challenge

There was plenty of competition in this category: playing computerized games on BrainHQ, traveling to foreign lands, reading books, writing this blog, and learning to play the recorder. As stimulating as they all were, I’m going with learning to play the recorder as the most rewarding cognitive challenge pursuit of 2022. It’s there for me nearly every day and it’s a rush to be able to play a piece or hit notes that I wasn’t able to master a month before. Learning to play meaningful melodies from across my lifespan never gets old. All in all, a pretty nice experience for a guy whose musical aptitude probably falls in the bottom twenty-five percent!

2. Exercise

One of my favorite lifetime brain health pursuits became an unexpected challenge. I was barreling along during the first three months of the year, working out 5-6 days/week, gaining strength, feeling great and losing weight. Then in April we went out to Minneapolis for the NCAA Women’s Basketball finals and I came down with COVID, which knocked me for a loop. It left me with a weakness that persisted for nearly 6 months. Working out was hard and definitely not enjoyable and I never got back into it consistently. My workouts now, when I do them, are shorter and slower. The weights I lift are lighter. So exercise definitely gets the ‘worst performance in a brain health pillar’ Journey Award for 2022.

3. Sleep

There really was only one contender for this award: my month-long experiment to change my circadian rhythm and sleep pattern in preparation for our Mediterranean cruise. It led to quite novel experiences, like going to bed at 6pm and waking up at 2am, but I think it worked. Upon arriving in Greece, I was tired pretty much when I was supposed to be tired and woke up within an hour of when I was supposed to wake up. The results, though, were somewhat confounded by the fact that I didn’t sleep at all on the plane and spent a couple of days recovering from that sleep deprivation. So now that I’ve figured out the circadian rhythm thing, I’ll have to work a little harder on the sleeping-on-the-plane thing next time we travel abroad.

4. Social Engagement

Thank goodness for Sally! She sets my social calendar and keeps me engaged. Without her efforts, I would definitely meet criteria for ‘hermit.’ But I don’t feel as though I’m meeting my obligations here. I enjoy being out with people and I enjoy listening to the conversations, but I’m finding myself talking less, so much so that Sally has commented on it several times. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that I’m not talking as much at home, either. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. My mind is going all the time, I can hear just fine, I don’t have any word-finding difficulties and I have no problem following conversations. It’s just that I don’t often feel the need to say anything. Isn’t that weird? Becoming more subdued and withdrawn are often listed as warning signs of an impending dementia and fall under the category of ‘personality changes,’ so there’s that. Come to think of it, I get frustrated and irritated more easily than I did a year ago, so maybe this is something to keep an eye on.

5. Diet

This is a no-brainer: the 2022 Journey Award for best brain health dietary contribution goes to granola! (See S2E50: Granola Revisited). On the other hand, there have been several notable lapses in my regimen. I gave up overnight fasting, not for any empirical reason, but just because I lost the will power to do so once I reached my weight loss target. And now Sally and I are treating ourselves to an ice cream sandwich nearly every night. Again, no reason to do that except for the sheer delight of indulging in a guilty pleasure. This year’s Journey Award, though, for the biggest diet disappointment, was my attempt to drink a small glass of red wine with dinner each night. I conducted a noble months-long search for a palatable, organic pinot noir, but alas, to no avail. As good as it was, I just didn’t like it. And to make matters worse, even nursing a 4-ounce ‘dose’ left me a little tipsy. I reviewed the recommendations on drinking red wine and the bottom line was if you don’t already drink, then don’t start. In my case, it appeared that the neuro-toxic effect of the alcohol was greater than the augmentation of resveratrol effect. Since I eat red grapes every morning in my granola and I’m not a fan of supplements, I dropped red wine from the menu. 

And that’s my brain health year-in-review best and worst list, the 2022 Journey Awards.

Thank you so much for reading the blog. I hope it’s been helpful, interesting and/or entertaining. If so, I’d appreciate it greatly if you’d recommend it to your friends and family at www.MistakesOnTheJourneyToNowhere.com. It might be a nice change for them from bingeing on Netflix.

Wishing you a happy and brain-healthy New Year!

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S2E51. Cholesterol? Bah! Humbug!

What kind of a Scrooge blogs about cholesterol on Christmas Eve eve when he should be decking the halls, harking the herald angels and making spirits bright?

Uh…that would be me!

I didn’t plan it this way, it’s just that I had my annual physical last week and my cholesterol is high, so my primary care provider put me on a statin. Some holiday gift, eh?

I’m a bit befuddled by it all. In my late 50s, my cholesterol numbers were good, but of late, they’ve been hovering at the high end of the safe zone or a little above. I have no idea what changed.

About 2 years ago, I tried taking a statin and it worked. Shortly thereafter, though, I began my quest to lose 40 pounds and to eat a brain healthy diet, which includes foods to help control cholesterol. So I came off the medication and did the experiment to see if weight loss, exercise and diet could bring my numbers into line.

I’ve been eating all the right things for about 18 months now: almonds, olive oil, asparagus, beans, blueberries, tomatoes, avocados, cacao powder, eggplant, apples, and salmon. And then last year, I added oats, oat bran and oatmeal to my daily regimen. On the flip side, I don’t eat fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, or junk food, all of which can raise LDL.

I worked out religiously and lost 40 pounds.

I was pretty sure my behavior had earned me a spot on the lipid screen Santa’s “nice” list, but instead, I got coal in my stocking. 

Since it didn’t work, I did a post-mortem.

Getting COVID last April definitely threw a wrench into the works. It left me weaker and unable to do the intensity of workouts I had been doing up until then. To make matters worse, I went off my diet during our cruise last month. I’ve gained back 12 pounds.

I decided to face reality and accept the fact that I probably needed the medication, but there were still a few things that were confusing me, and I wanted some answers.

In spite of the overall bad news, there were two bright spots in my blood work. First, it appeared that my efforts had paid some dividends in terms of raising my good HDL cholesterol level. I had succeeded in raising it to 60 mg/dL, which is very good. Consequently, my LDL/HDL ratio was also an excellent 2.4. 

So I could make the case that the reason my total cholesterol had moved into the danger zone (219) was that my HDL had increased…which is a good thing. 

So why did I need medication?

I asked my PCP about it when we met and she explained that the American Heart Association developed a formula for predicting the likelihood of heart and vascular disease emerging within the next 10 years. It takes into account factors such as age, gender, smoking history, blood pressure and total cholesterol levels. Their guideline is that your risk factor should be below 7.5%

She typed my numbers into her computer and swiveled her display around to show me the results. My risk factor was at 16.7%.

I felt like I had just been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

That sealed the deal. I’m now taking a statin.

What made the decision easier was that I had checked out the research on statins before going for my check-up. For several years, there had been concern that taking a statin could have a side effect of reversible cognitive problems. On the other hand, there were studies suggesting it could provide protection against age-related cognitive decline. So which was it?

A recent study appears to have resolved the conflict: the negative side effect is more likely to appear in those under 45 while the protective benefits seem to accrue to those over 65. 

What a nice stocking stuffer!

So why does someone interested in brain health care so much about cholesterol anyway?

There are about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in your brain and their primary job is to provide oxygen and nourishment to each and every one of your 100 billion neurons and 1 trillion glial cells. So you want to do your very best to make certain that nothing impedes the ability of those arteries to deliver their precious cargo. Cholesterol is the grinch in this story that can gum up the works by sticking to arterial walls and restricting blood flow which, in turn, damages or kills cells.

So now you know what I know.

And on that note, I’ll close by wishing a Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!  

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S2E50. Granola Revisited

It’s astonishing what can happen to a bowl of granola over the course of a year!

In S1E47: A Granola Ritual, I described the results of my effort to make my own sugar-free granola. Here’s what it looked like then, oh so many breakfasts ago:

1 cup each of chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup each of chia and flax seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin and ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup olive oil

1 dried fig, chopped

1 prune, chopped

¼ apple, chopped

15 red grapes, halved

6 raspberries or blackberries

A handful of blueberries

Enough flax milk to fill the bowl

I know rituals aren’t supposed to change, but the apostate in me just couldn’t resist. Every time I read the results of a new study linking a different food to brain health, I just had to figure out a way to get it into my diet…and my granola bowl every morning was the easiest place to do it.

The first thing that happened was that my annual physical showed my cholesterol getting a little high, so I immediately added 2 cups of oats and a cup of oat bran to the recipe. (I also started adding oat milk to my nightly kefir cocktail.)  With the addition of oats, my morning mix now officially met the criteria for ‘granola.’

Next came cacao. Studies showed brain health benefits for cacao, but I couldn’t figure out how to ingest it without  adding a lot of sugar. Then it occurred to me that I could mix it into my granola where the prune and fig might provide the desired level of sweetness.

So I bought some cacao powder and put a few tablespoons in the mix. It turned out that it added a little sweetness on its own, so I added some more. Now I’m up to 8 tablespoons of cacao powder, which is enough to give the flax milk a little color when I stir it all together, and just a hint of chocolate flavor without turning it into Count Chocula or Cocoa Puffs.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t really tasting the spices in my recipe, so I increased the dosage to 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, and ginger, and I added a tablespoon of nutmeg to the mix. Having done so, there wasn’t any difference in taste that I could discern. A warning, however, is in order. One evening, for a snack, I tried eating just the mix with flax milk but without the fruits. It was god-awful! A ton of stevia made it palatable, but it isn’t anything I would ever do again.

So why add all these spices, you ask? Well, because each one has been linked to improved brain health. But you are only getting minute amounts in each bowlful, you say, so are you really getting any benefit from them? Good question! My hopes are buoyed by two pieces of data. First, there was a study out of India that showed eating curry twice or more each week was protective. And so I thought, “How much spice can that be?” Surely, my daily mini-dose (plus the additional mini-doses of these same spices that I get in my daily matcha green tea brew) must add up to a significant level. 

Secondly, studies show that, in supplements, massive doses of these things must be taken to generate a measurable effect. But other studies suggest that eating a brain-healthy diet that includes them on a regular basis seems to offer just as much protection. So, yes, I think I am benefitting from this approach.

Now in an experimenting mode, I started adding things that I had read about but hadn’t included because they didn’t tickle my gustatory fancy. But the experience of adding things without fouling the taste gave me courage. So I added a cup each of sunflower seeds and hemp hearts. They added new textures, which were interesting, but left the flavor intact.

Turning to the fruit section, I quickly discovered that I could substitute a date for a fig and that it was even sweeter. After going through a few bags of dates, though, I think I prefer the figs.

It was several months into the new year before it dawned on me that I didn’t have any strawberries in the bowl. I couldn’t fathom how that had happened, so I bought a quart and pulled out the 7 largest, dicing one each day and adding it to my bowl. (The rest of the berries go into my kefir, as do 3 bananas, when I make 2 quarts every week.)

At this point, my bowl was overflowing and I had to switch to a larger one!

I always wanted to add raisins, but couldn’t find unsweetened organic ones at my supermarket. But then one day it happened: there they were on the shelf! The same held true for dried cranberries, so I added a cup of both to the recipe, mixing them in after it had finished baking and cooled.

But something strange happened. Even though I store my granola in an air-tight glass container, the raisins and cranberries turned into little rocks, barely chewable and sticking to my teeth when I crunched into them. With deep regret, I dropped them from the recipe.  😦

And then came Thanksgiving and the arrival of fresh organic cranberries to the produce section. I tried adding a handful of them, halved, and, boy oh boy, were they tart! But a recent study had them outperforming cacao and so I thought it was worth it to keep them in. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that they will disappear after the holiday season.

And now for the piece-de-resistance: vitamin gummies!

Sally has a prescription for medical marijuana to help her sleep and she takes it in gummy form. But as we prepared for our trip to Greece in October, we learned that it’s illegal to bring marijuana—in any form—into the country. I came up with the idea of smuggling it in by mixing hers into a bottle of vitamin gummies. By the time the bottle arrived, though, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk, which meant that I now had 170 vitamin gummies that I couldn’t use. Or could I?

I was never a fan of taking vitamins even though they pretty much can’t hurt and they often help. I tried the gummies and they tasted fine, with a hint of citrus, and the texture was interestingly rubbery. When I read the label, it said to take 2 every day with food…and that is when it hit me: I could quarter them and add them to my granola in the morning. So I did…and it’s a hoot! I play this game where I try to identify all 8 pieces when I bite into them. So now I’m taking a daily vitamin and have added a bit of whimsy to my morning ritual.

Reflecting back on my granola’s evolution over the course of this past year, it occurred to me that Forrest Gump had it all wrong: life isn’t like a box of chocolates…it’s like a bowl of granola!

For the adventurous among you, here’s the current recipe:

1 cup each of chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds

2 cups oats

1 cup oat bran

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup hemp hearts

½ cup each of chia and flax seeds

8 tablespoons of unsweetened cacao powder

1 tablespoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, and cumin

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup olive oil

1 dried fig, chopped

1 prune, chopped

¼ apple, chopped

1 large strawberry, chopped

15 red grapes, halved

A handful of raspberries or blackberries

A handful of blueberries

A handful of cranberries, halved

2 gummy vitamins, quartered

Enough flax milk to fill the bowl

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla and toss until the nuts are coated and the seeds stick to them. Spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet (no need for parchment since there is no sugar to stick to the bottom) and bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. Voila…granola!

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S2E47. Guest Blogger: Sally!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live with someone who is semi-obsessed with brain health? Although she didn’t sign up for that job when we re-connected after 41 years in 2011, Sally has found herself in just that position over the course of the past two years. Although skeptical of my latest career tangent, she has shown amazing flexibility and acceptance of the path I’ve led us down. So I asked her if she’d like to write an episode of what it’s like to ride shotgun with me. Here’s what she had to say:

“who knew that wayne’s changing his behavioral and mental approach to brain health would have so many real benefits for my health, too?  

a once “i’ll-never-eat-that” food option is now one of my favorite side dishes. i’d previously tried kale in various iterations but never found it palatable. but that was before wayne discovered the magic of massaging it with a little salt and olive oil. what a difference! 

and then there’s quinoa, for which my attitude had always been: “just not gonna happen.” but lo and behold, now i really enjoy the nutty flavor and look forward to it in many dishes.  

kefir? it took me years to eat yogurt and this was a step beyond that. when wayne told me what it was, my gut reaction was: “no way.” it had no appeal for me whatsoever. but then he made some and now i eagerly enjoy it every night as our after dinner drink.   

we are on this journey together. as you know, his change in habits goes well beyond food. we’ve lowered the night temperature in the apartment, constantly evaluate the air for impurities, and have adjusted the darkness in our bedroom so as to promote better sleep.    

his recent experiment to change his circadian rhythm was so funny to watch! he religiously went to bed an hour earlier than the night before until he was going to sleep at 6pm and waking up at 2am. goodness! i would just shake my head and laugh as he said good night when it was still light out. luckily, my reading didn’t bother him and his turning all the lights on at 2 am didn’t bother me (i was in the bedroom and he in the living room). the reviews are mixed as to whether it was a successful venture, but it proved to me that this man will try almost anything to better his health and mind and soul.  

i never envisioned these kinds of changes in lifestyle but it’s about damn time!  exercising and eating healthy foods just makes good sense. and i love this man so i know we will continue to explore how to be healthy for as many years as we have left to us.” ***

Thank you…and back at ya!

But regarding the question of how many years we have left to us, she’s known my thoughts about that since our first date after re-connecting. We were both 60 at the time, and I asked her what she was planning on doing for the next 60 years. That makes it 11 down and 49 to go! She’s done well adapting to quinoa and kale, but I don’t think she’s quite wrapped her head around the idea of celebrating our 120th birthdays together!

*** Note: No, those are not typos in Sally’s essay. She has eschewed the use of capital letters ever since reading e.e. cummings when she was fifteen….and that was something I had trouble wrapping my head around when I was a freshman at Brown and reading her letters from home!

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S2E44. Greece!

We made it! We’ve spent the last several days island-hopping around Greece and as I write this we’re docking in Dubrovnik. I’ll be honest: I haven’t focused much (if at all) on brain health. I’ll assume you can understand why. Nonetheless, I’ll try to put together a few thoughts before heading out on our next excursion.

I felt I was prepared for the flight last Friday, having adjusted my sleeping and eating rhythms to accommodate 5 of the 7 hours we would cross during the flight. Serendipitously, Greece set its clocks back by one hour for daylight savings time the night we arrived, so I was gifted one more hour of transition time. What was left to absorb, then, was minimal: just 1 hour, or the equivalent of flying from Chicago to New York.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get much sleep on the plane. I used a neck pillow, lavender oil, loose-fitting clothes, and I ate a banana, but all to no avail. The engine noise, fellow passengers conversing loudly, and the impossible task of getting comfortable all conspired against me. Consequently, I was not a happy camper the next morning when we landed in Athens.

The good news, though, is that I don’t think I felt any effect of the time zone changes. Once I caught up on my sleep, I was fine.

Sally, on the other hand—having not made any effort at all to prepare for the time-shift—was…fine!

It seems that for both of us, the quality of the previous night’s sleep was far more impactful than the 7 time zones we had crossed.

Traveling is a brain-healthy activity because it presents a variety of unique cognitive challenges. Going on a cruise provides those opportunities in spades.

First off, there’s getting oriented on the ship. It took me several days to figure out how to find the important locations: our room, the different restaurants, and the theater. Oh, you could find your way around by reading the signage, but I wanted to be able to do it on my own.

First, I figured out that the various restaurants, although they were on different decks, were all at the back of the boat while the theater and the main lounge were at the front. These landmarks replaced north (theater) and south (restaurants) in my personal navigation system. Then I noticed that the even numbered rooms were ‘west’ and they got higher as you traveled from ‘north’ to ‘south.’ So as long as I could keep an image in my head of where the theater was (‘north’), I could figure out where anything else was whenever I emerged from an elevator.

Conversely, after only 2 days, Sally just knew which way to turn to get to where we were going.

Then there are the excursions with guides who present volumes of information along the way, on-board lectures, adjusting to at least a dozen different accents spoken by members of the crew, and absorbing the sights and vistas themselves. Add to that sampling new foods and meeting new people and you’ve created an intense synapse-stimulating environment.

On the other hand, maintaining a brain-healthy diet just ain’t gonna happen! I’ve been like a kid in the proverbial candy store pigging out at the buffets on sweets, pastries, carbs, meat and more alcohol than I’d consumed in a very long time. Leafy green vegetables? Nope. On the positive side, I am eating a boatload of fish and I’m making an effort to dose myself with fruits every morning at breakfast. I’m not at all looking forward to stepping on the scale when we get home.

We walk a lot on our daily excursions. Even though I don’t find myself breathing hard, I’ll assume that I’m getting my 30-minutes of cardio every day. There is a ¼-mile jogging track around the boat and a fitness center with treadmills and resistance machines, but I’m tired enough at the end of the day without pushing my limits with intentional exercise.

So I hope you’ll excuse me if I leave it at that for now and get back to the task of thoroughly enjoying this trip. I know…it’s a tough job…but somebody has to do it!

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S2E24. Supplements? I Don’t Think So.

Last November, I posted that I wasn’t a fan of probiotic supplements (S1E44: Probiotics…really?)

Actually, I’m not a fan of supplements, period. There is no meaningful oversight by the FDA, you’re not guaranteed that you are getting the ingredients you think you are getting, and the research trail is pretty spotty for most of them, if there is a research trail at all. In fact, the World Health Organization has concluded that vitamins and supplements should not be prescribed to treat cognitive decline or dementia. Finally, I hate to take pills. So there’s that.

There is one important exception to my recalcitrance. I think it’s ok to take supplements if lab tests indicate a meaningful deficiency. If a doctor orders them for you and can recommend a reputable manufacturer, well, then, I guess I have no qualms with that.

As I continue to monitor the brain health literature, though, I’m always on the lookout for anything beneficial that I might be able to fit into my diet. My niece, Kay, has been helpful in that effort. She is a consumer par excellence and does her own research before telling me about a food or a product that might be of interest. A little while back, she told me about Lion’s Mane mushrooms and just this past week she asked if I knew anything about matcha tea. So I followed-up with both.

From what I can tell, Lion’s Mane has a decent empirical track record. Studies have used a wide variety of dosage levels, though, and there is no recommended level of daily intake. You can eat them, use them in powdered form to make tea and smoothies, or take a pill. 

I once ate them when I lived in Kennett Square (‘Mushroom Capital of the World’) where they were readily available…and I gagged on it. I’m sure I didn’t cook them correctly, but I’m not willing to give it another shot. And you already know how I feel about pills, so that left the powder form as my only viable option. Since I drink tea every morning, I decided to add ½ teaspoon (about 2 mg.) of the powder to my mug which is already laced with a ½ teaspoon mixture of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and black pepper.

Matcha (which is sold in powder form) appears to be green tea on steroids. It has more of all the active ingredients of regular green tea and appears to give an additional boost above and beyond what you would otherwise get. Apparently, turning the entire leaf into a powder instead of steeping the leaves is what creates the potency. It is also cultivated a little differently from regular tea, adding to its mystique. There’s quite a ritual around serving it, as well, but the pageantry has no appeal for me.

The instructions on the label suggest adding ½ teaspoon of powder to 2 cups of hot—but not boiling—water and letting it steep. Looking for a boost, though, I upped that to 1 full teaspoon and, thankfully, it tasted just fine.

My morning tea, then, is brewed with: 1 teaspoon of matcha powder, ½ teaspoon of mixed spices, ½ teaspoon of Lion’s Mane powder and 2 cups of filtered water. (Yes…everything is organic.)

Now, if you had put all those powders into a pill and told me to take it every morning, I’d have told you to shove that pill where the sun don’t shine! But using the same powders to make tea seems perfectly acceptable to me. Why is that?

Maybe I’m just being a big old hypocrite, but I rationalize what I’m doing by saying that if I use it in cooking, then it’s not a supplement. And brewing tea is ‘cooking.’

So what do you think? Am I really taking a supplement? Do I need an intervention here to break through my denial?

Whatever it is I’m doing, I’m convinced that drinking 2 cups of this tea followed by my bowl of granola overflowing with a ton of fruit is about as brain-healthy a way to start each day as I can imagine!

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S2E20. Brain-Healthy Menu Plan

I’ve written often about your diet’s effect on your brain’s health, but it occurred to me that I haven’t yet put all the pieces together to demonstrate that it’s possible to incorporate this kind of diet into a daily routine. I’ll try to do that now.

One of the things that has always bothered me about diet recommendations is the idea that you have to have X many servings of various foods every day or week. I just don’t have the patience to measure things out to see if I’ve got enough to meet the criteria for a ‘serving,’ nor do I possess the discipline to keep track of all of those servings to see if I’ve met the goal. 

Working that hard can take all the joy out of eating!

Instead, I’ve developed a practical approach (some would call it a rationalization!) toward eating. Here are the 3 key points:

1. You can only eat but so much in a day or a week, so eat when you’re hungry and eat things you like that fit your diet plan. I have faith that your body will figure out how to maximize the benefit from the selection you offer it as long as you provide it with a buffet that covers all the basic areas, like Omega3 fats, antioxidants, etc. A little of something good is better than none at all, and it’s probably good enough when you just can’t work the recommended volumes into your plan.

2. Except for #3 below, everything you put in your mouth should provide some nutrient that is protective of your brain.

3. There is no such thing as cheating. So what if you eat something you shouldn’t every so often? What’s the big deal? Maintaining brain health is a long-term project that plays out over decades. The more days I eat all the right things, the better off I am. But it’s not fatal if I have a piece of cake or a hamburger once in a while. It might set my project back a day or two, but that’s not so terrible and it’s more than offset by the soul-satisfying lift I get from eating something that’s taboo. Bottom line: your eating lifestyle should be guilt free!

Let me offer one disclaimer before showing you what I eat:

I’m not recommending that you adopt my diet. I’m just trying to demonstrate that a brain-healthy diet is do-able. Only you can decide what will work for you: what times of the day, how often, and what you like to eat. So I’m not going to give you a ‘meal plan,’ per se. It’s more like an outline to help get you started. 

The diet that emerged for me was the result of my researching brain health in order to write this blog. As I learned about foods that contained important nutrients and compounds, I tried to add them to my diet. Having eaten this way for nearly a year now, I don’t remember what foods provide what benefits, but I can tell you that everything I swallow has a purpose based on the research.

Finally, before showing you what I eat, it’s important to show you what I don’t eat: products with added sugars of any kind, rice, grains (except for oats), dairy (except for kefir), refined flour, bread, fried foods, white potatoes, beef and pork. It sounds pretty restrictive, but it’s actually not all that bad.

Oh yeah…I almost forgot…the goal is to use all organic ingredients.

Here’s what my diet looks like:

Morning Tea: I try to do a 14-hour overnight fast each day, so I stop eating at 7:30pm the night before and have breakfast at 9:30am the next morning. Since I wake up hungry, though, I have 2 cups of tea at around 8:00am to hold me over. Decaf green tea is preferred, but I don’t like the taste all that much, so I mix ½ tablespoon of green tea leaves with an equal amount of mint leaves and then add ½ teaspoon of mixed turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper.

Breakfast: It’s the same thing every day: homemade granola with fruit. And it never gets old! It’s now my favorite meal. I linger over and savor every mouthful. Here are the ingredients: oats, chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds, turmeric, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, flaked coconut, flax seed, chia seed, oat bran, figs, prunes, apples, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes, with flax milk.

(I added oats to the mix after I wrote ‘A Granola Ritual’ because I wanted help in lowering my LDL (bad) cholesterol.)

As you can see, I pack a ton of brain-healthy goodies into this one meal. 

Lunch: Well…not really. I get hungry between noon and 2:00pm, but I don’t prepare anything that could legitimately be called ‘lunch.’ More accurately, I nosh…usually standing up. I know, I know…I should sit down when I eat…but I’m hungry!

I hope this doesn’t gross you out, but my go-to noshes are pickled herring, homemade sauerkraut and seaweed salad. Hummus with vegetables, guacamole, and a few mouthfuls of dinner leftovers are also on the noshing menu. So are oranges and almonds.

Post-workout hydration: 1 pint pomegranate juice made with 1 part juice and 2 parts filtered water.

Dinner: One of the joys of adopting this food lifestyle is trying out new recipes…and being surprised that things taste as good as they do! Here is a list of the items that have become staples of my evening meals: salmon, chicken, shrimp, eggs, kale, quinoa, roasted vegetables (eggplant, acorn squash, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, carrots), mackerel salad with celery, grapes and walnuts, spinach, asparagus, salad (spring mix, grape tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange & green), mushrooms, anchovies, avocado, parsley, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice), red lentil pasta, and 4 ounces of organic pinot noir.

Although garlic isn’t mentioned above, it, too, is a staple. You’re not doing it right if you’re not mincing garlic every day!

Dessert: This is the same every night: a half cup of homemade banana-strawberry kefir with a quarter cup of oat milk, a few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg, and some stevia to make it sweet enough to pass as a dessert.

Bon appetit!

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S2E17. Backsliding

The last 6 weeks have not been kind to the brain-healthy lifestyle to which I aspire. 

During the months that I was trying to lose weight, it seemed easy to establish new habits and maintain them. My motivation was clear and there was positive reinforcement when I weighed myself each morning. There was the added excitement of learning new things and implementing them as I went along. That went for food, sleep, exercise and learning to play the recorder. They were heady times, indeed!

There was a comfort in the routine that emerged, from my morning granola ritual to getting into bed every night at 10:30pm.  Every hour of my day seemed purposeful and, more importantly, healthy. 

All that began to change, though, after I reached my weight loss goal. I had to figure out how to stop losing weight. (Nice problem to have, eh?) I thought that just exercising a little less (i.e., burning fewer calories each day) might take care of it, but to my surprise, it didn’t. 

Although it wasn’t my intention, I stopped exercising altogether, which is obviously not part of any brain health plan. It began on the 3 extended weekends we were traveling to go to UConn women’s basketball games. Although all of our hotels had fitness centers where I could have worked out, I just didn’t feel compelled to use them. It was as if I were on vacation and exercising would have been akin to bringing my job with me. Strange, right?

Around the same time, I noticed that my body was starting to complain about working out. I was having fantasies about running 5k races again and trying to regain what little speed I had 5 years ago. It wasn’t long after I began increasing the intensity of my workouts that I tweaked something in my left hip. Then I noticed that there were a couple of spots in my shoulder and back that resented my weight workouts.

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that it would be smart, not brave, if I took a week or two off and let my body heal.

That was the plan I was implementing when COVID knocked me for a loop and kept me from working out for another two weeks.

But it wasn’t just about exercising. I went off my brain-healthy diet, too. 

Since we were traveling, we ate out all the time. For unknown reasons, I felt that this gave me license to eat anything. And I did: corned beef, bread with butter, cheese danish, deep-fried walleye, bratwurst, bacon, stadium pizza, french fries, coffee with half&half and sugar, ice cream…all the banned food groups found their way down my gullet.

It would have been easy to eat much more healthily as just about all the restaurants had vegan items on the menu. But when I saw them, a wave of ‘I can make that at home’ would sweep over me and I would move on to the taboo side of the menu. It wasn’t pretty. And it didn’t feel good, either.

Our sleep hygiene went out the window, as well. Instead of getting in bed at 10:30pm, we’d stay up as long as we needed to relax after the excitement of the basketball games. We’d get up whenever we got up. Intermittent overnight fasting went by the wayside, too, as did chilling the rooms down to the high 60s before bedtime because we didn’t have our heated sheets to jump into when the time came.

It’s not easy being brain-healthy on the road!

But now we’re home and healthy and I’m getting back in the groove. This week I made granola, sauerkraut and kefir and I’ve worked them all back into my diet. I faltered again, though, when we went out for dinner and I had a hamburger, of all things. But I’m doing better. Honest!

I had to start from ground zero with exercising by walking on the treadmill for half an hour. I was actually sore the day after my first workout! We’ve restored sleep hygiene to our life, and that’s a good thing.

We’ve got more trips planned in the months ahead and so I’m going to have to steel myself to maintain brain-health discipline while on the road. I don’t think my backsliding hurt my brain, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t help it, either. My sense is that I lost about a month in the long-term project of cleaning up whatever toxic waste sites that have amassed during my first 70 years. What I need to do going forward is to find a way to treat myself occasionally without running amok.

That’s probably easier said than done!

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S2E13. Your Brain On Red Wine

I’ve always felt inadequate around wine drinkers. They ooze with sophistication as they immerse themselves in the complex flavors and aromas of the pampered liquid. They seem to possess a breeding, class and erudition that I lack.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to develop a taste for wine. I have.

Like most college students experimenting with pot, I tried to get into drinking wine to go along with it. Back then, you started with the fruit-punchy Bali Hai and worked your way up to Spanada and Mateus, avoiding Thunderbird and Ripple which were reserved for the old winos in the park. Then you graduated to real wine. It was part of your education.

But I flunked that course. For me, a sip of wine meant explosions of noxious tastes around the edges of my tongue. If my taste buds could have surrendered to stop the assault, they would have. And people thought this stuff was good?

Over the decades, I periodically made attempts to learn how to drink and, more importantly, like wine. I attended tastings and could swirl and sniff with the best of them, but the assault on my tongue continued. Oh, once in a while I came across something that was tolerable. And there was that one time when a friend (and wine connoisseur) sprung for a $150 bottle that was actually good. Alas…the experience was never to be repeated!

Fast forward to this past year when I discovered that drinking red wine is part of the Mediterranean Diet and, drunk in moderation, can reduce your risk of dementia. I was able to incorporate just about every other brain-healthy recommendation I came across into my diet, but not that one. One article suggested that if you don’t like wine, you can substitute 5 ounces of pomegranate juice, and so that’s the path I took, mixing the juice with 10 ounces of water and drinking it for my post-workout, cool-down hydration.

But that left me feeling somehow inadequate, as if I weren’t really implementing the plan. I’m supposed to be drinking wine, so I decided to give it another try.

I started with a google search for which red wine provided the most brain benefit and learned that it was pinot noir: “This is the healthiest red wine due to its high concentration of resveratrol, an antioxidant compound that lowers bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. Some studies also suggest that it can improve brain health, kill cancer cells, and increase insulin sensitivity.”

The recommendation comes with an asterisk, though. Let’s not forget that red wine is about 12% alcohol…and alcohol is very bad for your brain. The suggestion, then, is that you limit your intake to 1 glass (5 ounces) daily.

That seemed do-able at first, but it turns out that it’s really problematic for me. You see, I’m a cheap drunk (always have been!) and it doesn’t take much at all to get me tipsy. The first time I ever got buzzed was at the end of my freshman year in high school and all I had was half a can of Colt45 Malt Liquor!

So the 5 ounce guideline might be ok for most people, but I’ve got to believe that you need to stay on the sober side of tipsy if you want to get the resveratrol benefits without getting slammed by a bigger alcohol effect. 

Overcoming my inadequacy was not going to be easy!

I started my quest by ordering the house pinot noir whenever we went out for dinner. No, I didn’t come across anything I liked and, yes, I got buzzed on one glass.  😦

Anybody know how many ounces of wine restaurants serve in a glass of wine? Whatever it is, it’s too much for me.

Next, I asked my sister-in-law Phoebe (who, among other things, is the family expert on fine wines) for some recommendations. The first bottle I tried wasn’t bad…but it also wasn’t something I would look forward to drinking every night. I just opened the second bottle last night and it’s a little bit better, so I’m going in the right direction.

I need to play with the dosing a little more, too. I measured out 5 ounces, sipped it slowly through dinner, but could still feel the alcohol. I’ll drop it down to 4 ounces tomorrow night and see what happens, and then maybe start sipping an hour before dinner time to spread out the alcohol’s effect. 

I think I’ll ask Phoebe for another suggestion, too, as I’m encouraged enough to think there might be something out there I will enjoy. 

Overcoming my lifetime wine inadequacy could actually be within reach!

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S2E12. When Your Fact-Checker Doesn’t

We know that the prefrontal cortex is one of the areas most vulnerable to atrophy as we age and along with that comes problems with executive functions. That’s a big deal.

Executive functions include things like making plans, implementing strategies, following directions, monitoring progress and sustaining attention. It’s that ‘monitoring progress’ function I want to zoom in on today.

We constantly monitor ourselves to make sure we do things correctly. Is it ½ or ¼ teaspoon of turmeric in the recipe? Did I already put it in? For the most part, it’s an effortless process that keeps us moving in the direction we want to go, no matter what the task. We constantly monitor our actions to make sure that everything is ok. In essence, it’s our internal fact-checker.

Imagine, then, what it would be like if your fact-checker stopped working. You wouldn’t realize that you are putting the crackers in the freezer instead of the pantry where they belong, or that your doctor’s appointment is next week, not today.

I recently had two episodes where my fact-checker failed me.

The first came when I was preparing to drink my morning tea. My routine is to steep it (equal parts of mint and green tea leaves) the night before in a 1-pint pyrex measuring cup and then refrigerate it overnight.

(I suppose a little background would be helpful here. When I gave up drinking coffee with half & half and sugar about 10 months ago, I tried to switch to green tea because of its brain health effects. I didn’t like the taste, though, so I tried mixing it with mint tea leaves. That was better, but I was still craving sweetness. It occurred to me that it might taste better cold and so I tried refrigerating it overnight. That worked! Finally, to pump up the brain health benefits, I started adding ½ teaspoon of a combination of equal parts turmeric, ginger, cumin and cinnamon with a little black pepper. Delish!)

Back to that fact-checking failure…

While getting my tea ready, I also brew Sally’s coffee. She continues to use sugar and half & half, and so not only do I put my mug out on the counter, but I put out her mug, the half & half container and the sugar bowl, as well.

As I do every day, I placed the sieve across the rim of my mug and poured the cold tea into it. But something wasn’t right. I had only poured about half the liquid when I noticed that the mug was full. How could that be? My mug holds two cups and I steep a little less than that in my measuring cup. It was impossible for it to be full with only about 1 cup of tea in it. 

What the…???

When I stepped away from the counter to think about what might have happened, I immediately saw what the problem was. Instead of placing the sieve across the rim of my mug, I had placed it across the rim of the sugar bowl which had been half-full of sugar at the time. That is why it only took 1 cup of tea to fill it to the top.

Oh lord!

The second time my fact-checker failed me was after working out in our apartment building’s fitness center. My habit is to burn a few extra calories by walking up the three flights of stairs to the 4th floor instead of taking the elevator, which is what I did on this particular day.

Up the stairwell I went, exiting through the doorway to the hall, and making the left turn to get to our apartment which is just a few yards away. As I did so, I noticed on the right-hand wall a pair of large double doors with a sign that announced: Telecom Room.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “I never noticed that before.”

I continued on down the hall to my apartment and inserted my key into the lock, but it didn’t open.

What the…?

That was when I realized that our grape vine peace sign wreath wasn’t hanging on the door…and that I was standing in front of apartment 341 instead of 441…and that I had exited the stairwell on the 3rd floor instead of the 4th!

Oy vey!

I could explain away both of these episodes. It would be easy to attribute my fact-checking error in the stairwell to being exhausted after a hard workout. I could argue that placing the sieve on the sugar bowl was the result of my still being half asleep early in the morning.

But I’m not going to explain them away. It’s true that in neither case was I at the top of my game nor was I hitting on all cylinders. But how you perform when you are not at your best can offer a glimpse of what is lurking below the surface. Although these might be isolated and infrequent incidents now, in another couple of years, with additional age-related prefrontal cortex atrophy, I might very well see a further decline in executive functioning and more fact-checking failures like these.

As always, it’s something to keep an eye on.

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S1E50. An Early Present

I can’t recall ever being this eager (and anxious) about my annual physical and blood tests, but this year is different. My last check-up was in June, shortly after I began changing my diet and exercising on a regular basis. My blood sugar (A1C) was hovering around pre-diabetic levels, I was taking medicine (a statin) to lower my cholesterol, I was overweight at 180 pounds and I knew I had to do something about it. And so I did.

My expectations were pretty high this time around. I took myself off the statin about a month into the new regime. That was a pretty risky bet on my part because the numbers showed it was clearly doing a great job, with my cholesterol coming in lower than ever before. But I wanted to test the theory that I could control it with diet and exercise without exposing myself to potential side effects of a statin. I had worked into my diet pretty much every food identified as raising HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and I was exercising an average of 60 minutes per day, 6 days per week. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had lost a shit-ton of weight!

The first thing I did in my new diet was to eliminate all added sugars. No more coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar in the morning for me; I switched to tea. I carefully read labels on everything I bought and rejected anything with added sugar. By the time I finished, there were only 2 items I was eating with added sugar: herring in wine sauce and seaweed salad, but I figured the benefits they provided far outweighed the costs of ingesting the trace amounts of sugar I was getting in the quantities I was eating. When I did need to sweeten something, I used stevia, but that happened infrequently because I soon discovered that the natural sugars in the foods I was eating satisfied any cravings I had for sweets.

I also eliminated all refined flours which are quickly converted to sugar in your bloodstream. I was convinced that my glucose and A1C numbers would show significant improvement.

All these dietary changes did not come without a modicum of anxiety. Was it possible that I wasn’t getting enough of some essential vitamins or nutrients? I had no idea, so I was looking forward to seeing if things like my calcium and protein levels were holding up.

I had my physical last week and the results were good. My blood pressure was 116/64, my pulse was 57, my BMI (body-mass index) was 22.8 (down from the overweight range and squarely planted in the ‘normal’ zone), and my oxygen saturation level was 99%. I don’t recall ever having a resting heart rate below 60 beats/minute, and that oxygen reading is as good as it gets (also a personal best for me). I took all this to mean that my exercise program was working. In terms of brain health, it meant I was getting plenty of oxygen and my heart was supplying it with ease. I could scratch high blood pressure, anoxia and obesity/belly fat off my ‘eliminating dementia risk factors’ to-do list.

The results of my blood work came in on Wednesday. Logging in to my account and clicking through to the report felt like opening a present on Christmas morning!

I made a beeline for the glucose and A1C page…and wasn’t disappointed. My sugar numbers showed a dramatic drop, so much so that I had exited the pre-diabetic zone and entered the normal range for the first time in several years. The diet was working! 

Next I checked my cholesterol numbers. The good news was that they were all in the normal range, albeit at the high end. I was disappointed, though, to see a noticeable spike in my LDL without the medication. My HDL showed a substantial rise, too, which is a good thing. I was a bit befuddled, to say the least.

I did a little googling and found that the more meaningful metric is the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, in which higher HDL generates a lower ratio and a lower ratio is better for you. Mine was not that much different from the one I recorded when I was taking the statin, and better than prior years’ readings. So something good was apparently coming from my lifestyle changes. Nonetheless, I decided right then and there to add oats back into my granola to try to knock down that LDL number.

I scratched off my list diabetes and high cholesterol as dementia risk factors.  😀

Finally, I looked at a variety of other indicators to see if I was lacking in anything. Potassium, protein and calcium were all fine. So were all the other readings, but to be honest, I have no idea what they measure. Bottom line: I’m not depriving myself of anything important.

The icing on the cake, though, arrived yesterday when my doctor followed up with this message:

“Hello Wayne,

I received your lab results…Overall, your labs are good…Your cholesterol and A1C were all within normal range…No indication to initiate any medications at this time…Keep up the great work!”

What a nice present.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

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S1E49. Into The Homestretch

I had to reach deep into the back of the closet to snare the clothes bag that held my rarely-worn sport jackets and dress pants. I bought them shortly after moving in with Sally ten years ago because I needed something to wear for her niece’s wedding. I weighed 145 at the time.

Last month, while packing to attend the wedding of a friend’s daughter in North Carolina, I thought I might wear something from that bag, and I also thought that since I had lost 31 pounds and now weighed 155, they might fit.

WRONG!

The jackets fit fine, but it wasn’t even close when it came to buttoning the pants. The label said they were a 34″ inch waist, but if that was true, then I had a 37″ belly!

(It befuddled me because Sally had recently bought me some casual slacks (with elastic waists) that fit perfectly…and they were 34s. It’s a mystery I’ll have to solve another day.)***

Bottom line, though, was that I couldn’t wear those pants…and that pissed me off enough to motivate me to lose whatever weight necessary to get into them again…and to re-gain my boyish figure from when I was 60 and courting Sally.  😀

At that point, I had been dieting and exercising for six months and losing weight slowly but steadily. My weight had plateaued and so I needed to change something if I was going to drop another 10 pounds.

I couldn’t really eat less because I wasn’t eating all that much to start with. It’s not like I could give up Twinkies and brownies because I wasn’t eating anything with sugar or bad fats in it. And everything I was eating had a role to play in maintaining brain health, so there was nothing I felt comfortable cutting.

I was already using intermittent fasting as a weight-loss tool, so I couldn’t add that to my routine.

Since restricting caloric intake and intermittent fasting were not options, exercising more was the only path left open to me, so that’s what I did.

I had been jogging 11 miles/week and so I increased that to 21. 

I also added a set of exercises for my abdominals (a variety of crunches and planks). I figured that tightening up those muscles might pull my gut in without my having to hold my breath, and that could be worth a couple of inches right there. Make no mistake about it: it’s not that I covet 6-pack abs (which, by the way, I NEVER had). I just want to be comfortable in those pants.

Finally, I increased the weight on my strength training workouts in order to try to build a little more muscle mass. Muscles don’t just burn calories when you use them; they burn calories while resting, too, and that’s helpful. 

The science behind this is fascinating. It appears that your body will try to maintain a metabolism that fits your caloric intake while ensuring that you have enough stored fat to survive a period of food scarcity. 

You can see how this would have been adaptive during our specie’s hunter-gatherer millennia, but it’s a real pain in the ass today. When you burn off too much stored fat, your autopilot lowers your resting metabolism to conserve what’s left. That was the cause of the plateau I had hit at 155. Even though I was exercising to burn more calories, my resting metabolism slowed down to offset that, giving me a zero net change in weight.

By amping up my exercise routine and keeping my caloric intake constant, I would start to lose weight again. However, I only had but so much time to lose those 10 pounds before my metabolism adjusted once more. The race was on!

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve dropped another 5 pounds. I’m now in the homestretch: 36 pounds lost, 5 to go. The finish line is in sight, sometime around the middle of January.

Just for the hell of it, I tried those pants on again and…miracle of miracles…they fit just fine! So now I have clothes to wear for dressy occasions AND I’ve eliminated the belly fat risk factor for dementia.

*** It’s another day and I’ve solved the mystery! When I woke up yesterday morning, I recalled that those dress pants, although having a 34″ waist off-the-rack, had been custom tailored to fit my 32″ waist of 10 years ago. My new casual slacks, on the other hand, have a 34″ waist with the capacity to expand out to accommodate what was my 35″ waist in November. Voila! There’s the 3″ difference between the two pairs of pants and my (at the time) 35″ waist.

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S1E47. A Granola Ritual

Breakfast has become my favorite time of day since I started making my own granola. I traveled that path because I couldn’t find any granola in stores or online that didn’t have added sweeteners (I’m pretty fussy here as I don’t even accept honey or maple syrup as ‘good’ sugar).

A quick google search told me that it was easy to make and that you could customize it to suit your taste. Here’s what I wound up with:

1 cup each of chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup each of chia and flax seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin and ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup olive oil

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla and toss until the nuts are coated and the seeds stick to them. Spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet (no need for parchment since there is no sugar to stick to the bottom) and bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. Voila…granola!

(Disclaimer: There is nothing magical about this recipe other than every ingredient providing some nutrient that is protective of brain health. Feel free to add rolled oats, as every other granola recipe includes them.*** I leave them out because I’m on a pretty extreme diet that eliminates all grains, but you don’t have to do that. There’s nothing wrong with adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds, either, but they’re just not my cup of tea.)

What’s with the spices you say? To be honest, I don’t think I can taste them at all, except maybe for the cinnamon. The other three are all listed as top spices for fostering brain health. By adding them to the granola, I guarantee myself a small daily dose.

The ritual part comes when I prepare breakfast each morning, I start with ½ cup of granola (at this rate, the above recipe lasts for about 3 weeks) and then add dried and fresh fruit. Once again, everything I add is brain-healthy and the fruits provide plenty of sweetness:

1 dried fig, chopped

1 prune, chopped

¼ apple, chopped

15 red grapes, halved

6 raspberries or blackberries

A handful of blueberries

Enough flax milk to fill the bowl

(Disclaimer #2: There’s nothing magical about these proportions, either. Why 6 raspberries? I’ll be damned if I know!)

There is just something about chopping a sun-dried fig that makes the entire experience feel religious. You have to do it slowly and purposefully. There’s almost a zen to it. As I add the fresh fruit, the event takes on the aura of preparing an offering to the gods as it’s been detailed in some ancient sacred scripture. Intensifying the spirituality of the moment is the situation: this takes place at around 9:30 every morning as I break my 14-hour fast from the night before. All that’s missing is a prayer or mantra!

Once assembled, I thoroughly mix everything to make sure that the fig and prune bits don’t stick together and their sweetness is distributed throughout the bowl.

And then comes the eating. I remember when breakfasts were so hum-drum that I read the newspaper or a book or the back of the cereal box while mindlessly shoveled the food into my mouth, barely tasting it. No way I can do that with this feast!

Every bite is different. I want to luxuriate in and linger over every spoonful. Each taste begins with teeth crashing down on the chopped nuts while waiting for the tart explosions of the berries. The crunch of the apples is omnipresent, but it’s the always surprising sweet burst of the fig and prune bits that is the piece de resistance.

I savor every chew. I think of nothing else while I’m eating. It’s too good to miss a nanosecond of it!

And best of all—I know this will sound silly—but I feel healthy while I’m eating it. I know I’m doing something good for my brain. Each swallow reminds me that I am ‘feeding my head’ in the best way possible. It’s quite the ritual!

*** In fact, the definition of ‘granola’ is rolled oats mixed with a variety of other ingredients. Technically, then, this recipe isn’t even granola!

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S1E46. I Am Not A Fanatic!

I’ve spent the last six months building a brain-healthy lifestyle by adjusting my diet, exercise and sleep routines, building cognitive challenges into each day, and trying to spend more time socializing. It came together bit-by-bit, day-by-day, until I had a system that pretty much governed every aspect of my existence, right down to monitoring and controlling the quality of the air I breathe in the apartment.

I’m more than happy to talk with people about what I’ve been doing and why (to whit, this blog), but I try really hard not to proselytize, for there’s nothing worse than the zealotry of a new convert who corners you in a conversation. So if I start going down that path, please let me know, as it is not at all my intention.

On the flip side of that coin, I’m uncomfortable when friends and family feel obligated to protect my journey by adjusting their behaviors to accommodate my lifestyle choices. I bristle whenever I hear, “Will there be anything you can eat if we go to that restaurant?” 

It’s not that I don’t appreciate their caring about me. I do. But I don’t feel as though I’ve earned their deference. It’s not as if I have a medical condition and will get sick if I go off my diet. It’s not a part of my religion, either. I won’t be denied entry into heaven if I eat a piece of cake. My body is not a temple and it will not be defiled no matter what I shovel into it.

I’m merely choosing to be a picky eater…and the consequences of that are 100% on me, along with the responsibility.

As far as I can tell, the downside of going off my diet is that I lose a little bit of time in the long-term project of cleaning the gunk out of my brain that can cause cognitive decline. I spent seventy years accumulating it, but I haven’t seen any research that quantifies how much time I have available to me to clean house.

So how much damage did I do over the last four days when I fell off the wagon? We went to the Bahamas to see the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team play in a tournament. I made a half-hearted effort to be faithful to my protocols, but staying at a vacation resort triggered a “you’re-on-vacation-go-for-it” reflex that had me making all sorts of unwise choices.

Alcohol is a no-no (except for about 5 ounces of red wine with dinner), but I couldn’t resist the allure of a Bahama Mama. Just one knocked me for a loop, but that didn’t stop me from trying a different restaurant signature cocktail each night!

Bread. I haven’t had bread in months except maybe to taste a sandwich that Sally had ordered. But there was no way I was going to say “no” to the breads and dipping oils that came with each meal. Same for pasta, which is the only thing I really miss in my new regimen.

Then there was the grotesquely sweet s’mores dessert with vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge, marshmallow sauce and graham crackers. I’m surprised it didn’t trigger insulin shock in my sugar-deprived brain.

I didn’t observe my overnight fasting routine.

I had a rough night sleeping the night I had a Coke with dinner. In general, I’m pretty sure my increased sugar intake disrupted my sleep cycle big time.

In general, I over-ate, felt stuffed a lot and got hungry a lot sooner between meals.

Although we did a fair amount of walking, I didn’t really make an honest effort to try to exercise. The only time my heart got a workout was during the games which were all close and exciting.

Finding our way around the sprawling resort was quite the cognitive challenge, though. So was figuring out what to do when the air conditioning stopped working in our room. It took a while, but it dawned on me that perhaps the on-off switch is controlled by the doors to the balcony. Apparently, for the sake of energy efficiency, the air shuts off when you open the doors to the outside. It goes back on when you close them.

On the other hand, I didn’t realize until our third day there that all of our restaurant charges included a 15% gratuity. The wait staff must have laughed all the way to the bank each time I had added 20% to that!

So now I’m home and getting back into my routine. How much damage did I do? There’s no way to tell, but I doubt that I hurt my cause very much. It was interesting to see how quickly my body reacted to the changes…and not in a good way. It makes me more appreciative of the new path I am traveling.

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S1E44. Probiotics…really?

I have never been what the marketers call an ‘early adopter.’ In fact, I fit pretty solidly into the group of people they identify as ‘laggards:’ those who only purchase things after they are well-established.

I’m pretty skeptical about most new products and consider them fads until proven otherwise. Growing up, I rejected the hula hoop and Elvis Presley. More recently, I believed the cell phone would never catch on. (Who on earth would want to talk to people in the aisle of a supermarket where everyone could hear the conversation???)

My initial reaction when I first heard the word ‘probiotics’ was “Really?” I had never warmed to the idea of eating organic foods and considered it a fad popular among liberal elites (even though I am a card-carrying member of that group). Introducing probiotics to the equation was crossing too many lines for me.

So I paid little attention to it until I started my research into brain health. I bristled when it first came up in my reading. All my alarms were going off as I learned about the gut microbiome that contains thousands of different organisms that are essential for digestion and creating the chemical compounds that are vital to brain health. Conversely, a poorly-functioning microbiome can generate neurotoxins. 

That caught my attention.

But as I delved deeper, I wasn’t convinced that the research has yet advanced to the point where we can definitively say that enhancing a certain group of bacteria is beneficial. There are just too many different organisms and too many combinations and too many potential interactions to say for sure, IMHO. Then there is the testing that indicates a lot of products marketed as probiotic supplements don’t contain what they claim and, worse still, what they do provide is not absorbed by your gut.

As is my tendency, I backed off a few steps and looked for a level of engagement that matched my comfort zone, given the data. 

A simple guideline that made sense to me was that you should include some fermented foods in your diet as they contain naturally occurring beneficial probiotic organisms that have long been consumed in various cultures. 

I tried kimchi, but hated it. Then I made a batch of sauerkraut and loved it. (It’s easy to make: just massage some kosher salt into a bowl of shredded cabbage, weigh it down, cover, then let it sit on the counter until it tastes right. It’s a whole lot better than commercial sauerkraut. It’s now my go-to afternoon snack, mixed with a little seaweed salad.

But I didn’t stop there. A word kept cropping up in my reading that I didn’t recognize: kefir. I checked it out and discovered it was a fermented milk product (like yogurt) and generated a number of probiotic organisms. The problem for me, though, was that I had given up dairy.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that the potential benefits outweighed the negative impact of milk and milk fat, especially in small quantities. I gave it a try and it was delicious.

Since I had made my own yogurt for ten years at our B&B, I knew that my next project would be to make it myself. I ordered a kefir maker from Amazon which was basically a 2-quart glass jar with a perforated lid to allow for air circulation. It came with a packet of ‘kefir stones’ which contain the microbes that convert milk fat into the beneficial probiotic organisms.

I discovered that there was a product called ‘A2 milk’ which is supposed to be a little healthier than regular milk, so I bought some to make my kefir. It’s pretty simple: pour the milk into the jar, add the kefir stones, and let it sit on the counter for about 24 hours. For flavor, I added a pint of pureed strawberries to a quart of kefir. (Somehow, I had dropped strawberries from my diet, opting for blueberries and raspberries, instead. This corrects that oversight.)

It turned out wonderfully! It’s a little tart, so I add a packet of stevia to ½ cup of my homemade strawberry kefir and drink it for dessert each night. 

It took less than a week before I noticed a healthy change in my digestion. Wow…color me surprised!

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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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S1E38. Debunking Myself

Confirmation Bias” is a tendency we all share to seek out and value information that is consistent with our pre-existing beliefs. It is probably responsible for a lot of today’s polarization because–thanks to the internet–we can find like-minded news and information sources on any topic that will tell us exactly what we want to hear and thereby deepen our commitment to it.

It’s important to be aware that we are all prone to this and to intentionally seek out information that conflicts with our beliefs. It can keep us from going off the deep end, remind us that none of us have a lock on knowledge, and that there’s a reasonable chance that we are wrong. It’s humbling…and that’s a good thing.

In previous posts, I’ve reported on my reading and research and described the lifestyle changes I’ve implemented in pursuit of long-term brain health and preservation of cognitive function. I hope I’ve done that without proselytizing. If I have gotten obnoxious or self-righteous about it, please let me know, for that is not my intention.

This week, I spent some time reading articles that conflict with my emerging approach. As I quickly discovered, The New York Times has been running a series debunking health food claims for many years. It was helpful to see a different perspective. Here are a couple of the items they reviewed:

Do you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?

Nope.

There’s water in everything we eat and there’s nothing magic about downing a ½ gallon a day. If we need water, we get thirsty. If you drink some water when you get thirsty, you will be fine. There’s no evidence that drinking more than that confers any special health benefits.

I was actually pleased to learn this. Throughout my life, various people who care about me have urged me to drink more water. Whenever I tried it, though, I felt bloated and uncomfortable. I’ve only ever experienced dehydration once and that was at the finish of a 5k run in 93 degree heat when I was 63 years old. So I’ll let my confirmation bias kick in on this one and continue to drink when I’m thirsty.

Is turmeric good For you?

Turmeric has been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine for millennia, but there is little modern research to support its efficacy in the wide array of maladies for which it is recommended. 

Although its chemical properties would suggest it has value, there seems to be a problem in actually getting it absorbed into your bloodstream.

Thinking back over my reading these past few months, it occurred to me that a fair number of recommendations for including a variety of things in one’s diet were based on laboratory trials or studies on mice. The author’s would present that as their evidence. In fact, though, that is jumping the gun a bit. The gold standard is trials on humans that have been replicated. So some food suggestions need to be taken with more than a few grains of salt.

I’m still going to add turmeric to my cooking, but I’m not going to go crazy over it.

Should you take fish oil supplements?

Probably not. Eating more fish (especially sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel and fresh-caught salmon) is a much better way to get what you need.

Does fasting help in losing weight?

Yes…but not for the reason you might expect. You can check it out here.

My biggest take-away was to beware of exaggerated health claims. In general, they tend to be based on thin (if any) evidence. The concepts and the theories behind many recommendations seem sound, but it’s exceedingly difficult to actually prove efficacy in clinical studies.

The other pillars of brain health (exercise, cognitive challenge, social engagement and sleep/stress management) appear to have a more robust research base than many of the dietary recommendations. But even in those areas, we continue to learn about how much or how little, what types, and when is most beneficial.

So work your plan…but stay informed…and stay flexible!

Postscript: Re-reading this draft prior to publishing, I noticed something. Although I read the cited articles in an attempt to debunk myself, that isn’t at all what happened. I wound up latching on to the elements in each article that supported my preconceptions. In other words, I fell victim to the confirmation bias I warned you about in the opening paragraphs. 

I guess I’ll have to try harder next time!  😀

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S1E34. The End Of Alzheimer’s Program

This week, I read the book so you don’t have to. Here are my take-aways:

Dr. Dale Bredesen is a leading advocate of a comprehensive approach to treating symptoms of dementia. The book The End of Alzheimer’s Program is an update of his 2017 publication The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline and includes lessons learned from 8 years of treating patients with the protocols he developed.

He rejects the notion of a single cause of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in favor of a holistic approach that focuses on the things your brain needs to function and the things that get in the way of its doing so. The program seeks to protect your brain and ward off cognitive decline by using diet and behavioral changes to support its essential activities while minimizing toxins that impair its ability to function properly.

He argues that the effort to find a drug that eliminates beta amyloid, for example, is misguided. You have to ask “How did it get there in the first place?” It turns out that beta amyloid is produced as part of the brain’s immune system to combat toxic invaders. So a remedy that is available to you right now is to identify the toxins (both chemical and biological, like rogue microbes that escape from you intestines and break through the blood-brain barrier) that are affecting you and eliminate them. Once you’ve done that, your brain’s immune response will not be triggered as often and you will not produce as much amyloid. It turns out you can manage a lot of this through diet.

Moreover, your brain has a natural way of removing beta amyloid after it has been created. It happens when you sleep. Therefore getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night can help ward off cognitive decline.

Bottom line: to a great extent, you can determine your own cognitive future by adopting a brain healthy diet and adding behavioral elements like exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, cognitive challenge and social interactions.

Sound familiar?

He makes his case with meticulously documented references to the existing and emerging body of research and supplements it with case studies of people who were able to reverse their cognitive decline using his program. At times, it reads like an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “House” where the doctors are unable to cure the illness until someone discovers that a rare toxin is causing the symptoms. They eliminate the toxin and the patient recovers.

As it pertains to dementia, the idea that you can reverse symptoms is pretty radical and flies directly in the face of the old notion that dementia is an unavoidable part of aging. As Dr. Bredesen documents, though, there are a large number of dementias that can be traced back to chemical, environmental or behavioral causes that can be rectified.

Which brings us to his program. It begins with an extensive battery of tests to identify the pathogens that might be affecting you as well as determining your levels of good chemicals and compounds. Once these factors are identified, you can design a diet that will correct imbalances and eliminate neurotoxins at their source. Progress is documented through ongoing testing and tweaks are made as you chart your reactions to the changes you have implemented.

Most of the book is spent going into great detail about how your diet affects long-term brain function. I’ll admit, I glazed over at the extended paragraphs laden with scientific terminology describing the chemical compounds and intra-cellular functions that were involved. Although he says he intends the book for consumers, it seems his real audience is physicians who he hopes will adopt his program. I can see how the book would be a great resource for someone who is guiding you through the process, but it definitely contains way too much information for most of us. Nonetheless, there are plenty of general recommendations and steps you can take to get started.

The chapters on exercise, sleep, stress management and cognitive challenge are informative, brief and a lot more digestible than the diet section!

Finally, Dr. Bredesen emphasizes that dementia is a process that takes years to develop. Your brain does its best to ward off attackers and to clean up the detritus after each daily battle. Over time, though, debris piles up and at some point the accumulation begins to take a toll on your cognitive functioning.

The good news is that most of this seems to be reversible if you start working on it soon enough.

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S1E29. Losing My COVID-20

“Decide how you want to die and eat accordingly.”

Those were my mother’s words to me when she was in her late 60s and living in Fort Lauderdale. It was the received wisdom of wealthy retirees who had a vested interest in living as long as possible.

At the time, my decision was to try to avoid dying from a heart attack as there is a history of heart disease in my family among the men on my father’s side, with an apparent expiration date of 60 years.  “Eating accordingly” translated into adopting a low fat, low cholesterol diet. For me, it was mostly a matter of reading labels and avoiding certain foods.

Nonetheless, it was quite a transition that I undertook in my 40s. It was a radical lifestyle change from my 20s and 30s when food was all about taste, variety and exploration. Pizza with extra cheese, sausage and pepperoni had been food for the gods. Now it was poison.  😦

In 1990, when I was 39, I wrote and self-published The Tyler Hill Bed & Breakfast Cookbook. I was aware at the time that it was probably the last full fat, high calorie cookbook that would ever be written. In the introduction, I wrote:

“I like things that look good and taste good, even if there’s enough cholesterol in them to clog every major artery into Manhattan. I don’t like — but understand and approve of — your need to substitute low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium ingredients if you must, even though it changes the taste. I think I’m middle of the road when it comes to cooking: I don’t insist on whole grains, but I’m not into junk food, either.”

I went on to rail against using artificial ingredients and products that contained unpronounceable chemicals. I ended my statement of cooking philosophy by comparing eating to having sex…and concluded that eating well was better!

Fast forward 31 years. Although I adjusted my cooking to be more heart-healthy, my weight yo-yoed in a predictable way. At 5’8″ tall, 155 pounds is a good weight for me. Each year, though, it creeps up to about 165 with most of that gain coming in the fall and winter when I tend to hibernate and stop exercising. Each March, I gather myself together, get back on my healthy diet, and start jogging again. By July, I’m back to 155 and feeling good.

That same pattern unfolded last year but there was a glitch: I was just beginning my descent from 166 when the COVID quarantine hit and the gym at the YMCA shut down. I wasn’t able to adjust my exercise routine and over the course of the next 12 months, I gained another 20 pounds: the infamous COVID-20 that hit a lot of us.

When this March rolled around, then, I was really worried about my weight which was at an all-time high of 186 pounds. I’d be out of breath after climbing the stairs and bending over to put on my socks was a challenge. It was time to get really serious about my diet and exercise…but there was a new wrinkle.

Not only was I dieting and exercising to avoid heart disease, but now I was concerned about maintaining brain health and warding off dementia, too. So I began reading up on brain healthy eating.

The good news is that all of the things that are heart healthy are also brain healthy. As a result, I didn’t have to eliminate a lot of things from my diet. It was disconcerting, though, to discover that some of the prior changes I thought were healthy decisions, like eating non-fat Greek yogurt, were on the brain food shit list: all milk products are out!

Whereas heart-healthy eating for me was mostly about avoiding certain foods, brain-healthy eating requires you to go beyond that and intentionally include a wide variety of foods in your diet. It gives a whole new meaning to the 60s mantra “Feed your head!”

I’m just at the beginning stages of exploring this new way of eating. The information in the reading I’m doing is pretty overwhelming, but I’m doing my best to simplify it: nuts, berries, wild-caught fish, shellfish, poultry, herbs, spices, beans, fruits, leafy greens and vegetables are good; beef, sugar, junk food, refined flours, milk products and anything that ever had a relationship with pesticides, antibiotics or hormones are poison. (Here’s a link to a video that provides a pretty good overview.)

So far, so good. I’ve been able to adhere to a good workout schedule, getting to the gym 5-6 days each week, I’m making the shift to more healthy foods and I’m having fun trying out new recipes. 

Bottom line: I’ve lost 15 pounds over the last 3 months with 16 more to go. When I get there, I will have 2 of the 5 pillars of a healthy brain lifestyle in place: diet and exercise. As always, maintaining my new habits through the year (and years!) ahead will be the greater challenge.

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S1E14. That Was Then. This Is Now.

I wrote this about my parents when I was 22:

‘They’ve been grandparents almost two years now. Grandparents twice over, that is, and a third expected momentarily. As I stepped through the doorway I was met by a heavy-sweet menagerie of home-cooked aromas. Outside, it was a crisp spring afternoon. Inside, it was a trifle too warm. They had both mellowed in recent years, but just now, for the first time, I felt as though I were entering a grandparents’ home. They’re growing old.’

When I wrote that closing line, I meant ‘old’ as a pejorative, not as a compliment.

My father was 52 at the time. He died at 60. My mother lived to be 85, developing dementia a few years before she died.

Paul Simon wrote this lyric into the song ‘Old Friends’ when he was 27 years old:

“Can you imagine us

Years from today

Sharing a park bench quietly?

How terribly strange

To be seventy”

Sally and I are 70. We quietly share park benches. It’s not strange at all.

On the other hand, Paul Simon will be 80 in October.

Our view of aging is curious, isn’t it? How must today’s 20-somethings view us? If we asked Paul McCartney today, would he say that 84 is the new 64? 

In any event, heading toward our ninth decade, the goal is to be active, engaged, wise and interesting…a group of adjectives we don’t normally associate with the degenerative effects of dementia. The good news is that there appear to be things we can do to increase our chances of achieving those goals and of sidestepping our worst nightmare. In fact, we can now reduce our risk of dementia by some 40% by adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle. We can fight back against the prejudices and preconceptions of our younger selves!

Spoiler alert: I’m not one for miracle cures or for buying into ‘secret information that you can’t find anywhere else.’ As a former psychologist and researcher, I trust the science and want to see multiple studies heading in the same direction before I accept a conclusion as valid. So here are 4 recommendations for which there is a body of evidence supporting their efficacy:

  1. Take care of your heart. Your brain depends upon blood flow to provide nutrients and remove debris. There are 400 miles of blood vessels in your brain. You want every inch of them pumping at peak efficiency to prevent neuron damage and maintain synaptic connections. Adopt a heart-healthy diet; keep your stress levels in-bounds; keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.
  1. Exercise. The current guideline is about 150 minutes of ‘huffing & puffing’ each week (e.g., 30 minutes/day x 5 days). Walking is fine, but you need to work up a sweat and breathe hard. Obviously, this is good for your heart, but I also suspect that its moderating effect on cognitive function is also related to the fact that it engages so many areas of your brain.
  1. Challenge yourself cognitively. Read books. Learn new skills. Change your routine. Solve puzzles. Take on-line courses or, better yet, once we are COVID-clear, take courses in person. There seems to be a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ aspect to how well our brains age, so try to be open to new experiences and challenges.
  1. Socialize. We are social animals and engaging with others engages our brain in ways well beyond any other activity. Just take a moment to think about all the ways you use your brain when sitting down for a meal with a group of friends. The complexity of negotiating a social context is stunning, invigorating, challenging…and fun! 

That’s roughly where the research stands today. You can reduce your risk of developing dementia by about 40% if you adopt a lifestyle that also happens to be associated with increased longevity. You get double the bang for the buck: more years and better years.

Bottom line: We don’t have to accept the dire predictions of our younger selves. We can marshal the resources that got us this far to get us through the final years of our journey in good stead. It’s definitely worth a shot.

All of which gives a brand new meaning to Bob Dylan’s 1964 lyric:

“…I was so much older then

I’m younger than that now.”

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