INSIDE OUT

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Last week, the Inside Out art project came to my town. Their truck rolled up in front of the library and we, local residents let them take 4’ by 3’, black and white photos of us. These were then pasted on the walkways in front of the library. I was amazed at the diversity of faces. Our art statement didn’t last long as it rained the following day and all became a gray mush. It was a great reminder, though, of the brevity of our lives. That is why it is so important to shine while our light still flickers!

Recently, I spoke to a group on Alzheimer’s. Since all had been (or were), caregivers, I assumed they would ask questions about the disease and its’ progression. Instead, I faced a room full of people terrified that it might happen to them! In fact, one perfectly, healthy woman was actually taking an Alzheimer’s medication in hopes of preventing it before it started!

Considering that 1 million people will have dementia in some form by 2025, their concerns are valid. So, here’s what we know so far: there is NO cure or drug that can really help yet. No. Nothing–so don’t fall for those TV commercials. However, here are a few things we DO know that will give you the best prevention possible:

  1. Smoking increases your dementia risk 30-50%.
  2. Drinking one Coke a day ups your risk by 30%.
  3. Although few of my readers likely play football–watch for blows to the head—they cause inflammation to the nervous system and increase the tau proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.
  4. Keep your blood pressure low.
  5. Playing a musical instrument lowers your risk by 36%. Taking up the harmonica can’t hurt.
  6. Yeah get off your butt—stub out your butt—and no more ifs ands or buts. THIS is the MOST important one!  

 Here’s the mystery of life: the things we plan for rarely happen and the ones we don’t expect often smack us right between the eyes. Considering that 24% of boys born today and 35% of girls will eventually develop dementia, starting healthy behaviors now will have a more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure. Plus, if you wanna see your face plastered up real big, track down the Inside Out Project! Smiling increases longevity and makes you feel good inside and out!

 

 

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THE SKINNY ON FAT

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 15 years ago, my doctor put me on a low fat diet because my cholesterol was high. I followed it for a good 12 years, just long enough to watch my hair thin, my fuse shorten and my memory fuzz. It barely put a dent in my cholesterol, although my good cholesterol dropped and my bad zoomed skywards.

 In the last 30 years, Americans have lowered their fat intake by 10% yet obesity has doubled and heart disease remains the #1 killer! Due to a flawed study in the 70’s, (which did not take into account, smoking, carbohydrate intake and exercise), we were led to believe that high fat cholesterol foods are bad for us. Not true.

 Science has now discovered:

  1. DHA & EPA, the 2 omega-3 fatty acids in fish—are more effective than psychotherapy and antidepressants in treating depression.
  2. The fats in fish can improve symptoms of ADHD in children.
  3. Omega-3’s have been found to reduce acts of aggression among prisoners.
  4. The National Institute of Health found that members of the US military with the lowest omega-3 levels also have the highest risk of committing suicide.
  5. Your brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol to function well! People who eat more saturated fat reduce their rate for developing dementia by 36%.
  6. Healthy saturated fat reduces inflammation and encourages the liver to dump its’ own fat cells which makes it function more effectively.
  7. Saturated fatty acids, especially those found in butter and coconut, help white blood cells to recognize and destroy invading viruses and bacteria.
  8. Eating fat, particularly avocadoes, regulates the production of sex hormones, helps to repair tissue, preserves muscle and improves sexual function.
  9. Polyunsaturated fats, which the body can’t make, are essential for normal body functions. They reduce harmful LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL.

 According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating good quality high-fat foods will prevent the rising epidemic of Type 2 diabetes and reverse the growing numbers of people suffering weight-related heart problems. If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: 46,835 women were instructed to eat a low-fat diet. After 8 years, there was only a 1-pound difference in weight from their fat-eating sisters and there was ZERO difference in their heart disease, cancer or death rates. So, excuse me while I go munch my macadamias.

 

A WORD TO THE WISE IS NOT SUFFICIENT

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The FDA, “responsible for public health,” approved pesticides on crops in the 40’s,  birth control pills with life-changing, side effects in the 60’s, and Celebrex in the 90’s, which is now in the middle of a class action suit, and had Frances Kelsey not intervened, Thalidomide would have been approved for pregnant mothers in the 50’s as it was widely used in Europe.  A recent Harvard study says that even our everyday drugs, like Benadryl, sleeping pills and antihistamines contain diphenhydramine, which has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.

 What was once touted as ‘healthy’ even 10 years ago, is no longer, ‘safe for human consumption.’ Whether it’s mercury in our fish and vaccines, chemical sprays on our fruits and vegetables or the cancer-causing ingredients like BHA, Parabens and Retinyl Palimitate in most of our skin products, we are contaminated–and not just by misinformation. However, the real guilt here lies not just with the FDA.  It really belongs to those scientists and researchers on the payrolls of big food and drug companies; the ones that cleverly present only portions of their findings and err on the side of those who grease their palm.

 The FDA has always approved, so many rat feces, hairs, fly eggs and maggots per pound of grain. Even frozen blueberries, “can contain up to 60% mold and include up to 10 insect parts and larvae, per 500 grams.” Ground spices like cinnamon have been found to contain the deadly Hantavirus, found in mouse excrement.  It gets worse.

 You know those metal, amalgam fillings in your mouth? The ones that your dentist told you were, ‘perfectly safe,’ 40 years ago? Well, they’re not. Over time, they corrode and all that mercury finds its’ way into your bloodstream and wreaks havoc. Many believe that it is responsible for everything from gut to mental disorders. My husband had his removed and wanted me to follow suit. Well, I’m still debating. Why? Because how do I know that 10 years from now ‘science’ won’t discover that his replacement fillings are even more deadly?

 In 5th grade, my class visited a ketchup factory. While my classmates admired the bottling process, I wandered out to where the trucks were unloaded. Thousands of pounds of tomatoes sat open in those trucks and they were quite a sight, only I wondered why they looked so green. That’s when I noticed that they seemed to be moving! They were covered by thousands of green worms!

“Oh, honey,” the foreman laughed, “Don’t worry!  Those are just cutworms. We boil them until they’re completely dead!”

 Anyway, it’s time for lunch. Here’s a picture and the recipe for mine:

big fistful of raw chopped spinach–fistful of my homegrown sunflower sprouts–1/2 cup cottage cheese–large, vine ripened tomato–artichoke hearts–hearts of palm–black jumbo olives–handful of raw pecans–1/2 sliced avocado–big drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the delightful juice of one, entire lemon–with a dash of pink, Himalayan salt if I’m feeling terribly decadent.

 

 

 

    

IS SHUT EYE THE NEW DAYLIGHT SAVINGS?

Sky and I napping

I’ve never been a napper. Even as a kid I could not close my eyes during the day for fear of missing something. To me, sleep was tantamount to being dead. In the last 35 years, I recall taking only one nap. I was 8 months pregnant and one afternoon, decided to lie down and close my eyes. A few minutes later, terrified that something was horribly wrong with me, my husband shook me awake. He had never seen me nap!

 We all know that sleep is important. If you’re between the ages of 18-64 you need 7-9 solid hours of it! Recently, biologists have even discovered that part of sleep’s job is “pruning back” some of our synapses. They enable neurons to send signals to each other quickly and efficiently when we are using our minds. The idea is that they grow so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits “get noisy” and sleep gives them time to quiet down by pruning some of them back. Interestingly, a fifth of our synapses during sleep remain unchanged as if they encode well-established memories that shouldn’t be tampered with. Scientists refer to this as, “forgetting in a smart way.”  

 The Journal of Neurology just published a study, which shows that new ‘long-sleepers’ have an increased likelihood of developing dementia. Those who have recently started to sleep for more than nine hours were found to have a 20 percent increased likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They also appeared to have smaller brain volumes. Researchers emphasize that this longer sleep is not a direct cause of dementia but rather a sign that chemical changes are happening in the brain. The development of dementia can also make people feel more tired.

 If you have a cat or dog you know that that they can nap anywhere, anytime. If you are a regular napper, you are boosting your immune system, mood, alertness and creativity. Science has even proven that if you nap right after learning a great deal of material, you are more likely to remember it. Someday, I may just have to bear down on my pillow and imitate my dog. I will put a sign on the door first so that my husband doesn’t wake me! Until then, I’ll keep my eyes open so I don’t miss anything!

DRINK UP!!

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 Just imagine how delighted I was to read this week that drinking coffee actually lowers your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes by 65%. Not only that, it seems that drinking up to four cups of the lovely stuff a day might well be the charm. This information came from several studies over a long period of time and you can Google them for yourself.

 But that’s not all. Not only is coffee rich in B vitamins and minerals but it is also loaded with antioxidants. Caffeine, it turns out, not only increases your metabolism but also enhances brain function by blocking adenosine. In addition, coffee drinkers have an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and a 40% lower risk of developing liver cancer. Even better? Coffee drinkers have lower rates of depression and suicide. No wonder I’m so happy!

 But lest you get too giddy reading the above, I also want to counter these findings with another article that I read in The New Yorker this week. It was entitled, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Opinions.” Apparently, we humans are subject to something called, “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to embrace information that supports our beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

 Incredulously, our bodies actually release dopamine when we read or hear information that supports our beliefs. Uh oh. Maybe I’m doped up right now?? “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.” Another ‘uh-oh.’

 I guess it all goes to say that you should take these lovely findings on coffee with a grain of salt. (Whatever you do, don’t put those grains in your coffee). As for me, I am blissfully looking forward to my double espresso with non-fat milk tomorrow morning. I will sprinkle it with cinnamon and nutmeg, both of which are known to boost the immune system, strengthen cognitive function and lower heart disease risk. Oh, and did I mention that they also are anti-inflammatory agents? So, drink up my friends. Drink up!  

A TEMPORARY FIX

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 I was shocked today to learn that a friend of mine, fully 15 years my junior, recently had Botox. Granted, she does look a bit more relaxed and slightly more youthful about the face. But bottom line? It won’t last. It’s like wearing a pushup bra. You look pretty hot, until you take it off that is. Time marches on and despite our temporary fixes, we will indeed, age, infirm and die.

 Consider this: I have worked out almost every day of my life for the last 40 some years. Yes, it has paid off in terms of ‘staying fit,’ but really? My workouts have become shorter and less aggressive over the years. My rotator cuff is hanging by a thread and my knees are shot. So, though I swim a half-mile a day, and do yoga and play a bit of tennis, the decline is continuous and certain. I’ll be honest. I am watching myself go downhill piece by piece, although I am trying to stay upbeat about it all.

 Then you add the actual statistics. Right now, 1,000 people a day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 1% of us will have it by age 60. By the time we reach 85, fully 40% of us will have it. Not only that, the disease itself will begin a full 10 years before we even notice the symptoms! There is NO cure. There is NOTHING that will slow it down and even science says that at this point, “nothing can be done to stave it off.”

 Oh sure, you can exercise, eat well and get Botox. But frankly? That’s like getting a polio vaccine after you already have polio. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of those,‘super agers,’ and the disease won’t even darken your door. If you’re an average Joe, though, you’d better get your affairs in order: make a Living Will, find someone you trust and make them your power of attorney, and if you want to spend your final years at home, keep your eyes open for a good caretaker!! I am ALWAYS looking—even at the supermarket!

 My advice? Close your computer right now. Turn off your cell phone and walk outside. Look up at the sky. Notice how cumulonimbus clouds merge into cirrus and keep on moving. Whether you see stars or mountains, sea or cactus, love the view. Realize that whatever you see before you right now, you will someday not see at all.  Be grateful for the moment, this moment. Now.

 

 

TIME FLIES SO WALK THE MINUTES WISELY

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Amazon is now selling a special clock just for those with Alzheimer’s. Apparently, the big selling point is that it spells out the day since those with dementia struggle with abbreviations. But here’s the thing. Just because you can say what time it is doesn’t mean that you’re ‘all there.’ It simply means that you can mimic a clock. It’s the minutes that really count in life, particularly the ones you spend making friends.

 A few days ago, I reunited with three women whom I first met when I was only 13. Our re-connection was seamless, as if little time had passed at all. However, having lived 50 more years since then, we now have much more to share with each other. Yes, time has changed, re-arranged, shrunk, expanded, puffed and wrinkled us in ways that we never dreamed possible at 13! That’s probably a good thing. One should feel fresh, fearless and free in youth but we tend to lose those qualities as both time and experience wear us down.

 That’s where friends come in. If you choose them wisely when you are young they will help keep you young as you age. They will remind you of your earlier self while encouraging your present one. They will forgive your youthful missteps and help you up the steps now that you are older. Most of all? If you choose friends with attributes that you wished you had yourself, you will receive the benefit of those very qualities albeit indirectly.

 My ‘old’ girlfriends still have the gifts that I once envied as a child, but now deeply admire. One was gregarious and accepted others just as they were even all those years ago. She still does. Another was an artist who could fill a blank page with beauty so breathtaking that you simply stared in awe. Today, she is a talented interior designer. The last had a rebellious, adventurous spirit that even now keeps her freshly on the edge of things au courante. So, dear readers, should I ever lose my mind, kindly put the faces of my friends in front of me, not a clock!!!