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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE STORY

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Forget Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal.  Randall and Joan have a love story far more poignant.  They have been married exactly as long as I have been alive:  63 years.  When Joan’s mom first laid eyes on Randall back in 1952 at church, she whispered in her daughter’s ear, “That is the boy you are going to marry.”  She was right.

 Three children, several grand and great-grand children later, they are still together.  They still hold hands.  Despite the fact that Randall uses a walker, he still holds the car door open for Joan when she gets in, then shuffles to the back, folds his walker into the trunk and eases into the driver’s seat.  Every afternoon, he drives Joan to Starbucks and they each get a simple coffee and sit together at a table in the center.  They love people watching and being, “out in the world.”

 A few months ago, their three daughters decided that they needed to sell their home of 40 years and move into an assisted-living facility.  That was probably a good decision.  However, Randall, having once studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, absolutely HATES the food there pronouncing it, “tasteless as cardboard.”  As a result, he has demanded the food portion of his bill back from the facility and instead, takes Joan out for most of their meals. 

Clearly, Joan is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and each time we meet, asks me the same, exact questions as if she were a 33 1/3 LP going around in circles.  When I ask Randall how he is coping, he confesses that he is, “worried I will outlive my retirement savings.”  Then he adds, “Look, I know I’m not going to get any better than I am right now.  So, every night when I go to bed, I pray, ‘Lord I am ready whenever you are.’  But at the same time, I also pray that I will be able to care for Joan as long as she lives.”

 There is no greater love I’ve witnessed than his for her but here is what distresses me most.  Their daughters have told him “several times” that they, “don’t like” his going to Starbucks every day.  They complain that, “It is too expensive.”  If I ever meet them, I will give them more than a piece of my mind.  I might just turn them over my knee and give them a good spanking.      

 

 

 

FROM MICE TO MEN?

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I must be getting cranky in my older age when I am far more excited about a scientific discovery than in watching one, more ridiculous political debate. The real, ‘movers and shakers,’ we should be paying attention to are those who make the world a more beautiful place, not an uglier and more divided one.

So here’s the news: researchers in Australia have been able to restore brain function in mice! Granted, people are not mice, (though some politicians imply otherwise.). These scientists have been able to use a type of ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves gently open up the blood-brain barrier, (which is the layer that protects the brain against bacteria), and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglial cells are the waste-removal cells. Once activated, they are able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s!

This is crazy, wild, cutting-edge science and I am intrigued. Granted, by the time my own brain may have amyloid plaque it may be too late. However, imagine the possibilities for future generations. Frankly, I would rather pin my hopes on this kind of science than on any present, political candidate. So, don’t look for a sign in my yard or on my bumper with someone else’s name on it. My vote goes to those who actually make our lives better and more beautiful. And from artist to zoologist, you know who you are.

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN’T DANCE?

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Tell that to the 70 something couple I met at Starbucks this morning. Some R&B with a great groove was playing in the background when I noticed the wife was swaying back and forth a bit to the music.

“Good for you!” I said to her. “Did you know that science has proven that dancing, above all other activities including biking and swimming, gives you a 76% advantage in NOT getting Alzheimer’s?”

“No. I didn’t know that,” she smiled shyly, “but I do love to dance.”

“Well, the New England Journal of Medicine just posted a study that says dancing integrates several brain functions at once—kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional which increase your neural connections and thereby decreases your risk of dementia.”

She looked at me blankly. So, I turned to her husband and asked, “Do you dance with her?”

“Heavens, no,” he scoffed. “I don’t dance. I can’t remember all the steps.”

“What?” I chided. “Well you better learn or you increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.”

“Dancing is just too hard,” he replied.

“Okay,” I said, looking down at his feet. He was wearing white sneakers.

“Shuffle your right foot like this,” I said, demonstrating a simple, tap shuffle.

“That’s easy,” he replied, imitating my shuffle, “but it’s sure not dancing.”

“Okay,” I countered, “now add your other foot for a ‘ball change.’”

I demonstrated and he copied me exactly, stepping back with his right foot and forward with his left.

“Big deal,” he remarked.

“Now put them together,” I instructed, and you have, ‘shuffle, ball change.’”

He executed this perfectly.

“Well, that’s still NOT dancing,” he insisted.

“You’re right,” I replied. “However, you have just mastered a fairly, tricky, tap step with ease. Imagine what you could do with the waltz or the polka.”

“Oh,” he smiled, “I would LOVE to be able to do the polka!”

“That’s the easiest dance there is!” I exclaimed, again demonstrating as I counted, ‘one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three.’”

When their coffee arrived, I said to the wife, “Now when you get home, sign up for polka lessons.”  She smiled and I almost had the sense that she just might do it.

This gal in her 80’s however, needs no lesson or coaxing whatsoever.

Enjoy!!

https://www.facebook.com/antena3/videos/10153420815306298/?pnref=story

 

P.S.  That’s me dancing with a complete stranger who told me he, “couldn’t dance.”

Put it on an iPod and Plug in!

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Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, once said that, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

Recently, opera singer turned neuroscientist, Linda Maguire, researched using music for those with failing cognition. “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s. They can’t follow life or conversations. They don’t remember people. They get lost and confused. But because the part of the brain that internalizes music remains healthy, they can follow music.” 

Maguire’s study revealed 5 important benefits of music:

  1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.
  2. Music is a way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.
  3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness. With dementia, patients often lost the ability to express emotions.  Through music, if they are ambulatory, they can even dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching, which brings security and memories.
  4. Singing engages both mind and body. It gives you better posture, better oxygenation and stimulates tissue because the heart and lungs literally vibrate.
  5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions. 

Maguire’s study says that three of the most therapeutic songs are: “The Sound of Music,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It also suggests that if you are caring for an elderly person, to compile a playlist of songs that were popular when they were 18-25 years old. Put it on an iPod and plug them in!!

On that note, I leave you with, “I Wanna Die Young,” a song I wrote inspired by my grandmother. That is she pictured above on the back of a Harley in her 70’s. She is the same girl that still sang “Happy Birthday” to me at age 93, long after she had forgotten who I was.  

https://www.reverbnation.com/helenhudson

 

 

PUSH “PLAY”

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Noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, says that music “utilizes more parts of the brain,” than any other activity we engage in. In the documentary, “Alive Inside,” he also notes that music is “one of the last things” to leave a memory destroyed by Alzheimer’s. https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=alive+inside&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#kpevlbx=1

After watching the film myself, I decided to put together my own playlist on my iPod. I wanted songs that I liked to sing along with, like Don Henly’s, “The Boys of Summer.” I also wanted songs I listened to on my transistor radio when I was a kid, like Del Shannon’s, “Runaround Sue.” Then I added songs that make me nostalgic, like Karla Bonoff’s, “Wild Heart of the Young.” Couldn’t forget my husband’s and my dating song, Roger Voudoris’s, “Get Used To It.” I threw in some Barbra Streisand and lots of Chopin for good measure. No play list is complete without “In a Gada da Vida,” by Led Zeplin, which I added simply so I could impress the other nursing home residents with my mastery of the drum solo. Lastly, I added lots of Michael Jackson songs, because he just makes me want to dance!

Guess you could say I’m prepared. Now, I might be lucky and never lose my memory, but if I do? I hope someone puts those headphones on me and pushes, “PLAY.” Then look out, because in all modesty, I still do a pretty darn good, “moonwalk.” Just ask the passengers on that Southwest flight from San Francisco to Nashville last week. Oh yeah…. And if you have any song ideas of your own that I should add, post them here. I’m still a work in progress.

 

Blind Man’s Bluff

BlindmansbluffLast week, a mobile unit with the sign, “Virtual Alzheimer’s,” was parked in front of my gym. They said that I would learn, “just what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s”. Heck, I had a few minutes. I removed my shoes so that they  could slip inserts under my feet to simulate, “neuropathy.”   Gloves were put on my hands to help me ‘lose touch’ with my environment. Blacked-out glasses, intended to approximate sight loss were next. Finally, headphones with constant, static and irritating background noise were placed over my ears.

I was helped up the steps of the trailer. I needed it. Negotiating both depth and distance was difficult. Once inside, I was read a list of 7 tasks that I was to accomplish in the next 10 minutes. Then I was left alone in the dark. I remembered that I was to set a breakfast table for two. Found the table but took forever to locate dishes. I also was to “find the money and count 19 cents in change.” Never found it. At some point I stumbled onto a basket of laundry and though I did not remember it was on the list, actually folded it!

By the end, I had only managed 2 of the 7 tasks. Now here’s the thing. I did not find it anything like REAL Alzheimer’s. For one thing, being of sound and very focused mind, I was able to completely block out the background noise. Also, who in their right mind would ever give an Alzheimer’s patient SEVEN tasks to complete in 10 minutes?

Alzheimer’s is much like simple Aging; it creeps up on you one day, and one failing neuron at a time. Quite honestly, that is part of its’ beauty. Kafka’s Metamorphosis aside, try imagine going to bed as a vibrant 20 something and waking up at 80? Yikes! That’s the stuff of horror shows. I’m used to my 60-something face. Why? Because I first had the chance to get used to all my 50-something ones.  Suddenly plunging a clear thinking, younger person into this kind of scenario is more likely to create anxiety than anything else. I can attest to that as my teenager took the test, too. For the record, she scored no better than I did. She says it was because she “couldn’t block out the background noise.”

Here’s what I think about ‘virtual’ anything.  It’s like kissing–without your lips.  But if this baby rolls into your town give it a shot.  Never know what you might run into.  🙂

BASS ACKWARDS

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Ready for this?  Do you know what the 3rd major cause of death is in the US right now?  It’s listed right there after heart issues and cancer:  Alzheimer’s.  Why?  Because once that amyloid plaque gums up your neural connections your brain shuts down.  Once that happens, here comes pneumonia, falls that lead to operations, and a host of other ills that befall our elderly.  So while that death certificate may have said, “Pneumonia,” Alzheimer’s was behind it all.

So, you would think that in our infinite, scientific wisdom we would be doing everything we could to prevent that plaque buildup in the brain in the first place.  Instead, where are those billions going?  Into ‘miracle’ pills that are supposed to remove the mess once it has already begun tangling the wires in our thinking.  It’s like telling a teenager:  “Oh, you’re pregnant?  Well the abortion clinic is down on 21st street.”

 As my aunt used to say, “We have it all bass ackwards.”  As a kid, I actually thought that was a real word.  Didn’t know until the day I told my geometry teacher that the stupid theorem had it all “Bass Ackwards.”  He glared at me and said, “You watch your mouth, young lady.”  ‘Hard to do without a mirror,’ I thought to myself but didn’t dare say out loud.  Thought he was an idiot.  Then I looked it up.

 So let’s just cut to the chase:  young or old here are some things you should be doing NOW—not once you forget your own address or how to tie your shoelaces.

  1.  MOVE—no, not out of state, off your butt.

2.  THINK—not just about your next errand but make meaning in your moments.

3.  EAT WELL—you already know what that means so I won’t bore you with broccoli.

4.  GET SUNSHINE—or take Vitamin D.  Better yet, plan a trip to the Caribbean.

5.  CONNECT WITH OTHERS—no, not at the bar or hooking up at rock concerts.  Something that makes you connect in a REAL way with others:  sports, games, and regular volunteering will do the trick.

6.  BE GRATEFUL for the time you DO have.  You never know when it will be up.  Just be sure that when it is your lights aren’t already out.