A WORD TO THE WISE IS NOT SUFFICIENT

lunch

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.

 

 

 

    

SHADOW BOXING

Shadow Boxing

Last night at an alumni gathering from my college, something became very clear to me: I am NOT ready to be old yet. Don’t get me wrong—I know how old I am. I’m just not ready to act it yet. After being around my contemporaries for several hours, I came home thoroughly depressed. Maybe it was all the white hair and wrinkly skin around me. Maybe it was observing others struggle to find words, or the way they ate their food cautiously, or the clothes they wore. Perhaps it was the resignation in their eyes and voices, but whatever it was, it wasn’t for me.

 Right now, my Inbox is inundated with articles entitled, “How to Fight Aging.” Are you kidding me? You can’t fight aging. That’s like shadow boxing. It happens in spite of yourself and all your many machinations to keep it at bay. Recently, I even stopped buying Oil of Olay “age defying” lotion. Why? Because it’s an expensive cream guaranteed to make my skin look younger, and in the last 20 years has not removed one single DAY from either my life OR my skin!

 This week, AARP magazine’s cover story was, “50 ways to Live Longer!” It was the usual, ‘exercise and eat your vegetables,’ routine that everyone spouts. Now, if following those 50 things makes you feel better, then go for it. As for me? I plan to drive with the windows down, the music pumping and sing at the top of my lungs. I will continue to start conversations with complete strangers. If music is playing, whether at the supermarket or in an elevator, I’ll be dancing. In short: I plan to live while I’m still alive.

 Here are the top 4 things I vow NOT to do:

  1. Say things like, “My memory must be slipping.”
  2. Discuss my bodily functions or the pills that I take.
  3. Complain about my aches and pains.
  4. Stop dancing!

 Last week, my aunt turned 79. When I asked her how she was dealing with almost being 80, she laughed. “It is what it is,” she replied matter-of-factly. “Aging is just part of life. It happens. You go with it.” Now that’s advice worth following.

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!!

coffee

 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!  

SO FAR. . .SO GOOD!!!

60-year-old-swimsuit-model

A girlfriend of mine just sent this picture to me with the caption: “When I see her, I think of you!” Whoa there. Me? Okay, I do, in fact, wear a bathing suit everyday. I do have long hair, (although it’s not quite that white yet) but I look at it and see a woman whom I might like to look like someday, you know, when I am HER age. Here’s the problem: I am already older than the Italian model pictured above!! Isn’t perception a funny thing? Psychologists say that we have a good sense of who we are by the age of six. Apparently, for some of us that view never really shifts!

 Einstein taught us that if you remain still, time moves rapidly forward. However, if you travel at the speed of light, time, in fact, does not move at all. Thus, if you stay fixed and unmoving, the minutes just tick on. Today, The New York Times published the results of a study, which correlated movement with happiness. Researchers found that people who moved more frequently–even simple walking–reported greater satisfaction and joy than those who spent most of their time in a chair.

 That’s why it’s important to keep yourself, ‘out there’ meeting new people, trying new things and avoiding stolid routines. If you’re just counting out your pills while sitting in your easy chair, you’ll get stale. Worse, your optimism may morph into depression. Recently, I saw a great cartoon that depicts a guy falling from a 20-story building. At each floor, he yells out, “So far, so good!” Now that’s a great way to live until we’re on that one-way train to infinity with no return ticket.

When I see friends that I knew 10 or even 50 years ago, they really do seem the same. Delusional? Maybe, but if you look at others from the inside out they don’t really change much. They are who they were. Mostly they are who you remember them as.  So if my girlfriend, whom I haven’t seen in 10 years sees this picture and thinks of me…I say RIGHT ON!! Perhaps I’ve been travelling the speed of light and didn’t even know it!

 

      

DYING TRYING

helen-on-a-bike

There is a reason I am on this bike for the first time after almost 15 years. Research says that if I really want to be a, ‘super ager,’ I NEED to feel pain. I need to get out of my, ‘comfort zone’ and really tax my mind & body. Otherwise, my brain tissue will merely be ‘thin’ and that is NOT good. Thank you science and the rest of you folks who are forever changing your mind about we should and shouldn’t do.

A recent article in the New York Times says that, “In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Dr. Anna Lembke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford has just thrown her hat in the ring, as well. She says that 100 years ago, doctors believed that some pain had a, ‘salutatory effect on the body, providing both a physiologic and spiritual benefit.’ However, in the time since, pain has become, “something to avoid at all costs.” Thus, the over-prescription of painkillers and the ensuing opioid epidemic.

Quite frankly, I thought I was doing OK by swimming a half-mile a day, playing a few games of competitive tennis, practicing my scales on piano and guitar and writing. Apparently not. Apparently, I am supposed to PUSH myself…not merely MOVE myself. Well, thank you very much, science.

Kudos also to my sister-in-law, Cathy, who keeps me posted on all things Alzheimer’s and aging! So, dear girl, this blog is for you. Thank you for personally whipping me into shape whether I like it or not. Right now, my knees are aching, I am winded from the hills and quite frankly, if this will help me be a ‘super-ager,’ I shall be indebted to you. If not, at least I died trying!!

TURN HEADS…CHANGE HEARTS

helen-tennis-t-shirt

About 15 years ago, an older fellow that I played tennis with gave me this T-shirt for Christmas with my picture on it. At the time, I thought the gesture was sweet but was too embarrassed to actually wear a shirt with my own face on it. Seemed downright silly.

 Fast-forward all those years and I’ve changed my mind. I love looking at that shirt now. I even remember the day the photo was taken: I had just emerged victorious from an arduous match of mixed doubles! In fact, that younger picture of me makes me so happy, that I want ALL of our elderly, particularly those in homes, to have one of themselves!

 I think that all of us should give the older folks in our lives a T-shirt with their favorite photo from ‘back in the day’ on it. If they can’t choose their own photo, do it for them. Plaster their younger self on it to remind all who come into contact with them that they were young once—that they had a life—and that they are not just the wrinkled, bent over creatures they may have become since then.

 Can’t you just see the changed look on the faces of all those caretakers in the nursing home when they see a picture of cranky, old, arthritic Doris in pigtails astride a galloping horse? Or hear the amazement in a kid’s voice when he says, “Gosh, I didn’t know Granddad could ride a surfboard!”

 If my Granny were still alive, I’d put that photo of her the afternoon she waltzed out into the backyard, tied on a pair of her old, tap shoes and started demonstrating the ‘time step’ for me. I wish all those who had only known her as an old woman could have seen that!!

 This is MY resolution for 2017: get a T-shirt for everyone over 60 with a picture of their younger self on the back! Add a slogan that says: “This is who I WAS and still AM!” It won’t just turn heads. It will change hearts. I promise you. Help me make it happen. SHARE this and send me your photos!!!!

P. S.  Personally, I would put a photo of me riding my motorcycle up Highway 101, wearing a red halter-top and shorts, with my long hair flying in the wind. Unfortunately, no one took that picture. It exists only in my mind.