DANCING IN THE DARK?

hiking w: Herb

An older friend of mine recently asked me to hike with him. He said it would be easy on my knees and I’d love the view so I said, ‘Sure.’ He arrived with his walking stick, water bottle and a grand sense of confidence. As I looked up at the trail he had chosen for us, I remarked, “Gosh! This looks pretty steep!” “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “It’s really easy. I’ve done this hike many, many times.”

 What he had forgotten was that he had not done this particular hike in more than 15 years. For less than 5 minutes later, after slipping on gravel and struggling to get our footholds, we both had to turn around. It was hard for him to give up and I could see the disappointment in his face. In his mind, this exact hike had once been truly easy for him.

 Funny how we remember things, isn’t it? Science says that our memories are often faint and altered recollections of what actually transpired. They have now discovered that each time we recall one, it actually takes on a slightly, different tenor. A recent article in Science Digest says, “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” We have 86 billion neurons in our brains to keep them humming and yet? Apparently that’s not enough to keep our memories both exact and intact.

 Not long ago I said to my husband: “Remember when we used to go dancing?” His reply? “Honey, we only danced when we were dating, not once we got married. I think you’re confused.” I was dumbfounded. Apparently, dancing with him was SO memorable that 37 years has not extinguished my memory of it. Then again, his memory may not be accurate and maybe we’ve been dancing all along.

 

 

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GETTING DUMBER BY THE SECOND?

bruised hand

 Aging causes us to lose our brain-processing speed. Typically, we lose a tenth of a second of brain speed per decade from age 20 on. This minute change is very difficult to notice, even for the most tuned-in individuals, because aging occurs at a constant rate.

Well, I may have lost 45 milliseconds of brain speed in the last 45 years, but I am NOT as slow-brained as the 20-something woman who parked at Trader Joe’s this morning. Not by a long shot. I ask you, who parks a brand new SUV and leaves BOTH the driver’s door and the passenger door WIDE OPEN??

Unfortunately, after circling around, the only spot available was next to this car. So, carefully I pulled in, hugging the right line of my parking spot. I kept looking for the driver but there was no one in sight. As I squeezed myself out, a voice behind me suddenly shrieked: “Oh My God! You parked so close to my car!!!”

I turned to see a young woman holding a, single, grocery bag in her hand. For a moment I was flummoxed. Finally I replied: “Well, unlike you, Dear, I’m parked well within my spot. Intelligent people don’t leave their cars unattended with both doors wide open in a crowded, parking lot.” You’d have thought she might have apologized for her thoughtlessness. Nope. She merely deposited her bag onto the passenger seat, shut the door and huffed her way around to the driver’s side. As she closed that door, the poor man idling next to her, who’d been waiting to pull out, finally did.

What I should have said was: “Darlin,’ it’s obvious from the way you parked that your pre frontal cortex hasn’t fully formed yet. Lucky for you, time has slowed my brain’s processing speed so that I was actually able to avoid hitting your car as I pulled in. Otherwise, you’d be missing the passenger door right now.”

However, when I returned home I actually did something even dumber. Picking up my hand weights, which I use every day; I began swinging them in big, wide, circles over my head. Just as I came down from the first circle, I misjudged the distance (by a millimeter or millisecond?) and the left weight went slamming into the back of my right hand. The hematoma is huge and the pain immense. Apparently, stupidity has no age barrier. None.

 

 

 

 

DON’T NUKE…..CUKE!!!

cucumber

If you think that today’s 20-something is, “irresponsible” and “doesn’t consider the future,” get this: People over 50, and there are 76 million of us, don’t either. In a recent survey, fully ¾ of us said that we have profound worries about aging. Our top two concerns are, “losing our independence,” and “being a burden” to our family. The participants were then asked which on a list of 10 things they would be willing to put into place to address those concerns.

Here is the list:

  1.  Have family or friend move in with them.
  2. Move in with children, other family members or a friend.
  3. Rely on your spouse, family member or a friend for care.
  4. Attend an adult day care facility.
  5. Hire an in-home aide or agency for care.
  6. Hire a live-in caregiver.
  7. Move into an assisted living facility.
  8. Move into a nursing home.
  9. Make modifications to your home.
  10. Use the value in your home (your equity) to pay for care.

Dare I tell you how many of us seriously considered those options let alone said we’d be willing to put them in place?  About 20%.  Stanford professor, Douglas Bernheim, recently did a study called, “The Baby Boomer Retirement Index,” with Merrill Lynch. He discovered that only about 1/3 of Baby Boomers have saved enough money for their retirement years. This, despite the fact that most of us feel we, “will maintain our same standard of living in our later years.” Are we victims of, “magical thinking?”

Quite frankly, I have friends who have planned out their funerals better than they have their aging futures. Which brings me to the cucumber. Did you know that sniffing the scent of one can relieve anxiety? Indeed, a recent study put claustrophobics in an elevator reeking of cucumbers and their symptoms were relieved! Dr. Alan Hirsch, renowned for his work with various odors declares that he can even cure migraines with the scent of green apples.

So don’t worry about the future. When we all get too old to take care of ourselves and run out of money or find ourselves in long-term care cubicles, just spray our rooms with cucumber and we’ll be happy campers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOTTA HAND IT TO HIM

 

hand

As I was getting out of the pool today, a little boy sitting on the top step looked me up and down and said matter-of-factly:

“You’re squishy!”

“Squishy?” I repeated.

“Yes, squishy,” he said.

Now I may no longer have my 20-something body but I would hardly consider myself squishy. So I plunked myself smack down next to him and said:

“Exactly how am I squishy?”

He looked me up and down again, then changed his mind:

“No,” he said, “you’re not squishy. Actually, your crumbly.”

“Crumbly? Do you mean I’m crumbling?”

“Oh, no,” he said thoughtfully. “Just crumbly.”

“Where am I crumbly?” I asked him.

“Hmm…your face and on your hands.”

I opened up my hands.

“No, he said, on the back of your hands.”

I turned my hands over and saw all the freckles and age spots.

“Oh!” I said delightedly, “You mean I’m wrinkled and getting old?”

“Yes!” he squealed, as if I finally understood him.

“Well, guess what?” I said.

“What?” he said excitedly.

“I’m going to get even older and older and older and. . .”

“Then you’re gonna die!!” he yelled out with great enthusiasm as if he’d just completed the punch line to a joke.

“Yes, I will,” I replied a bit taken aback. “Does that bother you?”

“Oh no,” he said, “That just means that your human life will be over and then it will be time for your spiritual life to begin.”

“I see, and how do you know so many wise things?”

“Well, I am four and a half,” he said solemnly, “Life goes on and on and is always changing. Old things go out and new things come in.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. But will you do me a big favor?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Next time you see me, will you call me ‘speckled’ instead of ‘crumbly’?”

“Speckled?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I said, “Speckled. Just think of me as a speckled egg.”

“A speckled egg?” he laughed. “That’s so funny. Okay. You’re a speckled egg!”

Well, I figure that’s better than being squishy and crumbly. 

 speckled egg

 

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.

 

 

 

    

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!  

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!!