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Using My Brain to Make My Life Work

Saturday, November 23, 2013


HOUNDLOVER1 posted a blog today with this link to an article by Chris Kresser on aging well, and it's such an important article that I'm spreading the word too.

The message? We've only got one brain; we have the maximum number of brain cells at birth; but "senior's moments and "brain fog" and cognitive decline are not inevitable if we take care of our brains.

In other words, we can use our brains to make our life work. As long as possible. And as optimally as possible.

Few of us would choose to spend the last 10 years of our lives in a diaper in a wheelchair. But, to a degree at least, we do have that choice.

And here are the early warning signals that we are making the diapers and wheelchair choice:

1, Quick fatigue from "brain activity";

2. Depression;

3. Indigestion.

How to reverse the trend? In time? In a nutshell?

1. Staying mentally active. That's why conventional retirement doesn't appeal to me much most days. Engaging in some kind of a workplace, paid or voluntary, also helps stave off the social isolation which contributes to depression. Although employment is not the only way of staying mentally active, it might be one of the best ones.

2. Avoiding food toxins. We know what they are: sugar, transfats. And what we need: micronutrients, good fatty acids. And I've gotta remind myself of this and continue to ignore the siren call of the potato chip!

3. Increasing blood flow to the brain. Yup, exercise.

Sure, the article has more. Those are just the highlights.

And sure , the good choices required if we're going to use our brains to make our lives work cost some time and probably some money. Gym memberships and fresh raspberries aren't cheap. On the other hand, most employment does generate some money . . .

And: continuing to think, eating right, and exercising are more effective than many superficial "treatments" we may already spend money on to extend the delusion of youthfulness.

Hair dye. Botox. Face lifts.

Funny, isn't it, that these common cosmetic strategies all focus on the external appearance of the head? Instead of what's inside it?

The brain. Where neurodegeneration will escalate, unabated. If we don't use our brains to make our lives work.

A sobering reminder which is getting me up off my rear end and heading to the gym. Now!!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I thought this article was great! Thanks for helping to spread the information. I find it invaluable.
    1611 days ago
    Here's to keeping our brains 'young' and our spirits wise...
    1613 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Great article. I have read something similar just recently. Is it any wonder the bridge club has had 90 year olds, walking unaided and enjoying the game of bridge until they pretty much pass away. In fact, the club has such an elderly contingent I am worried they will pass away at the table (some of whom commented this would be a great way to go!) Its a game that definitely requires full concentration and instant memorization of cards played, the bidding, nuances of player reactions and many subtle things. I hope it will keep me going too. Working as manager adds some extra challenges too. But I will never like public speaking no how no way ;)
    Here is to exercising our minds and body and fueling them properly to keep them working a long time!
    1613 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this great article. Makes me think about quitting my part-time job
    (which I have decided not to do right now anyway). If people volunteer to keep active, I might as well get paid. Also reaffirms the line dancing hobby
    (music, coordination, choreography, balance, memory, etc).
    1613 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Good Points.
    Since I started eating less processed food my skin is softer and smoother. Maybe it is the exercise ... nah... that just helps keep the blood flowing and nourishing my body. Mentally active... thanks to you, your blog provides me with thought provoking subjects.
    1614 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was a great article...interesting that they are starting to call altzeimer the diabetes of the brain. It is imperative that we keep exercising and keep eating healthy and keep mentally active. I like the comment about brain aerobics and singing a new songs!

    Thanks for an excellent blog.
    1614 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon emoticon
    1614 days ago
    Very good. And I want my brain active for a long time!
    1614 days ago
    Yup, absolutely! Mental activity is essential! That's one of the reasons we're doing the travel thing - lots of mental activity involved in planning, doing, seeing new sights, meeting people, communication in new languages! Plus lots of walking when you don't own a car!

    On the food front - well, we do our best. I think DH is addicted to burgers and fries, though!
    1614 days ago
    Since you brought it up, the Brain, and having worked in brain science for nearly 5 years, let me add something. Support basic research in Neuroscience...we know so little about how this amazing organ functions. Let me also share something I wrote to my chorale group in our newsletter 2 years ago about Music and the Brain.

    We all heard our director Pat Bean at last rehearsal emphasize how important it is to learn the music (she referred to it as lecture #156). Children from birth to age 4 are like sponges soaking up knowledge at incredible rates. But learning is a lifetime activity and science has proven the “old dogs can learn new tricks”. This is because of something called brain plasticity and among other things it is what makes it possible for brain-injured people to learn how to walk and talk again.

    As humans age, it becomes even more important to exercise the learning center. Use it or lose it applies very much here. Learning new melodies and memorizing new lyrics are two very powerful ways to keep our brains supple and invigorated. As we rely less and less on looking at our books, we are invoking our memory and keeping our eyes focused on Pat. While she jokes about loving the attention of 100+ pairs of eyes on her, she knows that when we come together under her leadership we can create a magical moment. Her direction is not just about coming in at the right time, attacks or volume control-it is forming a connection that allows us to feel the music. And, that’s something we owe not only our audiences, but ourselves.

    Recent studies have concluded that brain aerobics are vital to building and growing your mental muscles. But what exactly constitutes a brain aerobic exercise? To qualify as a brain aerobic exercise, it:
    -- Needs to engage your attention
    -- Must involve two or more of your senses
    -- Must break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way

    It is not surprising that the top 3 actual examples of simple brain aerobics are volunteering, singing songs, and memorizing lists. Wow, when we learn our music we are engaging in all those activities. So, the next time Pat says listen to your CDs during the week and learn the music - remember you are doing yourself and your brain a favor.

    PS Neurogenesis is not just a theory anymore. And I might add that The Key to Healthy Living is "making new connections". Something as simple as eating with your left hand if you are right handed promotes a healthy brain.

    1614 days ago
    Wellness is about balance and health in all areas. It is amazing how many of us can forget that and over zealously narrow out focus to only a small subset of the whole.
    1614 days ago
    What a great article and blog. I'm heading into my old age fighting! I intend to be able to take care of myself for as long as possible.

    Thanks for putting this out there.

    1614 days ago
    I think it would be too much work to keep coloring hair, too expensive to get botox, and too painful for "lifting" surgery. Like you, I choose exercise and mental activity. My workout is done for the day, and now I've got some calculations to make to achieve the best result on a sewing project.
    1614 days ago
  • DALID414
    No diaper and wheelchair for me, thanks.
    It makes me sad to see the elderly with walkers! So I definitely say no to a wheelchair.
    1614 days ago

    emoticon Thank you so much for the right on blog. I agree, even if we are "retired" from our work-for-pay, we need activities to keep us mentally and physically active. Good for everyone to spend some volunteer time in a nursing home to see how quickly inactivity can destroy an older human body.
    1614 days ago
    Wonderful blog, I read the article and am going to have tumeric in my morning smoothie from now on.
    Love your point about the cost of health compared with the cost of measures to prolong a youthful appearance.
    Will console myself with this as I look in the mirror every morning.
    1614 days ago
    What an interesting article, Ellen, thank you for sharing! I also liked your comment on the common cosmetic strategies. We tend to worry too much about maintaining the youth of our appearance and we leave our brain to age without doing anything to at least try and slow down the process. I may still be quite young but having already seen three members of my immediate family through different stages of brain degeneration diseases, I'm fully aware of how important it is to try and preserve the health of our brains as much as we can.
    Thank you for all the great articles you're sharing with us.
    emoticon emoticon
    1614 days ago
    Very interesting. Good reminder and some new ideas, too. I don't know about your work, but mine was much too stressful to be good for me. I know I'm much healthier retired. Perhaps it wasn't the work, but my way of dealing with it that caused the stress. So glad that you feel your work contributes to your health. Wish I'd had that experience. Take care and keep sharing such great articles!! -Marsha
    1614 days ago
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