Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My niece, who is involved in the care and support of a patient with early onset dementia has been researching the topic and found an intriguing health article last week, in the context of Alzheimer’s prevention and long term brain health. It is just a really nice overview of healthy choices, from diet to mental and physical exercise and is based heavily on research going on at Duke University: http://health.msn.com/centers/alzheimers/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100155390&imageindex=1.

The short form of the eleven is:
1."Mediterranean" diet high on fish and complex carbohydrates and low on red meat and processed foods.
2. Specific dietary supplements including fish oils and folates - but more vitamins too, lots of B
3. a glass of red wine every day (for the powerful antioxidant in it)
4. anti-inflammatories daily (for some people) because inflammation may aggravate neurological decline
5. at least fifteen minutes of meditation a day - to reduce cortisol levels
6. laughter - to increase endorphins
7. keeping a broad and active social network
8. seven to eight hours good sleep a night
9. continuing to learn new skills on a regular basis
10 cardiovascular exercise
11. “neurobic” techniques outlined in a book by Duke researcher Lawrence Katz and author Manning Rubin.: Keep Your Brain Alive,. They outline an unusual brain exercise program that’s based on a solid foundation of neuroscience research. Specific kinds of sensory stimulation, they believe, like using the nondominant hand for common activities, are said to cause the brain cells to secrete molecules called neurotrophins that act like nutrients to improve cellular health.

My response to the list surprised me a little. Most of it seems easy but I feel rebellious about the dietary component. Part of my rebellion stems from the amount of red meat I prepare for Bob (fix meals to send to Corpus with him) since he is losing weight and keeping cholesterol down successfully on the Atkins diet. Its hard not to eat at least some of what I cook for him. But there is something deeper about food and me. I eat reasonably healthily if I don't think about it much, but once I start focusing on food and trying to to eat “healthy” all the time my rebel gets involved and then I want to stop eating altogether or eat a bag of Butterfingers. I wish I were saner regarding food. I need to find a balance - not an extreme.

The other area that is tough for me is laughter. I a a serious person and have never tended to laugh much. Very little makes me laugh out loud - except physical horseplay which I do enjoy. I think something like ping pong would be more likely to get me laughing than funny movies.

I wrote down the recommended supplements and want to talk to Bob about starting those for both of us, maybe anti-inflammatories too.. Meditation, exercise, and socialization, and trying new things are part of my life anyway. and this year I'm doing the best I have in years on sleeping seven or eight hours a night. I see to have gotten into the habit, which is a blessing after decades in and out of insomnia. I have red wine in the house but rarely drink it - could learn to - don't like it enough to want to overdo, but could get a glass a night down as medicine. The “neurobic” exercise and other emphasis on novelty and learning are intriguing. I want to get the neurobic book at least from the library. Just for fun I’ve been using the mouse with my left hand his evening. Tricky.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Thanks as always for your reading and responses to my writing. I'm glad you found the health article interesting and helpful. I definitely understand the struggle and frustration with the diet component - I really go through phases, and especially relate to the feeling of sometimes the harder I try, the more I just want the unhealthy stuff (like sweets.. my nemesis). For us right now a new page is turning; it is both of us striving to eat more healthily. It is not that he ever had terrible eating habits, and has always been fine with fruits and vegetables and all kinds of foods - but as you know, he is a tall slender guy in good health and because of that we didn't really think much about saturated fats, calories, quantity, etc like the rest of us. Sometimes he would even be trying to add weight (in muscle) which is quite the opposite mentality. My hope is to eat brain (which is also heart) healthy, build those patterns for the longterm, but not be completely restrictive and still eat the things we enjoy (for me, dessert; for him, salty and fatty foods!), just less of it. He is already in the habit and very good about taking the vitamins. It is interesting, I have seen Mom and Dad model this striving for health my whole life, in diet and otherwise, and to have migrated to place in my own life where we are intentionally seeking the same.