Friday, February 26, 2016

KEEP YOUR BRAIN YOUNG AND VITAL by Roz Denny Fox


A few times a year Metropolitan Life Insurance Company sends out a wonderful newsletter to account holders. It’s called: Life Advice. And quite often I find myself wanting to share some of the information they provide that in general is geared toward a person’s health and well-being.

The article I found interesting this year talks about keeping your brain young. As I get older I find myself thinking more and more about keeping as much of myself “young” as is humanly possible. I think especially for writers, tips on healthy brain function is most appropriate.

The newsletter said these particular tips were compiled from The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association; Medscape on an article about strokes; and The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Brain, heart and body are all areas that can contribute to cognitive decline if they become unhealthy. I hear people joking about forgetting something and mentioning Alzheimer’s, or old timer’s disease as some refer to it in teasing fashion. But I for one wince at such jokes. Because I’m a worrier, and I worry about dementia and other illnesses like diabetes and stroke.

So I’m going to share some of the thoughts to consider for helping keep your brain young that I gleaned from the latest Life Advice Newsletter.

1.    Get Moving—No matter how unappealing do regular cardiovascular exercise that raises your heart rate. The article mentions, walking, biking, and swimming all helps blood flow to the brain. Studies show there is a positive correlation between physical activity and lessened risk of cognitive decline.

2.    Consider the power of food—Think of food as a powerful form of medicine. A healthy diet that cuts back on sugar and other processed foods can help stave off numerous diseases. The brain reacts better to a healthy diet.

3.    Sound sleep—(boy this is an area I should worry about—I’m an insomniac) Studies on sleep-deprivation correlate with raising the risk of obesity, depression, accidents and brain function decline. (OK—I need to fix my insomnia) Your memory and thinking are negatively affected by not getting enough sleep.

4.    Take classes/study—Formal lifetime learning helps prevent dementia and cognitive decline.

5.    Say no to smoking—Studies show smoking diminishes your health in so many ways, and smoking hastens cognitive decline.

6.    Take care of your heart—According to studies, health conditions which raise the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc, also harm the brain. Much about taking care of your heart goes back to exercise and healthy diet.

7.    Protect your head—It stands to reason that head injuries are linked to declining brain function. Using helmets when biking, skiing, horseback riding, skateboarding, etc. guard against a slip and fall that may cause brain injury.

8.    Stay engaged—Social well-being helps keep your brain healthy.

9.    Seek out challenges—New hobbies, pets, playing cards, crossword puzzles, hand crafts—any new activity that encourages your mind to think and learn will surely benefit your brain now and over time.

10. Become involved—Studies show that a greater sense of purpose may well protect an aging brain.

Lastly this article notes that a person’s willingness to share wisdom and experience helps your brain and sets a good example for younger generations. So my big takeaway from this last part is that what Heartwarmers are doing with doing our informative blogs, and interacting with one another, plus brain-storming, plotting, and writing our books is one big thing we’re all doing to help keep our brains young. I need to exercise more, and sleep better. What about you?

42 comments:

  1. These are all excellent suggestions, Roz! Thank you for sharing.

    I should heed a couple of them: get more sleep and enjoy a healthier diet. Could a healthier diet still include chocolate??

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  2. Kate, I think some healthy diets include dark chocolate in moderation. Alas my new diet for hiatal hernia takes chocolate and diet soda away from me. Always two mainstays. But I also need more sleep.

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  3. Roz, this is an excellent blog with so much good information. At every age healthy diet and exercise are the basics of not just a healthy life, but a happier one. You are so right in that all we do as Heartwarming authors for our readers, for each other, for our stories goes a long way to keep our brains cranking in top gear. I also believe that because our stories are upbeat and always end on a high note, that exhilaration we put in our books helps stir a mix of new and even happier brain cell into birth.
    So, that said, can we promote Heartwarming as medicinal? Ha! Have a day filled with happy brainwaves!!

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    1. Catherine, You have hit on two added great points. Love the one about our stories being "good medicine".

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  4. Great advice, Roz! I know I need to work on the exercise and eating healthy. I do believe in the lifelong learner approach as well as the staying social. I can see how important it is to stay connected with the world. It can be real easy to slip into solitude and that is no good!!

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    1. Amy, but I wonder if the staying connected part means it's better to see people and interact face to face. I saw a documentary recently that has concerns about our next generation who can be in the same room with a friend, but text them rather than get up and go speak. Do you think there's truth to that?

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  5. Hi Roz, thanks for the reminders on keeping brain and body young. I took a creative writing class at Penn State last summer. An unexpected benefit was being around students. So much hope and passion in the 18 to 22 year olds! Of course the class was right next door to the Creamery, famous in our part of the country for making the best ice cream!

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  6. Ha, well the body needs some fats to keep percolating. Maybe we can't do everything on the list, but taking a class counters a lot.

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  7. All excellent advice , Roz, and the older I am, the more important everything on the list is. Another activity that I value is Yoga. Good for stretching and easing the mind & practicing focus.

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    1. MT, I have a lot of friends who do Yoga and swear by it. I have joined classes a couple of times, but found my body didn't want to bend like I needed to. But all exercise is good. I probably need some weight-bearing stuff.

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  8. Roz, I do some of the things you mention, but could definitely do more. My parents both walk daily, volunteer, do crossword puzzles and read, a lot. Sometimes they make me feel like a slug, but they set a great example. Thanks for the reminder.

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  9. Rose, I think crossword puzzles are another great brain stimulator. And Sudoku, although that one is beyond me. My youngest daughter starts her day by doing a puzzle at breakfast.

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  10. Great tips, Roz. My mother is 85 years young this month and is a social butterfly at the retirement community where she lives. I'm convinced her being engaged and involved on a daily basis has helped her enormously. If only she would exercise. Her? What about me? I definitely don't move enough (hee, hee).

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    1. Cathy, I'm glad to hear your mother is perking along. And each time I see your photos on Facebook you look more like your daughter--so you're doing something right.

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  11. I like all the suggestions just wish that celery tasted like brownies. It would make life so much easier.

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    1. Pam, too true. This restrictive diet I'm on is no darned fun. Except for that I feel better overall. But it's hard.

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  12. Roz, this is all such great advice! I worry about my brain, too. Especially when I do things like leave my keys in the freezer (true story) or forget why I walked into the other room in the first place. An interesting aspect of this advice is that I'm happier when I exercise and eat healthy, read/study, and squeeze in some social time.

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    1. Carol, I think some of a busy person's forgetfulness is just because of multi-tasking, not diminished brain function. I keep telling myself that.

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  13. This is such great advice, Roz. I would add, monitor your thyroid levels. For a bean sized gland, it controls so much within our body, especially the brain. For myself, I need to get more sleep, but the internal alarm clock always goes off at 3:30 a.m.

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    1. Jill, I'm a long-time insomniac. I do try to get more, but often end up getting up anyway. And it's a fight to get some docs to recognize thyroid imbalance.

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  14. Writing books is certainly a challenge and keeps my brain hopping!

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    1. Mel, all you do in addition to writing books keeps your brain hopping and young.

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  15. Roz, you always have the most fascinating topics! And, boy, sleep is the big problem.

    Although I guess on the positive side, that 2:30-5:30 waking period provides all kinds of opportunity to do Sudoku. Maybe I should try learning some new skills then, as well. :)

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    1. Laurie, maybe if a person is productive during those witching hours then less sleep isn't a detriment. I hope that's the case. You are another lady who keeps her brain active and young.

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  16. Roz - another great, informative post! I get a lot of exercise and my diet isn't too bad, except that it is a little high on chocolate. Insomnia's my issue, too. My doctor insists it isn't good to try to be productive when you wake up in the middle of the night because then your body will keep doing it. But all of us who are busy hate to waste time, so I get up and work anyway. Or try to find a romance movie on television. Would love to be more social in person, but just can't do it at this point in time. You guys are my 'girls' night out!' Thanks for that. Fun, Roz!

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    1. Muriel,
      It's probably not good to get up and read or work when you wake up in the middle of the night, but it is hard to waste time that could be productive. And I thought chocolate was the staff of life, but now I have to give it up. I'm hoping some time in the future I can add back some.

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  17. Thanks for sharing that great article!

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  18. Roz, I do think of food as medicine and have noticed improvement in how I feel as I have changed how I eat. Also working on sleeping regular hours. The list you shared is so helpful. Most of it is familiar and seeing stuff over and over helps it sink in and makes it easier to change behaviors.

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  19. Laura, Thanks for stopping in. I know you've revamped your diet over the last year and that it's helped how you feel. I have a long way to go, but I'm determined to work on the areas of exercise and sleep, too.

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  20. This is a great post. I fight going to sleep most nights, and my diet isn't the best sometimes, but I'm working on it. I hope reading Heartwarming books and trying to remember characters is strengthening my cognitive abilities. Admittedly though as time passes sometimes I get some of the characters and stories mixed up. I often wonder how authors remember all of what's happening and all of the characters in their books over time. Is it just me that starts to forget?

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    1. Laurie, I'm smiling because I did an autographing on Saturday where I gave away backlist books. I found myself struggling to recall the characters careers in some of the books, and they were books I wrote. If I read too many books one after another, sometimes I get lost if I put a book down for a day or so.

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  21. Great post Roz!My grandmother worried constantly about "losing her mind" when she became older. She read in a reader's digest one time that people who kept their brain busy were less likely to go senile in their old age. So my grandmother always had a crossword puzzle, Suduko, or some other kind of puzzlebook next to her chair. Every evening she would sit in her chair and do puzzles. She was 96 when she died and sharp as a tack. I don't know if her addiction to brain games contributed to that, but I like to think she was right. Exercising your brain can't hurt, right?

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    1. I think there are a lot of current studies that support her theory, LeAnne. I guess we all worry most about losing our cognitive ability, but I'm sure diet, exercise, being social and active with the brain all make our brains healthier.

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  22. Roz, interesting topic as always. I couldn't help but notice the correlation between the topic of insufficient sleep and the numerous early-morning posts! One would assume that doing the right things--sufficient sleep, a low-sugar, high-fiber diet, etc.--would make a big positive difference for writers, but historically writers are not a group of health-crazed great sleepers, so who knows? I attended my great-aunt Brownie's 90th birthday party in Seattle, and met five of her childhood friends, all in their early 90s. They were healthy, hearty, brain-whole, and as spry as the middle-aged partiers. Maybe it was something in the Cascades raincloud. Heck if I know how they did it! I do know that they were all extremely interested in life--their own and everybody else's--
    Kundalini Yoga can be done without the contortions, and focuses on disciplined breathing to a rhythmic chant. It is amazing and bears excellent results, including documented lower blood pressure. I think it frees my mind and lets in the beauty around me.
    Take care of yourself so you can keep writing your stories for all of us to enjoy. -- Liz McClure

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    1. Liz, you know about a lot of interesting health solutions. And metaphysical if I recall. And you're right that a lot of writers I've met have difficulty sleeping.

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  23. So with you on the sleep thing. Anything over 6 hours is a bonus for me. I do the other things you mentioned and Pilates which keeps my stiff self a little limber. Because of Pilates, I can now bend over and put my palms on the floor at 71. :-)

    Great post, as always.

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    1. Patricia, I'm impressed that you do Pilates. My older daughter takes classes and I'm sure I could never keep up with the routines. I count it lucky if I can bend over and pick something up off the floor. I'm sure being limber like you are adds to your life span.

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  24. A great article! Thanks for sharing this, Roz.

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  25. I feel better, Roz. On the list, the only one I don't already do is the sleep one. I live on about 5-6 hours a night and my energy level is off the charts. Is the candle burning at both ends? Who knows. I play tennis 5 days a week int he summer and one day a week in the winter, plus I walk more than 10,000 steps a day.

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    1. Shirley, I'm guessing you have a Fitbit. When my daughter and son-in-law were here a couple of weeks ago, both had them and worked hard to get in 10,000 steps while on vacation. I'd say you're in the top 1% of healthy brains if just sleep and minor at that is your only issue.

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