Category Archives: Aging Brain

Reverse Fructose Damage

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP damage causes diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.  A UCLA study shows it changes genes in the brain which impair memory and ability to learn. More importantly, this study also reveals some amazing new research that shows the ability of certain fatty acids to reverse damage to your genes.

These fructose induced changes can also lead to Parkinson’s, depression, bipolar disorder and other brain impairments. It  increases your glucose and triglycerides levels which lead to obesity, inflammation and related diseases.

Fructose is found in most baby foods, if you can believe that, while adults get it mostly from sweetened drinks and packaged foods. Americans consume 27 pounds of fructose in an average year. We are unknowingly altering our genes and health while the FDA is missing in action to regulate it.

The UCLA study(1) seems to have found the antidote. It’s an omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic or DHA which reverses these negative changes.

“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, its remarkable,” said Dr. Yang(professor of integrative biology and physiology).

DHA does this by increasing the strength of the synapses(the connection between two nerve cells). They warn that it is not a “magic bullet” and should be combined with a healthy diet since the body doesn’t produce enough DHA on its own.

HOW TO REVERSE THE EFFECT   The researchers view food as a pharmaceutical compound that nourishes the brain and body. Besides avoiding high fructose corn syrup, try avoiding sugary drinks and desserts and generally eating less sugar and saturated fat. In terms of what to eat, Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA are found in many fish like mackerel, tuna, wild salmon(not farmed), walnuts, flaxseed, as well as veggies and fruit.

Fruit also contains fructose, but also has vitamins, minerals, carbs, and fiber. Its natural while high fructose corn syrup is processed from corn without the healthy ingredients.  Corn syrup itself is just glucose and not as damaging as fructose which is glucose and fructose combined. The scientists recommend avoiding both since they are unnecessary sugary supplements.

Besides a healthy diet, some people take supplements of omega-3. You sometime see EPA/DHA on the bottle which are both fatty acid compounds in omega-3s. Always research the best absorption rate on any supplement you decide to take to get maximum benefit.

Now that I have been reading food labels to avoid fructose, I’m really shocked at how many foods contain this. It’s mainly a phenomenon in the United States and is slow to catch on in the rest of the world. So, in addition to avoiding fructose and eating omega-3 foods,  I personally have been using Krill oil that has EPA and DHA. Krill oil has the omega-3 fatty acid and tends to have better absorption and is easier on the stomach.

L. Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Originally from: EBioMedicine.com.  Retrieved on 4-22-16 from: http://www.medicalnewstoday. com/releases/309479.php

FRIENDSHIP for BETTER HEALTH

Quality friendships really do benefit our mental and physical health. Historically, we always have lived in groups because it facilitated our survival. It’s easier to hunt, live, and provide security as a group. Today, we mostly live in family units or individually.  But, our basic human needs for social support and belonging has not changed. Here are some of the many health benefits of your friendships.

Friends are especially good for your heart and can extend your life. A recent report(1) of a three year study of 13,600 women and men who had no or few friends found that this increased their chance of a first heart attack by 50%. In a study of women only, similar results were found. Women are twice as likely to die when they have the least social support. The women with the best friends had lower blood pressure, less diabetes, and less abdominal fat–better health.

The way this works is that social contact relieves stress which causes inflammation in your arteries. This continued inflammation leads to clogged arteries and heart disease. The study also reports that when younger people have a trusted friend to discuss difficult times, their pulse and blood pressure are lower. These results are measurable and confirmed by other studies.

The psychological benefits involves reducing your stress, increasing your mood and self-esteem while providing a sense of belonging. Talking with friends helps us debrief and cope with life’s traumas. Without friends, we can become isolated and depressed which shortens our lives.

But, this is not to say than any friend can bring these healthy benefits. We need quality friends who are positive, happy and helpful. Not those who always complain or take advantage of you because that just increases your stress. Another study found that we tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, exercise more, and successfully quit smoking if we have the support of friends. So, it’s confirmed, friends influence our behavior for better or worse.

In conclusion, we all need and can benefits from friendships. Since, we know how friends influence our behavior, we try to keep the most positive ones. Leaving unrewarding or difficult relationships behind is acceptable since quality is certainly better than quantity. I recently evaluated my set of friends and let an old friend go since he became toxic. Being open to establishing new friends is important especially when you start to see you old ones pass away.

Some people find it difficult to make new friends because it takes effort. You need to join clubs and organizations or volunteer. You have to get out there and act like a friend to make friends. So, just get involved with any social event that interests you. This effort is going to pay off on multiple health levels for you including your longevity.  So, let’s go out and make a new friend today.   L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Woolston, C. (3-11-15) Health Benefits of Friendships. Health Day. Retreived on 11-30-15 from: http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/emotional-health-17/psychology-and-mental-health-news-566/health-benefits-of-friendship-648397.html

Women’s Brain Health Alert

Brain Health:  Women’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are DOUBLE that of a man. Women have more than DOUBLE the chance of caring for a family member with cognitive impairment. Current studies show that women are more likely to development cognitive impairment faster than men and not just because of age(1).

The lasting impact this has on women is on different levels. First, more women are struggling with and dying of dementia. Second, since women are often the caretakers, personal and financial sacrifices are often made that end up hurting them. And finally, more women are leaving Alzheimer research work for various reasons.

This ongoing difficult situation for women in all parts of the world resulted in a Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health. Their goal is to raise money for research, develop a scientific agenda, and organize doctors and scientists to encourage a more rapid solution to the problem. WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s also unites women across the world to search for a cure to Alzheimer’s and is involved in the Global Alliance. Before this alliance, there were few organized efforts to fund research for gender based studies or women’s brain health.

If you or someone you know has been a caretaker of an older adult, you know how stressful, isolating, and costly this can be. It can keep you out of the work force for years and hurt your own retirement. It can negatively change your relationship with your spouse. This is in addition to the emotional toll it can take on you personally.

I completely understand that the desire to take care of your mom comes directly from the heart. So, from my days working in Hospice, I believe that managed or assisted care where you work with a team is best. Remember when our parents went to work, they hired a baby sitter. There was not a sense of guilt or dereliction of duty because we knew this was best for both parties. If we go to work now, your mom can enjoy a stimulating day care or other socially engaging program.

Studies show that day care benefits the elder’s health in the social, cognitive, and physical aspects of life. The social interaction reduces depression and anxiety. Structured activities increase alertness and physical mobility. This is all done by a staff of licensed nurses and trained staff. Day care is certainly better for her than just sitting around watching TV. This involvement benefits both parties as your stress is reduced while their social life is enhanced. My professional experience is that the team approach of different disciplines is the best model of care.

In terms of what measures to take and what to eat to help prevent cognitive decline, please refer to my other article on the aging brain: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/the-aging-brain/

L. Johnson of http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Robinson, F., (26 Oct, 2015) “Leaders from Canada, United States, and United Kingdom Announce Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health”  Yahoo Finance. Retrieved on 10-27-15 from //ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/leaders-canada-united-states-united-120000945.html

Women Need Vitamin D

According to ScienceDaily(1) Americans have low vitamin D levels. That means we are susceptible to other illnesses including breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. The link between vitamin D and dementia risk is confirmed. D maintains muscle strength helping reduce falls in the elderly. It can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis which has no cure. It can reduce metabolic syndrome and risk of diabetes. Vitamin D also regulates genes that relate to cancer development and can provide powerful protection against common cancers. If you live in the northern part of the U.S., your are at higher risk during the winter months without sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency can affect other areas of your body as well. Here are six reasons to get you D levels checked(2).

1. Brain Function: Studies have found that low vitamin D can cause memory and attention difficulties. Many think that mental changes are due to hormonal loss during and after menopause, but it could be your vitamin D level.

2. Weight Gain: This is female specific; when postmenopausal women took 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium daily, they gained less weight and increased their bone integrity.

3. Heart Function: If you are a woman over 50, studies show low levels of Vitamin D can put you in danger of having a heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure.

4. Parkinson’s disease:  Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain that manifests itself as shaking, stiffness, and poor muscular coordination. This disorder mainly develops in people over 50 and increases with age.  Low levels of Vitamin D increases the threat of Parkinson’s disease, while high levels may protect against the devastating illness.

5. Bones Integrity: Studies of bone structure show that Vitamin D deficiency will increase the start and spread of bone fractures. Women are more like to be effected because your bones tend to become brittle and more prone to break.

6. Depression: A study with severely depressed middle age women who were given oral vitamin D supplements revealed a positive response from all participants. We are not sure if this is the cause of the depression, but we know you can feel better as a result.

Life Extension Magazine has confirmed a number of vitamin D benefits similar to the above. They noted that weight loss and reduced inflammation occurred together. It increases survival rates for breast cancer and lymphoma patients. It is associated with less coronary artery disease and premature risk of mortality. It improved cognitive test scores and reduces risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. It can protect against uterine fibroids in women and can prevent infections after surgery. So, its importance cannot be under-estimated.

How to increase our vitamin D?

1. Improve your diet: fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are a good source of Vitamin D as well as beef liver, cheese, egg yolks. Foods fortified with D are dairy products, orange juice, some cereals and milk.

2. Supplements: Although studies have shown that 600-800 IU of Vitamin D per day is safe, always check with your doctor before starting a Vitamin D supplements. Some feel this is not the best way because of the poor absorption rate of vitamins.

3. Sunshine: The article suggests that it’s better if we get at least 15 minutes of sun a day before we apply sunscreen.

I have to admit that I have been taking vitamin D3 at 5,000 IU for a few years now. I originally started after reading some convincing research.  It’s difficult to fell the physical change, except for just maintaining good health. If you’re not sure if you need vitamin D,  just get your levels checked.   L.  Johnson of www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/vitamin+d/         (2)http://www.empowher.com/holistic-health/content/got-vitamin-d-what-women-over-50-should-know-0?page=0,1

Pet Ownership Health Benefits

Pet ownership offers a surprising range of health benefits. Most of us have heard of the pet therapy programs in many hospitals because pets help patients recover faster on less medication. The hospital program is a big success because patients return home sooner, the cost is less, and they’re happier and healthier overall.

The unconditional love provided by a pet is fairly rare in life and has proven to reduce anxiety and depression.  Pets offer companionship that reduces boredom and isolation especially for those residing alone.  This emotional benefit has been scientifically proven to improve our physical health in a number of different areas. Here are health results from a pet study(1).

CARDIOVASCULAR IMPROVEMENT: Dogs and cats provide similar benefits. A study found that, “If you have a cat, you’re 30% less likely to have a heart attack, and you’re 40% less likely to have a stroke.”(1)

BLOOD PRESSURE: So many people are on hypertension medications so early in life. We need to find a better method to control this. The comfort of a pet actually lowers blood pressure and makes the biggest difference if blood pressure is already elevated.

IMMUNITY AND ALLERGIES: Having a pet as a child can reduce allergies and increase immunity. Children raised on farms don’t have allergies, have less illnesses, and attend school more often on average.

DECREASES STRESS: A study gave people a stressful task and found they experienced less distress when with their pets. This relaxation response was better when compared to being with a family, spouse or friends. Pets can reduce stress more than our own spouse or best friend!

PAIN MANAGEMENT: A study in hospitals revealed that surgery patients need less pain medication and recover faster when pets are present. Pets can reduce migraine and arthritis pain as well.

IMPROVED MOOD: A decrease in a range depressive symptoms has been noted. It’s most likely from the unconditional love and companionship pets provide. Pet contact releases endorphins that have a pain killing and mood increasing effect.

EMOTIONAL  DEVELOPMENT: Caring for a pet, especially when young, enables better social skills and a sense of responsibility. Pets even increase literacy skills and self-confidence in children.

SOCIAL BENEFIT: It’s not a surprise that studies show dog owners are better socially connected and friendlier than non-owners.  Taking your dog for a walk twice a day is a form of social networking.

MAY LOWER CHOLESTEROL: Pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels on average. The causal relationship is still being explored.

If you are already a pet owner, then you are taking care of your health. If you’re considering getting a pet, be sure you have the minimum time available to spend. Each type of pet needs a certain amount of attention because pets can get lonely and depressed too. For those retiring alone, I believe having a pet is an essential relationship for happiness and longevity.  I’ve personally had pets since I was a child and I’ve always enjoyed the special supportive relationship they offer.       L. Johnson       http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Gekas, A. 2-28-11 10. Benefits of Owing a Pet. Retrieved from: womansday.com/life/pet-care/a2352/10-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet-116238/

TIME GOES FASTER WITH AGE (If you let it)

How often have you heard that time goes faster with age? We know that it’s not time that changes, of course, it’s your perception. Here are a few surprising things that influence your time perception and how to slow time down.

Time perception tends to be a subjective and individual experience. That’s because much of it is based on prior memories. If there are more details in a memory, the event seems newer. If details fade, we perceive it as an older memory.  Our brain just interprets faded memories as being older than vivid memories. What makes a memory vivid usually involves emotion. Life threatening memories, for example, retain their detail and are never forgotten. However, a good memory alone does not change the feeling of time moving faster as we age.

You could argue that time is incrementally relative to your age. That is, when you are 10 years old, adding one year is 1/10th of your life so far. If you are 50, one year is only 1/50th of your life. So, when older, any additional time is understood in terms of how much time we have experienced to that point.

Aging also involves an experience where the novelty of life is wearing off. The time it takes for the mind to process a new or novel situation is more than to process a familiar situation. Learning something new certainly takes longer than doing something routine. This effort can make time seem longer. As life becomes more commonplace, we need less time to integrate it. This lack of mental processing effort can make time seem shorter, according to this theory.

There is a period during our late teens and twenties where our memory takes on greater significance. This stage coincides when our identity is forming. We perceive this stage as more detailed and longer than other life stages. We may view this time as more meaningful and influential as a result. Some feel this occurs due to the novelty of learning about life. But, I believe this is also combined with emotion which causes us to really set this time apart from the rest of life. This period of adolescence to adulthood is one of the biggest transition in life. This suggests that other big life changes may have a similar effect.  Those college years may seem like yesterday because of the life changing emotional changes that took place.

But, time perception and age is more than isolated events in the past and dealing with novel situations. In my quest to slow time down, I’ve noticed a few things. We all know from employment that the busier you are, the faster time goes. I would rephrase this to: the more distracted you are, the faster time seems to go. In this digital age, distractions are everywhere. Just because novelty may take longer to process, it doesn’t mean time in general slows down; it only seems like it at that moment. Outside of that situation, it has little effect on time perception in general and relativity to age.

Another wrinkle in time perception may have to do with how much anxiety or depression you feel. We talked about how emotions help lock in memories. Acute and chronic emotional distress or pain, tends to slow time. A bad toothache that lasted only 24 hours always seems much longer. Emotional pain and physical pain have a similar effect as it’s a distressful(and distorted) perception of time.

How to slow time: I’m not going to suggest staring at a clock, however, this certainly slows time. Some feel that doing anything new or different seems to slow time. Having less digital distractions(including TV) slows time for me. Unstructured time without anything to do can provide the feeling of having more time. I purposely schedule some unstructured time because it seems relaxing as well as slower. Keeping a diary or journal tends to preserve memories better than photos. Reading my diary takes me right back to that time and how I felt with clarity. It’s almost like re-living the experience which makes it more vivid and brings it closer in time.

Meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, improves your mood and health, but helps you focus on time. The calming effect of meditation seems to dismiss the distractions and unnecessary worry and tension. I feel like I make better use of my time after meditation. Pets have proven to be beneficial for patient recovery and provide unconditional love. Some feel the time spent with pets slows time via the calming effect.

But, we are talking about a subjective perception or mind set. Mind sets are meant to be flexible depending on the situation. You can alter your mind set with visualization and affirmations. For example, before I get up in the morning, I visualize how the day will slowly unfold and I repeat to myself how long and beautiful the day will be. I do this for five to ten minutes. So, my mind and time perception are set before I get out of bed. I also find that reviewing the days events in the evening helps memory and my appreciation of time spent. These suggestions help slow time for me and it might for you as well. Have fun with your time travel and let me know if you have more suggestions.    L.  Johnson from: http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

The Aging Brain

Have you noticed small perceptual changes as a result of your aging brain? We are all concerned about losing our mental abilities as we age. It’s no surprise that the rate of decline is correlated to certain aspects of our physical health.  The brain’s primary function of cognition is a broad term that includes comprehension, memory, judgment and reasoning. This includes learning, decision-making, and language skills. These are skills of intelligence that we have used all our lives and taken for granted. Cognitive impairment can occur at any age, but I’m referring to Age Related Cognitive Decline or ARCD.

A normal function of aging brain is that neurons shrink and die. One of the primary reasons for this is oxidative stress, or an imbalance between reactive oxygen and the body’s ability to detoxify itself. Oxidative stress figures into Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and ARCD.

Chronic systemic inflammation caused by cigarette smoking, poor diet, insomnia, and obesity allows irritants to enter the brain. This inflammation causes a delay in reaction time and memory impairment. If you still smoke, preserving your mental functions is yet another important reason why you must stop.

Obesity and diabetes have a surprising effect on brain function. There are a number of studies that conclude that as body weight increases, brain size decreases, which leads to decreased cognitive abilities. There is a relationship between BMI (body mass index) and brain volume deficits. Childhood or midlife obesity can be a predictor of later life dementia. The cognitive impairment becomes worse when compounded with high blood pressure. Diabetes studies also show greater brain atrophy and lower test scores on performance and learning for this population.

Lack of challenging mental activity also contributes to mental decline. The brain is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Learning new information encourages the brain to establish new neural networks that can be used to compensate for other age-related impairments in brain function.

What to do:

OXIDATIVE STRESS:  A diet rich in antioxidants foods will help mitigate the effects of oxidative stress. I have previously outlined the importance of superfoods like spirulina, green tea, and quinoa. The best antioxidant diet is plant based  rich in vegetables and fruits. A routine of moderate exercise is also very important.

INFLAMMATION:  The most important thing you can do for your brain and overall health is to not smoke. Make a list of all the anti-inflammation foods beginning with your breakfast. Green tea, cloves and ginger are high on this list. You must avoid fatty, sugary, and salty  junk foods.

YOUR WEIGHT:  Being over-weight causes so many health problems in addition to a shrinking brain. Obviously, a healthy diet with restricted calories paired with a good exercise plan is essential. I used to teach the psychology of eating in a weight reduction clinic, so I know that being involved in an organized program is the most helpful. Here is a post on how to eat less from my work in the program: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/eat-less/

MENTAL ACTIVITY: Physical activity pumps fresh oxygen into your brain and improves memory. Social activity exercises our cognition and produces endorphins. Mental exercise of establishing new neural pathways is another fun part of improving your mental abilities. You can enjoy doing crossword puzzles, playing scrabble, Sudoku, writing, solving math problems or doing any other new or challenging activity that you enjoy. The good news is that the expected cognitive decline is so gradual that most of us won’t notice, as long as we’re healthy.  L. Johnson  (www.creativeretirementforwomen.com)