Vail Daily column: Trying not to forget these tips
Vail, CO Colorado
None of us wants to grow old. And in this valley where Peter Pan is alive and well, many of us are fighting it tooth and nail.
Sure, we buy our Aleve at Costco and get back out there to punish our bodies for another day, but what are we doing to keep out brains young?
An article caught my eye last weekend in the USA Weekend supplement of the Sunday paper. “Stay Sharp,” screamed the headline. Who couldn’t use a few tips to stay sharp, I thought to myself while my eyes scanned the article.
It included 10 strategies for keeping the brain healthy that the author found surprising during her research for her book, “100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss.” Good thing she only put 10 in the article; there’s no way I could remember 100.
Now, I have to admit that I have been struggling with memory issues recently. I lose track of how many times in a day I say, “Oops! Sorry, I forgot.” Of course I can’t keep track. I’m having memory problems. Duh.
I’d venture a guess that my memory deficiencies are less physiological and more attention-oriented. I need to learn to be in the moment, to focus on the task at hand instead of thinking about 12 different things like the grocery list and the column I have to write and wondering where the glue gun is so Small Boyne can finish his school project. But I digress.
The very first tip made me feel like perhaps I’m on the right track for great brain health. “Drink coffee,” it told me. Hello? I excel at this particular activity! Who knew this vice was actually beneficial, besides the obvious side effect of keeping me awake.
“Three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife (may) cut Alzheimer’s risk 65 percent in late life.” First of all, oh, Lord! I’m actually in midlife. Ack. Secondly, kudos to caffeine and antioxidants! Off to Loaded Joe’s to read the rest of the article with a latte.
It seemed like I was doing a lot of things right, according to Jean Carper’s research. Floss daily – check! Take Vitamin D – check! Avoid infection – check! Protect your head. Bike helmet – check! Ski helmet – check! Wear seat belt – check! Don’t take risks – double check!
“Drink apple juice.” Really? Yes, really. Apple juice helps produce a “memory chemical” much the same way a popular Alzheimer’s drug does. If I make a version of an appletini with my apple juice, do you think the vodka will interfere with this chemical’s production?
Ms. Carper also encourages us to meditate regularly, as it has been shown to reduce cognitive decline and brain shrinkage. Well, I’m not much into yoga, but if it aids in avoiding shrinkage, I’m in.
“Fill your brain,” was the next tip. Hmmm. My brain is filled with all sorts of useless crap. I wonder if that counts? Ms. Carper is talking more about building our “cognitive reserve,” basically a collection of life experiences that makes your brain better able to handle the aging process. Like brain backup.
She also suggests we “grow new brain cells.” I’ve never been able to grow anything successfully. I have an indiscriminate black thumb. Everything dies under my care. Hopefully brain cells are easier to grow than plants.
Ms. Carper said scientists believe we all grow new brain cells daily. Good news! It’s keeping them alive and fit that proves more challenging. Ugh, just like plants. The advice? No surprise here. It’s good, clean living! Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise daily, strenuous mental activity, eat salmon and other fatty fish, watch your weight, get enough sleep and avoid chronic stress, heavy drinking and vitamin B deficiency. Huh. Who knew?
And finally, she says, “Doing an online search can stimulate your aging brain even more than reading a book.”
Well, that is surprising! Apparently all those hours spent Googling and reading Wikipedia were not just a huge time suck after all. They were actually good for me!
All in all, I feel better about my future brain health after reading the article. The challenge now will be remember to drink apple juice, Google daily and … dang! What was that other thing?