More and more good news keeps coming out about boosting brain health for seniors. I think it also applies to the rest of us, which is why I pass this information along to you.
Our brains are capable of superior performance even into the 10th decade and beyond! If the brain remains healthy and free from disease, it can continue to function normally for as long as we live.
What can you do for your mental and physical health to promote a healthy brain? The answers will, I hope, not be much of a surprise!
1. Exercise. Neuroscientists recommend swimming, dancing, gardening, knitting and more frequent use of the nondominant hand and leg, and walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis. In one study it’s suggested that aerobic exercise is the key to lowering the odds of getting Alzheimer’s by 60%. A daily 20 minute walk can cut the risk of having a stroke by 57%. Think of exercise as fertilizer for your brain!
2. Mental activity. Use your brain to keep it healthy. How? Play board games, do crossword puzzles, learn a second language, read, take a class and acquire new skills.
3. Healthy diet. Balanced nutrition is essential for brain health. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts and decrease added sugar. Water is also essential for nervous system electrical transmissions that will keep your brain functional.
There you have it. Maybe nothing new, but a good gentle reminder. If you’re lacking in these three areas, get with the program now. It’s never too late to give your brain cells a boost!
Although I mention salt often, I recently received a good question: “What’s the difference between sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt?”
Salt has become very trendy, yet we also receive messages about reducing sodium intake. Confusing, right?
Chemically speaking, there is little difference between these salts. They are all sodium chloride. What differs are their origins and how they are processed.
Sea salt is derived from the evaporation of sea water. Because it is usually unrefined, it contains natural traces of minerals found in sea water. Kosher salt refers to a flake salt. Both are flavorful. Good old table salt comes from salt mines. It is refined and in most cases iodized.
Sea salt is marketed as a healthier alternative and can be a better choice. It has larger granules, and both sea salt and kosher salt contain less salt per pinch than table salt.
Regardless of which salt you use, please note that the current recommendation is to limit daily intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg for people with hypertension, African Americans and adults 51 or older.
Again, if you eat a lot of processed or packaged food, watch the sodium content. That’s where you’re likely to go way beyond these guidelines.
Do your daily activities cause you pain?
Let’s take a look.
Time spent standing, sitting and even sleeping can be causing you pain. It’s the cumulative hours you spend in these positions that can lead to prolonged damage to both your muscles and fascia.
If you go to a professional who works in the field of corrective exercise, you’ll get help alleviating some of the problems caused by improper seated, standing, and sleeping postures. But there are also some simple adjustments you can make yourself.
Your body is designed to be upright and weight bearing on two feet, with your hips, torso, and head in good alignment. We spend way too much time sitting!
Get out of your chair several times a day. This helps keep your hips, legs, and spine extended. If you can, convert your work space into a standing desk or walk instead of always driving places.
Change chairs and positions often or alternate between sitting and standing when you work.
I’ve mentioned before that I work mostly standing up and use a counter as a workspace. I also have two different chairs I sit on when I read or write but mostly I sit on the floor. As I write this I am sitting on the floor!
Sitting too much can weaken your arches. When this happens, your feet are less able to accept your body weight and your arches collapse. Notice if you often shift from side to side when you stand. You are trying to redistribute your body weight and get more comfortable.
Besides examining your shoe choices (which is a big topic that we’ll cover in another newsletter) eliminate, or at least reduce, the time your spend in high heels.
Pay attention to your upper-body position when standing. Do you cross your arms, talk on a cell phone a lot, carry a bag on one shoulder or constantly have your hands in your pockets? All of these will over time create tight muscles and fascia. Paying attention to how you stand is the first step.
If you have chronic tightness or muscular imbalances from sitting too much or standing with poor posture, sleeping is often uncomfortable too. Adopting better sleeping positions will help reduce pain.
Sleep on your back. Make sure your bed is firm enough so that neither your lower back or thoracic spine sinks into the mattress. Sometimes putting a wedge or pillow under your knees makes you more comfortable. Start off in this position for just a few minutes each night and gradually increase the amount of time you spend like this. As your spine adjusts, the use of the pillow can be reduced.
Choose a pillow that supports your head so that your eyes are in a position perpendicular to the ceiling. And make sure your pillow thickness doesn’t push your head too far forward.
If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. This keeps your knees in line with your hip socket.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach. That over arches your lower back and puts too much twist on your neck.
We all have to sit, stand, and sleep so it’s important to do them in ways that don’t cause PAIN!
Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool. When days are hot, when days are cold, in the swimming pool. Do you remember that children’s tune?
I can talk about the virtues of swimming all day long because I LOVE to swim. Many of you who have known me for a few years might remember that I even became lifeguard certified! You might also recall that it was one of the hardest things I ever took on. I also taught water aerobics at a community college and it was a blast.
But enough about me.
Let’s talk about YOU and swimming.
Training in the water is a great way to take care of building that essential core strength.
The muscles of your torso stabilize your spine and provide a foundation for all movements. Since water is gentle on your body and it offers natural resistance, it’s a great environment to train in.
Before doing these movements warm up for 5-10 minutes. For this you can walk in the shallow end of the pool. These moves will require water dumbbells and a noodle.
Remember to breathe as you perform these exercises. Perform the movements slowly and make sure you feel the muscles you are targeting actually doing the work. Using the natural resistance of the water, you can make these moves as easy or as hard as you’d like.
1. Abdominal Rolls: Lie face up in the water holding a dumbbell in each hand. Stretch your arms out to your sides and extend your legs. Pull your knees to your chest. As you do this, roll onto your stomach. Now from your lying face down position, pull knees to your chest and roll again. Perform 8-12 reps of this (one rep includes a back and front position).
2. Reverse Crunch: Place one dumbbell under each knee as you lie on your back. Place your noodle under your arms, across your upper back. You are now in the crunch position. Extend your legs and bring them back in. Remember to breathe. Perform 8-12 reps.
3. Deep Water Walking: Hold one dumbbell in each hand, legs directly under your body. Walk your legs under water. Keep walking your legs. Remember, you are in deep water so your legs are not touching the bottom of the pool. Walk slowly or speed up. Start with 30 seconds at a time and work up to one minute.
4. Oblique Side-Lying Flutter Kicks: Holding the dumbbells, lie on one side with good alignment, and flutter kick for a count of 8 to one side. Switch sides and flutter kick for 8 beats on the opposite side. Move back and forth a few times on each side.
So enjoy the water and let me know how you like working with these moves.
Do you have bat wings?
A woman recently asked me, “How do I get rid of my bat wings?” I didn’t want to laugh but I swear I had no idea what she meant.
Then when she showed me her arms I got it. It’s the skin that wiggles underneath our triceps!
Want an idea for tightening tricep wiggle?
I read a study that showed that 85% of women who massaged their skin with rosemary oil found it appeared tighter. That’s because stimulating compounds in rosemary oil increase circulation in muscles and skin, creating a firmer appearance. It usually takes a few weeks for the difference to show.
Rosemary essential oil also contains antioxidants such as carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, which help repair and safeguard collagen for firmer skin.
To make a lotion, mix 3 drops of rosemary oil into your body moisturizer and massage into your arms (or any other area you want) daily.
Of course there’s always tricep dips and other strength training you can do, but when I gave her this idea for using rosemary oil, she was thrilled.
Try it and see what you think!
Are you ever tempted to curl up in the middle of your daily chaos, wherever you are, and take a nap? Is that a silly question or what?
Well, rest easy! For a while now science has been giving the nod to nodding off.
I recently read that 100 million Americans self identify as sleep deprived. That’s a lot of folks.
Regular naps can enhance alertness, memory, creativity, concentration, mood and energy. Also, naps decrease the risk of stress-induced hypertension and heart attacks.
Roughly 8 hours after waking everyone has a drop in alertness. For most people who wake between 6 and 8 AM that would be between 2 and 4 PM. Sometimes, rather than ignoring it or turning to a cup of coffee, try to get between 15-20 minutes of sleep. No more than that! You will sink into a deeper sleep which can interfere with your nighttime sleeping.
The reason short naps are rejuvenating is that they ensure you get just the beginning of the slow-wave sleep, which is the most restorative kind. Any more than that and you’ll likely feel groggy.
Trying to nap only on weekends isn’t as effective. It’s hard to play catch up when you’re sleep deprived all week long. A regular nap schedule works better.
If you work outside your home and it’s possible, close your office door so no one will disturb you. I recently spoke with someone who works for Microsoft and he told me that they have lounges with recliners for napping! Remember to set an alarm.
At first, learning to fall asleep at your scheduled nap time may be difficult, even if you’re exhausted. But like many things, napping takes practice. Often deep breathing helps relax you so you can nap. You can use eyeshades, white-noise machines, or whatever turns on that OFF switch.
Napping is still very much a practice for me. Just the other day I decided to take a nap and the alarm went off after ONLY five minutes. Then I started questioning whether or not my alarm was even working properly. I was so nervous about oversleeping that my mind would not let me relax. I got up, had a good laugh and went back to work. OH well, at least I’m still trying to nap!
More and more studies are confirming that mindfulness practices increase gray matter.
These studies measure neurological changes in the brain.
Participating in a mindfulness based practice for 8 weeks for stress reduction will increase gray-matter density in areas of your brain involved in learning and memory, and emotion regulation. People in these studies report improved psychological well-being, as well as symptom reduction in a number of disorders including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and chronic pain.
But what can I do with this information? Glad you asked.
Consider Yoga. Yoga helps calm your mind and relaxes your nervous system.
Tai Chi can not only be a mindfulness practice but studies also show it provides arthritis pain relief. Studies show that practicing Tai Chi two times a week improves fatigue, stiffness and increases a feeling of well-being.
Walking boosts your brain health and increases gray matter. How much walking? 6-9 miles a week.
So there you have it. Three choices with plenty of evidence to back them up as good options for you if you want to retain your brain tissue and retain your memory well into your later years. Once again an active and engaged lifestyle is the way to go!
This week I have a fun article for you. I may be dating myself a bit, but so what!
Here are MOVIE MUSIC ideas to MOVE to!
I love to dance. I must admit that I dance around the house when no one is looking and sometimes even when people are looking! My dog usually runs and hides because it often means I’ll pick him up and do the lindy hop with him. Just when I can see he’s getting nauseous, I put him down again.
Where was I? Yes, movie music!
So here’s my list of some great movie soundtracks to sing and dance along with.
1. Saturday Night Fever. Disco Inferno from the 70′s, what fun. How can you not get up and dance to “Stayin’ Alive” or “More Than A Woman”?
2. Footloose. Dance with Kevin Bacon to “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”.
3. American Graffiti. “Party Doll” and “All Summer Long” make me remember how much fun drive-in movies were.
4. Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze as a dance instructor? Sign me up! “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” always makes me get up and dance and sing at the top of my lungs.
5. The Big Chill. How can you not love Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and my personal favorite, ARETHA! I’ve often written about how I love to workout as long as Aretha keeps me company!
6. When Harry Met Sally. Harry Connick, Jr. croons his big band numbers which provide a nice dancing cool down period in between all the wild and crazy disco dancing.
7. Grease. No song from the soundtrack gets left out when you want to have fun dancing. You can start by using “Hopelessly Devoted To You” as a warm-up and end with a heart pumping “You’re The One That I Want”.
Do you have any soundtracks that you’d suggest??? Let me know and I’ll pass them along.
And, if anyone out there has the technology to make a copy of these songs on a dance CD and sends it to me, I’ll gladly gift them a copy of one of my products.
To salt or not to salt? That is the question, and it’s a good one at that.
To some folks, salt is a four letter word.
However, for centuries it’s been used and praised as a spice and as a preservative.
Also, today some athletes are told to swallow salt tablets to offset the salt they lose through sweat.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the misconceptions about salt.
Salt, or sodium, is one of the electrolytes (a group of mostly minerals). Table salt is technically sodium chloride, a combination of electrolytes. Electrolytes play an important role in your body. They are crucial for bone formation, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses.
One of sodium’s most crucial roles is to help maintain optimum fluid levels in body tissues. Sweat contains electrolytes and the main one lost in sweat is sodium. How much you’ll lose when you sweat varies from person to person. That’s why athletes who sweat excessively (and I’m one of those) are advised to replace electrolytes and fluid losses.
People with existing hypertension are generally advised to lower their sodium intake. The easiest way to do this is by avoiding processed, fast, and restaurant foods and by salting less. Of course, reducing alcohol intake, eating more plant foods and getting more exercise will also have a positive effect on hypertension. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and this balances out sodium levels. In particular, potatoes, bananas, avocados, pinto and kidney beans, and artichokes are especially packed with potassium.
A new lower recommended intake for ADDED sodium (not including what naturally occurs in foods) is no more than 1500 mg/day (about two thirds of a teaspoon). In practical terms that’s 7 generous sprinkles with the salt shaker or 17 pinches of salt added to the food you cook.
Yes, salt can be a concern for some folks. But if you’re healthy, active and eat plenty of fresh plant foods and fruit, you’re probably safe in the salt category.
Many people ask me about tea, so here are some answers to the most common questions about tea.
1. What’s the difference between black, green, and herbal teas?
Strictly speaking, the only true teas are those derived from the plant camellia sinensis: black (such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey), green, and a less-common brew called oolong.
Black tea, which is what most tea drinkers drink, is air-cured before it’s heated. This is what gives it a different flavor than green tea.
Herbal teas aren’t really teas at all. They are made from a different class of edible plants.
2. Which brew is healthiest?
Both black and green teas contain high levels of antioxidants, which may prevent or delay damage to your body’s cells and tissues. In fact, teas pack in more antioxidants than most vegetables. Two cups contain about the same amount of antioxidants as a full serving of fruits or vegetables.
Herbal teas don’t contain the same mixture of antioxidants, so their benefits aren’t nearly as significant. But they do remedy some conditions. For instance they will help you fall asleep or ease nasal congestion.
3. What about iced tea?
Healthwise, it makes no difference whether you sip hot or iced tea. Pass on those bottled teas. though. Studies I read showed they lacked in antioxidants and can be loaded with sugar. For iced tea, pour two cups of boiling water over four tea bags. Allow the tea to steep for five minutes, then press down on the bags. Remove bags; add cold water and ice cubes.
4. Should I try medicinal teas sold in health-food stores?
The shelves are filled with interesting tea names that imply the blend can cure whatever ails you. No one regulates these teas and manufacturers are not required to prove their claims, so you’re pretty much on your own. Ask around, or better yet ask the store for a sample tea bag and see what you think.
5. How much caffeine does tea have?
A six-ounce cup steeped for about three minutes contains 40-50 milligrams of caffeine, or roughly one third the amount in a cup of coffee. Though it may be less nerve-jangling than coffee, tea can cause restlessness, anxiety, or insomnia if you’re caffeine sensitive. If you opt for decaf tea you’ll get less antioxidants, so keep that in mind.
6. Any reason I should NOT drink tea?
If you take iron supplements, never swallow them with tea because it can block your body’s absorption of iron. And if you rely on vegetables for iron, wait an hour after eating before brewing a cup of tea.
Now that you know the ins and outs of tea, drink up and enjoy!