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October Newsletter 2021

Do as I say not as I do, please! The worst thing an older person can do is to fall. And there are a few cardinal rules to follow about what to do to prevent falling. I know them all very well and have shared them with many of you but just as a reminder: 1) Don't walk around at night in the dark without a light on no matter how well you think you know where you are going and have done it a thousand times before.

2) Don't walk around in the dark without a light on, carrying loads of things in your arms. 3). Don't let your usual pathways around the house be blocked with unknown and unexpected obstacles because chances are you won't see them. It's dark and you can't see because you (stupidly) didn't turn a light on.

4) And lastly, make sure your pets aren't wandering aimlessly around in front of you as you are walking in the dark without a light on while carrying a load of laundry, a book and your phone. Please heed this or you might find yourself in a heap o trouble with bloody skinned shins and elbows and a very sore rib cage. And make sure you don't break anything (bones) or hit your head while you're at it. Hitting your head is the absolutely biggest and most damaging thing for an older person to do to herself. It could be a life changer. Do anything and everything you can do to prevent a head injury. Some of us aren't 30 anymore, and we are obliged to make certain adjustments in the way we negotiate our lives by being more mindful and more careful.

Musings on age and mortality: Speaking about not being 30 anymore. As I age, it has become difficult for me to grok - because I am healthy, have been active and athletic my entire life and am reasonably coordinated - that I am just not the same as I was when I was 30, or 40 or even 50. My recalcitrant mind insists that it is still in the body of a 30 year old. But in the process of my body slowing down and slouching inexorably towards eventually shutting off for good, I've been noticing a few things. Not happily, but it seems to be an undeniable part of the new aging landscape for me.

Here is one thing I have noticed: I notice that my mind is racing ahead of my body's ability to respond to it. It's called slowed reflexes. Let's say that my mind wants me to reach for the olive oil on the shelf to the left of the stove. I am ready to sauté onions and start the chili for dinner. My mind tells my body to do that. But, my mind now seems to be much quicker than my body's ability to respond to its commands. My mind reaches for the olive oil but my body reaches slower than my mind and so, I may bang my hand into the cabinet door or knock the olive oil over onto the shelf.

Or the above example: Carrying stuff in the dark with unknown and/or unremembered obstacles in front of you. It's the same thing as reaching for the olive oil: You see the shin-high gate just as you are about to run into it, but your body cannot obey fast enough and you fall. Hard. You and I must remember that the quick reflexes of the 30 year old just aren't there anymore. I think the only solution to this aging dilemma is to slow down, be more mindful, stay more in the moment and keep saying to yourself, as in a mantra: "Pay attention. Pay attention. Pay attention."

"When I asked a woman my age how she was feeling, she said, I have issues', and I said, We all have issues.' The secret to successful aging is to recognize one's issues and adapt accordingly. I am constantly learning what I can and can't do and asking or paying for help when needed. Sooner or later, we all must recognize what is no longer possible and find alternatives." (Jane Brody, NY Times, 9/13/21)

How to prevent the dreaded "A" word: Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have found that by following the MIND diet, "the participants did not develop cognition problems later in life." (Jour Alzheimer's Disease, 9/14/21) The study started in 1997 with 569 participants, mostly white without known dementia, all from the Chicago area. They agreed to be followed with annual exams which included a questionnaire on the foods they ate. Upon their death their brains were autopsied. Those following the MIND diet had " better memory and thinking skills independently of Alzheimer's disease pathology and other common age-related brain pathologies. The diet seems to have a protective capacity and may contribute to cognitive resilience in the elderly."

Now I have you slavering to know what the MIND diet is, don't I? So why don't we get right down to it: First the five bad and unhealthy-for-the-brain foods: Eat as little as possible red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets and fried or fast foods. This is not too surprising.

But to adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat "at least 3 servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day, along with a glass of wine. Snack mostly on nuts, (a handful a day) eat beans or legumes every other day, poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week. You must also limit intake of the bad and unhealthy foods, limiting butter to less than 1T per day (choose olive oil instead) and eating less than a serving a week of sweets and pastries and same for both whole fat cheese and fried or fast food."

I think the MIND way of eating has merit, especially in light of the current research. I would, however, add a couple of caveats to this: In the grains category, eschew gluten and wheat. Much research has already shown that the agglutinins in the gliadin in the gluten in the wheat is inflammatory for the brain and this is whether or not I find that you are "sensitive" to gluten. It's just better not to eat it at all. I also like Dr. Dale Bredeson's idea of "12/3" and that is fasting at least for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast and not eating for 3 hours before bed. His book is a keeper and if you are interested in your brain and want hopeful information read The End of Alzheimers.

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