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Embracing Midlife – Part 2, Live Healthy, Live Long

This post was originally written by my friend, Kate MacNicol. She, like me, writes about health, among other topics. This particular post relates so well to my Embracing Midlife series, I thought I should bring it to you. Please visit Kate’s blog for more excellent articles.

One More Reason To Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

My Mom has dementia and my father-in-law died with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are cruel diseases that leave people devoid of the person they once were. I look at my Mom and know it’s her body, I recognize the curve of her smile and her small hands so much like my own, but in so many ways it’s not her. She no longer engages in conversation, rarely smiles and I know the day is coming when she’ll no longer recognize me. My dear father-in-law died not recognizing his wife or his children. He died long before his body expired. No wonder Alzheimer’s disease is the second most feared disease after cancer.

We can look at my Mom and my father-in-law and say, well, they’re in their 80’s and this is a normal part of the aging process. But the fact is, in our world of fast food, lack of physical exercise and diabetes rising at an alarming rate, we can expect more people to have dementia and Alzheimer’s at earlier ages. My mom and father-in-law worked hard from the time they were kids well into their senior years and they ate diets very different from the foods we eat now. They got to live long happy lives before their symptoms began and for that I am grateful.

I know I’m always encouraging you to work out and eat healthy but today I’m going to give you one more reason.  To some extent cognitive decline is a part of aging BUT,

science has found we can actually stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia long enough to live without suffering from any symptoms.

Here’s are the steps to living a long healthy life with full cognitive function:

1) Regular, moderate exercise Even if you haven’t been a fan of regular exercise for most of your life you can still join in at mid-life and still significantly reduce the risk of developing mild cognitive decline in late life

2)  Meditate -  this is was an eye-opener for me, meditation can actually improve your mental functioning by increasing the amount of gray matter in areas of the brain that are responsible for many cognitive functions including memory and learning.

3) Maintain a healthy weight – obesity at midlife has been shown to decrease brain volume and a risk factor for cognitive decline

4) Go Greek -  Mediterranean-style diets are heart-friendly and brain friendly – veggies, fruit, nuts and beans along with fish high in omega-3’s have been found to slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia

5) Avoid tobacco –  adults who smoke into midlife are at risk for brain atrophy (shrinkage) and have more difficulty performing tasks that have multiple steps than their non-smoking counterparts ten years later.

6) Spice things up – believe it or not your brain enjoys spices like black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla are high in antioxidants which may help build brainpower. Scientist’s are excited by turmeric, a common spice in Indian curries has been shown to reduce amyloid plaque in the brain.

7) Get checked for vitamin deficiencies -  Often older adults don’t always get the nutrients they need from food due to declines in digestive acids or because their medications interfere with absorption. Vitamin B-12 deficiencies can affect brain vitality and decrease cognitive function.

8) Keep a sense of purpose in your life – people who work or volunteer into their 70’s and keep social ties alive and well are shown to have better cognitive health than their couch potato, reclusive friends.

If you want to know more:

 The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life by Gary Small M.D.

 The Alzheimer’s Project – HBO documentary

Has your life been touched by Altzheimer’s or dementia?

Have a healthy, happy day!

~Kate

I thank Kate for presenting such important information. She’s not just saying it would be nice if you do these things to stave off dementia. In fact, I’m not saying that either.

I’m saying…

You need to do these things NOW to stay healthy, alert and live a long life without being a burden on your family and society.

Go ahead. Get mad at me for yelling at you, stomping my feet and demanding you do this. That’s okay. My reward will come when I see you around when we’re 85 years old and you’re still running on that treadmill, or skiing, or riding your motorcycle, or hunting down ghosts and cemeteries, or writing your 100th book, or any of a million other things you’ll be able to do.

Now don’t forget to visit Kate.

So, tell me…when will you begin? Will you go tell your family and friends to do the same? Do you have any other tips for avoiding this or other terrible diseases that are preventable? Please share.

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Discussion

  1. August McLaughlin  March 15, 2012

    Fantastic post, ladies! I’m co-writing a book about nutrition and Alzheimer’s with a neurologist now, so it’s definitely been on my mind—no pun intended. ;) Your tips are fantastic. I’d also add emphasizing whole foods, particularly cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Thanks for inspiring us!

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 15, 2012

      You’re so welcome, August! How exciting to be writing a book that will help so many avoid, or at lease delay, this horrible disease! Thanks for the additional nutritional elements.

      (reply)
  2. Diana Douglas  March 14, 2012

    I’m good on everything but the meditation. It’s so hard. I haven’t developed the knack for clearing my mind. Story lines, dialogue and characters keep getting in the way.

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      I haven’t tried meditation. If there was cd I could listen to to help me, I might be able to do it.
      I hear ya on the writing thoughts, I have trouble sleeping because of all the voices!

      (reply)
  3. Kate MacNicol  March 14, 2012

    Marcia, I can’t thank you enough for reblogging my post. I love how you got cranky with me!
    And let me reiterate for everyone who missed the point of your last few well-said sentences: You need make these changes NOW.

    I’ve been buried in WIP and and article deadlines and now I’m traveling to Florida so I’ve been out of the blogging loop the past few days. I’m looking forward to your Embracing Middle Age Series and if I’ve already missed some posts, I’ll be sure to go back and read them.
    Have a happy, healthy week!
    Thanks so much!

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      You are most welcome, Kate. I obviously loved it and felt it worthy of sharing and my readers loved it too!Have fun in Florida and I’ll see you when you get back, my friend! Be safe!

      (reply)
  4. Sheila Seabrook  March 14, 2012

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderfully informative post, Marcia and Kate. My youngest sister manages a facility which is devoted to altzheimer and dementia patients. With today’s aging population, unless we take care of ourselves properly, sadly those facilities will only grow in volume.

    I already follow most of the advice (lacking in the exercise one, though) and am surprised by the mention of meditation. And here I’ve been meditating so I can focus better on my WIP. It’s nice to know there’s a more important side benefit to it. :)

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      I was surprised about the meditation, too, but glad since it has other benefits! I’m happy you’re taking good care of yourself. I need improvement but working on it. Thanks, Sheila!

      (reply)
  5. Bridgette Booth  March 14, 2012

    Excellent post Marcia and Kate. Couldn’t agree more with everything written and am glad you are stomping your feet and hurting feelings. It was just the right motivation for me to speak up to a family member. I’m dreading it, but . . . I love her more than I’ll dislike her anger.

    Now to plan our conversation. . .

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      I wish you good luck with that conversation, Bridgette. it may be tough but so important!

      (reply)
  6. WriteMemphis  March 14, 2012

    thank you! makes me want to do all these things NOW, all at once! My dear father died of an aneurism, but he had dementia and perhaps alzheimer’s. I remember a few weeks before he died he looked me in the face and asked, “Do I know you? I think I’m supposed to, but for the life of me …..,” then he just looked down and shook his head slowly. Somewhere in there his memory of me was tugging on him but he just could not pull it out.

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      Oh, how sad! Go ahead, do all those things now. It’s never too late to start, but why wait? Be healthy. It’s so nice to see you again! :)

      (reply)
  7. crystalwhimsey  March 14, 2012

    Great article. The suggestions mentioned can benefit us not just in staving off dementia but heart disease and many of the auto-immune diseases, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis. One of my beloved nephews had a heart attack yesterday, he is 45! He’ll be alright, thank God, but it was a hell of a wake up call. I walk three miles in the early morning with a group of gals, the oldest is eighty three and she gets right along. Youth is not just for the young. Thanks for promoting good ways to stay healthy.

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      So sorry about your nephew, Crystal! You’re right, all of these things help in general health and can prevent so many awful conditions. Wow! 3 miles every morning? That’s awesome! I want to be like that 83 yr old! Thanks for coming by!

      (reply)
  8. Sherry Isaac  March 14, 2012

    Great post. Last year I watched a documentary hosted by Maria Shriver, very enlightening.

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      Was it on Altzheimer’s? I’ll have to see if it’s on youtube. Thanks, Sherry!

      (reply)
  9. Donna@Gardens Eye View  March 14, 2012

    I love this post and have been working through the steps…

    (reply)
    • Marcia  March 14, 2012

      Glad to hear it, Donna! Here’s to a long life! *clink*

      (reply)

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