Most people think brain deterioration, memory loss, dementia, alzheimer’s decease, or like I call it, “Forgetfulness” all come from aging. But did you ever wonder how the 85 year old that lives down the street from you has such a great memory? How many times have you heard someone in their 50’s, 40’s or even 30’s say, “I just had a senior moment!” ? They may have said it jokingly but it’s no laughing matter. It’s pretty scary, if you ask me. I mean think about it, trying to live an independent life without your memory…It’s impossible. You may be able to live a normal life without a limb or even an organ but you really need your brain.
So all of this “Forgetfulness” related to aging has me thinking about my 86 year old father-in-law. He has an amazingly sharp and clear memory. He recalls every single event of his life. He remembers, in detail, his life as a child. He can recall details about his parents and even his siblings. He can tell stories about working on the farm with his family. He often shares lessons he learned as a child that make him the person he is today. He can describe every single detail of his life in the army, his life in France and how many years, months and days he spent there, his work experiences and life as a husband and father. He can even give you detail of all 6 of his children growing up, like their first step and their first tooth. How is this possible? I have always linked “forgetfulness” with aging however, as a Health Coach, we learn that you Are definitely what you eat ( Secondary Food) and your everyday activity (Primary Food) will effect your brain. I decided to take my curiosity one step further. I tracked down my father-in-laws history while doing a little more research on how I can keep my brain healthy.
I have known my father in law for about 30 years now and his diet or what I like to call “Secondary Foods” always consists of a variety of grilled fish dishes, such as Bacalhau (salted cod), Sardines (fresh and not from a can), Salmon and Tilapia seasoned with only sea salt. As a side, Collard greens, broccoli Rob, potatoes, carrots, plenty of beans, cabbage, all smothered in lots of extra virgin olive oil and a glass of red wine and/or water to wash it all down. For dessert, my father-in-law likes a bowl of fruit but his favorite of all is a cantaloupe or melon straight up. As long as I have known my father-in-law, he has always enjoyed a banana and an orange with a glass of water for breakfast. And when he is constipated he will have a fig or 2. Although he receives vitamins and minerals from his rich and nutritious diet, the need for certain supplements, at his age, is crucial. For instance, Resveratrol helps with cardio and circulation of blood to the brain for clarity. Good fat for the brain is necessary such as Omega 3’s. I have never seen my father-in-law munching on potato chips, candy or ice-cream but I often see him snacking on a piece of garlic or olives.
My father-in-law was born and raised in a very small village in Portugal called, Vila Nova de Ourem. At the age of 7 years old, he worked on the land from dusk till dawn with his father, brothers and uncles. They owned vineyards that produce grapes to make wine. They also owned pine trees (which is where the last name Pinheiro comes from) that produce resin for glue and olive trees for olives an olive oil. There were no local supermarkets so every edible object served at the dinner table came from their very own crops and livestock including meat and dairy such as pigs, cows, goats, chicken, wheat for bread, milk to drink or for making cheese, and even sugar canes for sugar. Although my father in law came to American in 1981 he still continued his traditional eating habits. His choices are a slightly different now as he does not grow his own produce but purchases it at a local supermarket.
Anything other than food consumption such as, exercise, relationships, spirituality, careers, finances, social life, all contribute to our emotions and well being. I like to call these things “Primary Foods”. And because they all play a major roll in your overall health they will affect the way our brain continues to develop through out the years. My father-in-law has been happily married for almost 60 years, he is very close to his children and grandchildren, he has been retired for over 20 years now and lives in NJ for 6 months to spend time with his family. The other 6 months he spends by the ocean enjoying peace and quite.He reads the newspaper every single day and is very well informed about the news around the world. He walks 1 hour a day. His BMI is about 18%, his height is 5’7” and his body weight is 130 pounds. He checks his blood pressure twice a day. During my father-in-laws last physical, the doctor was stunned at my father-in-laws blood work. When reviewing the test results the Doctor thought he had mistaken my father-in-laws bloodworm for a 22 year olds blood work. His “numbers” such as sugar level, blood pressure, cholesterol, iron, to name a few, all were at a healthy standard level, especially for someone in their 80’s.
Knowing your “numbers” is crucial. Ask your doctor to run an annual blood test and go over the following with him or a Health Coach.
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Blood Pressure
- Fasting Blood Sugar or A1C
- Vitamin D Level
- Lipid Panel
- Chemistry Panel
Happiness or “Primary Food” as well as a nutritious diet “Secondary Food” play a major roll in a healthy brain. Not only is my father-in-laws healthy lifestyle a positive outcome and proof of a healthy brain but in 2013 AARP came out with an article on how to keep your brain healthy. This was very similar to my father-in-laws everyday habits. Here are a few of the tips they believe can work:
1. Exercise: Increasing exercise levels can reduce the risk of dementia by 30 to 40 percent, says Art Kramer, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois. He says even other forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, can be decreased by working out because exercise appears to reverse the shrinking of the hippocampus.
2. Weight lift: Researchers at University of British Columbia at Vancouver says weight training and resistance training exercises appear to increase the growth of the IGF1 gene, which nourishes and protects nerve cells in the brain.
3. Learn new skills: Because learning spurs the growth of new brain cells, doctors believe learning new games or skills like internet surfing can help improve memory.
4. Decrease stress: Stress reducers such as meditation, prayer, relaxation, exercise, and even a vacation could reduce the stress hormone cortisol and reverse damage to your brain health, according to Harvard researchers.
5. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Foods like fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and beans significantly reduced Alzheimer’s risk in studies conducted by Columbia University.
6. Spice up your food: Black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla are high in antioxidants, which studies reveal can help build brainpower.
7. Pursue your purpose: A study by Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center revealed that people with clear focuses on personal or professional goals were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s for at least seven years.
8. Rev up your social life: A 15-year study of older people from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute shows a rich social life may protect against dementia by providing emotional and mental stimulation.
9. Reduce risk of other diseases: Researchers say diabetes, obesity and hypertension are sometimes associated with dementia, including a doubled risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in people with diabetes.
10. Get your vitamins: Nutrient deficiencies can affect brain vitality, according to Rush Medical, which found that older adults with vitamin B12 deficiencies had smaller brains and scored lowest on tests measuring thinking, reasoning and memory.
Through specific testing Amen Clinics ,founded by Dr. Daniel Amen, can detect how much the brain has deteriorated. According to Dr. Amen, these are some issues that can accelerate brain aging:
- Brain Injuries
- Poor Diets
- Lack of Exercise
- Sleep Apnea
The Amen clinics, offers treatment in reversing the aging process of the brain. Dr. Amen also offers ways and teaches patients how to prevent and maintain a healthy brain. In line with Dr. Amens work, practicing the following exercises can decelerate brain aging:
- Good Decision Making
- Great Diets
- Protecting the Brain
- Clean Environment
- Healthy weight
- Healthy bloodworm numbers
- 8 hours of sleep
- Positive Peer Groups
- New Learning
- Wise Calorie Consumption
- Omega 3’s
- Green Tea
- Stress Management
- Cleanse regularly
I hope you found this research helpful! If you have any questions or for further information on Life Coaching and to receive a FREE consultation and evaluation please visit www.healthcoachingpro.com
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Abigail Pinheiro, Health Coach