Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Your Genome and Mutations

Estimates are that about 5% of cells in your body mutate when they multiply and divide—the new cell fails to copy the pattern completely and accurately from the original desirable pattern. Every person’s DNA contains mutations that typically are quite harmless. Others, however, are harmful and may be responsible for triggering abnormal conditions and specific diseases. A mutation is simply a change in the spelling of a DNA sequence. What does that mean? It’s fascinating! Think of DNA as a genetic language that consists of a 64-letter (codons) alphabet that spells out the genetic code. The letters are organized into words and sentences called genes - a segment of DNA passed down from parents to child that confers a trait to the offspring. Humans have 25,000-30,000 genes, usually in pairs (one from each parent). More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Your Genome

Most people are familiar with the word genome. It refers to your complete set of genetic information encoded within 23 pairs of chromosomes in the cell nucleus and the 25,000 to 30,000 genes on them. A chromosome is a single piece of coiled DNA, a biomolecule that holds the blueprint for how you were built; 99% of all your DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in your body is found in your chromosomes (and in the 25,000-30,000 genes on your chromosomes). For over 40 years it has been assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made. According to Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. New findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways. More tomorrow.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Relationship Evaluation

Healthy, desirable relationships enrich your life and you, in turn, can enrich theirs. Become the person that you want for your best friend (and you are the only person who will be with you for your entire life) and then you will be attractive to and attracted by others with similar characteristics. Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you and the way you purpose to treat them. Are you quickly able to list at least five key characteristics that you greatly admire about the relationship you are evaluating? Characteristics you wish for yourself? No? Hmmm. Take time to make two lists: one of characteristics you admire about this relationship and the other of behaviors that you do not admire or appreciate and that you do not aspire to develop. If the cons outweigh the pros this may be a relationship you need to let go. Be honest. Are you holding on to this relationship out of a sense of inappropriate loyalty or fear of loss? You may find the Relationship Evaluation on my website under Assessments helpful. After doing this on paper a few times, it becomes quite easy to move this to a mental evaluation. Sometimes people hold on to dysfunctional relationships far longer than is good for them. Marc Chernoff put it this way: You will only ever be as great as the people with whom you surround yourself; so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Longevity Lifestyle

I aim to live at least 122 years and 164 days—with good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This means I pay attention to how much sleep I give my brain and body, what I ingest in terms of food and beverages, the physical exercise and mental stimulation I receive every day, my mental attitude, and so on. A social support system with similar goals is very helpful, as is reinforces each other’s goals and aspirations. Unfortunately, the flip side is also true. There are people I enjoy seeing once in a while but who are not part of my family-of-choice or my Plus Four—because we are on decidedly differing lifestyle journeys. Take obesity, for example. Researchers have discovered that people whose close friends were obese were fifty-seven percent more likely to become obese, as well. That’s a pretty high price tag to pay for friendship, seeing as obesity is associated with more than 50 diseases and increases one’s risk for dementia. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Humor and Mirthful Laughter

Most people learn a sense of humor during childhood. What did you learn? Have you honed a good sense of humor or is your motto ‘life is hard and then you die?’ The brain is born with the mental function of humor—but it needs to be developed. Does yours need to be rebuilt and expanded? Laugh and last as the saying goes. It’s important to be serious about life but not take every little thing that happens too seriously. On the other hand, putting others down through unkind or disparaging humor or laughter is unacceptable. Do your friends embarrass you in public and then laugh it off saying, ‘I was just kidding.’ The ability to laugh at yourself and the vagaries of life is key to a balanced journey. Are you able to laugh when you take a wrong turn and enjoy the scenery on your ‘detour?’ Are you okay if you are the only person laughing in a given situation, knowing that every brain on the planet is unique? I choose to hang out with people in my free time who are smart, have a good sense of humor and laugh a lot, and have similar life goals. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Absence of Narcissism

It’s “all about me” is a characteristic of narcissism. You often see this egocentricity in children and adolescents before their brains mature--and in older adults who have not 'matured,' either. Do they talk nonstop about their problems but respond with ‘that won’t work’ every time you make a helpful suggestion? How is your energy level after spending a relationship encounter with them? Do you feel drained or energized? It’s one thing to voluntarily do a random act of kindness, it’s another to spend your time dancing to someone else’s needy tune. No relationship is 100% functional and affirming all the time. Sometimes you give more, sometimes they do, especially when it ‘rains’ on your parade. There needs to be a balance, however, over time. If you are your friend’s primary resource or they get your attention through bad behavior or unwise choices, rethink the relationship. Relationships that are not healthy and reciprocal are like a mild headache. You grow accustomed to the pain and accept it as ‘normal’ over time, failing to recognize the increasing painful headache, sometimes until it because a 'brain tumor,' metaphorically. Nutritious food gives you energy; so does a nutritious relationship. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Aim for Win-Wins

Do you look for ways in any situation that can be a win-win rather than a win-lose? Do you refrain from saying or doing things that trigger anxiety or a sense of inadequacy, perhaps about the way you dress or wear your hair or your favorite things? Does this individual try to one-up you or appear superior to you, in private or public? Or try to change you to meet their expectations or compare you to others? Initially this can come across as just ‘trying to help you.’ Often the limitations they have placed on themselves get projected on to you. On closer evaluation, it may be they fear you will look better than they do or they need to appear ‘better’ than you. Do they put you down unless you go along with whatever they want to do, which is an attempt to justify their behavior and feel better about their choices? Hone your intuition and pay attention to it. If you sense something isn’t ‘right’ or ‘safe’ about the relationship, pay attention. More tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Positive Mindset and Communication

Do you exhibit a consistent can-do positive mindset with a habit of positive communication with yourself as well as with others? Are you disrespectful or catty? Truthful or dishonest? Do you say thinks behind the other person’s back that you would not say carefully in front of them? Perhaps you discover that the other person is saying negative things about you to others. Does that person blame you and others for what he/she perceives is not going well? Blame is an attempt to displace personal discomfort onto another person. It never solves problems. It just encourages you to avoid taking responsibility for your part in any discord and perpetuates the problems. Do you affirm others but receiving affirmation only when you follow their script and give in to their desires? If so, take a closer look at that relationship. More tomorrow.

 Note: You may want to access the Relationship Evaluation on my website ( under Assessments on the home page.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reliable and Trustworthy

Do you promise carefully and only what you are quite sure you can deliver? There are times when something unexpected arises but this should generally be rare if you have thought ahead. Is there a pattern of planning things but begging off at last minute or rescheduling, often because they got a better offer? Do you have an appointment but when the time comes it has ‘slipped their mind’ or are consistently late or don’t even show up? Anyone can get busy and forget to write down the date and time—once. But twice and then three times? Not if they are committed to the relationship and value your time. Is this relationship one that ‘has your back’ as the saying goes? Is there any evidence that the relationship is more about their perception of your success and a desire to hang onto your coattails or who you know and therefore who they may be able to meet? Do they make time for you only when it’s convenient for them and when they have nothing better to do? I have a standing appointment with myself in my daily calendar and never make excuses if I’m asked to do something that doesn’t work for me. I simply ‘have another appointment.” Irene S. Levine, PhD, of the NYU School of Medicine suggests setting appropriate personal limits, discussing them with your close friends, and then sticking to them. For example, unless you are notified of an emergency, you wait only 15 minutes at a restaurant then order for yourself or leave. More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Abusive Relationships

Never exhibit abusive behaviors toward yourself or others or allow another person to abuse your brain and body. Possessive and controlling behaviors are not always immediately visible in a relationship, but may emerge and intensify as the relationship grows. A relationship where one adult attempts to control the other is not an equalitarian, nurturing, functional, or desirable loving relationship. Extreme jealousy, for example, may begin as an expression of intense caring that initially makes the recipient feel valued (especially if the person is very needy). It tends to morf into a pattern of behaviors designed to maintain power and control over another. Gradually the individual is prevented from spending time with family and other close friends and isolated primarily to the over-controlling person. Unfortunately, this often becomes abusive over time and can result in injury or death to the individual. High levels of EQ include the ability to deal with disagreement or conflict in a respectful manner without becoming defensive. You are able to come to a compromise or simply agree to disagree. (Be very careful to avoid defining ‘abuse’ too narrowly.) If you need more help evaluating this, check out the following link. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

High EQ

The Success Quotient says that 20% of your success in life is due to IQ while 80% is due to your level of EQ (Emotional Intelligence). While is it often possible to raise your IQ several points, EQ is learned and the sky is the limit for those skills. Hallmarks of low levels of EQ include a tendency to: overreact, take things personally, jump to conclusions, and create drama (often to pump adrenalin throughout your brain and body so dopamine levels rise). Spent time and energy on raising your level of EQ—which can pay huge dividends when it comes to selecting and maintain lifelong relationships. Do your ‘friends’ take advantage of you or borrow things ‘temporarily’ and forget to return them or repay you? Are you primarily the one who suggests spending time together? Do you usually pay for the meal or for the tickets? Have you fixed dinner often with no reciprocation? Do they say they would love to see more of you and yet rarely pick up on what you suggest? It’s not about keeping score; it is about realizing that turnabout is fair play. True lifetime relationships tend to be reciprocally balanced. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Self-Evaluation First

Relationships tend to form ‘at their own level.’ Meaning you tend to be attractive to others in terms of friendship (and attracted to others) who are at similar levels of personal development, emotional intelligence, and self-actualization. Consequently, I find it very helpful to step back periodically and view myself as a potential friend with as much objectivity as possible. The characteristics I value and have honed in my own life, tend to be the once that gravitate toward me and to whom I gravitate. I also evaluate the relationships around me. Remember, you are evaluating relationships not to ‘throw them away,’ per se. You only have room for quality time with a few close friends, however, and need to select with care who you want to be your Plus Four and your family-of-choice. Evaluating your relationships can be key to your health, happiness, longevity, and success. Imagine that you’re looking at yourself from the perspective of a third person who wants to be friends with you Would you match your description of a desirable relationship? More Tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

It has been said that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and it can be a challenge to decide which is which, especially if you have not defined the characteristics you value in a relationship. You do not want a relationship with everyone you meet and not everyone wants one with you. That’s a given because brains are so different and everything begins in the brain. This is not a race to collect people, it’s a measured journey to surround yourself with a few top-quality individuals that you’d like to have around for a lifetime—enjoying (where possible) the ones who pop into your life to help coach you or just for a measured period of time. A colleague advises people to write down their definition of a desirable relationship and then compare that against your relationships. Interestingly, the more dysfunctional (or addictive) a relationship, the more difficult it can be to be objective. I suggest you compare your definition with yourself. More Tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Who Are Your Plus Four?

Identify your Plus Four along with their commonly occurring behaviors and key characteristics. Did you select them or did they select you? Do they drain or energize you? Do you want to be like them? Your Plus Four directly impact who you are and affect how you behave, even when you’re not aware of is. Studies have shown that within about three years, you tend to mimic the behaviors of those with whom you hang out. If you are in relationships in which you are not really helping yourself nor anybody else, you are likely not being the best you can be and, therefore, not being the best you can be to them, either. If they do not encourage and enable you to become a better person, you may need to reduce the amount of time spent with them. And if they are seriously dragging you down, abusing you or encouraging you to abuse yourself (e.g., enabling serious addictive behaviors), you may need to find a healthier and more positive replacement. According to Mark Chernoff, “You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with; so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Your Brain Plus Four

According to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time, one reason that children tend to copy behaviors of their parents/care providers. Since you spend all your time with yourself, you are one of those five. Who are the other four? Are they individuals who are also living a Longevity Lifestyle? Are they affirming to your brain’s innate ‘bent’ and are not only helping you be successful in the long term but also rejoice when you are? These individuals influence you in many different ways from your level of cheerfulness, weight, the habits you develop, the behaviors you exhibit (e.g., smoking), the goals you set, and the things you think and talk about. One person framed this in a nutshell: If you and your plus four are positive-minded and believe in taking responsibility for your life, you will tend to become a proactive individual who shapes your future. Conversely, if you and your plus four are pessimistic and believe there’s little worthwhile in life and others are out to get you, you will tend to swirl down into a negative whirlpool, even if initially you were a more positive person. It may sound hard but your longevity and overall success has a great deal to do with who you select for your Plus Four. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Brain and Sleeping Position

Lying on the side is the most common sleep position for animals in the wild. New studies from Stony Brook University have found that a side-sleeping position seems to improve clearance of wastes from the brain. Amyloid beta, for example. When it builds up it can form plaques, a telltale characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers observed the glymphatic pathway of rodents under anesthesia in three different positions: on their sides (lateral position), backs (supine position), and bellies (prone position). The rodents who were in the lateral position cleared amyloid beta about 25 percent better than when in the prone or supine position. Some say sleeping on your left side is a preferred option.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Brain Consequences to Sleep Loss, 2

Brain Consequences to Sleep Loss, 2

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that rats, deprived of sleep for a long period of time, don’t live much past two weeks. It so happens that humans who are kept awake for too long begin to show some of the same signs as those study rats. Within the first twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation, the person’s blood pressure begins to rise, then the metabolism processes start to go haywire, which results in an uncontrollable craving for carbohydrates. Soon the body temperature drops and the immune system gets weaker. If this goes on for too long, there is a good chance that the mind will turn against itself, triggering brain phenomenon in which the person experiences visions and hears phantom sounds akin to a bad acid trip. At the same time, the ability to make simple decisions or recall obvious facts drops off severely. It is a bizarre downward spiral that is all the more peculiar because it can be stopped (if it isn’t too late) by sleeping. Are you making obtaining the sleep your brain needs a priority?

David K. Randall, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

Monday, September 7, 2015

Brain Consequences to Sleep Loss

Researchers at the University of Chicago (in the ‘80s) wanted to find out what happens when animals (rats) are deprived of sleep for a long period of time. As the rats went longer and longer without sleep, their bodies began to develop strange spots and festering sores that didn't heal, their fur started to fall out in large clumps, and they lost weight no matter how much food they ate. So the researchers decided to perform autopsies, and lo and behold they found nothing wrong with the animals' organs that would lead them to fail­ing so suddenly. This mystery gnawed at scientists so much that twenty years later, another team decided to do the exact same experiment, but with better instruments. This time, they thought, they will find out what happens inside of a rat's body during sleep deprivation that ultimately leads to its death. Again the rats stayed awake for more than two weeks, and again they died after developing gnarly sores. But just like their peers in Chicago years earlier, the scientists could find no clear reason for the rats’ demise. The lack of sleep itself looked to be the killer. Their conclusion was that staying awake for so long drained the animal, causing it to lose the ability to regulate its body temperature. More tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sleep Before Midnight, 4

As with other biologic beings, the human brain responds to its environment and to a circadian rhythm. In general for much of the planet, darkness falls by nine or ten in the evening, and sunlight arises by five or six in the morning. Scientists say that when people impose a variation of this rhythm on the brain by going to be too late, real health consequences can occur. These include increased anxiety; a higher risk of being involved in a sleep-related vehicle crash; an increase in systemic inflammation that can cause pain and soreness and may lead to osteoporosis or autoimmune diseases; and an increased risk for cardiovascular events, such as stroke or myocardial infarction. A shorter duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion (due to inadequate amounts of sleep) has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study showed that too little sleep apparently alters the regulation of appetite-regulating hormones and is linked with obesity. It’s beginning to look like ‘Early to bed and early to rise’ is not an old wives’ tale.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sleep Before Midnight, 3

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) containing your biological clock, also governs your body temperature, hormone secretion, urine production, and changes in blood pressure. This complex system is also automatically linked with the rhythms of light and dark, day and night. A nearly immediate effect of going to bed after midnight is that it throws off your natural circadian rhythms, governed by your SCN, and this may lead to insomnia. As well as having a harder time falling asleep, you also will likely have trouble staying asleep. Even if you have a schedule that allows you to wake later, the noise and commotion of the day beginning will in all likelihood wake you before you wish. Studies have shown that night shift workers, despite having a schedule that allows for an adequate amount of sleep, get less sleep than those who work days. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sleep Before Midnight, 2

Routine changes in your behavioral, mental, and physical functions that occur over the course of a day are regulated by your 'biological clock.' This tiny area of the brain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is about the size of a grain of rice and shaped a little like a pine cone. It contains about 20,000 neurons. When light enters your eye, it activates neurons in the retina that convert photons (light particles) to electrical signals. These signals travel along the optic nerve to the SCN which in turn stimulates several brain regions, including the pineal gland. The pineal gland responds by switching off production of the hormone melatonin, and this makes you feel more awake. After darkness falls, your biological clock or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) SCN signals your pineal gland again and your body's level of melatonin increases, making you feel drowsy. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sleep Before Midnight

My mother used to say, “The two hours of sleep I get before midnight are the best two hours of the night.” I wondered about that until I read comments by Matthew P. Walker, PhD, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The earlier in the night, the greater the propensity for deep non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and the later in the morning, the greater the propensity for REM sleep. Therefore, someone who sleeps from 9p.m. to 5a.m. (8 hours total) will have a different overall composition of sleep—biased towards more non-REM—than someone who sleeps from 3a.m. to 11a.m. (also 8 hours total), who is likely to experience more REM. Going to bed too late, then, will deprive you of some of the restorative functions that non-REM sleep normally provides. More tomorrow.