Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Macronutrition, 2

Fats are tricky. Too much fat in your menu may translate into weight gain (they have 9 calories per gram, more than twice as many as either proteins or carbohydrates) and/or an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, it is important to eat some healthier fats as they help keep your skin and hair in good condition, assist in absorbing the so-called fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; and provide essential fatty acids. Some recommend plant-based fats such as cold-pressed olive oil for salads and coconut oil for cooking. Myelin, the insulation around nerve axons, is about seventy percent fat. Oleic acid, one of the most common fatty acids in myelin, is found in cold-pressed olive oil as well as in almonds, pecans, macadamias, peanuts, and avocados. Structurally, brain tissue is composed of a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of meat and dairy products may lead to a ratio of 20:1. An imbalance of fatty acids may be linked to hyperactivity, depression, some mental illnesses, and possibly some allergies. Learn to read labels—and then take time to read them. Carry a magnifying glass, if need be. Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats and minimize the use of saturated fats from animal sources. Be judicious in the amount of plant-based fats you take in on a daily basis. More tomorrow.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Macronutrition, 1

Macronutrients refer to foods that provide nutrition in the form of calories. High quality macronutrients include unrefined, unprocessed foods (fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, vegetables) in as natural a state as possible along with healthier plant fats. Your brain and body are nourished by high-quality nutrition. Less desirable foods are usually dense, refined and processed, and of lower quality. Often dubbed ‘empty’ calories, they can add weight to your frame but contribute little if any quality nutrition. It’s really pretty simple. Ingest 3,500 calories more than you use and add one pound to your weight. Expend 3,500 more calories than you take in and you stand to lose a pound. The quality of your macronutrition affects your neurochemistry, which in turn influences your brain, mood, actions and behaviors, thought processes, and even emotions and feelings. Macronutrients are typically grouped into three general categories: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Brain & Body Immune Systems, 3

Length of life and level of health and wellness are related to PNI (psychoneuroimmunology) function. Yes at times, unexplained healings do occur. But in general, if you get sick and if you get well, your body heals itself. It has been set up to prevent illness where possible and to heal illnesses where possible. Estimates are that 85 percent of illnesses are within your immune systems’ reach for healing. Albert Schweitzer, MD, put it this way: “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him--we are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within a chance to go to work.” Studies are showing how you can give the doctor within you a chance to go to work.” I agree. How do you do that? In my brain’s opinion, you do it by creating and living a Longevity Lifestyle—it Matters. That’s the reason I wrote The Longevity Lifestyle Matters Program, with Sharlet M. Briggs, PhD, and Steve Horton, MPH. Embracing a Longevity Lifestyle has certainly made a positive difference in my life!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Brain & Body Immune Systems, 2

The Brain-body immune systems have four main functions:

  1. To recognizes the “self” (this impacts organ transplants as the immune system says—“That’s not me!”)  
  2. Destroys foreign invaders
  3. Destroys internal mutations (tumors)
  4. Keeps things tidy and clean
 The first PNI (Psychoneuroimmunology) convention was held in 1986 in Colorado. According to Margaret E. Kemeny PhD, UCSF, this branch of science was developed to investigate the bidirectional linkages between the brain, the immune system, and the endocrine system and to identify the clinical implications of these linkages. You do have a duty, according to Neil Nedley, MD: “Your singular duty to the immune system (IS) is to develop a lifestyle that will support its constant defense work on your behalf. How you live day by day determines whether your immune system works at peak levels or is inhibited by neglect and even abuse.” More tomorrow

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Brain & Body Immune Systems, 1

I know that one of two main risk factors for becoming infected with this new Coronavirus is the type and amount of exposure What is the other one?

The other main risk factor is the strength of your immune system. The brain and the body both have immune systems—although no one knew the brain had one until late 2015. The brain-body immune systems are very closely connected. One writer commented that “their hands are shoved so deeply into each other’s pockets you can’t tell which is which.” That’s the good news and the bad news because what happens in the brain, in effect, also happens in the body’s immune system and vice versa. There are many parts to these immune systems including: lymph vessels in the three coverings (meninges) of the brain, tonsils and adenoids, the appendix and Peyer’s patches in the abdomen, Thymus gland, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen—and maybe some other parts science hasn’t discovered as yet. The immune system is the most amazing healing system in the world but it’s level of effectiveness is typically tied to lifestyle and the habits of everyday living. There are strategies that strengthen the immune system and bad habits that tear it down. More tomorrow

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

SARS-Cov-2 (prevention, Cont’d)

More prevention strategies

4. Maintain a social distance of six-feet from others. Nod and smile but avoid handshakes, hugs, kisses, and fist bumps or elbow rubs because that involves close contact. This includes avoiding all nonessential travel and crowds of people, as well as even small groups of people (ten or fewer) where you are unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.

5.  Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow. If tissue is easily available, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it into the trash immediately.

6.  Disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

7. If you develop symptoms and need to seek medical care, call ahead to the office, urgent care, or Emergency Department first—before going there. Describe your symptoms and follow the instructions you receive.

For the next few blogs I will identify basic health strategies that are key to keeping the immune system healthy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 (Prevention)

How can you lower your risk for infection? There are recommended prevention strategies, including the following.


1.         Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid contamination from other people’s hands, door handles, table surfaces, and so on. Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol when you are unable to wash your hands.

2.          Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth, or putting inanimate objects in your mouth such as pens and pencils or sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.

3.          Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Send a text or email or chat by phone. If someone is sick in your own home, ask them stay in their own room as much as possible, away from other family members. Stay at home if you are sick and take precautions to avoid sharing your germs with other people and pets. If you have pets, wash your hands after touching them, and keep them away from your face to avoid their licking. More tomorrow


Friday, March 20, 2020

SARS-Cov-2 (Three little pigs)

Sensational news “sells.” Unfortunately, many people don’t have a background to help them process relevant news clips in a rational or logical manner. Many also lack a base of solid health information and/or willpower, which can result in a failure to implement good health habits in everyday life. With reports of the Coronavirus Pandemic—which is not a joke!—many people are worrying, becoming fearful, and even panicking. You may already know that anxiety, worry, and fear downshift the brain—that is they trigger the brain to direct its attention and energy to subconscious portions of the brain where stress responses are housed (e.g., Fight-Flight, Conserve-Withdraw, Tend-Befriend). Not only does that increase a risk for making poor choices and "shooting from the hip" without using clear cognitive thinking, but also can suppress the immune system. You do want to follow recommended protocols to help keep you safe. Do you remember nursery rhymes about the little pigs? Well, I think of Proactive, Prudence, and Prevention as three little pigs. Those three “P’s,” Proactive Prudent Prevention, help remind me how to stay safer day after day—without becoming ongoingly fearful, and downshifting. More about prevention strategies coming.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 (5)

Is this a Chinese virus? No. This is not a Chinese virus or even an Asian virus. Yes, it may have been identified in Wuhan, China, but viruses do not target individuals of a specific racial or ethnic background or gender or even religious or political affiliation. However, if a person with an underlying chronic disease (especially one that involves the lungs) becomes infected with the virus, their immune system might have difficulty fighting the illness successfully. It is appropriate to be concerned about this coronavirus and prudent about implementing prevention strategies. It is unhelpful to become panicked. The stress of anxiety, worry, and their parent emotion “fear” can suppress immune system function—exactly what you want to avoid doing. In some cases, fear can lead to stigmatizing others, as well, which can increase their stress levels. Learning what is currently known about this pandemic and implementing appropriate prevention measures can help lower your risk. Travel? It can increase your risk of exposure. Current recommendations are to avoid all nonessential travel. There is also the possibility of quarantine upon one’s return to their home country, depending on the viral exposure pattern. I decided to cancel one of my upcoming trips abroad due to the risk of exposure and possible quarantine. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 (4)

How is this virus spread? Well, it is being called a new virus and is different from other corona viruses and from flu-influenza viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, this virus may spread in the same way as other corona viruses. That is, most likely by person-to-person contact between individuals from skin touch and droplets and from contaminated surfaces. It may also be disseminated through air-borne transmission. There is currently no vaccine for this new coronavirus although research is ongoing. Creating and testing a vaccine takes time. So, what’s the point of getting a flu vaccine every year you may ask? Each year a flu vaccine is developed to help provide protection against the expected top two or three viruses that cause the flu (influenza), although unexpected viruses may surface. The vaccine is designed to boost the immune system and trigger it to create antibodies against those viruses. A person might still get sick from a different virus but may avoid more serious complications, unless an underlying chronic illness is present, especially one that involved the lungs. There is some speculation that it may be easier to transmit than previous coronaviruses. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 (3)

What is a coronavirus anyway? Coronaviruses are a family of related viruses that have been around for a long time. Think of an extended human family: each member may have many similarities and yet all are different. Viruses are a type of tiny parasite that replicate inside living cells and that may “mutate,” change their characteristics, which can alter how they impact or are expressed in other life forms. Mutations can allow them to become immune to vaccines, antibiotics, and perhaps other medications. Mutations can occur spontaneously or result from environmental exposure to 
mutagenic agents such as chemicals and radiation. Some mutations can be passed on to the next generation(s) of the virus. Mutations can sometimes occur in the body of a reservoir or vector. This virus appears to have a genetic similarity to bat coronaviruses and may have originated from bats. A possible intermediate reservoir may also be involved in its transmission to human beings (e.g., pangolin, the meat of which is prized in some parts of the world). Viruses can infect all types of life forms including animals, plants, and microorganisms. Viral diseases have been identified in mammals (e.g., cows and pigs often get diarrhea), in birds and bats (e.g., chickens tend to exhibit respiratory tract problems and other systems may become involved), and in human beings. More tomorrow.


Hughes LA, Savage C, Naylor C, et al. Genetically Diverse Coronaviruses in Wild Bird Populations of Northern England. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2009;15(7):1091-1094. doi:10.3201/eid1507.090067. AMA

Monday, March 16, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, (2)

First, in dealing with this pandemic (and pandemics in general), it is unhelpful to “panic,” even though that word is actually part of the word pandemic. Anxiety and worry, part of the emotion of fear, can move the brain’s energy and attention away from the conscious thought portion of the brain and down to the subconscious mind and more reactive parts of the brain where stress responses such as Fight-or-Flight, Conserve-Withdraw, and Tend-Befriend are located. Over time, this type of “stress” can interfere with rational and logical thought and can suppress the immune system—exactly what you do not want to have happen. Second, although this virus was identified in Wuhan, China, it is not a Chinese virus or even an Asian virus. Viruses do not target individuals of a specific racial or ethnic background or gender or religious or political affiliation. Typically, a person’s risk relates to their level of healthiness and immune function and the type and amount of exposure to the virus. If a person with an underlying chronic condition becomes infected with the virus (especially a chronic condition related to lung function such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or even years or smoking, however, their immune system might have difficulty fighting the illness successfully”. Individuals with asthma may want to access information from the  Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic

No doubt by now, you have been inundated with information about the virus believed responsible for the pandemic that has been designated a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).  Much of the information is “prudent;” some may be “panic.” This pandemic virus has already been known by several names: Wuhan coronavirus, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). For those who lived through Ebola, HIV/AIDS, SARS, H1N1, Noro, etc., they know “the drill,” so to speak. For others it may be more frightening. This does appear to be “first” for nearly the entire Sports industries to postpone or cancel sporting events. As a nurse epidemiologist, over the next few days I will pass along my understanding of what is happening and valid prevention strategies. In addition, below are some internet sites I find helpful:

Friday, March 13, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 5

Has your brain been locked away from a daily supply of pure water? Keeping your brain well hydrated can help avoid shrinkage of brain tissue, a condition that has been linked with memory problems and Alzheimer’s. Dehydration increases the production of damaged molecules known as free radicals, which also have been associated with a higher risk of developing symptoms of dementia later on in life and can wreak havoc in many ways. In her article ‘Dehydration in the Elderly: A Short Review,’ Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey pointed out that dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte problem among the elderly. The rate of aging and one’s level of water consumption appear to be directly related—dehydration can contribute to premature aging. Water is absolutely essential for avoiding dehydration and yet many are chronically dehydrated. One contributor may be that many drink water only when they are thirsty and by then the brain and body are likely already dehydrated. In addition, with advancing age, most people tend to lose some of their thirst sensations. With diminished thirst awareness they don’t even realize their brain and body need water. Drink for your life¾Water! (For more information see “Age-Proofing Your Brain” by Taylor and Briggs.)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 4

If you don’t drink enough water, your brain will direct the body to steal some fluid from elsewhere in your body. At any given time your bladder has the largest potential reservoir of fluid anywhere in your body—urine. If the brain gets desperate for fluid, it may instruct the body to concentrate the urine in your bladder, trying to obtain some additional liquid—which it can then send up to the brain. In my book, that puts a different spin on the term pee brain. Candace B. Pert PhD, author of Molecules of Emotion pointed out that the sensations for hunger and thirst are quite similar and easily confused; a confusion that often begins during early childhood. Parents often feed babies when they are thirsty, instead of giving them water to drink. This means that growing up and in adulthood many eat because they think they are hungry when actually they’re thirsty. When you mistake thirst for hunger you may be tempted to overeat or drink some food (e.g., milk, fruit juices, and shakes) or down unhealthy snacks. Ingesting extra calories from foods and beverages, rather than giving your brain and body the water they need, can have implications beyond dehydration: an exhausted digestive system, weight gain, and so on. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 3

Water has been called your most essential nutrient. A vital nutrient that must be supplied from an outside source, water is also the most neglected in many people’s lives. As Linda Boeckner and Kay McKinzie point out in their article ‘Water: The Nutrient:’ ‘Water deprivation kills faster than the lack of any other nutrient.’ Your brain and body need water to live. Period. You can get along without food for longer than you can survive without water. As one writer put it, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, millions of people have lived without love—not one has lived without water. According to Neil Nedley MD, author of Proof Positive, a lack of water causes dehydration of red blood cells, making them less flexible, and they have a greater tendency to clot. A common drinking problem around the world involves a failure to drink enough water. This can lead to chronic dehydration, a major contributor to headaches. Symptoms of dehydration can include dry mouth, dry skin, sense of thirst, sleepiness, headache, decreased urine output, and constipation. Dehydration can lead to lethargy, impaired learning, and an increased risk for stroke and heart disease. More tomorrow

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 2

Water is the main constituent of Earth's streams, lakes, and oceans, and the fluids of most living organisms. It is an essential nutrient for all known forms of life, even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients. Your brain floats on its own personal “waterbed.” Your spinal cord, and eyes are all surrounded by water. When you run, jump, and exercise, the cushion of water helps protect your brain and other body organs from injury. Brain cells need twice as much energy to do their work as other cells in the body. Water provides this energy better than any other substance. As water flows in and out of brain cells, it generates electrical energy much like the turbines in a hydroelectric plant, which is enough to power a low-wattage light bulb. The brain spends about half of all its energy transmitting messages along nerve pathways. Insufficient water intake negatively impacts all brain-body systems. It can result in wrinkling of skin, which usually means that some of your internal body organs are wrinkling, too. By the time you feel thirsty (if your thirst sensation is even functioning properly) your brain is likely already dehydrated. A one percent dehydration level results in a five percent decline in cognitive thinking. Be wise. Energize with water!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Water, 1

Water is your most important nutrient, both for your brain and your body. For your body because it is about 70 percent  water and it is the vehicle that transports your brain. Without your body, your brain could not go anywhere, move from place to place, or travel the globe. For your brain because it is nearly 3/4ths water, with brain cells themselves clocking in at about 85 percent water. Avoid dehydration like the proverbial plague. Dehydration is being linked with dementia—and in most cases dehydration is preventable. Thoreau said that Water is the only drink for a wise person. An old Slovakian proverb states that pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine. Drink plenty of pure water every day to keep your brain and body organs from shrinking and shriveling like an old apple. How much is enough? Recent studies suggest that you drink enough water to have at least one pale-colored urine each day. Make water your beverage of choice. Not colas, not fruit juices, not tea or coffee. Water! It requires no digestion and can be utilized instantly. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Oxygen, 2

Naturally, you will likely get more oxygen into your brain and body when you can breathe pure, fresh air. Avoid polluted environments such as those that contain second-hand tobacco smoke, vehicle exhaust, smoke from fires, or air that contains high levels of particulate matter. All of these take up space in the air that would otherwise contain oxygen. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke, never start. Individuals who smoke on a regular basis are frequently anoxic—meaning they are not quite getting sufficient amount of oxygens. Breathe through your nose so its tiny hairs can  help filter out some of the dust, bacteria, germs, and other pollutants carried in the air. That prevents a least some of those undesirable particles from reaching your lungs. Breathing through your mouth allows anything that is in the air—good or bad¾to enter your lungs. Start each day with three Brain Breaths: Breathe in through the nose to a count of 8; Hold breathe to a count of 12; Breathe out through pursed lips to a count of 4. Do it two or three times throughout the day, as well.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Oxygen, 1

The brain consumes more energy than any other body part. It takes 20 percent of all the oxygen you breathe into your lungs. Make sure you get a sufficient amount of oxygen into your lungs through the air you breathe, which is then transferred to red blood cells that transport the oxygen to cells in your brain. Growing up, you may have been taught that the best way to breathe was to stand up straight, stick out your chest, and hold in your abdomen. It turns out this is not an optimal position for deep breathing. Abdominal breathing is the ticket! Some believe you can increase the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain through brain breathing

The formula for brain breathing is:

·       Breathe in through your nose to a count of four
·       Hold your breath to a count of twelve
·       Exhale through pursed lips to a count of eight

Take a dozen brain breaths every day. Endeavor to do this in pure fresh air. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Mental Exercise, 3

There are many ways to exercise your brain. Becoming computer literate is one of them. Studies show that doing a complex internet search is as challenging to an older brain as reading an entire book. So can doing math. Studies have shown that you get more bang for your buck when you exercise your brain with simple rather than complex arithmetic problems—but continually try to better you own time for arriving at the answers. Pick up a simple math workbook that contains pages of addition,, subtraction, division, and multiplication exercises. Time yourself as you do one page. The next day redo the same page and see if your brain can go faster. Word puzzles and jig-saw puzzles are helpful, as well. Variety can be helpful, as well. In addition to reading aloud for 10 minutes each day, add a different mental exercise each day. Tell yourself:  “____ (your name), your brain likes these exercises. You are having fun.” Find something you like to do and just do it—on a regular basis! You are the only one who can do it for you. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Mental Exercise, 2

Edison though that the human brain was so important that he said the body’s chief task is to carry the brain around. It is important to have a healthy body so it can carry your brain around. It is important to have a healthy brain or the body ight not be very excited about carrying the brain around anywhere! Lifestyle choices may play an even bigger role than people realize, particularly in terms of memory. Contributory factors range from sleep and nutritional factors to daily brain aerobic exercises. Brain-function studies are beginning to validate the full impact of what can be achieved through challenging brain stimulation. One way to obtain mental exercise is to read aloud for at least ten minutes every day. “How does that stimulate the brain?” you may ask. When you read silently, you stimulate the brain functions related to recognizing letters, words, and what they mean. When you read aloud, however, you also stimulate the brain’s control of your teeth, tongue, mouth, and lips. In addition, you stimulate the auditory cortex as you listen to yourself reading, the sounds of which are decoded in a different part of the brain. Ten minutes a day! This does not require a doctor’s visit or a prescription. It just requires that you do it. More tomorrow.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Age-Proofing Your Brain – Mental Exercise, 1

Three of the most important challenges many people face as they grow older involve their physical health, balance and coordination, and cognition or thinking ability. And of the three, cognition—more specifically cognitive decline in thinking ability—is the biggest concern for some. Benign Senescence is the term for a type of age-related forgetfulness. While this phenomenon is commonly observed, it is by no means universal. You may be able to retard its development, if not completely prevent it. For many people, taking positive action to keep the brain challenged (including meditation, physical activity, and brain stimulation) may moderate this. Here are three True or False statements.

  • The human brain is just as capable of ‘learning’ in the second half of life as in the first half
  • In people who are physically healthy, the brain’s learning capability generally does not likely change a great deal as they age 
  • While it may take a bit longer to learn something in later life, the chances of recalling it are likely almost as good as when you were younger
 All true! More tomorrow.