You Can Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Getting Alzheimer’s disease is not inevitable with age. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Lisa Genova, neuroscientist, Massachusetts native and author of several books including Still Alice shared five ways you can avoid cognitive impairment.

You likely know the first four.

1. Get a good night’s sleep;
2. Follow the Mediterranean diet;
3. Exercise several times a week; aerobic exercise is best with strength training to enable fitness; and,
4. Lower your stress levels through prayer, yoga, or meditation.

What often surprises people is the fifth preventative: Learn something new. Exercising your brain through new experiences builds synaptic capacity. Lisa referred to the now famous Nun Study, research that followed the lives of 678 nuns who generously agreed to allow their brains to be autopsied upon their passing at ages 75 to 107. To their surprise, the researchers found that several nuns’ brains had the telltale Alzheimer’s lesions yet these women displayed no evidence of cognitive impairment while alive. Why? Their brains had ample capacity because of a lifetime of learning.

Watch the video. Share this post with your friends and family. Then join me in learning a new language using an app like Duolingo. Au revoir und auf wiedersehen.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why Do Men Die First?

92016-why-men-die-first
by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Women outlive men by six years. Heart disease in some men begins at 35. Like you, I never questioned why until I read Why Men Die First by Dr. Marianne Legato. Dr. Legato, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University, has been studying the differences in health between the sexes for decades. Her research found several ways to help men avoid premature death, summarized by Don Fernandez at WebMD.

Here are five suggestions to lengthen the male lifespan.

1. Speak candidly with a physician. Although men are inherently more vulnerable than women genetically, their cultural conditioning encourages them to take risks, deny pain and show no weakness. Those social pressures make them reluctant to seek medical help and speak frankly to their physicians. Mothers, spouses, sisters and friends play an important role in helping men reach out for help before a medical condition worsens.

2. Men are biologically predisposed to infection. Boost the immune system with proper diet, exercise and sleep. Avoid infections by using condoms and keep immunizations, including tetanus shots, up to date.

3. Treat depression. Like in women, depression is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and older men are more likely than women to become suicidal and take their own lives.

4. Watch young adolescent males whose lifestyle make them vulnerable to injury or death.

5. Assess the risk for heart disease and take steps to lower risk factors. Some men, especially those in stressful jobs like firefighters and police officers, show evidence of heart disease as young as 35.

For more insights and guidance, listen to this 30-minute video posted by Second Opinion, an informative discussion about why men age more poorly than women.

Together, let’s help our sons and spouses, brothers and nephews lengthen their lifespan.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Top 25 Songs for Aging Baby Boomers

Sixties albumby Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Recently, one of my hip brothers turned 69. Still handsome and fun-loving, his long history of being the life of the party is undiminished by age. He remains a hilarious story-teller, a talent inherited genetically and nurtured around the dinner table by my father, the youngest son of Scots-Irish immigrants. While the health benefits of positivity are espoused by researchers and clinicians alike, it remains the default in my family ethos, an ethos not fueled by alcohol consumption but the sheer joy of being alive and navigating life together.

Over the years as the youngest sibling – MUCH younger, I might add – I’ve observed my parents and now my siblings navigate health challenges with grace and laughter. In my family, humor matters. It is the glue that binds us, that helps us confront challenges with joy and celebrate successes with humility.

Yet this year, I struggled to find an appropriate birthday card for my brother who is transitioning toward elderhood. A snarky one about age would not do; he has a sensitive soul. Photos of half-naked women seemed inappropriate and ones with elderly men wouldn’t resonate for someone who remains eternally 35 in spirit.

Then, I found it at Hallmark: TOP 25 FAVORITE SONGS.

Here they are. If you don’t get the references, lucky you. If you do, enjoy the laughs along with us.

#25 Let’s Get Physicals
#24 Ain’t No Burrito Mild Enough
#23 I Wear My Bifocals at Night
#22 A Hard Day’s Nap
#21 Who Left the Milk Out
#20 The Long and Winding Nose Hair
#19 I Can’t See Clearly Now
#18 I Just Died in Your Arms (Call 911)
#17 Moany, Moany
#16 Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on the Bathroom Door
#15 I’m Bringing Saggy Back
#14 To All the Girls I’ve Disappointed Before
#13 I Want a New Drug Plan
#12 Hey, You, Get Off My Bumper
#11 Rock Me Gently, Dammit
#10 1-900 Is the Loneliest Number
#9 Achy Breaky Hip
#8 It’s Only Muzak (But I Like It)
#7 Groovy Kind of Love Handles
#6 I’ve Had the BM of My Life
#5 The Sound of Silent (But Deadly)
#4 Stair-Lift to Heaven
#3 Baby Got Backache
#2 Y.M.C. eh?
#1 Waking Up is Hard to Do.

Circle of Life Partners Goes to Italy – The Food

italy_rome_1280px[1]by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

As summer begins, I am mindful of the three tenets of healthy aging: food, fitness and family, each of which got my renewed attention during a recent trip to Italy with my husband and children.

Have you been to Rome? The Romans may drive wildly, but they certainly know how to prepare and enjoy food. Recently, a scientific study in Spain confirmed what Italians have known for centuries: the Mediterranean diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and red wine, does indeed extend life and delay the onset and advancement of disease.  Our favorite restaurant, La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali,was a family-run trattoria near Piazza Venezia and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the entrance hidden in an alley as narrow as my son is tall. The owner welcomed us warmly and offered to select the five courses and wine for our dinner, portions small by American standards, but sufficient to satisfy even my son’s 6’6″ frame. We lingered between courses for conversation and laughter, the pacing of the meal as unhurried as the Sunday dinners of my childhood. In addition to our trending slow food movement in America, I’d like to propose a slow dining movement.

In the States, you should expect to see increased attention to good nutrition as the health care system moves toward creating medical homes and boomers strive to maintain their health. Specialists, such as oncologists, have long included nutrition as part of the healing process, but you don’t need a hospital stay or a serious illness to find guidance.  Watch as:

  • Primary care practices, such as Iora Health, and neighborhood clinics add health coaches and nutrition counseling
  • Grocery stores offer nutritional guidance, such as the Stop-and-Shop near my home where one may schedule  appointments with a nutritionist on Thursdays
  • Private nutritional coaches, like friends at Weiser Choices, expand their coaching practices
  • Employers add group fitness and health coaching such as ShapeUp to their wellness programs

I’m still waiting for the time when it becomes routine for physicians to hand patients a stack of recipes instead of writing a prescription for yet another drug. Until then, I recommend a trip to Italy.

Ciao!

©Circle of Life Partners

 

Blueberries: The Aging Secret

by Jan Simpson

It was one of those brilliant summer days upon a crystal lake in New Hampshire: the kayaks rested by the water; the motorboat glistened white, its leather seats hot from baking in the sun; and the lake seemed to sigh happily, sitting perfectly still beneath the late morning sun. We had arrived to the lake house just after breakfast, to visit my brother-in-law on vacation with his wife’s family.  We said our hellos, gave our hugs and kisses, and then stood aside as my sister-in-law’s elderly parents marched purposefully out the front door with their daughter, off to their favorite local farm, just down the street, where they’ve been picking blueberries for the past twenty years. He’s 99 years old and she, a sprightly 86.  They’ve been visiting this lake since their grandchildren were in diapers, and today, it was the four college-bound teens turn to do the dishes. After cleaning up the kitchen, marked by excited chatter about the coming adventures in their lives, we all went out onto the lake in their motorboat, laughing and yelling as the two oldest hopped on a tube and were dragged wildly across wakes created by their uncle who hoped to topple them, unsuccessfully.

While we were out on the water, their grandfather returned from the farm with buckets of blueberries totaling five pounds, and found a corner of the couch where he could take a much-deserved nap. Later, I chatted quietly in the living room with his wife who was sporting sunglasses in the house to protect her eyes from recent cataract surgery; seated beside a coffee table that held a Scrabble board and a pocket-sized dictionary, she clutched a half-finished paperback.  For lunch we all moved to the back deck, nestled beneath a grove of trees that cast shadows out onto the sparkling water, and over salad, fruit, steak, and lemonade, I breathed in the deep aroma of fresh pine.

Recently, I re-read “Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” by Dr. Andrew Weil, a book about staying active while growing old and enjoying the benefits of age.  Dr. Weil has spent the past thirty years “developing, practicing, and teaching others about the principles of integrative medicine,” an approach to health care that encompasses body, mind, and spirit.  He scoffs at those who want to deny the aging process and even devotes an entire chapter to a discussion on how to embrace the benefits of being older.  He likens people to violins and wine: we become richer over time, our character deepens. He explains how an anti-inflammatory diet of few processed foods and more vegetables and fruits can extend life; how rest and sleep and appropriate exercise will strengthen and renew our bodies; and how maintaining “social and intellectual connectedness throughout life” is a chief characteristic of successful aging. It’s a great read, a book I return to when I see a few more laugh-lines in the mirror.

I don’t have to look beyond that day on that New Hampshire lake to see the value of Dr. Weil’s advice. An extended family gathered for respite and bucolic play; a simple yet delicious meal; a board game or a good book for relaxation; and an older couple who demonstrate by their presence and their determination to stay active, that one of the secrets to a long life can be found on a blueberry farm near a pristine lake on a gorgeous summer day in southern New Hampshire.

Do you have any favorite family vacation stories to share?

photo credit

©Circle of Life Partners™