I was reminiscing with a friend the other day about our youth as he was driving through New England and I was basking in sunny Arizona. We’ve known each other since kindergarten as he and his twin brother were both in my class. We have remained friends since although his twin passed some years ago. In fact, I am so grateful Tim and I have stayed friends all these years. We know each other so well and have never lost the respect that comes with a long-time friendship.
We were laughing about how we knew to not even DARE be in the house sitting around doing nothing on any given day. It wasn’t an option, ever, unless you had a fever over 100 and were puking blood. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not as much as you might think. You had to be very sick, pouring rain or a major snowstorm outside to keep you indoors.
If it was hot and we came inside to get a drink or get into some shade, you got your drink and got out, fast. There are trees outside that provide enough shade. If it was cold and you came in to warm up, that was a bit trickier. You had to ask 5 times if you could come in before getting in the door. And I don’t mean ask 5 consecutive times, I mean ask 5 times with 15–20-minute intervals so that perhaps an hour or two passed before you actually got in the door. Then you had to go downstairs into the cellar and take off all your clothes because if you messed the upstairs, you’d catch holy hell. It was like walking on eggshells all the time, but we laughed and laughed over it with fondness because the things we came up with to entertain ourselves were endless, and as we grew older, mischievous. Yea, we were really mischievous.
Then we got to talking about our phone numbers and how we remembered each other’s phone numbers. We remembered our friends’ phone numbers too and made a game out of who could remember the most. Think about this for a moment, how many present day phone numbers can you remember right now? I can’t remember all that many because I don’t need to. Everything is on speed dial. Is this a good thing? I don’t think so, honestly. I’m training myself to remember my two son’s phone numbers; it’s ridiculous and embarrassing I don’t know them without question.
How about needing to get directions and having to use a map? Can we even find a paper map today? Do gas stations still give out free maps? I don’t know but I’m going to find out. Who can read a map? Let me know if you can read a map. WE HAD TO LEARN how to read a map, or we’d be driving in circles if we went beyond 50 miles of our homes. I have a tough time doing it, but I can eventually figure it out. Within 50 miles of our homes, we could figure out where we needed to go even if we had to ask directions. We used our brains. We did lots of things from memory. We had to utilize those brain waves or else we couldn’t survive, and it was great. No one was afraid to venture out, either. It was exciting, and we always made it to our destination on time. Can you imagine? We used maps and got there on time? We made accommodations for traffic, getting lost, and stopping to ask for directions. You’d meet the best people when you had to ask for directions. No one turned you away. In fact, they wanted to help more than anything. Some people would take you right to your destination if it was on their way. Oh, the good ole days.
Let’s not forget about the libraries, either. If you needed some factual information, you had to go to the library unless your family was able to afford the Encyclopedia Britannica’s updated editions. I think they updated every year or two. My family had them, but I preferred the library anyway. Not only was I a bookworm, but I’d meet my friends there and then take breaks and smoke (mostly cigarettes) outside behind the library. I would spend more time hanging out with my friends and then check the books out that I needed and do my homework at home in my room. I told you I was mischievous. Yea, those sure were some good times. I had to write, with my hand, using a pen! Pages and pages! Make one mistake and you’d had to start all over again. It was painful, but we learned a lot.
One more example before I get to what this post is really about. Running through the woods. Did any of you ever do that? When I wanted to go to my friend’s house, I would have to walk, and instead of walking the long way, I’d cut through the woods. We had a brook in our back woods, so you had to jump over the brook. Depending on the time of year and the weather, the brook could be a trickle or flowing steadily. There could be snow or ice, but you made a path with your feet. In spring, summer, and fall, I could run through those woods knowing exactly where to step. It was so much fun trying not to fall in the brook, and sometimes I did fall in the brook. I kept going anyway. What’s a little water going to hurt, right? Now they call this trail running. I was trail running before it became a thing. Here’s a fact for you, Walter Payton used to run through the woods in his galoshes to train! Remember how he used to run on the field? Hmmm, think about that one.
All that leads me to what I really want to talk about, and that is Alzheimer’s Disease. If you follow me at all, you know my passion is learning more about this disease since my mother suffered with it. Is it possible we have such an uptick in Alzheimer’s Disease because we don’t do any of these things I describe above anymore? Seriously, we do none of those things! I don’t think we’re using our brains as best we should. I’ve been saying for as long as I can remember, Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia are not normal. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it just shouldn’t be as prominent as it is today. I have researched this a little, and it almost seems logical. I’m sure with technological progress we use some parts of our critical thinking skills that we didn’t have before technology, but I don’t know. I think movement is a large part of exercising our brains. I’m not convinced that staying inside using computers and phones or using google is better for our brains. Having to utilize a map and really concentrate on your driving and the signs on the highway to make sure you’re going the right way is so much more difficult that listening to Siri in your ear or over your car radio. Utilizing a map is sparking those neurons in your brain. They’re creating new pathways with every new thing you learn. It's like working out a muscle.
I still go to the library fairly regularly. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest places on earth. It’s quiet and I can feel my brain perk up the minute I walk in the door. Nerd alert!! The library is the greatest source of information that we have. Forget Google; it’s boring. Anyone can use that but going to the library and browsing through a book to find exactly what you’re looking for is much more fun, and it gets you up off your butt. I can walk to my library now that the weather is nicer. I’m going to add that to my list. Multi-tasking!! Bam!
Think about everything I said above and tell me you don’t agree. Just thinking about remembering phone numbers, reading a map, having to use the library to look up information, and running through the woods makes me nostalgic for those days because I think it was better for us as humans. Our brains are computers, but if we don’t use it, we lose it. Unless you’re writing code or developing some complex software, don’t even try to tell me computers are just as good for your brain. I don’t buy it.
It’s the same for our bodies. I’d much rather trail run than go to a gym. Unfortunately, I don’t have any trails around me that I can run. I’m in the desert and it’s not the same thing as trail running in the woods. But I am committed to finding areas where I could do a little trail running here and there. Spur Cross in Cave Creek is looking good for some time in nature. Maybe I'll run a small portion of it here and there. Even if I can do it once a week it will be worth it.
After watching my mother suffer and deteriorate with Alzheimer’s, I wanted to learn more about this horrible disease, and I have. There are many, many things we can do to help stave off dementia, and there are also many highly educated doctors and researchers who believe we can reverse dementia. (If I’m not mistaken, Alzheimer’s is under the umbrella of Dementia.)
There is hope in a new program from UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging proving natural therapies that can not only slow the progress of dementia but also actually reverse it. In his paper titled “Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A novel therapeutic program” Dr. Dale Bredesen shows how 9 out of 10 subjects diagnosed with dementia got their minds back. (If you can’t find his paper for yourself, let me know.) Dr. Bredesen is a professor of neurology at The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA, as well as a professor at the Buck Institute. The study is also supported by multiple entities including the National Institutes of Health. The personalized protocol developed for each patient showed remarkable results. His paper goes into much greater detail, of course, but for the sake of this blog below is a sample protocol for one of the patients in the study:
· eliminating all simple carbohydrates;
· eliminating gluten and processed foods;
· increasing vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;
· reducing stress with yoga and meditation;
· taking melatonin each night;
· increasing sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night;
· taking methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12), vitamin D, CoQ10, and fish oil each day;
· optimizing oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush;
· hormone replacement therapy;
· fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast;
· fasting for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime; and
· exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.
You can also visit www.sharpagain.org to learn more about the reversible causes of dementia. They are a non-profit organization formed in 2012 to educate the public and medical community about the reversible causes of dementia. They have a list of conditions to investigate before accepting a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
There is not one person on this planet that would want dementia for themselves or wish it on their worst enemy especially if they witnessed its effects to the mind and body. If there are natural therapeutics we can use to help slow or reverse this aging disease, why wouldn’t we at least try? I frequently look to my own grandparents who worked hard physically and mentally after immigrating from Italy to the United States. They may not have lived as long as we are living now because their bodies gave out from all the demanding work they endured. Our bodies are living longer (although those statistics are coming down for the first-time in years), but our minds are giving out much faster than ever before in the history of humankind. Which would you rather?
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