Puffing Your Way to a Better Brain

by The Sibyls

‘If it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain.’ Health advisers are constantly telling us that exercise  is  good  for  the brain. Now researchers in Germany claim to have discovered the reason why. It has everything to do with a vitamin-like chemical called choline.

In  an article titled Get on your bike and ride out dementia risk (Fin Review, July 2017), Jill  Margo  explained  that  there  have  not  been  many  randomised,  control  trails  of  brain metabolism before. Prof Johannes Pantel, Goethe University, Frankfurt, said the small study showed that regular aerobic exercise protects and maintains brain function by keeping the choline levels constant.

Choline maintains brain cell membrane health. Dementia is commonly marked by a sharp rise then crash in choline levels.

So get smart and ‘Puff Puff Puff’ your way to better brain health.

(Note: ‘Banging’ (see above) may also be beneficial to brain health.)

Fall Down 7 times. Get Up 8. Do the Hokey Pokey …

by The Sibyls

Midlife  can  involve many  stresses  including  career  demands,  difficult  teenage children, divorce,  lack of time,  lack of fitness,  parents’   failing  health  and  money  worries  with no simple solutions in sight. But one of the BIGGEST issues of midlife is accepting that you are not always in control. Unexpected things can happen to you despite the best plans.

An article by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times this week (How to Build Resilience in Midlife) gives some pointers that could equally apply at any age.

Life, or so it seems, was simple once. Now it is so complex.
Here are some of the ways to build resilience:

  • Practise Optimism
  • Rewrite Your Story
  • Don’t Personalise It
  • Remember Your Comebacks
  • Support Others
  • Take Stress Breaks
  • Go Out of Your Comfort Zone

We, the Sibyls, would add:

  • Seek joy

Joy will not just arrive on your doorstep. You have to seek it. Find out what makes you happy and what makes you laugh. Then do this everyday or, at least, when you can.

To Beat Alzheimer’s Beef Up Your Brain

by Kerry Cue

I’m trying to remember the name of a pioneering neuroscientist. ALOIS … What’s his name? You know. ALOIS  … Alzheimer. Alois Alzheimer first observed the  amyloid  plaques in the brain of an otherwise healthy patient in 1906. ALOIS. I think it’s a start if I can remember that name.

The article BANKING AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S written by Professor David Bennet, director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, was published in  The Scientific American last year. I was expecting to find news of an  imminent  cure, but I  was  sadly disappointed. According to Prof Bennet, who is in charge of  100  scientists working on the project, ‘drug development for treating Alzheimer’s has been slow and marked  mostly by  disappointment.’

Moreover, ’as researchers continue to untangle the intricate web of disease mechanisms, it makes sense to focus on preventing Alzheimer’s in the  first place—to apply what we know about strengthening our brain to withstand the hits that come with aging.’ And  here  is the  big  news.  Subjects  who  faired  better  regarding  Alzheimer’s had  more  neurons, that is heavier brains. So beef up that brain of yours for successful aging.

Dali’s surreal paintings inadvertantly capture the disjointed memory of Alzheimer’s.I added the cloud border to push the imagery even further back into the memory.

11 ways to stave off Alzheimer’s*:

1. Pick your parents well! Then you’ll get good genes, a good education and avoid emotional neglect.

2. Keep physically and mentally active.

3. Be social.

4. Do new things.

5. Relax. Be happy.

6. Avoid negative types including family members.

7. Work hard.

8. Set goals. Find a purpose in life.

9. Healthy heart, healthy mind. Diet and exercise matter.

10. Eat that green leafy stuff and other vegetables.

11. Be lucky!

*As suggested by Professor Bennet according to current reseach.

Weight Loss vs Age: The Winner is …….

by The Sibyls

Is It Harder to Lose Weight When You’re Older?

This was the title to an article in the New York Times last week. The answer, according to the medical experts interviewed, is ‘Yes’ for three reasons:

1. We start losing muscle mass at 30 years of age, often replacing it with fat. Muscles use more energy that fat.

2. As we age our declining hormone levels compound this muscle loss.

3. Early weight loss can train our bodies to be more efficient with calorie use. In other words, your metabolism is more efficient.

Could Indigestion Cause Dementia?

By Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Meds Toxicity Quote

The Telegraph, UK, has just reported on a large German study that links an anti-indigestion drug, called a proton pump inhibitor or PPI, to dementia.

Don’t panic just yet is usually my first reaction to a single study, but this time the numbers are so big. The study looked at 74,000 patients over 75 in a 7 year period (2004- 2011). In that time, 29,510 developed dementia. That is 40%.

Dementia in a bottle

But the group that took PPIs had a 44% higher chance of developing Dementia. There were 2,950 taking PPIs and therefore the risk of developing Dementia was 58% in that group.

One of the problems with age and medication is TOXICITY. As we age our livers do not process meds as well and the concentration levels of a drug can build up in the blood stream. Or a patient might loose weight. Or the dose is too high to begin with. Or we take multiple drugs. Sleeping tablets can be particularly problematic. (See: It’s Detox or Dementia: Why Pill Poppin’ Mamas Should be Worried.)

The American Assoc of Retired People has a great article here. This article sites 10 medications that should be carefully monitored as you age because of their potential to do harm including:

Problem Pills

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Problem Pills 2

Welcome to The Chemo Ward

by Jules

Sibylesque Chemo Quote 2 As I walked into the chemo ward for the first time my heart sank. I was overwhelmed by the smell of medicines, and the sight of everyone tethered to their chairs by towering drip stands. I wondered how I’d manage 6 more months of this place.  It seemed like such a depressing sight. But immediately I sat in one of those ugly recliners I noticed people chatting, the nurses joking with them, someone offering sandwiches and drinks on a little tray.

chemo art

I felt an enormous mutual respect, and a complete sense of calm as my fellow chair people calmly as their ‘weed killer’ (as my partner refers to it) coursed through their veins. Gradually over the weeks I spoke to my neighbour – a different person each session. I met grandmas making books of family photos with their grandchildren, a man writing his memoirs with his grandson, another man who’d been coming in for chemo for 11 years after lymphoma with his lovely wife from Uzbekistan, all sorts of interesting people with all sorts of amazing life stories. I began to enjoy the atmosphere, if not the side effects that came on even as I chatted…

Sibylesque Dali, Galatea 0f the Spheres 1952
 Various chemo buddies came with me from time to time- My friend Delores who has recently been through a leukemia journey insisted on coming, though I didn’t want her to have to go back into the chemo zone. My wonderful sisters came to stay and we worked on various knitting projects and crosswords together. One woman said to me, after we’d exchanged pleasantries, ‘If I get run over by a bus tomorrow after all this I’ll be furious!’ My sentiments exactly! And we laughed together. 

By my last session I felt quite at home there. It’s not the place, it’s the people in it that make the difference. Everyone has a great story to tell. And they are all battlers, battling to stay alive, just like me. The TV drones on in the background, ironically telling stories of war zones and people wanting to kill each other as we are fighting the battle to just stay alive.

Jules’ other insightful post, Chemo Journal I, can be found here.

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Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. 

 

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Photo Source: pinterest

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Chemo Journal I

by Sibyl Jules

Sibylesque Chemo Quote

How do you describe the old chemo trip which, incidentally, I finished 2 weeks ago after 6 months of 2 weekly cycles? This is only my experience- everyone has different sorts of chemo and some are much worse than others. My side effects were horrible on one drug, which I was spared after 4 cycles because of weird stuff happening. I never wanted to know what the side effects might be beforehand- then I’d only get them! A useful tip shared by an oncology nurse friend was to keep the literature they gave me as a reference if something did feel unusual or bad, and just read it as you need to. This helped me avoid worrying about things that might happen and to respond appropriately to them if they did.

chemo art

I can’t say chemo was easy, but when I meet with any of my ‘cancer club’ as my partner calls them, he always comments how happy we all are. We are, after all, alive, and eating, drinking (albeit a modified beverage of choice) and laughing with friends. I think that the last 6 months of chemo has taught me to enjoy and savour every tiny joy- cooking and sharing food and wine with good friends and family has always been an important part of our lives- so when chemo flattens me for a week, being able to eat and drink and meet friends again- or go to WOMAD, the happiest 4 days of the year as I know it- gives me much to be happy about. Every tiny joy helps…Look for them- they make you feel safe and help to stave off the anxiety and fear.

Sibylesque Apparition of the Visage of Aphrodite of Cnidos in a Landscape, 1981

Oddly, chemo has also reminded me how much I love my work. I’ve been able to work two or three days a week, throughout chemo. I found that focusing on thinking and working, surrounded by busy people doing interesting things has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘poor-me-illness-behaviour mode’, which I might be prone to without the focus! I’m lucky I can choose when I go to work and if I feel too bad I crash and burn, but usually I get some days in each week. I’m also fortunate I love my work. And having a supportive and loving family and partner has helped too of course. I’ve loved having old friends call up out of the blue, and have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of people around me. Totally unexpected and humbling.

On grumbling about chemo prior to treatment starting, a surgeon reminded me that I am very lucky to be offered chemo- a treatment that may help keep me alive. For some things there is no such treatment and for that reason I knew I’d just have to go with it, knowing that every 2 weeks, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit ‘normal’ again, another bus will run me over.

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 Picture 1Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible, positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. And here is the Chemo Fashionista post of the fabulous Jules at WOMAD, Adelaide.

Are the Food Police killing us?

by Kerry Cue

 Sibylesque diet Quote

Who are the Food Police? Epidemiologists. They juggle statistics and advise governments. They do good work with diseases. Where? Why? How?

But their diet advice is often iffy.

‘At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.’

Nina Teicholz, The Government’s Bad Diet Advice, NYT, 20 FEB, 2015

So what are some of the backflips in Government dietary advice in recent years:

  • salt is not that bad
  • red meat is not that bad
  • fat is not that bad
  • and now, guess what, cholesterol is NOT THAT BAD.

See Why we eat ourselves crazy on this blog.

Sibylesque desserts

The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s hysterical fear of fat in recent decades gave support to low-fat foods, which, because of their high-sugar content, may have significantly contributed to obesity and therefore other chronic diseases.

‘Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.’ Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

Meanwhile, cholesterol has come in from the cold. All those eggs you didn’t eat and all those egg white omelets you did eat have not helped your cholesterol levels. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommened that dietry cholesterol is not much of a problem. Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

In other words, when dealing with the Food Police take their recommendations with a grain of salt, a lashing of cream, a scrambled egg and some leafy green vegetables (everyone thinks they’re a good idea).

Photo source: unsourced

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Train your brain to ease PAIN

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque  Pain Quote

The Brain's Way of HealingNorman Doidge, the author of The Brain that Changes Itself has a new book The Brain’s Way of Healing out this week (Scribe). An extract titled Brain Heal My Pain was published in The Australian, 31 Jan 2015, (paywall link) here.

You can find another extract at The Daily Mail (UK)

The extract tells the story of Michael Moskowitz, a psychiatrist turned pain specialist, who suffered from chronic pain for 13 years following a serious accident when he fell off a blow-up ring being towed by a speedboat. His pain was 8 out of 10 on the pain scale (10 is being dropped into boiling oil).

Sibylesque Guernica 3

Moskowowitz began to realise that the areas that process memories, thoughts, movements, emotions and images had been pirated to process pain. He drew 2 maps of the brain one for chronic pain and one with no pain and he visualised the area dedicated to pain in the brain shrinking. He believed that he could reclaim the ‘visual areas’ of the brain where images are processed by forcing it to visualise images of the brain.

Sibylesque Guernica, 2

He was applying the theory of brain plasticity first brought to public attention by Norma Doidge. After one year of persistent visualisation, he was pain free.

There, at the bottom of Pandora’s Box is one word. HOPE. Something we should all visualise, perhaps.

Sibylesque Guernica 1

Photo Source: From Geurnica by Picasso  representing the pain caused by the bombing of Geurnica by the Germans in 1937.

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Can you die from a broken heart? Yes! It could happen to you.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Heart Foundation Quote

More women in Australia die from Heart Disease than cancer. This is also true in the UK and the US. This fact often surprises women. We are so attuned to raising money for breast cancer research, we assume it is the number one killer. This misperception makes a heart attack for us dangerous. We don’t recognise the symptoms. We put symptoms like nausea and chest pain down to something we ate or anxiety.

A recent article by Martha Weinman Lear in The New York Times (The woman’s Heart Attack, 26 Sept 2014) highlighted the difference between male and female heart attacks. Martha, who had a heart attack herself, explains that more men have the classic dramatic chest-clutching ‘Hollywood’ heart attack.

Sibylesque Heart Attack

Most women do not have drama on their side prompting those around them to call an ambulance. The symptoms of a heart disease could simply be fatigue and insomnia. Something that we often assume is NORMAL.

It’s back to the same old message for women’s health. Keep in tune with your own body. Take action when things don’t feel quite right. The life you save may be your own.

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