IS COGNITIVE DECLINE INEVITABLE?

My mind goes often to this non planet

If I knew where my mind was, I’d be able to find it. 
My mind goes to Pluto at the drop of a hat. 
What did I come into this room to get?
And where did I park my car?

As we age, we lose brain cells. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My mother claimed we kids were responsible for the early grey in her hair and its white was the result of the loss of brain cells, which she attributed to our wild ways driving her crazy. Neurons in the brain do die every day, but the brain grows new ones into a person’s seventies. 

Previous research suggests cognitive decline doesn’t begin before the age of 60, but this view isn’t universally accepted by scientists, much less the common public. We all have met people who’ve quit growing intellectually in their 30’s, while some have flexible minds and continue to learn new ideas and adjust their previously held thoughts when new information is presented. Some people’s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension skills (cognitive function) can start to deteriorate from age 45. 

Happy Birthday—Don’t return the favor.

This is why 40 was once considered “over the hill,” but folks today think of 50 as that apex. When my brother decorated my desk with dead plants and black balloons for my 40th birthday, I’m sure he meant it with tongue in cheek. However he might have been also alluding to my well known “space ranger” wandering mind. I don’t think I had cognitive decline; rather mine was more imaginative daydreaming, also known as “not paying attention.”

When I was 60, I watched a program on dementia and cognitive decline. The difference between forgetfulness and cognitive decline is the first happens occasionally and the latter affects your daily living negatively. On my recent vacation I forgot to bring toothpaste. I bought a tube at the grocery store. Cognitive decline is when you forget how to brush your teeth, you get cavities, and don’t make dentist appointments anymore. Then you lose the teeth and get dentures. Most likely someone also has to remind you to use the bubble cleaner on them and rinse them before they go in your mouth again. 
Since understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century, especially as life expectancy continues to rise, we have to ask, what can we do to for our whole health? 

As easy as popping a pill sounds, a large recent review of studies found no solid evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements have any effect in preventing cognitive decline or dementia. The whole internet is full of health claims for this and that supplement, drink, bar, or detox tonic. While B vitamins; beta carotene; vitamins C, D or E; zinc, copper or selenium may be needed in your diet for other reasons, none of these have proved effective in preventing cognitive decline. 

How can you prevent cognitive decline? Try this combination strategy:
Four steps can improve your mental skills, even as you age—
1. following a healthy diet, 
2. getting regular exercise, 
3. socializing, and 
4. challenging your brain.

The results of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), which is the latest and most impressive study, goes a step further by suggesting that if you follow all four practices, you may even reverse lost mental capacity. The FINGER study indicated those who did so not only kept cognitive skills from declining, it also improved their reasoning skills and speed in performing mental tasks.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups. One set of participants—the study group—received personal nutritional counseling, exercise instruction from physical therapists, and cognitive training. They also underwent seven medical exams during the study period. They frequently met in groups for cooking classes, cognitive training, or exercise instruction. The other participants—the control group—had three medical exams, during which they received general health advice. Both groups were given mental function tests again at the end of the study.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and author of The Harvard Guide to Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, says “Healthy lifestyle behaviors can benefit people of all ages. But to have the greatest impact on late-life mental function, get started early.” 

The FINGER study’s results should offer additional encouragement to pursue a healthy, active, engaged lifestyle with regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and challenging mental activities because these can help preserve your mental acuity. Moreover, the FINGER study reminds us it not only helps to combine these practices, but it also helps to enjoy them as we do them. 

This wasn’t a quick fix, either. The FINGER program lasted for two years and the participants stuck with it because they were enjoying themselves. They also had become friends with others in their training groups. Although the experiment was demanding, only 12% of participants dropped out. Plus, these folks worked at their exercise—attendance was over 85% at training sessions, which included three to five exercise sessions a week, as well as 10 to 12 sessions of nutrition counseling and 144 cognitive training sessions over two years.

If you’re having trouble making healthy changes, a cooking or exercise class may help you get started and open a new circle of friends. Volunteering as a tutor, joining a community choir, or working on a political campaign can offer new intellectual challenges and social engagement. The key to making lifestyle changes is in finding a way to enjoy making them—and that is often among a group of companions who are striving for the same goal. 

Fresh vegetables and Chicken breast in Olive oil

We all make a choice in our lives. If we want good health, but don’t want to give up our television programs, we either need to pick an exercise time outside of our favorite TV shows, or hit a gym with screens. For instance, I still eat fried chicken, but only on my vacation. I eat uncured bacon on Saturdays rather than every day, and pancakes once a month. I haven’t given up my favorite foods, but I’ve put a limit on the most unhealthy ones out of respect for my body. This gives me some room for when I feel the need to self medicate with two scoops of ice cream, as when my computer died last month and I had to replace it. Making a big decision is definitely an ice cream moment for me, but I don’t need it every day anymore. 

One of my goals at Cornie’s Kitchen is to learn new skills and information to benefit the majority of persons in our world today: half of Americans and 30% of the world’s population are obese or overweight, and the cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity are increasing worldwide also. Since our children are also impacted by this health risk, we have to change our way of looking at food, exercise, time, stress, life, work, and our means of balancing the competing and complex needs in our world. 

If I can’t wave a magic wand over you, say a magic spell, or cast a potion of power over you, then at least I can help you burn through a few brain cells. They’ll grow back. Grey hair is a sign of power and wisdom.  

Joy and Peace, 

Cornie 

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The Last Best Hope

Finishing Strong!

I completed the Spa 5K Saturday in a record time. It was my personal best, and I was thrilled to finish strong. Notice I had two bicycle attendants and the privilege of my good friend, who is the current president of the local running club, to accompany me on the last leg of the 3.2 mile route.

Admittedly, my personal best was last of all who entered, but I still beat everyone who never entered the race. I also did better than those who didn’t train to walk this distance. We do this by going out for 15 minutes the first week, and adding 5 to 10 minutes extra in each of the weeks to follow. No one does a 5K right off the batt unless a bear is chasing them!

This is the third year I’ve completed the race, and I’ve learned several good tips. First, carry my inhaler so my asthma doesn’t bother me. If I can breathe better, I can walk at a steady pace. Second, carry half a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread to eat at the turn. This keeps my blood sugar up so I have energy for the home stretch. Third, hydrate. I carry water because I take medication that causes mouth dryness. If I feel good, I can walk well. My time was 1:07.19.34, with a pace of 21:43/M. I finished 9th in my age group and 291st of 291 women.

Finally, I don’t have to beat anyone else on the course. I only have to finish the race. Each runner or walker has his or her own individual time to beat, their own personal challenge. Of course, someone will cross the line with the best time in each age group, but each person has a personal race within the race. If we want to find good health, we must get up and get moving! It won’t come to our door via Amazon Prime or Dominos delivery service.

Finding ways to challenge our lethargy is tough, for once we begin to sit, inertia takes over. I’ve been there and worn a hole in the cushions of my couch. Sometimes I’ve had to set the kitchen timer to thirty minutes to force me to get up and turn it off. Putting on happy music, setting just one task and giving myself a coffee reward for completing it has helped me get over some of my rougher days. The worst days I had to admit I was depressed and seek treatment.

Depression is a real illness, one often found along side diabetes and heart disease. These are diseases of inflammation and depression seems to be their fellow traveler. It can be treated. We don’t have to live with the struggle of depression. Ordinary life has its own troubles, but we can live with hope and love. We don’t have to win the trophy, we merely need to do our best.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise,

nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful;

but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

After all, we have a higher purpose in life, for we’re here to be a witness to others. In Japan, the Ginko trees are living fossils, since they aren’t kin to any other tree still alive. When the atom bombs fell, six Ginko trees survived even though all the buildings around them were destroyed. When the trees began to bud, they were named “trees of hope.”

Hiroshima Ginko Trees

Even if we aren’t “much to look at” we can still be an inspiration to others. After all, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). You can be the last best hope for someone today, maybe even for your own self. You are worthy. When you’re stronger, you can be a hope for someone else.

Ginko in the Autumn

THE CHANGE HAPPENS OVERNIGHT

Late in November, on a single night

Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees

That stand along the walk drop all their leaves

In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind

But as though to time alone: the golden and green

Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday

Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?

What in those wooden motives so decided

To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,

Rebellion or surrender? and if this

Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?

What use to learn the lessons taught by time.

If a star at any time may tell us: Now.

“The Consent” by Howard Nemerov

Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov.

Reprinted by permission of Margaret  Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53817/the-consent

More about Ginko Trees—https://e360.yale.edu/features/peter_crane_history_of_ginkgo_earths_oldest_tree

SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

Eagle Brand Coffee

Drinking Eagle Brand Coffee this morning. I wondered who to root for last night for the big football game. My head said Patriots, but my heart said Eagles. Tom Brady, my head said, is the best quarterback around. What do you know about this backup from the Eagles?

My heart answered, but you love the underdogs, the unappreciated, and the undervalued. Why not go with your heart, since it’s the seat of your feelings, and you trust those more than the logic of your mind. Anyway, it’s just a game, and it’ll be interesting any way it turns out.

Some of my friends gathered to “watch the game,” but as in any party, some are there for the food, some for the commercials, some for the fellowship, and a die hard few for the actual game. The evening is for all, and we don’t all have to do the same thing. We can wander in and out, tasting and experiencing it all, or we can stick with one thing.

We don’t have to be all alike, since we celebrate freedom in America. We don’t even have to think alike or root for the same teams. We forget how blessed we are when we let petty people and politics divide us. If we sought instead to find what unites us, we’d recover the common ground.

After all, those who seek to divide us do this for their best interests, and not for ours. If we separate into easily defined subgroups, they can market to us, they can count us, and they can court us. Perhaps if we began to look for the humanity of the others in our midst and walk a mile in their shoes, we would no longer think of them as “others ” but as brothers and sisters.

Monday Coffee: Florida

Most folks in the workplace function better with their caffeine of choice. In Cornie’s Kitchen, the caffeinated beverage of the morning is a blend of caffeine and decaf coffee. I prefer to ease into awareness, rather than take a rocket ship ride to full alertness. Then again, I like to wake up early enough to give myself this extra time.

When I was young with a child at home, mornings were much more hectic. My caffeine was full strength and I had a big to go cup also ready for our dash out the door. We usually ate a toast or bagel in the car.

What happens to people’s need for their daily dose of caffeine and community when a hurricane hits town? If people have been hunkered down at home or in shelters, they’ll be itching to get out to see what’s left of their town, to support one another, and start the cleanup process.

That is a job for coffee, my friends!

To gauge Hurricane Irma’s impact on Miami, some won’t be watching just the weather; they’ll be tracking Cuban coffee consumption.

Cuban-style espresso, or cafecito, is a staple of daily life in Miami. Former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate says how fast Cuban coffee stands reopen may indicate how the city is faring.

Fugate led Florida’s emergency management division during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. At that time, he used the Waffle House restaurant chain as a gauge of the storm’s impact.

Waffle House is known for being open all the time. Thus, a closed restaurant was a very bad sign. There are no Waffle Houses in Miami, so Fugate suggested Cuban coffee as an alternative.

He says if Cuban coffee stands are closed, “it is bad.”

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/09/10/how-to-gauge-irmas-effect-on-miami-check-cuban-coffee-stands.html

Coffee before Purpose

Welcome to the Antepenultimate Day of the Week , AKA Thursday!!

Thursday is the Third to last day of the week. Friday is the penultimate day, or the next to last day of the week. For some of my Kitchen friends, Friday is the Ultimate or Last day of your work week. Saturday, however, is the ultimate day of the week on the calendar.

Most people today plan their calendars around the work or school weeks, rather than around the calendar, which is set on the religious week. In the past, people only had Sundays for a rest day.

For those of us who keep busy but are happily retired, we find keeping our old daily schedules helps us stay regular in our sleep and exercise disciplines. We do our errands, volunteer activities, and other excitement in the same hours as our younger working friends, children, and family members.

If you’re working hard, or hardly ever working, you can easily lose track of the day’s of the week. A wild Monday can seem like three days long, so by 2 pm you’re screaming at your coworkers, “Is it Wednesday yet?” My daddy claimed he got both the morning and afternoon newspapers delivered to the home so he’d be sure to know what day it was. I’ve known folks to get their days and nights mixed up if they don’t have a reason to get up in the morning.

Always have a purpose in life worth getting out of bed in the morning, even if it’s just to make the best cup of coffee for the one person who needs it most–YOU! After that, you can deal with the other great purposes in life: cleaning up your little corner of the world, loving yourself and others more fully, and sharing your blessings with those who have less.

But first…COFFEE!

Food, Medicine and Time

Hippocrates was one smart dude.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is this healer’s complete quote. He cared for the sick in Greece in the early 4th century BCE. Of course, he didn’t have access to the modern science of our doctors today, but our best physicians still offer this advice to prediabetics: eat healthy food and exercise daily, and bring down the weight.

Amazingly, Hippocrates’ wisdom, “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance,” still applies. We stick to our opinions, “My doc would like me to lose weight, but…(eye roll)…”I’m so busy, it’s too hard, I don’t have time, my family won’t eat it, etc.” We  wait for the magic bullet, the pill or the shot, only to find out it doesn’t work unless we change the habits our science trained healer suggested was the best treatment in the first place.

This is the food as medicine and medicine as food concept, or as I call it, Whole Food for Whole People. Many “health fads” toss out entire food groups: nothing white, no carbs, no grains, or nothing a male cro-magnon couldn’t kill with a spear. Other plans rely on processed meal replacement drinks and bars which are mostly sugars and oils mixed with a protein supplement. Don’t get me started on “clean eating,” unless it means you wash your veggies before you eat them and wash your hands before food prep or eating. The same goes if you’re restricting your calories below 1,500 per day, except under a doctor’s supervision, because you’re setting your metabolism to starvation mode. As soon as you begin to eat normally, you’ll begin to gain serious amounts of weight. Your body’s deprivation senses the feast and goes into beast mode. All you do is set up a yoyo effect, gaining and losing the same weight over and over. I have a drawer full of these T-shirts.

img_4796

“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.” My dad and uncle were both physicians, so healing and caring for people are in my family’s DNA. I’m retired clergy, so my healing and caring has been for people’s spiritual lives. I have diabetes in my family and I’ve been prediabetic for eleven years. I have a supportive doc and I put my mind onto living my best life, not everyone else’s life.

When time is an issue, what we really mean is we’re too tired to take care of our bodies well. We don’t value ourselves as much as we value the others in our lives. As a pastor, one of the most difficult obstacles to my ministry was my own need to please others. Someone was always sick, needy, broken, or otherwise seeking my help 24/7/365. Parents understand this, adult children of invalid parents understand this, and so do the self employed. If we don’t take time off and we don’t do the necessary caregiving to ourselves, we won’t be there to care for others. As one who left full time ministry on disability leave, I can vouch for that. I have other friends who have destroyed their health doing good for others. The pain of not being able to do what you love and what God calls you to do is all to real. It’s a form of death.

I grocery shop once a week, buying vegetables and fruit in season for the best price. I don’t hit the middle aisles very often except for wild rice, beans, and my favorite whole wheat pastas, which I don’t eat nearly as often as I used to! Some cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, regular cheese, meats and eggs round out the list. I make sure there’s no high fructose corn syrup lurking in these products or other sugars by any other name. I don’t do the fat free items unless the ingredients are the same as the regular offering, except for the fat content. Often the fat free has more sodium or gums to change the texture. Reading labels is important. If you’re pressed for time, use Cornie’s Rule: A smaller ingredient list equals a better and less processed food.

Time in the kitchen is another issue for folks. I happen to be a simple cook. None of that fancy pants saucing and tending of the stove our parents did that got them a star in their crown. Save that for special occasions. None of us are the farm family any more who can tend a stove for hours. Thirty minutes tops for a meal during the week and an hour on the weekend is the most I’m giving to this part of my life and I enjoy my food! Mr. Microwave as guest chef or assistant is a boon in every kitchen for crisp, al dente veggies, or reheating leftovers just so.
Herb Seasonings can change up the tastes every night, even if the same chicken breast is showing up as the main course. Just change out the veggies and potato. This evening I went for corn on the cob instead. Counting carbohydrates is a must for prediabetics and diabetics. These are listed on packaging and your doctor will tell you how many to have per meal.

If you introduce these changes gradually, you’ll retrain your family’s taste buds naturally. All at once, they’ll resist. Slow and easy will help you adjust also. Cold turkey is best saved for sandwiches.