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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Beet Crust Pizza

For some reason, when I go into my kitchen, I like to walk on the wild side. Do I go there in real life? Never–you won’t find me climbing up a rock face or hanging off the side of a cliff. When I went to Masada, the ancient fortress where the Jews held out against the overwhelming Roman army which surrounded their mountain fortress, I was terrified as I rode the air tram up to the top. Then I discovered I had to walk on an exterior cantilevered sidewalk hanging out over the valley below to get inside the historic site.

Beet Crust Pizza with Spinach and Chicken

Once I was on solid ground, I could enjoy myself. Going back down I could do, since I’d survived it already one time. Cooking adventures in my kitchen aren’t exactly survival shows like Chopped or Naked and Afraid. Too much drama in those for me! I tend to get an idea in mind, lay out all the ingredients, and start the process. Sometimes I make it up as I go, and other times I’ve read an interesting recipe in the newspaper or on the internet. Most of the time I make a variation on the recipe for my own health’s sake to limit the salt, sugar, and fat in the mix. I use whole grain flour and extra virgin olive oil when I bake, and fresh foods whenever possible. Using foods in season keeps the grocery bill reasonable and assures a variety of nutrients in my menu too.

I had a craving for beets last week, so ate them in salads because of the hot weather. I had a lonely beet left in the veggie compartment, so rather than let it go to waste, I washed, peeled , diced , and microwaved it for 5 minutes until very soft. Then I mushed with a fork. While this was cooking, I combined in a cup 1 tbsp Active Dry Yeast, 1 tbsp Agave Nectar (Wholesome Organic Blue Agave), and .25 cup (8 fl oz) hot Water from the tap.

As the yeast was bubbling, I was sifting the dry ingredients together in a large bowl:

0.75 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 serving Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour – per 1/4 Cup

.25 tsp Salt

Then I added the mushed beets, the yeast mix, and ADD 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Stir together well. If the mix won’t combine into a ball, add just enough water to make it so.

Turn the crust out onto parchment paper. Use .25 Cup Whole Wheat Flour to kneed the dough for a few minutes. Then roll out the crust to an even thinness. It should be about 12 inches in diameter.

Rub 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the surface of the crust to seal it. Add the toppings onto the crust:

4 oz Spinach – Dole Baby Spinach

226 gram Kroger all natural cheese pizza blend (8 oz)

8 ounces Chicken Breast (cooked), no skin, roasted, chopped

Sprinkle the spices over the top evenly:

1 tsp Garlic powder, 1 tbsp Basil, 1 tbsp Parsley, dried; and 1 tsp Oregano, ground

Cut into thin slices about 6 ounces or 168 grams Tomatoes, (red, ripe, raw, year round average) and arrange around the outer edge.

To finish off the presentation, turn up the edges of the crust and press down so the fillings don’t ooze out. The cooked crust is a surprising pink and the topping is a rich filling delight.

Minutes to Prepare: 15

Minutes to Cook: 20 at 425 F preheated oven

(15 to 20 minutes, depending on the oven)

Number of Servings: 8 single pieces–kids or 4 servings (2 slices) for adults

Tips: You could make the crust with chopped spinach for a green crust on St. Patrick’s Day.

NUTRITION INFORMATION

Calories in Beet Crust Pizza with Chicken and Spinach

Serving Size: 8 slices of the pizza—I usually eat 2 normally, or 3 if I’m ravenous.

Number of Servings: 8

• Calories: 242.1

• Total Fat: 12.6 g

• Cholesterol: 37.7 mg

• Sodium: 302.0 mg

• Total Carbs: 18.3 g

• Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g

• Protein: 18.7 g

Calories per serving of Beet Crust Pizza with Chicken and Spinach

81 calories of Kroger all natural cheese pizza blend, (28.25 gram)

37 calories of Whole Wheat Flour, (0.09 cup)

34 calories of Chicken Breast (cooked), no skin, roasted, (1 ounces)

21 calories of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour – per 1/4 Cup, (0.13 serving)

16 calories of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (0.13 tbsp)

16 calories of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (0.13 tbsp)

12 calories of Whole Wheat Flour, (0.03 cup)

8 calories of Agave Nectar (Wholesome Organic Blue Agave), (0.13 tbsp)

5 calories of Beets, fresh, (0.13 beet (2″ dia))

5 calories of Active Dry Yeast, (0.13 tbsp)

4 calories of Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average, (21 grams)

3 calories of Spinach – Dole Baby Spinach, (0.50 oz)

1 calories of Garlic powder, (0.13 tsp)

1 calories of Oregano, ground, (0.13 tsp)

0 calories of Parsley, dried, (0.13 tbsp)

0 calories of Basil, (0.13 tbsp)

ARTISAN PIZZA

I made a beautiful and healthy pizza for supper last night with whole wheat and almond flours. I added a quarter cup of the latter to cut the carb content, but it doesn’t move the calories south at all. The mix takes 1 package yeast, 1/2 Cup warm water and 1 teaspoon actual sugar (yeast food).

Set this aside to focus on mixing up the flours—1 Cup whole wheat and 1/4 Cup almond flour. If you don’t have the almond flour, use all wheat, but the carb count is more. I didn’t use salt, since the spice mix I use has salt in it. I put a tablespoon of spice into the dough, poured the yeast mix into it, and kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes.

You might need to dust your board with flour if it begins to stick. I always work on parchment paper because I can slip that into the oven and not disturb the pizza. Shape it into a circle or rectangle, but don’t won’t if it’s not perfect. It is artisan pizza, handmade by an artist, and unique, not churned out by the thousands to be exactly alike.

I chopped 6 ounces of fresh tomatoes to put on the rolled out dough, which had a tablespoon of olive oil rubbed into it to seal it up. I left all the extra juice on the chopping board. Six ounces of Kraft Italian cheeses from the package, 8 ounces of precooked chicken, a dozen asparagus half cooked in the microwave, and a generous sprinkling of an Italian spice blend, heavy on the garlic, and it went into a preheated oven at 425 F.

I set the timer for 20 minutes and went into the living room to watch the news to find out if our present administration had given away the keys to the store. We seem to be safe for another 24 hours. As the program ended, the buzzer sounded, so I walked into my kitchen.

Once I got near, the aromas of pizza began to waft out from the oven. The good smells are the result of the food reaching an appropriate high temperature to release the scents, which are the result of chemical reactions taking place in your pizza or other recipe.

Another test for pizza doneness is the eyeball—the crust should be browned and the cheese bubbly. I tend to like my pizza crunchy, so I might cook it about 5 minutes longer than most. I also cook it on a pizza stone, which evens out the heat and keeps the crust proper.

The protein and carbohydrates are about equal in this recipe, so the pizza will stick to your ribs. Two slices is a whole meal of around 400-500 calories. It’s also very tasty. Other virtues are it’s ready in about 30 minutes and uses leftovers. It’s a good way to use up the last of the spinach, mushrooms, or any other veggie that won’t serve the whole family. Plus you can make one side meatless if someone in the family is abstaining from flesh.

The only negative is cleanup, but I’d assign that to someone who didn’t cook. For the individuals living single, I believe treating yourself to special cooking by an artisan chef is a pampering we all can appreciate, and we can save about $20 in the process. I can clean up my own pots and pans for that $20, thank you. And feel virtuous enough to either save it in my coffee can for my vacation or enjoy my fancy pants coffee without shame.

I have to admit, I no longer visit the local pizza joints as often since I discovered how simple pizza is to make. Twenty minutes of this recipe is sitting down and doing something else–this is just my style! I hope you try this Artisan Pizza Recipe. Tell me how it goes for you.

Love, Cornie

Herding Cats and Food Jags

Cat food. People food. Ever get too much of a good thing?

Folks who grew up in the Great Depression were glad to have chicken on Sundays. In Louisiana, politicians promised “a chicken in every pot and every man a king.” My family ate fried chicken at my grandparents’ home every week, until my Nannie passed away.

When that happened, my daddy let my mother know we should plan a different menu for Sunday lunch, that is, anything as long as it wasn’t fried chicken. He was tired of the same meal week in and week out. Mother went along with this, for she knew it wouldn’t be too long before daddy would be craving some fried chicken. She was right. It wasn’t worth arguing over.

Grief hits everyone differently. My dad kept his feelings about the unchanging menu to himself for the sake of family harmony. Mother kept her grief and loss sublimated to care for her father and our family, even if she allowed herself to cry on the anniversary of her mother’s death every year.

I’ve gone on food jags before, and then lost my taste for that food. I find I crave snack foods and breads when I’m stressed, but when the stressor leaves my life, I wonder why I have this unopened bag of potato chips on the top shelf of my cabinet. Go figure! Since I have to pull out the step stool to get it, I have to think twice, “Do I truly want this or do I merely crave it?” I find myself leaving it there more often than not.

Maybe the “cat diet tips” can help you with your cravings too. Just think of your unhealthy food choices as the “cat’s favorite wet food” —just like a perverse kitty, yass—I’m not going to eat it, just cause!

Late Lunch

  
Today was novel writing day, so I was up at oh-dark-thirty to coffee up and do some spiritual reading first. After posting on my facebook pages an Henri Nouwen meditation paired with a MC Escher artwork, I ate some breakfast and read the newspaper. 

Fully caffeinated and having a good blood sugar level now, I fired up the Mac. I’m rewriting a work from last year’s NaNoWriMo event, THE HERO.  My time traveling priestess from the planet Didumos will be visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown in this chapter. I’m eager to begin typing. 

Along about noon, I took a watermelon break. Then I pressed on. I found my photos from Turkey, a landscape that inspired my imagination for this distant and as yet undiscovered planet. I also found a great Rembrandt drawing of the Good Samaritan for another illustration. 

Some 6,000 words later, I was posting it on https://souljournieswordpress.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/9-the-hero-enough-across-two-worlds/

I suddenly realized I was hungry! Writing is work.  The brain takes up only about 2% of an adult’s weight, but it takes up nearly 20% of the resting metabolic rate. That RMR is the total amount of energy a body expends while being a couch ornament. Concentrating and stress can cause mental fatigue, but not enough to need an entire pint of chocolate ice cream. That’s just self medication, not hunger. 

An easy late lunch was just my ticket. I had a couple of whole grain tortillas, half an avocado, a dab of sour cream, some cheddar cheese, leftover chicken breast, and fresh spinach in the ice box. Yes, I call it this old fashioned name because my grandparents still had real ice wrapped in newspapers delivered to their homes for the room on the shady side of the house called the “ice box.” Foods stayed cool there, but not as cold as our modern refrigerators. 

Using my mother’s cast iron skillet, I buttered lightly the tortillas, layered the ingredients inside, and set on low medium heat. No sense rushing the pan, even if I’m hungry. This would burn the bread and fail to melt the cheese. What kind of quesadilla would that be?

While this is heating, I cut up the avocado, added the last dribble of my Italian dressing, some more garlic and cayenne pepper. Using a fork, I stirred this well. I served out the last tablespoon of sour cream and tossed that empty out. Some carrots and broccoli for vegetables rounded out this meal. 

I turned the tortilla and let the other side cook, but I had a few veggies for snacks while I refreshed my green tea glass. Finally I could eat! A little cat nap afterwards was a great reward. 

I will have a light supper tonight. Enjoy your weekend. Eat well. Be healthy. Live with joy. Cornie. 

THE YEAR OF THE GIANT CHICKEN

Can we be addicted to a way of eating? Although it’s not yet a diagnosis, The fancy name for this is ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA. it means “right eating or pure eating.” It’s a fixation on certain foods, how they’re prepared, grown, sourced, or cooked.

My daughter went through this phase once: she refused to eat anything but chicken or any vegetable that wasn’t white. At Thanksgiving we told her we got a special giant chicken for the occasion.

We ate the stuffing and she had the mashed potatoes. We had the green bean casserole, the cranberry salad, the sweet potato with pecan casserole and the Karo pecan pie for desert. She filled up on rolls and butter, for these were the only other white food items on the table.

As we moaned and gushed over each bite, she ate her white bits in silence. I think she was stubbornly going to make good her eight year old’s proclamation that only white foods would pass her lips. She would go down with her ship like a good captain before the mast in the midst of a terrible battle of wills.

That food must have been a temptation, for the next year I heard no such strange pronouncement. She was now an omnivore like the rest of the clan.

http://news.yahoo.com/become-addicted-healthy-eating-130000422.html

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LOSING MY INNER CHICKEN BY MAKING SOUP FROM SCRATCH

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When my daddy was a young boy, his mother would send him down to the corner store in town to pick out a plump young hen for the family’s Sunday dinner. Even back in 1930, Shreveport wasn’t a country place, but folks had a choice of an already prepared chicken from the butcher or they could still buy them live from the neighborhood markets. Dad’s mother preferred her food fresh, as I recall. She was also the last of my grandparents to purchase an actual refrigerator. Instead she used an icebox, or cooler, which was an insulated room on the shady side of the house. It had an opening to the outside. The local iceman would deliver a huge block of ice wrapped in newspaper several times a week during the hot summers, and once a week in our milder winters. I was always entranced when I walked into this small cave, for it was always much cooler than the kitchen itself.

Even when I was a young girl about my daddy’s age, a generation removed from his hen purveying days as a young boy, my grandmother still kept a simple kitchen. Maybe it was because she lived alone, or perhaps it was because she was an artist, but each act was deliberate and attentively done. In my mother’s kitchen, my brothers and I were always running in and out, delivering information on the fly, and often speaking into the open double door harvest gold refrigerator while we put some snack into our mouth at the same time. I’m surprised that mom ever knew what we said, but she must have had a universal translator even before the beta model became available. If things were moving fast in the 1960s, they are going at warp speeds now in the 21st century.

In fact, everything is moving like those poor hens that my old daddy used to bring home to his momma. When he went to the corner market, the butcher would tie the legs of the doomed hen with twine so daddy could bear it home. There he would hand it over to his mother and stand back. His older brother would attend this show in the back yard. With baited breath, they waited as she took the bird in both hands, swung it around her head a few times, and snapped its neck. Then she swiftly sliced off its head with a sharp kitchen knife. It would race around the yard “like a chicken with its head cut off” for a few minutes until the residual brain activity was gone.

The boys never got tired of watching this show. We grand kids never got tired of hearing about it. Even that young, I knew that I led a privileged life, for I never had to watch my food suffer and I never had to kill it. Sometimes when my life gets chaotic, I think I am the chicken that is going to be someone’s lunch. I get “tied up in twine” or the stress of my own life. Sometimes I take on the burdens of my friends’ lives. I have a hard time focusing, for I’m fighting to get loose. The running about like a chicken with its head cut off is what I do when I can’t settle down. I think about retail therapy and forgo that route. I try exercising more, cleaning the house, doing a project, but I can’t focus. Except in the kitchen.

Maybe this is why I identify with the chicken, but a chicken is not too bright, so identifying with the hen might not be the best choice. My grandmother was always a steady locus point in the midst of the frantic circles going around her. The world might be ready to collapse economically, but she would stand calmly in the center of the turmoil. Through good times and bad, life and death, and vigor and inactivity, she was the center of calm for her family.

When I go to my kitchen, however, I seem to lose inner chicken and find my inner grandmother. I pull out my heavy cast iron soup pot and set it on the stove. When I slice the onions thinly on the bamboo board, the repetitive motion begins to steady my nerves. As I weigh the meat and cut it into 1/2 inch sized pieces, my breathing begins to flow with the motions I’m making. Now I’m becoming “one with the soup,” as the cooks say. I find my cares are dropping off my shoulders as I add the spices to the water. Once the water boils, I can add my dried peas and go put my feet up for a bit. When these are nearly done, I can add in the fresh veggies.

Eating a homemade soup made fresh from scratch, even if I didn’t purvey my own live chicken from the neighborhood market, does settle a scattered spirit. I think it unites me to the generations of my family who had a hand in making food ready to eat and savor. Some of my ancestors were farmers, some were gardeners, some sold groceries, and some were in food service, either owning or managing restaurants. Whether we cook for an army, a school, a family, for friends or for ourself alone, we can treat the activity as if it were a chore or as if it were a holy act. When we put our heart and soul into our service, then we will honor the God who gives all things life and meaning:

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” — 2 Corinthians 9:10

SAVORY CREAMED SPLIT PEA AND MUSHROOM SOUP: Balanced carb & protein meal.

Minutes to Prepare: 10
Minutes to Cook: 30
Number of Servings: 4

Ingredients

Add 1 Tbs olive oil to large pot. Slice 1/2 cup onion thinly. Add to pot & stir over medium heat. Cut 6 oz each of ham and chicken into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to sautéing onions. Stir mixture. When onions begin to brown, add 6 to 8 cups of water.

Add 225 g of dried green split peas (1 cup). Stir. Return to boil. Then reduce heat to simmer. Add 1 Tbs parsley, 1 Tbs basil, 1 Tbs garlic to the pot. Add 1/4 tsp cayenne red pepper to pot & stir to mix all. If pot isn’t simmering, turn up heat.

Cook for 15 minutes. Check on water level. If you added 6 cups, you may need to add water. If you added 8, it will be ok. Add 3 cups fresh mushrooms & 1 cup sliced carrots. Stir and cook until the dried peas are tender.

Divide the contents into 4 bowls. Add 1 oz mozzarella cheese to each bowl. Stir.

Tips: Don’t add salt: ham is salty enough. Cheese will add additional salt. Over cooking will discolor the ingredients.

Directions: Large cast iron stew pot/soup pot best.
Serving Size: Makes 4 bowls of 2 cups each
Number of Servings: 4

Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user REVCORNIE.

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2793567&ff=1