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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Thankful for Health

As I enter yet another decade of Thanksgiving, I’m most thankful for my health. Once a person enters “senior status,” good health means “managed diseases.” My young friends often whine about the difficulty of taking a single prescription per day. I just laugh, for they don’t know what truck will hit them after age 50! Most people my age have pill minders or get theirs in daily prepared packaging ready made.

One health condition that can’t be standardized is the blood glucose reading, unless you qualify for a new 24 hour wearable monitor. Otherwise you do the stick and read at different times of the day. If you’re like me, keeping track of the blood sugar readings gives you a window into your body’s response to your food choices and your commitment to an exercise plan.

I have prediabetes, so I measure my glucose in the morning and before I go exercise. My doctor says the morning should be under 100 and the preexercise reading needs to be over 100 if I’m going for anything more vigorous than a gentle walk. I don’t yet have the high readings because for 14 years I’ve eaten a Mediterranean diet and exercised daily. I still eat around 2000 calories per day, so I’m not starving myself, since my BMR is 2060.

Would they like me to lose weight? Yes, and so would I, but my blood pressure is finally normal without medication, my arteries are clear, and my depression is in remission due to medication and lifestyle commitments. We have to pick the battles we want to fight. If our weight is fat, our bodies will metabolize food differently than if our weight is muscle. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, lifting weights, or climbing stairs, will build muscle over the long haul.

When I first started walking, I couldn’t make the whole way around a city block without stopping for breath, I was so out of shape. I set a smaller goal, mastered it, and made a bigger one. I can walk a 5K now, and even if I’m the last to finish, I still am faster than everyone who didn’t enter the race. Keep a positive attitude!

Health isn’t a number on the scale or a size of clothes into which you fit. Health is more about reclaiming your positive attitude towards food as nourishment for your body, rather than as a sedative for your emotional distress. I’ve been in this place myself. I never met a chocolate donut that wouldn’t soothe my inner angst, only to give me eater’s remorse afterwards. It was a downward, addictive spiral, for I’d eat again to feel better, only to feel icky once more.

Health is also about leaving behind the bad habits that bought on high blood pressure, high blood sugar of type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes: stress, excessive caffeine, and processed foods. These foods are the heart killer trifecta of the Standard American Diet—fat, salt, and sugars. These show up in our processed meats, dairy products, and bakery goods, not to mention our condiments and desserts.

Thanksgiving Feast and Desserts

Just as we learned negative habits, we can learn positive behaviors. We don’t have to change everything all at once, but we do need to begin somewhere, sometime. Perhaps the holidays seem to be the worst time, with all the extra cooking and treating surrounding us. If we pick one behavior each week, such as measuring our food portions this week and not eating second helpings the week of Thanksgiving, we’ll be on the way to a healthier lifestyle!

Cooking a Thanksgiving Feast

Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18–

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

SEE SLIDES ON WHAT AFFECTS YOUR BLOOD SUGAR READINGS

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/daily-control-17/slideshow-blood-sugar-swings

Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer is in full bloom here in Arkansas in the middle of July. We now have local crops in our grocery stores, and the tomatoes are especially sweet. A few more days on the counter top in the kitchen and they are sugar bombs!

The summer squashes are also excellent. I like the zucchini and crook neck yellow squashes small, so they will cook on the al dente side. Nothing beats the taste of corn on the cob cooked in its own husk. I take off a few outer leaves, rinse the whole under cool water, and place it on a folded paper towel in the microwave. I set the timer for 3 1/2 minutes and go about my business of cooking dinner.

I took 4 ounces of 10% fat ground beef for my cast iron frying pan. As I stirred it on medium high heat, I looked for the container of leftovers with 1/2 cup each of zucchini and summer squash, 3 ounces of tomatoes, 1/4 onion and mixed Italian herbs. Once the meat was almost brown, I added this to the pan. It heated quickly. I was glad for this, since my grocery shopping jaunt had gone longer than I planned, due to a sudden rain shower.

Not long after, I heard the microwave sound. The paper towel is handy for grabbing that hot cob! It steams well inside its own husk. Once I peeled it back, I had a handle to hold the cob upright in the pan. I took a knife and cut the kernels off into the meat mixture. By the time I threw away the cob and stirred the whole pan about a few times, the dish was ready to plate (or bowl, in this case). I used 3/4 ounce cheese to top it, and emptied the remnants of a bag of shredded cheese. It was a very filling supper. Tasty, too, or my appetite just has a much sharper edge these days!

This was a 425 calorie meal, and took no longer than 15 minutes to prepare and cook, with 28 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, and 33 g protein. It fits into a Mediterranean diet, and can fit into a low carbohydrate food plan. Paleo diets restrict corn because it’s a grain, and grains, as well as beans and legumes, are all excluded foods. Of course, paleo allows sweet potatoes, which have a higher carb content per cup (46 g) than corn (18 g), but no one ever said the paleo diet ever made scientific sense, anthropological sense, or medical sense.

In fact, our bodies are no longer the same as Stone Age people’s, just as our world has advanced beyond that era also. One aspect this diet fantasy does get correct is its insistence on whole or minimally processed foods. Of course, this is a characteristic of all healthy eating plans. The best plans, however, are the ones which have the least restrictions and the very best plans are the ones which you will stick to for a lifetime.

You heard right–lifetime compliance. We might fall off the wagon on a vacation or for a weekend, but not for longer. Especially if we have to watch our blood sugar closely. We know the damage from unrestrained highs or lows it can cause. I once hit a telephone pole at 5 mph while on vacation in a small town in North Carolina. I had an extra 10 days while my car was repaired before I got to come home, all because I didn’t eat before I decided to drive. I’m now trained. I was fortunate not to hit another vehicle or person. I am also much more sensitive to how I feel as my blood sugar drops, since I have the traumatic memory of the thud and crash connected to the swooning feeling of my body.

Only a few scientific studies have been organized to investigate the benefits of a paleo diet for diabetes, but their samples have been small and the time short. Not enough information exists to recommend the paleo diet for other than a short term weight loss diet. It’s not a lifetime healthy eating plan due to the elimination of dairy (calcium), and grains and legumes (nutrient dense fiber and vitamin sources).

With the hot weather outside, I’ll be making tuna salad, chicken salad, and cold, quick meals. Baking will have to wait for cooler weather! Friday might be 101F, with heat factors higher. Crunchy apples and raisins will likely appear in the meat salads. And yogurt, for somehow it tastes cooler than a cloying mayonnaise dressing.

Joy and peace to all,

Cornie

Good article on Stone Age humanity here:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-paleo-diet-half-baked-how-hunter-gatherer-really-eat/

Information on scientific studies here:

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/205/4/paleo-diet-and-diabetes

Christmas Baking for Emotional Eaters

I’m in Christmas cooking mode for the holidays in Cornie’s Kitchen for the month of December. Some of my favorite people who stop by for a visit might be drawn by some wonderful and enticing smells emanating from the door of my cozy condo home.

My mother was always baking at Christmas time, as was her mother before her. I never was in my great grandmother’s home at Christmas, or I was too young to recall her traditions. I do know she had an old cast iron wood fired stove. She must have had some skills to keep an even temperature for baking her homemade breads and cookies.

One of my earliest childhood memories at Christmas time is my mother in her bathrobe racing out of the little wood frame home in which we lived before my youngest brother was born. She was holding the foil wrapped fruitcakes in her hands and shouting for my daddy, who was backing up the brand new shining brown Pontiac as he was headed off to work.

Over the years, the fruit cake became cookies with candied fruits and brandy, for they knew more people to “gift” at Christmas time. Everyone needs a little something to know you care about them, now and then.

A homemade treat is the best, for you can expend your energies and anxieties in the working of the ingredients. As you smell and touch the different items which go into the treat, the part of your need to consume is already being sated by these sensations.

As you mix by hand—and I’m old school, I don’t use a blender or processor—you use up calories. If we are PWO (persons with obesity) we need to use all the energy we can. Also, doing this by hand gives us an immediate and direct connection with the food we’re making. We’ll feel the textures, the densities, and the thickness or thinness of our product. We’ll have a “feel for it.”

Could you make this quicker if you used electric tools? Yes. Would you lose the meditative opportunity to become “one with the food?” Also yes. I also think you’d be tempted to eat much more of the food if made more quickly, for slow food sates the emotional needs we have which cause us to overeat beyond what is necessary. As we wait for the the appropriate smell to waft from the oven, or the timer to go off to let us know the candy has chilled in the icebox, we can clean up the kitchen or have a little time to put our feet up with a cup of our kitchen’s best. Or maybe both. We shouldn’t work too hard after all.

When the goodies are ready, we divide them up, but there’s alway a few irregular ones, a little too imperfect to gift away. These will eat just as good, even if they don’t look so good. For quality control reasons, at Cornie’s Kitchen, I eat the broken ones, always remembering portion control. After cooking and cleaning, I find I don’t need all that many. If we know the effort our food takes, this might be the best argument for portion control yet.

Let’s cook more often, and take out less. We could practice “Life by Fork” instead of “Death by Fork.”

Love, Cornie

WEIRD WEDNESDAY: Virtual Gastric Band Surgery

First, it's not surgery, but hypnosis! This is why it's "Virtual" and not actual or invasive, cutting into the body. How do I find out about these things, you ask? My Twitter account gets spammed with folks who follow me because I write about health. They think I might write glowing words about their product. They might think wrong.

First of all, actual surgery makes real changes in the body's hormone and metabolic activity. Virtual or hypnotic suggestion can't do this. It can only help you choose smaller portions or choose to exercise more. This is real science and you'd need to get your health care professional to explain it to you. The words leptin and grehlin are involved, plus your insulin. Hypnosis doesn't work on our chemicals, just on our desires and inclinations.

Second, hypnosis is the go to panacea or cure all for what ails you. It is the original snake oil, as it were! It is the potion with a notion and the vessel with the pestle that has the brew that is true. Whatever name we know it by, hypnosis is the amazing remedy for any complaint. Just imagine, with a few noninvasive sessions, our breasts could be larger! Hypnosis is a miracle working therapy! What shrinks our stomachs can also grow our breasts!

We can even get free lessons delivered to us through the mail, or maybe get them free on the internet today. Unlimited power for good (or ill) could be ours for nothing! If we look into the mirror, for what will we use this awesome power? I would hypnotize everyone i met into loving their neighbor, no matter their race, color, creed, nation of origin, religion, or sexual preference. We don't have to be hating each other on this small blue ball out in the vastness of the cosmos.

The person offering "Virtual Gastric Bypass Surgery" didn't put a price on any of her sessions, but other web sites did: $800. Actual surgery, which is proven and covered by insurance for medically necessary conditions, runs $5,000 and up. Personally, I'd rather spend $800 on a psychologist to get down to my emotional causes for overeating, but that's just me. A lot of us have fears, anxieties, depression, and other unmet needs we attempt to satisfy with food and drink. The rest of us want to be accepted and loved, and when we aren't, we eat and drink. This leads to less acceptance and more eating and drinking. It's a downward spiral.

Hypnosis claims to break this cycle. Getting a community of support will break the cycle too. Intervention with a counselor, accepting medical help with your depression, and getting started on a healthier food and exercise plan will also break the cycle. Accept you are loved.

Listen to my voice, you are worth loving–you are worth loving–you are worth loving–when I count to three, you'll wake up and all you'll feel is LOVE FOR YOUR SPECIAL SELF! 1–2–3! Wake Up!

Joy and Peace, Cornie

SUNDAY SUPPER: Quiche to Die For

Sometimes to calm my spirit, I like to spend time making food from scratch. One, I'm taking care of my body by using calories to make dinner, and second, I know exactly what goes into my food, namely just fresh ingredients.

This doesn't take much time either. I had the pie crust made by the time the oven warmed up and the other ingredients weren't far behind. After all, how long does it take to beat 4 eggs, measure out 4 ounces of pre-shredded cheese, cut a big handful of skinny asparagus into inch long sections and add 3 ounces of spinach to the pan? Sprinkling basil, parsley and a rosemary garlic mixture on top was a breeze.

Then I set the timer for 30 minutes and sat down to listen to Clapton and Cale jam on TV. I gave the pie another 5 minutes because the toothpick didn't come out quite clean enough to suit me, even though I could smell the quiche flavors wafting out from the kitchen.

Let a quiche set just a moment before you cut it, which will give you just enough time to Instagram your famous creation! The pie makes 8 servings, and it's a bit high on the fat side (15 g) because of the cheese and shortening in the pie crust. It is low carb (10 g) however and has over 9 g of protein.

For those of us who who are watching our salt, we have to plan our other menus around this, since one serving has 310 mg of salt. Cheese is notoriously high in salt, and the original whole wheat crust recipe I used called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I cut this to 1/4 teaspoon and didn't notice any appreciable loss in taste, but I've trained my tastebuds to enjoy the flavor of lower salt. (This recipe has less than 310 mg salt per serving, but I didn't calculate it.)

This is a filling meal, because it has enough fat for satiety, the whole wheat is lower glycemic than refined white flour, plus it has the fiber and bran the refined flour lacks. I'm not hungry after this meal, whereas if I eat too little fat, I get ravenous quickly! Of course, I don't have a medical need to keep my fat consumption extremely low.

When I get distressed, I tend to eat. One of the ways I can slow my emotional self-soothing is to make the food, rather than to buy it. The time it takes to make it diffuses some of my nervous energy and allows me to get a handle on my nerves. I have time to process my thoughts and feelings rather than just stuff Food into my mouth.

In grad school, I once ate a box of chocolate hostess cupcakes in a week. I've never eaten another since. I was far from home and on my own for the first time in my life. It was scary! I wanted to make sure my money stretched far enough, so I bought the whole box. Then I felt compelled to eat it all, not knowing the shelf life of these cakes was infinity. Now I know this is why God made freezers for the fridge.

We all have our little mistakes and errors of judgement as we learn to eat healthy. We can't let one momentary slip or choice be a reason to give up on a lifetime journey or goal. Tomorrow will be another day, a clean slate, and we can begin again with good intentions and our best hopes.

Plan out a menu that's easy to fix and doesn't require a lot of prep work. Do it the day before, so you know the ingredients are on hand. Then when you get home, take a deep breath, relax, and stay in the present moment. Do only one task at a time. Enjoy the opportunity to care for yourself and your loved ones.

Have a good week! Love, Cornie.

Monday Morning after a Trauma

Most of us don’t much care for Monday just because. Yep. Says it all, right? Work, the daily grind, routines, dealing with problems, and the people who want it yesterday already! What are they thinking, we’re magicians? Or they’re the only customer we have? Get a grip. And it’s not even 9 AM yet. This eight hour day is going to be a Bataan Death March to quitting time if it isn’t fueled by copious amounts of caffeine. 
Monday after a national trauma is even worse. On Monday, September 11, 2001, my only thought coming into my office was to take care of the dead headlights on the church bus. It was a small thing, it was of no consequence. I hadn’t been listening to tv or radio. My plans changed from taking care of things to taking care of people. 
This is another Monday, now remembered for the largest mass shooting in our beautiful America, a country founded on the principles of religious freedom and equality for all her people. While we’ve not always lived up to these lofty ideals, we are still going onto perfection. 

Just because one person or a group of people may be fueled by hate doesn’t mean the rest of us should join them in their cesspool. This doesn’t mean we open ourselves up to harm, but we don’t have to hate, for this emotion will destroy our souls and empty our lives of joy. 

My compassion and prayers go out to all who have lost loved ones in this tragedy, including the family of the shooter. I lost a mentally ill young daughter to a drug overdose. When we discover the background of this lone gunman, I suspect untreated mental illness will play a factor. We may discover this is another “suicide by cop” wrapped in lone gunman jihad mythology. This is a sadness, since many people with depression and other mental illnesses, myself included, live active and productive lives helping others in our messed up world. 

As the chief cook in Cornie’s Kitchen, I can tell you when I get stressed over traumatic memories or undergo new new stressors, I go off my food plan big time. Does this mean I’m “bad?” No, but it is a sign I need to deal with my situation. Traveling home, I was listening to CNN on the radio. The longer I listened to them fill up the airways with words about nothing new, the hungrier for junk food I got. 

I was carrying apples, but I didn’t eat them. I had cheese and whole grain crackers, but I didn’t break these out. I did eat my salad and chicken during the stretch of city road when I hit every single stop light. Once I made the interstate however, I was the junk food queen all the way home. Braumn’s brownie chocolate ice cream sundae with hot fudge syrup, nuts and whipped cream is definitely medicinal for soothing emotions. Much better than any drug and less risky than alcohol when driving. I cannot do this on a daily basis however. 


Monday has come and gone. Even as I post this on Tuesday, we don’t know much more than we did yesterday about this horrific event. I only know I’m not afraid, for I believe and trust in God. I’ve been to the dark places and God was there. I’ve been to the high places, and God was already there. I’ve even said “God doesn’t exist,” but God still was there for me. This is what we mean by “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” 

So after a traumatic day, God will be here the rest of the week, the month, the year, and forever. Be glad, hug your weird neighbors, your neighbors of color, your neighbors who eat different foods, and sit a spell in the Kitchen and tell one another about your day. Work to build bridges so people of peace can come together in our common humanity. Take care of one another, for we are all made in the image of God. 
Love, joy and peace, Cornie.