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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OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

Coffee Makes Me Smarter

How do I know coffee makes me smarter? Is there science behind this statement, or is this just a perception I have? Scientists giving people 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee—found they help the brain identify words more quickly and precisely. I call that “smarter.” Our IQs aren’t higher, but we can use what we have better.

Does it take two cups, or two sips? Perhaps this depends upon a person’s sleep debt. According to the PLOS Journal, “Sixty-six healthy participants age 24.3 years (19–32 years) were randomly assigned to either a caffeine group (n = 33, 9 males) or a placebo control group (n = 33, 12 males).” Do I know these young men were sleep deprived, or is it my best guess? Men average 5 hours, 45 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 9 minute, according to a 2017 study on American sleep habits.

Excessive fatigue during the day and taking too long to fall asleep were the most common reported issues. The recommended amount of sleep is 7 hours. An interesting side note, every 30 minutes of daily exercise adds about 14 minutes of sleep time. I have the blessing of inheriting my daddy’s ability to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. “Go all day, sleep all night.”

As I was saying, I worked all evening long to fix printer at home. Reason(s)?

1. Power surge last week might have knocked out delicate “air connections” of the software.

2. My iPad crashed and I had to restore it. No telling what happened there! I was fortunate to have backed up just a few days prior.

3. Printer would print from computer & phone, but the iPad would not recognize the printer. I went to bed. Arkansas had lost their baseball game anyway.

4. When all else fails, a good night’s sleep might solve any problem. It will be there anyway and I can try again.

5. Morning and coffee bring new insights. If I was stuck trying to print from email, why not print from another program on the iPad?

6. Print from Word. Spits out a page!

7. Print from Notes. Spits out another page!

8. Now go to email and try again. BINGO! We have a winner! Chicken Dinner!

“Tomorrow is another day,” my mother always told me. “Things will look different when you wake up.” When I was young, I didn’t have her accumulated experiences to understand this wisdom, but the dawn always comes after the dark of night. We can either stay up worrying and exhaust ourselves, or get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to tackle life again in the morning.

I tend to let God handle the world and its troubles while I sleep. In the morning, I thank God for another day to love and serve, and take care of the troubles that come my way. I don’t go looking for trouble, since like most of us, we have enough trouble in our own lives to begin with! And trouble will find us along the way also.

If I could give you one word of suggestion, most problems in our lives would go away if we all slowed down. We attempt to pack 30 hours of activity into a 24 hour day, and then wonder why we’re so tired. Sleep deprivation is the answer, with stress as a corollary result.

The University of Washington Health Sciences concluded chronic sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, which means people get sick more often when they don’t get enough sleep.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center says, “What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health.”

Get 7 or more hours of sleep per night, and simplify your life.

Live long and Prosper.

Love, Cornie

Brain and Coffee Study https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/in-experiments-caffeine-accelerates-the-brains-verbal-processing-113759145/#I44msTiHHXl4DTum.99

PLOS JOURNAL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0048487

https://www.sleepphones.com/Sleep-Statistics-The-State-of-Sleep-in-America

Simple Breakfast

I overslept by a lot! I’ll be goin from one silence to another, having missed worship, breakfast and morning lecture. On a spiritual retreat, as on the spiritual journey, god always provides food. I’m drinking coffee, eating peanut free peanut butter, and an apple.

God knows what we need and God provides. Most of us go on doing for others rather than taking care of our own body’s needs. This self sacrificing is counter productive, however, for then we’re both unable to care for others and we destroy our own bodies which are made in the image of God. This overwork leads to burnout or physical complaints. Either one of these can shorten the years of effective ministry of either a clergy or a lay person.

Taking time off, surrendering our need to be in charge or to be in control, is one of the blessings of the Academy. You participate as much or as little as you need to. The hope is each person disconnects from the busyness of life at home and connects instead into the stillness of the life of God. This way when we return, we have an ingrained memory of the path to this still place in the midst of whatever storm may arise.

Jesus Stills the Storm

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.

And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”

Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

~~ Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)

Working Like Ben-Hur

Good Monday Morning! Time for another cup of coffee—let’s take on this week like Ben-Hur overcame all all odds! We can do this!

I’m to be in many places this week so I’ve only got two days to do my “real callings” or what the employed world calls “work.”

We can work, but not get remuneration. This is the case for many homemakers. People who lose their spouses suddenly discover how expensive it is to hire someone to provide those domestic duties. I sold a pile of life insurance on non working spouses just by giving the facts.

Those who fix up the homes in which they live, or do their own yard work, also aren’t paid, but they aren’t spending money to hire others either. I’ve always hired the yard work, and done my housework, since I figure I can do one or the other, but not both. I’d rather not sweat, and I’m willing to pay someone to do that for me!

I’ve always considered my creative endeavors my real work, and whatever I did to put food on my table and a roof over my head was just a means to an end. Likewise in my ministry days, my real work was to preach, teach, love, and touch the Body of Christ wherever I found it. The other tasks of the elder appointed to the charge or church were secondary. I often had to set priorities to do the work of Christ first and the work of the church second.

On a Monday morning, think about Ben-Hur: how did he survive his captivity? It was longer than a Monday for sure. He trusted God. We can do this too. Get your priorities straight.

Prayer for Lifelong Protection and Help

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;

incline your ear to me and save me.

Be to me a rock of refuge,

a strong fortress, to save me,

for you are my rock and my fortress.

~~Psalms 71:1-3

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!

Kitchen Experiments 

When I was a child, I had a science kit. My parents trusted me not to blow up the backyard carport or lose a digit in the process, but I don’t remember them supervising my experiments. In fact, once we children went outside, we were on our own, but I did live back in the late Stone Age. Even I watched my daughter when she was out and about nearly three decades ago. 

I had a deep sense of curiosity, which my parents nourished. As a result, I’ve never been afraid to try something new, to learn things outside of my comfort zone, or to stretch my boundaries beyond the familiar. This includes meeting new people. I’ve always figured a stranger was just a new best friend you haven’t met yet. And yes, I’ve met a few weirdos doing this, but I’ve also met some really neat folks also. 

Encouraging a sense of adventure keeps us young. This may be the attraction of the many meal in a box delivery services offered today. They decide the menu, find the spices and ingredients, get it to your door, and all the cook at home has to do is follow the directions. I like to go to my local grocery, find the seasonal foods, or clean out the remaining foods in my fridge, and see what I can create with them. I consider this a challenge, as if I were on a desert island with limited resources. What could I do with what I have? 

In a sense, all Kitchen experiments are science projects at heart, for all foods have unique properties: heat, time, salt, fat, and moisture all affect the taste and texture of the ingredients and the concoction. Change one and the others change also. Sometimes we add salt at the end of cooking so the food doesn’t toughen up or dry out. Only experience teaches this, for our tendency would be to dump in all our spices at once. After all, we want to taste test along the way. 

An interesting book, SUGAR SALT FAT, by Michael Moss, outlines the science behind the processed food industry. By concentrating fat, salt and sugar in products formulated for maximum “bliss,” Big Food has spent almost a century distorting the American diet in favor of calorie-dense products whose consumption pattern has been mirrored by the calamitous rise in obesity rates. Entire food categories were invented to support this strategy. This is why Resturant meals often have an entire day’s worth of calories and sodium packed into one serving and Lunchable meals (aimed at children) have over 800 mg of sodium each, an amount far too high for little bodies to consume. 

To eat healthy, many of us choose to eat at home instead, for we can experiment with different food combinations and make choices based on our own health needs. I always limit the salt and carbohydrates, due to blood pressure and glucose resistance. This same dish in a restaurant would be drowning in olive oil and much heavier with cheese. Most likely it would also have a grain pasta with it, so the serving size would be both smaller and more calorie dense. It would be off the menu for most people like me. 

The truth is, we can experiment with our recipes, but experiments with our health isn’t a good idea. Folks who overindulge with carbs or salt can damage their bodies. Retaining fluid is a sign of too much salt, such as around the ankles. Yeast infections can be a sign of too many carbs. Eating healthy is a better choice than eating poorly, even if someone else is cooking or cleaning up for you. If this is a novel adventure, step out and try it! 

You might want to try a Vegetable Lasagna, from Cornie’s Kitchen: Squash Lasagna. 

The registration is free, and the site is free. I hope you enjoy it!

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=3272393