Saturday, 13 October 2012

I owe it to myself

I sometimes wonder which bits of me are going to pack up first as I head towards old age. I've been lucky up to now with my health, maybe because I've spent a lot of years working a manual job mostly outdoors. Or maybe it's all down to my genes, I don't know. I think there's a lot of truth in the saying use it or lose it, and I have certainly been using my body more than my brains, so maybe my body will go on and on, and I will eventually lose my marbles. Maybe, perhaps, I don't know. 
At this moment in time, like a lot people of retirement age in their sixties, I am trying to keep busy, mentally and physically. I owe it to myself to at least try and stay as physically active and as mentally alert as I can. No one's going to do it for me, it's down to purely my own efforts to make the most of what I have left, and to make it last as long as I can. 
No one can escape the fact that we are all destined for the graveyard one way or another, OMG, I'll try not to sound morbid and depressing on this Saturday morning. But the truth is that some will get to the finishing line before they either want to or need to. Who knows what is going to strike us down, there are so many variables which influence how long we have on this earth. 
I do believe however that there are some things which we can do to help ourselves. Whether we chose to take note of all the information on healthy living which is out there, is another matter. Oh I know some folks will say we don't know what to believe as the scientists come up with one new theory after another. More experiments, more tests, this works, that doesn't, it can be very confusing. I like to read up all I can, then make my own choices on what seems obvious to me. Like not smoking, eat plenty of veg and fruit, very little alcohol, get up and move about a lot, as much excercise as I like, and activities to stimulate my brain. Informed choices is what I think they call it. 
So where do I get my information from? The internet and the library. Every so often I will pick a book up which I think might be usefull to me in my quest to stay healthy. A lot of the information inside I will already know about, but it's good to keep reminding myself of what is good and what is bad for my body. 
Let's get to the book.     
Doctor Smith has been writing since 1977 after spending time as a general practitioner, and working in medical science. He writes the Doctor columns in The Guardian.

I found this book very informative, as well as pointing out the obvious downfalls of choosing an unhealthy lifestyle, it goes that bit further with explaining exactly why you shouldn't consume certain foods and drinks, detailing what it will do to your body, and in the case of this book, the mind.

People generally think of smoking as bad for the lungs, but it is also very bad for the whole of your body, including the brain. It can accelerate the process of dementia. I'm not singling out smokers here, in fact just about every unhealthy habit you can think of will affect the brain in some way. But, I quote from Doctor Smith, "Smoking is a stupid, suicidal habit for anyone. How exactly does it harm you? It first poisons the red blood cells so that they cannot pick up and distribute much needed oxygen to the organs and tissues, including the heart muscle". I don't think I'll go on, read the book if you want to know the rest, but it makes for pretty grim reading if you are a smoker.

To sum up, there is some hope. Doctor Smith points out that brain cells are constantly changing, renewing, and making new and more connections with their neighbours and with similar cells further afield. Even in older ages the brain cells can recover and regroup, and there are ways which we can enhance that process. There is a lot of usefull information in this book, even if it reminds us of what we already know. A usefull reference book to return to again and again.

Enjoy your weekend. Toodle pip.


  1. Everything in moderation is my mantra. I don't believe if I follow all the rules I shall live longer. It will just seem like it. :-)

  2. It isn't my mantra Ilona. I just looked the word up and it doesn't mean what I thought it meant.

  3. Quick off the mark there John, you've commented even before I've finished editing. Nothing wrong with your brain :0)

  4. As a dementia specialist in the NHS it seems to me that you're doing everything right already - eating healthily, not smoking, drinking only in moderation and keeping brain and body active. Keep it up and lets hope all this preventative stuff works! x

  5. Smoking is the absolute worst thing you can do to your body and most intelligent people dont do it. It is an addiction however, and quite difficult to cure. Medical scientists are alway calculating new formulae but none of them suggest that you sit on the couch all day, get zero exercise and smoke and drink.
    I am older than you Illona and there are a couple of things I would add. Being pro-active in controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol - start by finding out the numbers and tracking over the years and going on meds if you are advised too. Be religious about this. So many people avoid tackling these issues and it is such a shame. The other thing is bone density. A lot of bad outcomes at our age and older are due to falls and breaks. Osteoporosis cant be felt and particularly affects thin white women. Again a wellness clinic will do a quick test for you.
    You are doing great and I should think your risks of dementia are quite low.

  6. Hi Ilona, No smoking or drinking here, but I do have quite a sweet tooth. Been lucky in that I could eat whatever I liked and not put on weight, but need to be more careful now. There was a programme on in the Summer; Horizon and it was called, Eat, Fast and Live Longer. Here is the link if you want to watch it. From about 43 minutes onwards is relevant to your post on the Dementia book review.

    Do my best to eat reasonably healthily, but I know I could probably do more. I admire your efforts at how well you take care of yourself. I think if you continue as you are, you don't have anything to worry about. Cheers for now, Christy.

    PS. Forgot to put this in my previous post re the doggie treats. Maybe of use if you haven't signed up already.

  7. I'll take quality of life please....which is why I eat well and have never smoked.
    Jane x

  8. It is not just keeping your brain active, it is learning or trying to learn new things, like a second language. I read in a similar doctor advice place that you don't even have to complete a new math problem, learn a language or complete to Sudoku. The struggle is the part that keeps your brain active and growing new connections.

    When I encourage GED (high school alternative program) to read more, often older women said, "Oh, I read for 4 hours a day." Hmmm, really, then why do you have the reading skills of an eight-year-old? I thought. It turns out that they read the Bible daily. Okay, good for you. But, as I pointed out--we know the stories, we know the specific language, we recognize the cadence. So, new reading matter was in order.

    We need the kind of mental gymnastics that gives us a slight headache and frustrates us. If you can complete a mental task with ease, you are not getting the brain exercise that leads to prevention of dementia. This gives the brain the workout it needs. Learning a new language is particulary good at this type brain exercise. A professor had a goal when he retired--learning to play the piano. Of course, learning any new skill will help--crochet, puzzles of any kind that are a challenge, gardening and all the things to learn, taking apart an engine and putting it back just has to be a challenge. When it is not a mental challenge, go farther into whatever so that you are not comfortable.

    I don't drink or smoke. Oh, I will drink 3 tbsp of champagne on NYE, but rarely any other time of the year. I do get the challenging mental workout every day. My need for three surgeries on joints has slowed me down and I will never regain my strength fully. I accept that. I will just regain all I can!

    Just thinking about the future and doing something about the brain and body connection is not something everyone does.

  9. Both of my grandparent smoked and lived well into nineties.They never saved but were very lucky in finances.Both were very alert,kind and healthy.
    Yes they did drink vodka a lot.
    They did not care about the future but lived each day like is the last.
    Both did not eat meat.

  10. Thanks for the timely reminder Ilona! I have had a pretty unhealthy first week at uni, although I do get quite a bit of exercise each day as they decided to put the uni at the top of the biggest hill you've ever seen!!

    I will eat much more healthily this week. I need a kick up the bum because both my Nana and my Dad have had heart attacks (even though they were both pretty young and fit at the time!), so I am almost certainly prone to the same problem. I need to cut out the junk, especially biscuits!


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