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Every Month: a Review of Major Teaching Points

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A Power Program for Student Review

Course Coverage 2016

  • Jan Fit To Last
  • Feb Urbanized Eating
  • Mar Mind & Memory
  • April Special Senses
  • May Metabolic Syndromes
  • June Sugar Diabetes
  • July Diabetes Complications
  • Aug Aging
  • Sept Atheroma
  • Oct Longevity
  • Nov Cancer
  • Dec Predicaments
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As modern development spreads to nations globally, the proportion of elderly they contain is reaching levels never before known in human history. Japan leads the way in both numbers and coping strategies. They are introducing measures as varied as postponing the general retirement age into the 70s…to developing robotic panda dolls that comfort the elderly: warm, cuddly, purring and responsive when petted by lonely individuals day or night.

Just as the body has left and right sides, so does the brain…plus a top and bottom. The top of the brain is recent, called New Brain, and makes us human, giving us our personalities. The bottom is ancient, where our moods lie. It sits atop the spinal cord and called Old Brain. Let’s consider New Brain as it ages. It  often shows lapses early on, lapses in recalling names of people, places, things. The lapsed name is lodged somewhere in the brain’s stores but accessing it in a conversation produces the familiar ‘senior moment.’ Rarely a sign of dementia, of greatest patient concern, it’s an opportunity to begin age-proofing the one organ system most responsible for personality and personal dignity.

The rate that a brain ages varies from one individual to the next, partly as a function of family genes (over which there’s little control) and partly as a result of personal habits of food and fitness, including nicotine and alcohol. A wealth of studies support the effectiveness of habit changes made to push back ‘senior moments’. Most involve the feet in daily walks, with the mantra,..Never accept ‘senior moments’ sitting down.’

Beyond the brain-building benefits of regular muscle activity there are mental exercises that also improve cognition and recall. One mental exercise begins with a deliberate focus on whatever you must remember…with total attention. You can further reinforce remembering by hearing yourself repeat it aloud or by secretly embellishing it with an extra detail or two. These are proven techniques for rebuilding memory muscle. Each Cautionary Tale on this website uses another mnemonic device (days of the week)…but make up your own for a personalized convenient memory trick.

Food and drink have ancient relationships with mind and mood…think coffee and tea or alcohol and sugar…even chocolate. Studies of dementia improvement  support a food intake that emphasizes fruits & vegetables (for the antioxidants) and ocean fish (for omega-3 fats). All-American preferences for high fat meat and cheese foods are brain bummers, and unredeemed by adding some red wine.

Studies of the effects of isolated nutrients on the brain function of lab animals show cognitive improvements from many, including garlic, vitamin D, soybeans, choline and omega-3 oil. All are interesting and might contribute to brain science but remain of little benefit to anyone concerned about memory loss. The most science-supported strategies are those already touched upon above.

Memory deteriorates during sustained mood states such as chronic anxiety or stress. Small and manageable levels give a beneficial boost to brain function but sustained or excessive levels greatly compromise brain function…even leading to personality disorders. The seriously depressed are also at great risk of memory loss…even early dementia.

A sedentary life, however actively one lives online, is a life that encourages early memory loss. Regularly worked muscles release chemicals that tone the brain for better performance. In addition, those individuals with large face-to-face social networks have the best cognitive and recall skills by test. Friends and family help provide the security and stimulus a brain thrives on for good memory muscle.

A sedentary retirement that carries no daily obligations and little mental stimulation…is a brain-in-decline situation to be avoided. But the brain also needs regular workouts with old skills like reading, writing and arithmetic. Exercise your public library card. and take on daily challenges like crossword puzzles or computer games improve thinking skills by maintaining brain muscle.

The brain is the body’s Supreme Headquarters for most purposeful activity. It responds to streams of electrical signals from eyes and ears, and newly recognized chemical signals from worked muscles. It keeps track of all signals to remember and direct appropriate responses. Brain performance is hurt by toxic exposures like alcohol, smoking, drugs and even certain medications. Smoking or chewing tobacco sends a cloud of chemicals into the bloodstream several of which when isolated and put into test animals lead to brain cell inflammation and neuron death. Edit your lifestyle for its brain burdens.

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