Before you find yourself searching to remember anything, take note. Really, take note! (Writing things down is a big memory boost!) Brain power can be maintained, even improved, when you hit the prime of life: 45 and older. And we want you to do so. (How else will you remember what we write in these columns?) All you have to do is pump up your brain power.
Your goal is to make your heart strong and your arteries open, flexible rivers of nutrient-delivering blood. You’ll slow aging of thought-transmitting neurons. And grow – or regrow – your neurons with activity and some great foods. So try these:
•Eat brain-fuel foods.
To slow age-related mental decline, dig into salmon and walnuts (for the omega-3s), blueberries (phytonutrients), kale (carotenoids and flavonoids), mustard (the turmeric turns on genes that clean up brain-cell poop) and eggs (selenium rolls back the brain’s age).
•Amp up your physical activity.
Go for at least 10,000 steps a day, and rev production of your brain cells’ own Miracle-Gro, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). You’ll end up with more brain cells and better neural connections. You’ll also control blood sugar and blood pressure. (Too high, and they beat up your brain.) Dr. Mike’s recommended numbers for BP are 115/75; Dr. Oz stays around 110/75.
So don’t give it another thought – just act to better your brain power.
Good intentions, good results
The road to where is paved with good intentions? Not what you’re thinking. Good intentions, it turns out, deliver you to the corner of happiness and good health, where there’s a load of pleasure, pain relief and good taste. And we are going to help guide you there – all it takes is optimism and positive thinking.
The University of Maryland Mind Perception and Morality Lab’s mind-probing studies show what you do may be important, but it’s why you do it – your intent – that shapes your life and the lives of people around you.
For people on the receiving end of good intentions – even when the intentions go a bit awry – the world is more pleasant. For example, if your foot gets stomped on by someone intentionally, that really hurts. Same stomp, but a big mistake? The pain isn’t as intense.
Or in a test, if you slurp down what you think is “Grandma’s homemade chicken soup,” it tastes better than “canned” soup – even if “Grandma’s” is from a can and the store-bought soup is actually made with love by your Nana.
How can you use this brain trick to be healthier and happier? If you want to enjoy food more and get the most pleasure out of life, act with good intentions and attribute good intentions to others. That’ll reduce your stress, and the harm that comes from tension and pessimism.
Head lice not nice
Itchy. Icky. Almost invisible. For up to 12 million folks in the U.S. this year, head lice will be a hard-to-handle social crisis – but, fortunately, not really a health problem. Parents everywhere are horrified if their kids bring home the little buggers from a play date.
Once one person in your house gets them, the creatures don’t stay put. Head lice can jump to bedding, pillows, even stuffed animals, and spread to every family member. But they’re not disease-carrying SCUD missiles. Just sesame-seed-size parasites that take patience and persistence to eradicate.
The good news: They don’t signal that you – or anyone else – are dirty. And over-the-counter creams with 1 percent permethrin are effective, some of the time, although the bugs are getting resistant. The newest treatment is a 5 percent benzyol alcohol lotion that KOs the creeps 92 percent of the time after two weekly applications. Don’t apply to hair that’s been freshly washed with a conditioning shampoo or rinsed with a conditioner. It won’t be able to kill the bugs. Make sure to leave the medicine on for the recommended treatment time. Once you’ve treated the lice, you want to hot-water wash (130 F will do it) and dry (high-heat setting) all clothes and bedding the bugged person came in contact with.
When the infestation is gone, keep it away by teaching your kids (and yourself) to avoid head-to-head contact and not to share combs, brushes, hats, scarves or earphones. No lice. Very nice.
Can you hear me now?
Beyonce blaring at the gym. Kelly Clarkson crankin’ while you jog. And The Cars grooving on the freeway. We want you to know that wherever you use earbuds to hardwire your favorite tunes into your brain, you can keep on listening to great sounds by dialing down the earbuds to, at most, 60 percent of max volume – then you’ll still be able to enjoy Norah Jones 60 years from now.
Turns out your iPod can pump out more than 100 decibels. To keep the delicate hair cells in your inner ear that transmit sound impulses to the brain working perfectly, dial it down so you can hear conversation around you, too. And listen to the lovely sounds of your kids or your sweetheart once in a while. These days the latest devices are built to let you groove to the tunes for hours at a time. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels also can injure your hair cells and make Norah seem unhearable. And any sound (think rock concert or Harley Davidson) that hits 120 to 150 decibels may inflict immediate harm.
Set the volume so that you are still tuned in to the world outside your earbuds (that’s, at most, 75 decibels), and so other people cannot hear what’s playing.
Dodging hidden sugar dangers
Here in Sugar Nation, you down 70 pounds of added sugars each year. These are crammed into and hidden in the foods you think are good for you (flavored oatmeal, many yogurts and fat-free and low-fat salad dressings). Fooling you and fueling your addiction to sugar.
We know your body and brain need the sugar and carbs found naturally in foods – just not so much that it addicts your brain. We have been saying for a long time that you can be younger and healthier by eating no more than 4 grams of added sugars per hour. So while you’re on sugar patrol, looking to keep excess sweet out of your diet, keep these tips in mind:
• Enjoy the sugar that’s naturally in foods such as fruit, veggies and 100 percent whole grains.
• Be on nutritional label alert. If there is an added sugar in the first five ingredients on the label, avoid that product. Generally, what’s in parentheses doesn’t count in the top five, but if the ingredient has an “-ose” in it, beware. Dextrose, sucrose, glucose and their aliases, molasses, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup, or corn sugar), honey, fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup, rice syrup and evaporated cane juice – all signs of sugar-loading.
• And if strangers offer you candy, don’t accept. Counter with small portions of nuts, 1/4 ounce portions of 70 percent or more dark chocolate, and fruit like apples.