As Green Bay Packers’ coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Today, neurologists can explain exactly what the coach was on to.
When you practice learning something new – playing the piano, dribbling a basketball or using your computer mouse with your opposite hand – you’re building new neural pathways in your brain. The more intense the practice, the stronger and more functional those neural pathways, and the better you can play the piano or the more likely you are to make a three-pointer with your non-dominant hand.
Fortunately, old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and as you get older your brain can continue to build new pathways and get stronger, even if it’s at a slower pace than when you were a kid. To make sure your brain stays toned and ready to fire, the thought for the day? Aerobics. You can protect prefrontal and temporal gray matter volume and forge new neural pathways with daily activity. (Our suggestion for all ages: walking 100 steps a minute for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by 2.5 minutes of intense walking: 130 steps a minute. Repeat at least once sometime during your day.)
Happily, this brain-building technique also can help folks who develop a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s, in which old pathways are lost and new ones are hard to develop. At Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, intense exercise improves symptoms for more than 30 percent of people with Parkinson’s.
Now, can you remember how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
Ghost poop? Here’s the scoop
The Ghostbusters were out to vanquish green goop; but if you have ghost poop (we’re not kidding), it takes more than an ectoplasmic slime-buster to get your bowels moving smoothly. Ghost poop happens because you – and the rest of us – live a stuck-in-a-meeting, riding-in-the-car, nowhere-near-a-bathroom life. And when your body sends you the message that you gotta go, you can’t always take the time or find a place to make a pit stop.
That makes your guts unhappy, because your fecal matter lingers too long and loses moisture, getting hard and pellet-like. That clogs up the area above a trap door that opens so your waste can move. Then when you feel like you have to go and you finally make it to the bathroom, there’s nothing there. Ghost poop.
This isn’t good for your digestion, and chronic bowel troubles may be linked to immune system problems, weight gain and hemorrhoids.
Your body knows what you need to do and when you need to do it. But we also know that isn’t always possible. So if you find that you are having to hold it in, make sure you drink plenty of fluid all day long to help keep the poop soft enough to make a graceful exit when the time comes. Busted!
Real men eat broccoli
Broccoli and a shopping cart full of fruits and other veggies are packed with flavonoids (phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and prevent and repair cellular damage). And guys who eat flavonoid-packing foods slash their risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer by 25 percent.
About 11 percent of diagnosed cases of prostate cancer are aggressive, but until recently it was difficult to be sure if you had a wait-and-watch form of the disease or one that called for surgery. There’s now a blood test that can pick out biomarkers for aggressive forms of the disease early enough to make treatment more effective. But the best situation is to stop prostate cancer before it starts!
How? Walk 10,000 steps a day; meditate in the morning and at night; avoid all tobacco; and chow down on a smorgasbord of fruits and veggies. The guys who benefited the most in the study favored cooked greens, citrus fruits and juices such as oranges and grapefruits, and grapes, strawberries and onions. Other good sources of phytonutrients include apples (the flavonoids are in the skin), blueberries, cabbage, capers, dark chocolate, all kinds of tea and, of course, broccoli.
The tomato surprise
For a long time we’ve told you that tomatoes (loaded with lycopene) boost heart health, help protect your vision, may lower the risk of some cancers and offer protection against brittle bones and the harmful effects of the sun. Now we can add a nice surprise to that list: confirmation that tomatoes and their stores of lycopene lower the risk of all arterial diseases, especially stroke. Seems they reduce bad LDL cholesterol (a half-cup serving of tomato sauce every day can lower LDL as much as statins) and slash overall inflammation.
For more benefit, have your tomatoes cooked. That increases the amount of bioavailable lycopene and makes it easier for your body to absorb it. When tomatoes bubble up, they double down on goodness.
Other food sources of lycopene: papaya, watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava. So have a glass of pink grapefruit juice with a fruit salad of guava, papaya and watermelon, followed by a thick marinara sauce over 100 percent whole-grain pasta, and watch your RealAge get a whole lot younger.
How to cut your risk for PHPT
While dairy can deliver a lot of calcium, there are other ways to get your daily dose. And that’s especially important for postmenopausal women, who are at the greatest risk for primary hyperparathyroidism, or PHPT. There are 100,000 new cases in the U.S. every year. Most are women over 75, but PHPT is an equal-opportunity ailment if you’re younger.
PHPT triggers the release of excess parathyroid hormone from the parathyroid gland (behind the thyroid) in your neck. That leaches calcium from your bones and into your bloodstream. (Parathyroid hormone controls calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D levels in your blood and bones.) The result: osteoporosis, kidney stones and cardiovascular problems.
So start now to increase your calcium intake. In one study, women with the most calcium-rich diet were 44 percent less likely to get PHPT. Salmon and sardines, almonds, sunflower seeds, collard greens, kale, arugula, okra, broccoli rabe and dried beans are all calcium-packed. And consider a calcium supplement – women who took 500 milligrams a day slashed their risk of PHPT by 59 percent. We think you should aim for 1,200 milligrams a day, half of it from food. Plus: Vitamin D-3 (1,000 IU a day; 1,200 for those over 60) and magnesium (400 to 500 milligrams) from food or supplements to build strong bones.