I was born and raised by a Father and a Mother who loved each other. They were a solid couple who enjoyed life, had good values, and did their best to raise two children. After their children, my sister and me, left for college and life beyond the homeland of Green Bay, they continued their life and marriage. They had good friends and had a lot of fun, especially during the Lombardi era. My Dad was one of the Packers Directors and was good friends with Vince. He and my Mom had a wonderful life until … my Dad’s brain began to deteriorate and his behavior became erratic. After a period of continued uncharacteristic antics he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – at the age of fifty five!
My Mother’s love and devotion rose to the occasion and she took care of him until he died at the age of sixty seven. She was heroic in her continuing caretaking of him, especially with little support since their good “friends” tended to fall by the wayside – not willing or capable of being supportive.
To watch a handsome intelligent outgoing man with a wonderful personality deteriorate into a state of existence that no person should have to go through was heart wrenching – especially for my Mother. Some of the best potential years of her life, sharing it with the man she loved, were taken away from her by this insidious disease. She has endured and still lived a zestful life since his death. She cultivated a new group of special friends and has been a loving and generous Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother. She is now ninety three with an incredibly sharp brain. She reads, plays bridge, does crossword puzzles, and plays Scrabble and various card games on her computer. Recently she has moved in to live with Sherry and me. She continues to beat us at gin rummy and rummikub!
More personally, it is my hope that my brain genetics come more from my Mother than my Father! Whatever they are I am doing my best to continue to create new brain cells and slow down the decay of other brain matter. There are a number of things that I do to effectuate that goal. Some of the things that I do have recently been published in a Prevention magazine article. I share the seven recommendations cited in the article.
- Use internet search engines: When you search the internet you engage key centers in your brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. Such searching activity uses neural circuitry not activated by reading.
- Exercise: Researchers have demonstrated that aerobic exercise boosts not only speed and sharpness of thought but also the volume of brain tissue. The brain can grow!
- Brush and floss: Gingivitis and periodontal disease are associated with worse cognitive function throughout adult life. I doubt many people know that!
- Drink moderately (if you can handle it). Too much alcohol reduces brain volume.
- Eat blueberries: They promote increased cell growth in the hippocampus region of the brain. They contain chemicals that may cross the blood-brain barrier and lodge in regions that govern learning and memory.
- Do puzzles: A University of Alabama study of nearly 3000 men and women using brain booster exercises like puzzles found that their brains performed like those people more than ten years younger.
- Meditate: Meditation is more than a stress reducer. Research has shown that meditators have experienced growth in the cortex, an area of the brain that controls memory, language, and sensory processing. One of my favorite books in this area documenting the various benefits of certain types of meditation is THE RELAXATION RESPONSE by Herbert Benson, M.D., a prominent cardiologist and researcher at Harvard University.
Another thing that I do to take care of my brain is to focus on the positive. Positive thoughts and feelings create brain cells. Negative thoughts and feelings destroy brain cells. I have trained my brain to be aware of whenever I have a negative thought, I “change the channel” to something positive. It is a better way to live and, hopefully, a way of living longer with a healthy brain!
May this writing and the insights expressed further motivate you to make every effort possible to enhance your brain functioning. Seeing my Father in his final day has been a constant reminder to follow the above recommendations in addition to other brain training that I do. Give it your best shot!
“The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates