Five easy memory tricks

With two of our four parents succumbing to complications due to Alzheimer’s, memory maintenance is of interest to my wife and me. Readers’ Digest ran an article by Andrea Au Levitt called “5 Easy Memory Tricks.” Her intro paragraph follows:

“You know that eating healthy, staying active, and solving a few brain games can help keep you sharp. But these lesser known habits work wonders, too.”

1. Sit tall – when slouching it follows or promotes defeated, anxious and depressive thoughts, which hinder memory.

2. Exercise – once – gains in memory after one exercise are similar to gains after regular exercise (note still do the regular stuff).

3. Limit TV – including online versions of TV, too much screen time can harm cognitive development and maintenance.

4. Doodle – people can remember things better if they doodle or draw a picture of what they are thinking of. Writing the words of the thing is not as memorable as drawing a picture.

5. Walk backward – real, imagined or watched walking backward or even forward, can help remember something. So, in keeping with #2 above, take a walk (and walk backwards on occasion).

Let me take one of the above and break it down more. One of the examples from Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking to strangers,” notes that torture is a horrible way to gain information. Why? Under trauma, people remember less than they would normally. The comment about sitting tall in #1 above, notes if we slouch we increase anxiety or depressive thoughts, a mild form of trauma.

Outside of the walking backward, I do the above things. The sitting tall actually helps this tall person with his back. As for doodling, for some reason when I work the various puzzles in the newspaper, I blacken in the circular letters (O’s, D’s, P’s etc.) in the title of the advice section (sorry Dear Abby). Maybe it helps me with the puzzles (or advice).

As I leave you, think of Barbra Streisand walking backward singing “Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.”

Wednesday walkabout – October 16, 2019

I went for a hike a day early, so I will write with tired legs. I shouldn’t be too tired as I ran into an old friend hiking this weekend on a local trail. He said he was walking after minor surgery, so he could start training for a 50 mile race. Yikes! It put my three mile walk to shame.

I used to run road races, but would never be confused with a fast runner. Once, as I neared the finish line of an 8K race, a girl nudged her father at one of the turns and said “Dad, look at him!” Unfortunately, she was pointing at me. The longest road race I ever ran was a 15K. To my surprise, they put out a list of how we finished. I came in second….from last. I did notice one person who cheated cutting off part of the course, so I actually finished third from last.

I was one of the boys who grew up fast. I was 6’0″ tall in the 8th grade. But, my foot speed was slower than when I was a quick football player in the 6th grade. I did eventually get faster, but would not ever be considered fast.

To my chagrin, my high school basketball coach also coached the cross country team. So, we had to run cross country to train. The coach liked to make us run gassers at the end of a long run. Gassers are finishing off with two 880s, four 440s, and eight 220s. At night, I would sometimes wake up to leg cramps, which was not fun.

This will sound strange, but I would rather run an 880 over a 440 anyday. On the latter, you feel like it is a sprint, so you run out of gas at the end.

So, I think I will leave the running to my friend. Hiking is much more sustainable.

 

Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.

Happy heart day to all

Although it is a corporate-based holiday, let’s take a moment to wish a healthy heart for all on this Valentine’s Day. Here are a few random thoughts to sink your sweet tooth into.

– Walk more, drive less. If possible, walk with a friend. Holding hands is optional, highly dependent on the closeness of the friendship.

– Dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate, but far worse for your pet. The latter should not be fed to a pet either. I will let you judge if it is an aphrodisiac. That would not be bad for your heart, if it were.

– Those little candied sweet hearts are nice for fifth graders, but I would rather waste my sugar limit on something else. See dark chocolate above.

– Fewer carbs, more fruits and nuts. But, I do miss good bread, potatoes and pasta. Well, maybe just a little every now and then.

– Work on your core. Yoga, Pilates, calisthenics or all the above work. It only takes ten to fifteen minutes a day and alter your routines to keep it fresh. Also it may help with that aphrodisiac thing.

– More hugs, more laughter. Hugs may be the best medicine of all. Laughter is right up there as well. If we can bring warmth, comfort and humor to each other, we could solve more problems.

– Singjng out loud regardless of talent is good for your soul. It is also good for your heart. Getting the words right is optional.

– Finally, a helping hand makes you and the recipient feel better. Doing good for others makes you feel good about yourself. And, guys always remember a man will never be shot while doing the dishes.

A virtual hug to all. Peace be with you. Now, where is that dark chocolate?

A foreboding observation

One of my relatives has had the misfortune of breaking a hip, which is not a fun thing to do. Since I have been the principal chauffeur for her many doctor and rehab visits, I have made an unfortunate, but telling observation that is foreboding for us all.  Based on my observations in the waiting room, the dominant majority of patients over the age of 30 in an orthopedic office are obese.

I recognize fully this is not an unbiased statistical sampling. Yet, I kept thinking of what a nurse friend told me about our bodies. Our bone structures are not designed to carry so much extra weight. They will break down. I believe I was seeing first hand evidence of such. This is a foreboding lesson for us all.

Over the past five years, through brief morning stretching routines, walking and smaller portions of meals and snacks, I have lost forty pounds. My goal is to walk on my own for the rest of my life. A geriatric doctor said there are two inflection points on the demise of an elderly person. The first is the inability to drive. The lost freedom is impactful both physically and mentally. The second is the inability to walk unassisted. When this occurs, all sorts of challenges evolve for the patient.

Through my work as a benefit consultant and manager, I became aware of a key data point. The United States is the most obese nation in the world. We are all train wrecks waiting to happen. When we add all of this together, the lesson to be learned is we must do something about our weight. Even a little bit helps. While I have lost forty pounds, I could use about five to ten more less. Or, at least I would like to come in closer proximity to one or two pack abs. Six pack abs would be a pipe dream.

The stretching I do is a combination of Pilates, Yoga, Isometrics and mild weightlifting. They last fifteen minutes and are so limited in exertion that I do them after my shower. The key is they vary daily and are sustainable, which is vital. One day it is stand-up stretching, the next day is floor stretching and the third day is light weightlifting. Then, I start again. The fact I vary them keep me engaged. If I did the same thing everyday, I would get bored.

The above is balanced out with walking and swimming. Plus, the yard and pool boy is the one typing this post. As for the eating, it has taken time, but I eat smaller meals and snacks. Portion control is key, but another contributor is little bread. My wife is on a low-carb diet and that makes a huge difference. We love bread, pasta, potatoes and rice, but we now eat much less of them.

Folks, we must get a better handle on our weight. I am not saying we must look like the after pictures advertised on TV, but we could benefit from exercise and eating better. The alternatives are not pretty if we don’t. Higher blood pressure and risk of falling become more pronounced. So, let’s get moving and eating better.

Win or lose with class

It seems too many of us have lost a sense of fairness in competition. Be it sports or politics, too many of us feel it matters less if the game was fair, as long as my tribe wins. That is unfortunate as we should strive to be like our better angels and win or lose with class.

Whether the sport is a team game or an individual competition, winning means so much more if it is done the right way. Also, if your team gives it a great shot, but falls short, how the loss is handled matters a great deal. As a participant and a fan, I have had my share of heartbreaking losses. I had to learn as a boy to be a better sport, which is a necessary lesson that a coach or parent must impart.

Sports is just a game. For fans, it is entertainment. For participants, it is a way to test yourself and earn a living, if you are very good at it. But, unlike gladiators, no one dies at the end. No one loses a close friend or mother. Yet, people place the utmost importance to their tribe. If their team wins, it elevates them above their routine lives. If their team loses, they feel less about themselves. To be frank, whether my team wins or loses makes me feel one way or the other, but it is about the outcome not my life.

Politics has become the same way, very tribal in nature. My party must win and your party must lose. Doing our business to solve real problems is less relevant than winning. I want real problems solved. I don’t want politicians appeasing funders. But, the more important tribe is the country for which these elected officials represent. That is what matters the most, yet we lose sight of that.

As a player, I have never been a fan of trash talking. It shows poorly on the talker and dishonors fair competition. I feel the same about labeling and name-calling a political opponent. It reveals a lack of character and a poor argument. In politics, it gets in the way of working together. I can assure you as an independent voter and former member of both parties, neither side has all the good ideas, and both have some pretty bad ones. In fact, the good ideas seem to be drowned out by ideas to solve overstated problems. It is essential to work together.

After 9/11, one of the more profound pieces of advice came from a professional basketball announcer named Gerry Vaillancourt. On his talk show after 9/11, the callers discussed what we must do to quickly get back at someone for the four attacks, one which was thwarted. Vaillancourt disagreed. He said we need to be very calm and diligent as we gather our information, taking the necessary time to get it right. Only then, should we act. He said our calmness will be unnerving. I think about his words as they came from an unexpected source and they ring so true. In life and in sport, you should be more wary of the quiet person.

To me, this is in keeping with treating others like you want to be treated. You do your very best to compete with fairness and, win or lose, do so with class. If you cheat or show your hind end, you will be remembered for that as well. And, one thing sports teaches us is how to handle failure. The very best baseball hitters will fail seven times out of ten. Even the best of boxers get knocked down. So, in life, when you do get knocked down, you get back up, dust yourself off and keep going.

Yoga is not anti-Christian

It may surprise people that a 59 year old man took a Yoga class with his wife for thirteen sessions. It may also surprise you that I do a short daily routine of exercises after my shower that includes some Yoga stretches and breathing techniques. I mention this next fact as it is germane – I grew up a Southern Baptist and remain a Christian to this day, but must confess I am not a regular church goer.

I have tried on several occasions to encourage my sister to exercise more. On at least three occasions, I have suggested some relative easy Yoga poses and noted the breathing techniques will be of benefit. She noted her breathing has gotten heavier with some unwanted weight gain. But, when I use the phrase Yoga, she shuts me down. Why?

Unlike me, my sister became even more evangelical in her worship as a Southern Baptist. For those not in tune, the Southern Baptists believe strongly that their manner of worship is the only way to find heaven. I know some other religions feel the same, but this is my perspective having grown up with it. People may disagree and that is fine.

She has been taught that Yoga is more about being a mystical religion than it is about improving your body and mind. She has been taught that it is at odds with Christianity. I shared that many Christians do Yoga and if you check out TV commercials about almost any product, you will witness people doing Yoga in the background or forefront. I can count at least 30 commercials that fit this bill.

Yoga is more about being at peace with your breathing, meditation and stretching. Becoming and remaining flexible will serve us all well as we age. But, the breathing is essential as well. It helps oxygenate the muscles as they are used and helps the lung power. People who sing can breathe better because they have to control their breathing between notes. Measured and deep breathing is helpful.

As for the meditation, not everyone does this part. But, it is your brain. You can meditate over any thoughts you want. My wife shared with me a post that spoke of woman starting and building a women’s exercise group at her church. The minister was supportive and appreciated the growing church attendance until he walked in on a class meditating. It was irrelevant that they were meditating over an offered bible verse. The next sermon was on the evils of Yoga and church service declined as a result of his shortsightedness. A link to this post is below.

In my latest suggestion to my sister, that fell on deaf ears, I said let’s don’t call it Yoga, let’s call it George. She laughed but left the Yoga with me. The next time, I will just show her a few different stretches without naming them. My thrust is I want to be able to self-ambulate (walk on my own) until I die. The inability to walk without help is one of the milestones where a person’s demise hastens. Her added weight is causing her concern on this matter, hence her brother’s interest.

I am a Christian. I believe in the overarching theme that we should treat others like we wanted to be treated. Yoga was not mentioned in the bible. So, in my way of thinking, if I am making a suggestion to do Yoga as it helps me, I am following the Golden Rule. I am treating another the way I want to be treated. Yoga is not anti-Christian and don’t let anyone tell it is not.

Note: Here is a link to the post:

https://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/southern-baptist-yoga/