It’s been awhile since I’ve done a potpourri post, but I’ve been collecting health tidbits for months. I’m now sharing these for your enlightenment, in case you missed them.
In the general health category: drinking can reduce the risk of death. This was reported in the September 4, 2017 issue of Time magazine. The snippet cited the finding in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Light to moderate drinking correlated to a 20% reduced risk of death (vs. no drinking at all). “Light to moderate” was defined as 14 or fewer drinks per week for men and 7 or fewer for women. Looks like I need to uncork a bottle of vino more often. There goes that diet where I count calories…
About a month later another report in Time informed us that the American Heart Association found evidence that meditation lowers blood pressure or stress hormones. The net takeaway? Lowered risk factors for heart disease. I’m a big believer in meditation. But now I’m stressed because when I’ve had a glass or two of wine, I have difficulty focusing well enough to meditate. Choices, choices.
This same issue promised that just an hour or two of exercise each week could prevent depression. Based on my experience, so can a few glasses of Chianti Classico. The American Journal of Psychiatry studied 33,000 people for this report. Those who didn’t exercise were 44% more likely to develop depression during the 11-year follow-up phase. No guidance was provided on what constituted “exercise,” but I doubt that it was lifting a wine glass every evening.
This next tidbit from a double issue of Time in July 2017 came as no surprise to me: “Forgetting things can make you smarter.” I did a blog post on a related topic in July 2013—“Why We Forget More As We Age.” Time reported an item in Neuron that claimed forgetting the old stuff “clears out details that don’t matter,” making room for newer (and presumably more useful) info. My post provided a scientific basis for this. For starters: Similar to the way that a woman is born with a finite number of eggs in her ovaries, our brains have a finite capacity for the number of things we can remember.
My explanation continued. Once our hippocampus is full (usually as we approach retirement age), there’s no more room for new stuff. Depending on your sentiments and the type of brain you have, you either fail to store any new information, or the new information bumps out something older that’s already in there. I then launched into an explanation of the accounting methods LIFO (Last In, First Out) and FIFO (First In, First Out) and how to control your brain type. I won’t bore you with where this went. If you want to know, read the 2013 post: https://retirementsparks.blogspot.com/2013/07/why-we-forget-more-as-we-age.html
I will, however, share this suggestion that I made: Scientific advancements enable a woman to use a donor egg to create a baby. We need to co-opt that science for gray matter in order to counteract the forgetfulness that comes with aging. We donate blood. We donate bone marrow. Is it too much to ask to be able to donate a few cells from one hippocampus to another?
Finally, the Healthy You column in the August-September 2017 AARP Magazine was titled: “When Your Brain Has A Mind of Its Own.” In it, Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky provided some insight into how our previous experiences can influence the way we interpret current life situations. He contends, “Our most impulsive actions aren’t always determined by the moments when they happen.”
He further explained why some people feel more stress than other folks. His most useful (but not earth shattering) observations: If you have no control over what’s going on, you’ll be stressed. Ditto if you don’t have any outlets for your frustration and you lack social support. I think Sapolsky is missing a significant causal factor for stress in our lives: the absence of a fine glass of wine when we really need one. He also missed one foolproof way to reduce stress.
Here’s my quartet of anti-stress advice: get a hobby, cultivate a few good friends, and stock up on fine wine or a nice IPA craft beer. Then grab one of the cats that you adopted form the local shelter for a relaxing, purr-filled nap.