Good morning, friends.

Here we are, the last day of 2017, which has certainly had its share of tough times for many of our friends and families, who, sadly, lost their homes during the dreadful fires here in Napa County and elsewhere in the Bay Area, as well as the fires in Southern California.

Hopefully, the re-building and moving on, is taking place successfully. Certainly, that is in all of our wishes and prayers.

Tomorrow, we’ll be saying hello to the New Year, 2018. ‘New’ anything has a fresh, bright new beginning feel to it. I always love the new year, with a fresh new face to it, a chance to change what you can, learn from your mistakes, and start a new, clean slate. It’s never too late to make the changes in our lives that you aspire to.

Since we gather here to discuss issues that come up regarding being older adults, I’ve done a little research on memory. When I’m tired, I have trouble remembering names, and I want to do everything I can to improve that situation. While I understand that, as older adults, it’s normal to become somewhat forgetful, let’s do our best to stay ahead of the wave.

The very best advice I found was a study on early stages of dementia. A frightening thought, but I found excellent advice for us just the same. While it talks about brain health it tells us that heart health and brain health are directly intertwined. Like the heart, the brain needs a healthy supply of oxygen and nutrients to function properly, which are delivered via the blood stream.

Following is a study done by the Blue Zone in Ikaria, Greece. (You may recall when we discussed the Blue Zone, a study done on where people live healthy, long, contented lives in different areas of the world. Ikaria, Greece is one of the Blue Zones.)

Here are 5 scientifically-proven tips that will help us to lead a life similar to the people in the Blue Zones. Remember, these tips apply to a healthy heart, as well as a healthy mind.

1. Walk Daily. By walking about 5 miles per week we increase our brain volume.

Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle can more than double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, making it a more impactful than heavy smoking.

2. Combat Depression. Stress and depression contribute to the onset of many chronic diseases. It is not surprising that depression is an early warning sign of dementia.

A growing body of evidence supports the preventive effect of a positive attitude and purpose in life on mental decline. Strategies to help us in this endeavor include volunteering, appealing to a higher power, (such as practicing a religion), also meditating and using deep breathing techniques.

Their suggestion for severe depression is to seek a trained professional.

3. Cut the Smoking Habit. Several studies show heavy smokers (20 + cigarettes a day) have reduced gray matter density as they age compared to non-smokers. Smoking actually doubles the risk for contracting Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily for current smokers, quitting seems to reduce these effects to that of a non-smoker.

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4. Learn New Hobbies. Knitting, playing board games of learning other crafts during mid-life can reduce memory loss by 40% -50%. Television is not a hobby! Elders who spend their day (7 or more hours) watching television are 50% more likely to experience memory loss. Learning to play a musical instrument is also thought to help protect cognitive function. Also, watching YouTube videos to learn how to garden, etc. is healthy. The main thing is to find something that you enjoy doing and let it enhance your life and boost your brainpower.

5. Get Social. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in seven people who have dementia live alone. That adds up to 800,000 people. Socially active people have up to a 50% reduced risk of developing dementia. There are a variety of positive effects social engagement can provide a buffer against dementia, including improving your mood and giving you a support network when you need it the most. Volunteering with friends may serve a double effect by improving mood and providing a purpose.

When the very old citizens living in Ikaria Greece were asked how they live to be 100, they might say it’s the leisurely pace of island life, the ocean breeze, the wine consumed with friends, wild herbal tea, or just their state of mind. Of course, we’re talking about moderate drinking. Red wine, particularly Cannonau from Sardinia, was suggested.

Healthy Eating.

“The best diet for brain health is full of whole foods like greens, legumes, berries, and whole grains and is very low in animal fats, saturated fats, and salt.” Drs. Sherzai, Loma Linda Medical Center.

This list will be copied and place on my bathroom mirror. I do many of the suggested Tips already, but plan on intensifying my routines. I hope that you will find this valuable and helpful.

One, final thought, a quote from the Dalai Lama: True happiness comes from having a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved by cultivating altruism, love and compassion, and by eliminating anger, selfishness and greed.” Beautiful words to live by. (Meaning of altruism:’ unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others. charitable acts motivated purely by altruism.)

Until next week, enjoy your best life.

Always love to hear from you. bettyrrhodes@sbcglobal.net

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