Three Life Strategies to Prevent Dementia

Improving brain health is becoming as important as preventing heart disease. Actuality your vascular health affects your brain health. However, there is much you can do to keep your brain fully functioning. Recently, I went to a class on improving brain health, and I learned that three things will safeguard your brain against declining with age: novelty, challenge and learning. When you create a lifestyle that includes all three, your brain will step up its efforts to grow, not deteriorate.

Dementia affects memory, thinking and behavior. It is a chronic progressive disease with a high prevalence in the elderly. Today, an estimated 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease, one form of dementia (www.alz.org/facts). An estimated 5.3 million are age 65 and older (one in 10). In 2015, an estimated 47 million people worldwide were living with some form of dementia, according to the World Health Organization.

In order to take charge of your brain health, be sure you include novelty, challenge and learning in your activities. It is not enough to do crossword puzzles or play cards to exercise your brain. Mix it up with other activities, such as, visiting a new place, meeting new people, learning a new hobby, taking a course, driving to a place a different way, and so much more. Challenge your brain to create new neural pathways. Diversity is king!

My recent trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest in Europe met the criteria for all three of these elements. I had a fabulous time and exercised my brain too!

Novelty: My husband and I visited these cities on our own without a tour guide. I did some research before we left about things to do, but through trial and error, a map of each city, and booked reservations through a concierge, we visited historical sites, found restaurants, ate delicious new foods, and went to concerts and museums. A few blocks from our hotel, my husband spotted a sign for a raw food vegetarian restaurant. It was hidden in a courtyard, and the food was delightful.

Challenge: The entire trip was a challenge for two “elderly” people traveling on their own. Some of the highlights: We missed our connecting flight to Prague from Amsterdam and had a 10 hour layover. With only a few hours of sleep, we solved the problem by getting a hotel room at the airport and sleeping for five hours. We arrived in Prague feeling refreshed instead of drained. We took trains between cities with our luggage. We rode trolleys, buses and subways—I hope my brain was happy with all of the challenge that provided. (I am very thankful that most people speak English in the cities.

Learning: We had to learn three different currencies; each country had its own money. We taught ourselves to follow city maps; learned new words; and learned about the history of the people and their culture. On a subtle note, I even learned that music is the great unifier. I felt at home listening to great music with people from other countries on foreign soil. At a small (100 people) Gershwin and Broadway show tunes concert, I felt as though I could be in the US.

Whether you are taking a trip or staying close to home this summer, do things that will bring you joy as well as improve your brain health. The key is to 1) do something that is new and different – novelty; 2) requires you to think and act outside of your comfort zone – challenge; and 3) process information that teaches you something new – learning. One activity, like playing bridge or visiting a new place, can incorporate all three elements.

Research continues to support that your lifestyle not only improves your health, but also may prevent your brain from developing some form of dementia. The good news: You are already doing all of the three things mentioned above. Now that you understand how they benefit your brain, do more of them. Your quality of life as you age is connected to the choices you are making today. Awareness and mindfulness pay off!

To live well longer, be mindful of how you are using your brain and continually stretch it by becoming a life-long adventurer and learner.

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Live with Purpose and Passion

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

A few days after working with an energy worker, I had a revelation: I understood that as a young child, I was captivated by people. I observed and empathized with them. It was natural for me to help them in whatever way I could. I can remember giving my little four year old hand to an older blind girl to help her down the steps. I even closed my eyes and walked around to feel what it was like to be blind.

I believe that at the cellular memory level of the body we not only hold repressed emotions and trauma, we also hold the innate gifts, talents and desires of the authentic inner child—knows who we are and why we are here. Before this core essence got diminished through parenting practices and cultural norms, we were in touch with what preferences and activities made us feel ALIVE—our life purpose. Some of us got disconnected from the joy of our purpose but lived it anyway, and others had to squelch it in order to survive.

During my revelation, I realized that my inner child loves reaching out to others to understand and inspire them—to make a difference in their lives. It was quite a shock to realize that in my profession as a helper and writer, I give this curious, open hearted little girl the opportunity to do her thing. Now, I must recognize and reconnect with the joy of living it. On paper what I experienced sounds like nothing; at the time I had this epiphany it was earth shattering.

If you are fulfilling your purpose but are not feeling the joy in it or if you are not sure what your purpose is, many resources are available to help you to live your core truth—Internet, books, workshops, coaching, etc.. At any age, you can design a lifestyle that is filled with purpose and passion.

Life Purpose – What is it?

  • Your life purpose is a statement of truth about who you are and why you are here. It aligns you with your authentic self.
  • Your purpose fills you with passion when you do it.
  • Your purpose is your beingness: You lived it in the past, live it in the present, and will live it in the future.
  • Your mission is your doingness. Your mission represents the way in which you express your purpose.
  • Your purpose does not change; it is your essence. Your mission changes over time; it is based on the phases of your life and your resources.

Questions that lead to discovering your purpose:

  • What am I doing when I feel the most alive?
  • What gives meaning to my life?
  • What have others said they value about me?
  • What are my natural gifts and talents?
  • When do I feel the best about myself?
  • What would I make better in the world if I could?

Once you think you have identified your life purpose, look back to your childhood to see how you were expressing it then. You may recognize that you have been living your purpose since you were a young child. However, once you consciously connect with your purpose and take action to honor it, you will feel passionate about life at any age, and your relevance will never diminish.

Your Life Purpose serves you in many ways. It gives meaning to your work and your life. It guides your choices and shapes the direction of your life. With your purpose firmly in mind, you can make moment-to-moment choices with real integrity. When you are “on purpose,” you feel fulfilled and make a difference to yourself and/or others.

To live well longer, live a purpose-filled life. The joy and wonder of your inner child will be your companion on this grand adventure.

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Inner Stillness in the Fast Lane

Whether we are raising children, working in a job, running a business, or retired, we cannot escape the fast pace, stress induced life that surrounds us. Life has lost its simplicity: I need three to five gadgets to work my TV; it takes six steps to download an ebook from the library; and I still do not know how to use my new cell phone. When we add busy schedules, medical appointments, whole food preparation, commuter traffic, and multi-tasking, we are off to the races. This kind of stressful lifestyle plays havoc on our health, sleep, well-being, relationships and soul. If we do not make inner stillness a priority in our lives, we pay a high price.

Looking back to my childhood, I remember opening the door to my Catholic church and being inundated by the silence and stillness of this sanctuary. Whether it was the mystery associated with Jesus Christ or the church environment itself, I do not know. The stillness spoke to me at a young age because it was a time out from the loud, high stress family in which I lived. Interestingly, my parents did not attend church so I could enter the inner quiet without parental intrusion. I walked or drove with relatives, and when old enough I attended myself. To this day, I crave the stillness and silence that replenish my soul and have found ways to make it happen on a daily basis.

I invite you to recharge your life with moments of inner stillness. Here are six easy-to-implement techniques that nurture your soul, nourish your body and quiet your mind:

Morning ritual: Before getting out of bed, connect with your inner stillness with a mantra or prayer as you set your intention for the day. Morning rituals depend on how much time you can give them. But, minutes work! Devotional reading, yoga, meditation, visualization, prayer, and more, can start your day with purpose and serenity.

Breathing techniques: You can manage stress and striving by doing breathing techniques that work for you. As you focus on your breath, your mind stops its incessant chatter and your body relaxes. For example, this is one technique you can do for 5 to 10 rounds: Inhale for four counts, hold for seven, and exhale through your mouth for eight. It takes a few minutes.

Yoga and meditation: Stretching and meditating accelerate the path to a quiet mind and still body. When it becomes a habit, you can accomplish this after only a few moments of stretching and focusing. As little as 20 minutes can start your day with a strong spiritual connection of inner quiet and effortless flow.

Visualization: Use the mind to take you on a journey that leads to your own sanctuary of inner peace. I like a particular temple of silence visualization that leads to a palpable, restorative silence. Media recordings abound with journeys into silence, stillness and inner peace. The more you use them, the easier it is to experience stillness quickly.

Mantra or chant: When the mind is focused on any of these three, it is not incessantly thinking. Being immersed in a focused repetitive thought, induces a trance like state that can lead to inner peace. The Catholic Rosary and “Om Mani Padme hum” chant lead to inner stillness if you do them with mindful awareness and experience the energy shift in your body.

Mindless activity: Immerse yourself in a task with present moment awareness. When your mind is open and relaxed (receptive), it is not striving toward a desired outcome. Instead, you are available to inner stillness, and your intuition can deliver creative insights or solutions to problems. Bathing, exercising, performing household tasks, or walking in nature are perfect times to be available to inner harmony and higher wisdom.

Inner stillness leads to improved well-being and physical health and provides a pathway to a Higher Power. The following benefits have been verified: tranquility, experiencing the divine, mental clarity, improved problem solving, insights, enhanced creativity, improved ability to learn, stress reduction, relaxed muscles, lower anxiety and pain, reduced heart rate, better digestion, and increased energy.

The key to making inner stillness become a part of your life is to have short, intermittent periods of inner quiet throughout your day. While you are living life to its fullest, it is possible to create moments of “down time” in just minutes. With little effort, you counter balance the fast lane with periods of rest and rejuvenation.

A sanctuary of inner peace await you if you will enter this sacred place. Your mind, body and soul will flourish, and your life will be filled with ease.

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Super Spices and Herbs Promote Radiant Health

Super herbs and spices as well as superfoods go hand in hand to promote optimal health. Do not wait until you are diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Be proactive and prevent illness by eating foods that promote health and longevity. In general, the conventional medical establishment does not research the healing properties of food, spices and herbs because it promotes drugs. However, thousands of studies in journals on nutrition throughout the world confirm the profound effect food, herbs and spices have on our health. Read more »

Superfoods Promote Super Health in 2017!

At the beginning of each New Year, I take time to reflect on the past year, acknowledge what has gone well, and learn from what has not. Armed with this wisdom, I set my intentions for the coming year. Looking back over 2016, I saw that my health and well-being were a priority. I made more lifestyle changes to reduce stress, took my spirituality to a new level, and made food my medicine! Read more »