Life & Work

Neurological Health – Perhaps it’s time.

Here’s the deal. I’m fat.

I’m also thinking I can do some things to make my brain more …. able to retain. My 84 year-old mother’s recent MRI was a shock to me. Here is a woman who has taken impeccable care of herself all her life. Never overweight, never excessively eating or drinking or fasting or anything like that. Ate almost exclusively whole grains and food from the health food store for the last 40 years. Exercised moderately 3-7 times a week. Great blood pressure, low cholesterol.

And yet there is all this dead matter in her brain.

Perhaps it runs in the family, and I can’t escape it. My aunt thinks my grandmother had the same challenge late in life, although there was no MRI for her. So all this dead brain matter. Not dementia. Not alzheimers just a massive loss in short term memory and the ability to connect things that would have been a snap a decade earlier.

The neurologists, all of whom are shockingly fit, said that a neurologially healthy diet is far more stringent than a cardiologically healthy diet. High in Omega 3s, low in Omega 6s, moderate intake in terms of quantity at one sitting, and much exercise which is very neuro-protective. “Almost monastic” was the term used for an ideal brain healthy diet.

So to return to the key point, I’m fat. And I’d like either to be pushed off a cliff at age 80 or to protect my brain so as to enjoy my 80s. Then again I like cheese.

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3 thoughts on “Neurological Health – Perhaps it’s time.

  1. Well, I suppose recognition is the first step to recovery. First, there are two basic keys to losing weight. Increase the consumption of calories (i.e., exercise), and decrease the intake of calories (i.e., eat less and better). As for medical advice about “good diet”, while I’m willing to accept certain prescriptions (e.g., processed food isn’t as good as food in its natural state), I’m dubious about any claims that “to achieve goal X, you need to eat Y”. It should be manifest that people have very different metabolisms, and undoubtedly there are different ways that the body deals with old age. I find it very hard to believe that consumption of omega whatever will have a drastic effect on this (whereas I can see that regular and excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for both the brain and the liver).

    So, what’s the solution? Exercise regularly. Eat better. This basically means, the more your food is like what it was when it was alive, the better. And eat less of it. MyFitnessPal is useful for those who can keep up with such things. (Having a vaguely OCD-ish sort of mind myself, I find it easy to do things methodically, but some people don’t.)

    One shibboleth that’s to be avoided is the modern war on fat in the diet. Natural fat in foods is perfectly fine, and in fact food like steak take longer to digest than processed food and so keep hunger at bay. The only thing “wrong” with fat is that its high energy (1g.=9 calories, if memory serves), so you just need to be careful that you don’t eat too much in terms of overall caloric intake. Otherwise, fat is entirely good.

    Finally, carbs like grain and rice and potatoes give lots of calories but not so much in the way of nutrition (and go for the brown, i.e., untreated, variety if given the choice). I’m not sure I entirely understand the metabolic factors, but they increase insulin or some such thing quickly, and then it goes away quickly too, leaving you hungry again after eating those calories. So, you don’t have to give them up, but ease up on them.

    Finally, I find myself that for the first week it’s hard to give up entirely bad things like chips or chocolate without having a hankering for them, but after that, I just don’t care. When you get older, you can’t eat crap any more. There is a lucky minority with a “high” metabolism who seem to be able to go on eating crap and still stay thin as a rail, but most people, including me, can’t keep that up (start in their late 20’s, I think). I always say I can’t eat dessert on any regular basis, and that’s true for most people, I think.

    Oh, and finally, don’t think of “dieting”. A diet is an unnatural intake of food, with the purpose of affecting the body (usually by losing weight), after which people “return to normal”. My father, who was fat as a pig, used to go on these liquid diets, losing like 100 lbs., and then go back to eating bags of Doritos, whereupon he’d gain it all back. You have to reform the way you eat on a permanent basis. If you eat less and better, you’ll naturally lose weight, and then it stays off.

    That plus lots of exercise. Sweat, baby! Sweat.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry.

  2. Yeah, it was not an issue until we moved back up here. I was in excellent condition, eating very well – even for the brain – and running and lifting and swimming until we moved north. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet, hence the notion of a decision. It was so easy living on a Marine base with people doing flutter kicks on their lawns at 9 at night. Part of the culture.

    Maybe I’ll see you on MFP again. I tend to be a bit OCD as well, although age has mellowed me.

    You are ever the encourager. Thanks!

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