Tag: Brain Health

July 2018 Wrap-Up

July 2018

July has been a whirlwind! So many things to share and I hardly know where to start. So I think I’ll shoot for a mix between chronological and focus events.

Cataracts

The month began with my second cataract surgery. I did not feel outwardly as apprehensive as with the first surgery. But my vital signs contradicted this feeling. My blood pressure was quite high for me. So I think I was given a little more relaxant. I don’t remember nearly as much this time. No visions of pretty colors. Just my husband waving from the viewing room after the surgery.

However, the recovery has been much easier. I experienced some of the same irritations as the first time. But knew those were signs of healing and did not panic. I even managed to give myself the regimen of eye drops during some of the post-surgery days.

Wheat Harvest

Immediately following the surgery, we visited with relatives during the Fourth of July celebration. This is a favorite holiday of mine. I live on the edge of wheat country and our visit was in the heartland. Many years harvest coincides with the nation’s birthday.

Wheat harvest is a bustle of activity for the farm communities. This year was no exception. Custom harvesters work alongside the resident farmers. Many custom cutters follow the harvest from South to North. These travelling harvesters fill the hotels and restaurants adding economically to the small towns. Of course there is outflow money too. Payments vary from flat rates to percentages.

This year I watched from inside the vehicle. As is typical for that part of the country, the wind was blowing. I did not want any wheat chaff to blow into my eyes. So no combine ride for me. Maybe next year I can visit and capture the view. For now I can only share a photo of the grain transfer.

Grain cart dumping wheat into truck.
Grain falling into truck.

Des Moines

Immediately following the July 4th visit to the wheat fields, I journeyed to Des Moines. This beautiful city deserved a post all its own. If you missed it click on Destination Des Moines. I consider this state capitol a hidden jewel. Maybe you can visit sometime.

Econogal’s Garden

Returning from Des Moines, I could devote time to my garden. The production continues to amaze me. I easily doubled the amount of produce from June. By the end of July, most of my salad greens bolted. I am letting a few plants go to seed. Each year I try to learn more about saving seed.

However, the Swiss chard is coming into its own and we are using this green along with beet leaves in our smoothies and salads. Other fruits and vegetables harvested in July include tomatoes, peppers, acorn squash, zucchini, yellow squash, peas, green beans, peaches, green grapes, eggplant, beets, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and tomatillo. We also continue to enjoy our many herbs. Because of a week-long visit to Orlando, I do not have an exact amount on the harvest weight.

Orlando

My trips to Central Florida are frequent. I have family there. My Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. She receives good care at a nursing home. But best of all for her, she has my Dad visit every day for hours at a time. So sometimes he needs a respite. That is where I come in. I am her other security blanket.

Many of you know someone who is affected by some form of dementia. Brain disease is at the forefront of scientific study because of the growing numbers impacted. I write often about brain health. If you use the search bar at the top of this blog for brain, numerous posts will pop up. Now you know why I have such a personal interest. I intend to keep my brain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. One way is by Maintaining Physical Health. So I jumped at the chance to sponsor a triathlon.

Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon 2018

Saturday August 4th is the date for this year’s triathlon in Rocky Ford. Proceeds from the event are used to support the town’s swimming pool. I love fundraising linked to improved infrastructure as much as I do those events that raise money for research. So Econogal is proud to be a sponsor for this event.

A triathlon is a competition involving three sporting events; swimming, biking and running. The Rocky Ford Melon-Man Triathlon is designed for both individuals and teams. For example, if you are a runner who hates to swim, you can partner with a swimmer who can’t stand running.

The distances are doable. The swim is 250 meters, the bike ride is 10 miles and the run is a 5 K. So if you are in driving distance of Rocky Ford, Colorado consider entering the triathlon this weekend. Click here for a link to the registration. If you can’t compete this year please share this post so the word can spread and consider entering next year!

Learning New Skills

Green beans piled in front of a pressure cannerMy New Year’s resolutions for this year included learning six new skills. At my age, learning anything new can be tough. Both the body and the mind tend to prefer the status quo. But the benefits are great. New skills stimulate the brain cells in a positive way.

The raised row garden has provided one outlet for learning. Just establishing the garden took research. This compilation of new knowledge definitely made the brain waves dance. Constructing the rows took a lot of labor too.

Furthermore, maintaining the garden has generated a few new skills as well. I learned how to make organic bug killer when battling the flea beetles. For the first time I used an inoculant on my peas. Now I am about to add pressure canning to my list of skills.

I have been canning and preserving for years. But I have only used the water bath method or frozen the produce. To be truthful, I find the idea of pressure canning downright scary.

Water Bath Canning

Jams, jellies, salsas and pickles tend to be quite acidic and thus lend themselves to processing through the water bath method. Some of the items have natural acidity. Others are put up using an acidic ingredient which helps make the recipe safe. Some of my lower acid fruits have lemon added and the pickles and salsas recipes tend to have vinegar added.

My favorite canning book Small-Batch Preserving focuses on water bath method recipes. This type of canning utilizing highly acidic ingredients reminds me of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors. I seldom worry about spoiled food put up in this fashion.

New Skills- Canning Low Acidic Foods

However, low acid foods and recipes intimidate me. I worry about food poisoning, specifically botulism. So I am about to learn a new skill. I bought a pressure canner. Plus I have researched several websites such as the Wells Can and the Ball and Kerr sites. I also consulted Better Homes and Gardens Complete Canning Guide. Since visiting their test garden I wrote about in Destination Des Moines, I feel very motivated and slightly less nervous.

My raised row garden is yielding multitudes of green beans. So that will be the first vegetable I put up. Check back on the blog when I post the July 2018 Wrap-Up to see and hear about the results!

Maintaining Physical Health

Physical Health

Aging naturally affects physical health. Maintaining ones physical condition takes more effort as each decade passes by. But the benefits of taking an active approach are many. The various body systems gain from good physical health. Of course both exercise and diet are key elements needed to keep the body in tune.

Ten years ago my body was aging fast. Even though I walked two miles most days, I had gained weight and my digestive system was a mess. My gastroenterologist prescribed some medicine to treat the ulcerative colitis. But the best thing he gave me was advice. He told me my body was used to the walks around the park. He said I needed to step it up a bit. So I began training for a marathon.
I trained a full year for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. My physical fitness level needed all that time to get ready. The best side effect was the positive reaction in my intestinal system. Since, I was serious about the training I stopped drinking colas and other carbonated beverages. This change in diet also contributed to better physical health.

Sugar and Fat

The carbonated beverages contained lots of sugar. Please read the book review The Case Against Sugar. In addition to watching sugar, I also watch my fats. I have been drinking 1% milk for over a decade. This change from whole milk has kept my cholesterol levels in check. Now, my biggest challenge is to not eat too much cheese.

Because I am a decade older, I have personally ruled out additional marathons. In fact, I have not run a half marathon in almost two years. Unfortunately, this has had a negative reaction for my digestive system. But, my heart rate gets above where it should be if I run too far. Thus I am experiencing a bit of a Catch-22. (A good book by the way.) So, I need to find other ways to maintain good physical health.

I now keep track of my heart rate when I exercise. This leads to many run/walk outings. Fortunately, the alternation between walking and running is akin to the interval training of my track days. Since I live at altitude, my trips to the East Coast let me run a bit farther. I plan to do any future half marathons at sea level. If my heart rate gets too high, I will make myself walk part of the course.

Brain Health

The physical activity also helps my brain health. First, the exercise releases many hormones. For an informative article on exercise and beneficial hormone release please click here. I am particularly hopeful that the more intense workouts release enough Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor to grow some new cells. I need all the new growth I can get.

Some early studies show consistent aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippo-campus. One study by the University of British Columbia was limited to women. The hippocampal volume grew over the course of the experiment. Unfortunately, the results were mixed with respect to memory. The study cited possible interference by white matter as a cause. You can access the study by clicking here.

Check-ups

Regular check-ups are key. Plane travel has been affecting my right eye. It becomes blurry and a headache ensues. Recently, my annual eye exam verified my sometimes blurry right eye was a cause for concern. I have a cataract. While I am apprehensive about the surgery, I know this condition can be addressed.

Each year I have blood work done. A couple of springs ago I was surprised that my thyroid levels were off. It is a hereditary disease. But both my parents are symptom free. However, I began treatment and feel much better. Last summer I discovered my father’s brother takes the same medicine. Since my paternal grandparents died relatively young the possibility of the condition was unknown. So, it helps to know beyond just the immediate family even though the odds diminish.

Maintaining physical health can aid in the quality of life. Eating right and exercising are the two components I focused on today. Other things come into play when discussing longevity such as social connectedness and spiritual life. Both are potential topics for future posts.

Since I need to alter my workouts, please let me know your choice of exercise.

Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions are tough to maintain. Often the same ones are made each year and seldom last more than a month. Of all the resolutions I have made over time, only one has lasted years. In 2010, I gave up drinking colas. This particular resolution may not seem like much, but I drank cola the way others drink coffee. I think it is a Southern thing, some of my cousins also opt for a coke each morning.
In my case, I had two compelling reasons to keep this resolution. First, my insides were finally showing signs of no longer handling the ingredients. Second, and more persuasive, the carbonation gave me problems whenever I ran more than ten miles. Since I was training for the 2010 Marine Core Marathon, I regularly ran long distances. Thus, it is possible to conclude resolutions can be kept if there is a concrete goal and a reward for fulfilling the pledge.

Specifics Help

The more specific one is about the resolution, the more likely the goal can be attained. A popular New Year’s resolution is losing weight. People who are successful at this tend to have more specifics tied into the goal. For example a certain amount of weight, or an action plan such as giving up desserts or increasing the number of workouts. Those who are unsuccessful often try to go to an extreme. For instance, it is hard to transition from a couch potato to someone working out 8-10 hours a week. Furthermore, a radical change in exercise habits should be supervised by a health provider. Specifics help the most when they provide realistic goals.

Sharing Resolutions

While each individual will have distinct goals, sharing those goals leads to greater success. For example, if you want to increase the time you spend exercising, it helps to have a work out partner. Even verbally sharing goals with a friend or relative helps. Posting the list on the refrigerator or besides your computer is also beneficial. However, the best way to keep your resolutions is to make them meaningful.

Econogal’s 2018 Resolutions

1. Post a minimum of twice a week to Econogal. This is a very specific goal that I am sharing with all of you. The difficulty will be staying ahead on the book reviews. Not every book I read do I want to recommend.
2. Learn at least six new skills. This resolution ties into the goal of maintaining a healthy brain. My concern is not knowing in advance what skills I will learn. However, as you can read in my original post, keeping my brain cells as active as possible is of utmost importance to me. Six skills translates into one every other month. Since I have a new pressure canner which I need to learn how to use, I really only need to discover five skills.
3. Socialize more. I realize this is a strange resolution. But I have noticed I do not get out as much as I did when I had a house full of kids. I am a bit of a homebody with quite a few hobbies which tend to be solitary; gardening, quilting, reading and running. However, it is also important for brain health to interact with others. I am not sure how to make this a concrete goal so if you have any ideas please leave them in the comment section.

Good luck to all in creating and keeping resolutions for 2018! Feel free to share your goals.

Brain Health

Book Review of Complete Guide To Brain Health: How to Stay Sharp, Improve Memory, and Boost Creativity

National Geographic’s release Complete Guide to Brain Health is a comprehensive study of the brain. The book is also the catalyst for this blog. As I shared in my first post, An Original, brain disease is well established on my mother’s side of the family. I bought this book out of curiosity and read it cover to cover.

Complete Guide to Brain Health is divided into three sections. In the first section, author Michael S. Sweeney concentrates on the anatomy of the brain. He posits that brains can be changed. Further he draws a direct correlation between healthy brains and longevity. Anecdotes of individuals are given as examples. An additional writer, Cynthia R. Green pens “Brain Boosters” throughout the book.

Various scientific studies are discussed in laymen’s terms. Then, each is used as an example of how brains function. The study on the Nuns of Mankato had a great impact on me. In this multi-decade research, scientists studied individuals in the cloister and then examined their brains upon death. The autopsies provided a comparison diagnosis from the physical appearance of the brain. Most of the time there was a match. However, sometimes an individual who showed no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s prior to death did have the physical signs present in the autopsy. This gives me hope.

Practical guide to Brain Health

While the first part of the book explains how the brain works, the second section is more of a how to guide. Defining Brain Health, Chapter six, gets you started planning a course to change brain health. A Brain Booster entitled Brain Healthy in Ten Steps provides guidance. Some of the steps are easy for me, yet one or two have been elusive.

The second section includes many tips. Some are mental, such as games you might find on Lumosity, and others are related to overall health. Sweeney stresses throughout the book how closely mental health is tied to overall physical health.

The chapter The Art of Remembering is excellent. Both Brain Boosters and Brain Insights are intertwined in a chapter full of information on how your brain remembers things. Different types of dementia are also outlined here. The author is realistic and indicates that limitations exist.

Finally, the last section focuses on the future. The use of chemicals and electricity to alter the brain is discussed in successive chapters. Robotics and artificial intelligence are also briefly covered.

The importance of creativity is the greatest take away for me. Econogal, the website is great for my brain health. It is a nice addition to my other activities since it is stimulating the language portion of my brain.

I strongly suggest buying a copy of this book to anyone concerned about their brain health. The text is informative and well written with plenty of graphics for visual stimulation.