Day 16 – Dyn-o-mite!

At a certain point in life something strange happens to you that makes you consider things you never would have considered when you were younger.  For instance, when our family would vacation at the beach years ago it would never fail that a seasoned citizen would be walking along the beach wearing white Payless tennis shoes, black socks, plaid yellow shorts, red shirt, and a hat that said, “Let’s Party!”  When I would see him I would think to myself, “Great God man, where’s your dignity? Does your wife know you dress like that in public?”  A few minutes later his wife would wonder up wearing a one piece bathing suit twelve sizes too small, a huge floppy straw hat with plastic flowers draped across the brim, and sunglasses from 1959.

A couple of years go by until  one day while you are taking out the trash you suddenly realize you are standing at the end of your driveway wearing Sperry boat shoes with one black sock and one blue sock, green cargo shorts, a white tank top undershirt, and a baseball hat that says, “I’m The Boss” Two doors down a neighbor in his thirties is looking at you thinking to himself, “Great God man, where’s your dignity?  Does your wife know you dress like that in public?”

I am turning 53 tomorrow and I admit there have been a few times when I set aside my dignity for a fashion shortcut.  In fact, you may catch me at the rec center working out with a t-shirt on that says, “Dyn-o-mite!” next to a picture of J.J. Walker.  My wife, of course, is not amused by my mature indiscretion and makes sure I notice her adamant disapproval.  Now I don’t do this often but I bring it up to cause us to wonder what happens to us as we get older.  Does our worldview really change that much or are we slowly getting senile?   It may surprise you to discover scientists tell us our brain physically ages just as all the other attached parts of the body and with that aging several things can happen.  Two in particular I want to make note of.  First, the brain does slow down and the brain’s functionality declines ever so slightly as we age.  This is true for people in their thirties as well as people in their seventies.  Second, we grow wiser.  All the experiences and lessons learned along the way are stored in the brain where they are analyzed and then formed into a matrix of thought through which our decisions are made.  In other words, the brain slows down but the mind should get sharper and wiser.

Unfortunately, in our day and age the threat to the mind is increasingly present with diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.  Some say there is little that can be done about prevention but I disagree.  I have learned there is much we can do and it starts with the old scary pair, diet and exercise.  In a New York Times article entitled, How Exercise Benefits the Brain, the case is made that exercise actually increases brain power and brain health.  In a scientific study, memory recall tests were given to two groups of young men.  One group had just completed exercising while the other had not.  Both groups were shown a series of names and faces in rapid succession.  Afterward, each person in each group was asked to recall the names associated with the faces.  The group of young men who exercised showed significantly better recall than the men who did not exercise.  The article was based on research published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at this web address, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21722657.

The following is the abstract:

Physical activity has been reported to improve cognitive function in humans and rodents, possibly via a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-regulated mechanism. In this study of human subjects, we have assessed the effects of acute and chronic exercise on performance of a face-name matching task, which recruits the hippocampus and associated structures of the medial temporal lobe, and the Stroop word-colour task, which does not, and have assessed circulating concentrations of BDNF and IGF-1 in parallel. The results show that a short period of high-intensity cycling results in enhancements in performance of the face-name matching, but not the Stroop, task. These changes in cognitive function were paralleled by increased concentration of BDNF, but not IGF-1, in the serum of exercising subjects. 3 weeks of cycling training had no effect on cardiovascular fitness, as assessed by VO2 scores, cognitive function, or serum BDNF concentration. Increases in fitness, cognitive function and serum BDNF response to acute exercise were observed following 5 weeks of aerobic training. These data indicate that both acute and chronic exercise improve medial temporal lobe function concomitant with increased concentrations of BDNF in the serum, suggesting a possible functional role for this neurotrophic factor in exercise-induced cognitive enhancement in humans.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Science is learning more about simple things such as coconut oil and its effects on the brain.  One doctor whose husband was suffering from the final stages of Alzheimer’s started giving him coconut oil as a part of his regular diet. Within two weeks her husband’s symptoms began to improve and some actually began to diminish.  You can see their story at http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/mp4/LJO190v1_WS.

Of course, exercise and coconut oil won’t cure me from dawning my mismatched socks and J.J. Walker t-shirt.  There is no accounting for taste.  And yes, we do tend to give less of a crap about things when we get older.   But exercise and coconut oil might very well keep me from contracting a serious brain centered disease later when I need my mind the most.  The prevention is far easier to cope with than the disease.  Strangely, we talk a great deal about heart health, lung health, prostate health, and breast health but rarely do we talk about brain health unless we are talking about politicians.  So, be wise!  Exercise!  Your brains will thank-you.

My weigh-in this morning was encouraging as I fell to 256 pounds.  Since all I did was run yesterday and still lost weight, the Type-A in me said if 15 minutes is good then 30 should be better.  When will I learn?  I ran a little longer until I suddenly felt a searing pain in my right knee and was forced to quit.  Obviously, exercise hasn’t had a big impact on my brain yet.

End of Day 16

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