Month 4 Installment

So people wanted to know if I had cake on my birthday. Well, I didn’t but I savored every drop of wine in my glass at the last restaurant that we ventured out to before shelter in place.  Almost at the 4-month mark now, I wanted to update you on my 3-month benchmark appointment with another round of cognitive testing to check progress.

The results were remarkable!

In Dec. of 2019 for my baseline testing, I came out positive for mild cognitive decline in both the Mocha 19 and the CNS test. These are standardized tests that quantify cognition. What is encouraging to me is that I improved in 3 months’ time with brain training, exercise, diet, mindfulness, and supplementation to the point where I no longer am in the range of mild cognitive decline. If I had these results in December at baseline I would not have been accepted into the study. The clinical team is very encouraged and excited at my progress.

Someone asked me what my doctor thought about the recent study showing bone loss with race walkers on the keto diet.

Here’s the doctor’s response:

  • We don’t know what kind of ketogenic diet the participants were on. In our study, we are encouraged to do a more plant-based keto diet.
  • The study didn’t actually measure bone loss. They did not look at the participants’ Dexa results before and after. They used just a blood marker which doesn’t measure the actual change in bone.
  • The study was short term, just a few weeks, so it’s difficult to assess the effects of a keto diet on bone, longer-term.  Clearly more research is warranted.

 

Gems to Share

  • Eating mushrooms is good for the immune system and the brain.
  • A recent study showed that people who consumed more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50 percent reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment. My nutritionist told me any mushrooms are good but Portabello and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are best for the brain while Shitake and Mytaki mushrooms are excellent for the immune system.    I’ve since added mushrooms to my veggie omelets a few times a week.
  • The “Ketoterrian” cookbook is the closest to what we’re trying to do by Will Cole. It’s a mostly plant-based cookbook. Here’s the Amazon link if you’re interested.
  • When this study is over, I plan to start a program of carb cycling, which is being keto for a week or so, then allowing more higher carbs for a day then repeating that cycle. There are two things I’ve noted that influence my decision.
    • There are no long-term studies for being on a keto diet. We don’t know how the body, in general, will react over several years.
    • The second thing I’ve realized is that people in the Blue Zones, those who live very long healthy lives, include beans in their diet so as a Puerto Rican, that makes me very happy. Beans and brown rice will definitely picture into my carb cycling.
    • For the sake of the study though I’m sticking with the guidelines for the 9-month duration.

This is my clinical study general recommended workout regimen

  • Strength training minimum 3x week (I do Pilates and when the Y is open, I add weights)
  • Aerobic 6 days/week  (walk, run, hike)
  • (minimum of ½ hr of each of the above)
  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training) 2x week (I’m teaching this in my Friday noon virtual online Quarantine class!)

My doctor recommends the following for just about everyone as baseline support.

  • Fish Oil, Vit D and B Complex.  No matter how good our diet is, it’s difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our food. She also has me on, among other supplements,  Curcumin and Avmacol which have bone saving effects.

 

Anti-Aging Asparagus Soup Recipe

Thanks to my clinical study nutritionist for sharing this delicious, hearty keto-friendly recipe with me.  I love soup and this soup makes an excellent meal all on its own thanks to healthy fats from coconut milk, protein from healing collagen powder, and phytonutrients from asparagus, leeks, and garlic. Those benefits also make it a great way to fight the aging process and support a resilient body.  Recipe serves 4, Cook time 20 min.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 1/4 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 TBS avocado oil
  • 1 medium white onion finely diced
  • 2 TBS grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 1/2 large leeks chopped (my first time cooking w/leeks!)
  • 3 TBS coconut aminos (this is a liquid in a small bottle you can find at Trader Joes or Whole Foods)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
  • 4 scoops (about 1/4 cup) collagen powder (optional, not vegan friendly)
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Cut 4 of the asparagus spears into thirds and set aside for garnish. Roughly chop the remaining spears.
  2. Heat a medium saute’ pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pepitas and continuously stir and shake until the seeds are fragrant and toasted, for about 5 min. Remove from heat and set aside (I skipped these, my nutritionist just adds them to the blender at the blending point of the recipe)
  3. Heat the 3 Tbs avocado oil in a large pot over medium heat until simmering.  Add the onion and saute’ for 5 min.  Add the ginger, leeks, and coconut aminos, stir well and cook down for 5 min.  Add the chopped asparagus, broth, paprika, garlic powder, and salt and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the lemon zest and coconut milk.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool for several minutes. Pour into a blender, add the collagen powder (if using) and blend until smooth.
  5. Heat a little avocado oil in a small saute’ pan and add the reserved asparagus spears and lightly saute’ until tender, about 3 min.
  6. Divide into bowls and place pieces of the sauteed asparagus in the center of each bowl and sprinkle the toasted pepitas and freshly ground pepper.  Enjoy!

 

That’s it for now. I’ve been preoccupied, as most of us are, with staying safe and healthy in this age of COVID 19 prevention. Be well. Be safe. Be strong.   As always note your questions or comments below and/or email me.

3RD INSTALLMENT

Next week will mark my 3-month milestone in this clinical study, and I’ll be repeating a battery of cognitive tests to see how I’m faring on this program-results in the next installment.

DISCOVERIES

I’m down another 2 lbs but I’m holding steady in muscle mass as seen by my body composition analysis today. At 13.5% lean body mass I am in the best shape I’ve ever been, but more importantly, I’m feeling strong, healthy and clear-headed.  Subjectively my memory and recall is improving but I won’t know objectively the changes until I get results of the cognitive tests this Friday.

This keto journey is full of discoveries. I received the results of my DNA testing and am positive for 1 Alzheimers gene, ApoE4. In addition, I also learned I’m hypersensitive to a particular general anesthesia, to benzene in plastic bottles and that I’m predisposed to diabetes and obesity.  However, the takehome message from this 68-page genetic profile is that our genes are not our destiny.  With the information gleaned from this report, it will help drive changes in lifestyle, anesthesia choices and supplementation to lessen the chances of falling victim to these and other propensities discovered in the report.

As there’s a big focus on exercise in this clinical study, my daily Pilates practice reminds me how important Pilates is for improving the mind as well as the body. Pilates helps reduce stress (which interferes with cognition) by encouraging you to focus your attention on breathing, good posture, and efficient movement.

Does Pilates—with its emphasis on precision, concentration, and memorization of movement patterns—enhance brain function as well as physical function? Scientists from Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao, China, and Beijing Normal University in Beijing wanted to find out.

In preliminary research, the investigators measured changes in brain activity as a result of Pilates training—and found an increase in the brain’s alpha peak power after 10 weeks of training. Alpha peak power is believed to be related to increased neural network activity, memory performance, and other cognitive functions.

The authors of this study suggested the Pilates method may be a valuable intervention for people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions that affect learning, memory, and thinking.  The study is available in Computational and Mathematical Models in Medicine (2013; doi: 10.1155/2013/295986).

If you’re interested in learning more about the BoneSmart Pilates® method and my exercise DVDs which integrate the science of aging and neuroplasticity, check out my website

A recent new study shows how low intensity and high intensity workouts affect the brain differently.  Using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (Rs-fMRI), a noninvasive technique that allows for studies on brain connectivity, researchers discovered that low-intensity exercise triggers brain networks involved in cognition control and attention processing, while high-intensity exercise primarily activates networks involved in affective/emotion processing. The results appear in a special issue of Brain Plasticity devoted to Exercise and Cognition. Though they were looking at low-intensity treadmill and high intensity running, you can easily make the connection of low-intensity workouts with mind-body workouts such as Pilates. If interested you can read more about the study here.

CHALLENGES

Being a subject in this study is a full time job and it’s challenging finding enough hours in the day to fit all the requirements in.  There are supplements that need to be taken before food, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime and binders (that clear out toxins) that need to be taken away from supplements and food which is the hardest to finagle the timing.

In addition we have to get our exercise in, sauna/sweating, online brain training and online stress reduction training and document everything in our binder pictured here. There are days when I’m bumping up against my bedtime and just need to prioritize sleep over all else.  I’m still teaching Pilates full time which I love, being a mom and wife and running my online business fulfilling orders and answering forum questions.  Not to mention the shopping, perusing keto recipes and cooking in this novel way. It’s enough to make my head spin!

RECIPES

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that so many of you have reached out to me as I’ve embarked on this journey, to share your recipes and encouragement. My friend Cynthia even found a keto cooking class that I signed up for.  All your support has meant the world to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My favorite keto snacks include macadamia nuts, hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper-great for on the run, avocados with olive oil and raw cauliflower with mixed nut butter.

Here are three of my favorite Keto recipes.

Keto Almond Flour Pancakes

These fluffy almond flour pancakes are delicious and so simple to make! Just a few common ingredients needed. For a topping skip the syrup and crush a few of your favorite fresh berries with a fork into a compote and place that on your pancake, topping it with crushed pecans or slivered almonds.  It tastes so good to me that it feels almost indulgent.  Here’s a link to this easy keto almond flour pancake recipe.

 

Cauliflower hashbrowns with eggs, bacon and avocado

Yearning for something hashbrownish, I’m thankful to my friend Anne B. for the idea of the cauliflower foundation of this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • small piece of onion diced
  • green pepper slice diced
  • riced cauliflower (i just put a 1/2 a head in my blender to rice it)
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 or 2 slices of sugar free, nitrate/nitrite-free bacon
  1. Saute’ the onion and pepper in 2 TBsp olive oil  (I added some fresh rosemary from mygarden-add the herbs of your choice if desired)
  2. Add the riced cauliflower, mix and flatten out into a hash. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder. Allow to brown to your liking.
  3. Cook the bacon separately then set by the hash
  4. Create a hole in the hash for the eggs so you don’t need to flip it.
  5. Garnish with avocado drizzled with olive oil and Enjoy!

 

 

Keto Thai Vegetable Cashew curry w/Coconut (and Chicken)

Picture of my sisters and I cooking at my Mom's! Thanks to my friend Ylmia for this recipe. I tweaked the ingredients and added some protein by adding chicken which is not part of the original recipe.  As we made this recipe in NY last week, my mom commented that her 3 daughters orchestrated this meal like “Little Women” working industriously side by side for the whole family, and it was a hit!  If your vegan or vegetarian just skip the chicken.

Serves 2 (we scaled this up for our family)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion2 tsp minced fresh garlicpicture of Keto Thai Vegetable Cashew curry w/Coconut (and Chicken)
  • 2tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp sugar-free Thai red or green curry paste
  • 1 large yellow or red bell pepper cut into 1-in dice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1 in dice
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3 TBS shredded unsweetened coconut, very lightly toasted
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lime zest
  • chicken thighs cut into 1 inch diced pieces
  1.  Heat the oil in a 12in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Set aside.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute’ until the onion is translucent about 4 minutes.  Stir in the curry paste and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the bell pepper and salt and saute’ until halfway tender, about 5 min. Add the eggplants and saute’ for3 min. Add the chicken back in and cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the eggplants and bell pepper are fully tender, about 10 min.
  4. Uncover the pan and stir in the milk and juice. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil until the sauce thickens slightly, about 4 min.  Check to see that the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Serve and sprinkle with the nuts, coconut, and zest.

(stats without the chicken)    Protein 11g       Net Carbs 29g      Fat 62 g

The following post is written by guest blogger and nutritionist Sally Duplantier

“As part of my annual check-up, I had my cholesterol tested, certain that the numbers would improve due to a year of great nutrition and exercise.  Imagine my surprise – and disappointment – when the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides had actually gone up.  The overall ratios were excellent and hadn’t changed in the past 10 years.  However, I could not see beyond those other two numbers.  How could they be bad, when I had been so good?”
 
Our Fixation with Numbers
Our fixation with numbers starts at an early age and continues through life.  In school, we have test scores.  At work, we have performance reviews.  In the wellness world, there are blood pressure readings, heart rate, steps per day, calories burned and of course – the number on the scale.  It’s not that these numbers aren’t important.  They serve as markers for health and keep us focused on goals.  The problem is when we are so obsessed with a number that it defines our self-worth.

Numbers Gone Awry
Consider a friend of mine who became overly focused on hitting the daily Movement goal on his smartwatch.  Since he only had 50 more calories to burn for the day, he jumped up and down on the cement floor in his garage.  He reached his goal but also developed shin splints and could barely walk for a week.

A Different Way of Thinking
Try this thought experiment for a day:  ignore the scale (or number of steps or calories burned) and simply focus on how you feel.

  • Is your energy good?
  • Can you do the things you want physically?
  • How do your clothes fit?
  • Are you confident in your appearance?

Weight Watchers calls these “non-scale victories.”  My favorite came from a client who hadn’t lost weight as quickly as she had hoped.  When I asked her about a non-scale victory, she said, “I feel like trying on pants again.”

The Top Takeaway
When it comes to health and especially weight loss, numbers play a role, but they don’t define who you are or what you’ve accomplished.  Cut yourself some slack!

 

Guest author and nutritionist, Sally Duplantier, creator of www.MyZingLife.com

2nd Installment

Read 1st Installment Here.

Since the start of my ketogenic lifestyle journey on Dec 7th, 2019, I’ve lost 9 lbs and 2 1/2 inches off my waist. Though brain and metabolic health is my primary goal, this is a welcome byproduct and actually an expected result on a ketogenic diet.

I’m consistently in nutritional ketosis confirmed by daily prickings/blood readings. This was not easy at first as I don’t like needles or eliciting pain on myself.  With that said, the lancet is tiny and relatively painless and has become so easy now that I take multiple readings daily to monitor how my food is affecting my body.

The fact that I’m preferentially burning more fat for fuel and less glucose is good for brain health, decreasing inflammation and improving energy levels.  I feel strong, alert and am not experiencing the dips in energy I used to feel during the day from erratic blood sugar levels.  I don’t feel deprived or hungry at all. My sleep has improved dramatically which helps my body to heal and my brain to detoxify and regenerate.

An unexpected bonus, I just got back from the dentist and my hygienist was amazed at the improved status of my gums. She asked what I was doing differently and when I told her, she said the gum improvement was a direct result of the anti-inflammatory effects from the Keto diet.

Nuggets to Share with You

Intermittent fasting is something that helps boost your metabolism, healing, and weight loss.  We need to make sure we don’t eat for 3 hrs prior to going to bed. Our goal in the study is 12-16 hours of fasting each day. That may sound draconian at first but it’s really not that bad. If you have your last meal at 7 pm, you can eat 12 hrs later at 7 am the following morning. It also helps with sleep as your overactive digestive system won’t wake you up.

Sleep  Install f.lux (a free app) on your computer so that the blue lights will dim as the sun goes down. This helps your natural melatonin to do its job.  I started wearing a light-blocking eye mask ($10 for three on Amazon) at night to help with sleep and it’s helping tremendously. I had to get beyond the fact that they look like training bras for the eyes but the comfort and effectiveness won out! I’m going to try earplugs next.

Sauna is great for sweating out toxins. I’ve discovered through my lab work, that I have a high toxic load and because I don’t naturally sweat, even when I exercise at normal ambient temperatures. Because of that, I don’t detoxify well. I’ve now added with my doctor’s recommendation, 4 days of hot sweaty yoga and  1-2 days of dry sauna to accelerate the removal of my toxin burden.

I found the following quite interesting and pertinent to my goals.  A 2016 study done in Finland found that among those who used a sauna 4-7 times a week, the risk of any form of dementia was 66 percent lower and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease 65 percent lower than among those taking a sauna just once a week.

You can read more about the study Here

Online Brain Training is one of my daily requirements as a study participant. The program we are using, BrainHQ.com is the most scientifically validated program on the market. This is way beyond crossword puzzles in sophistication and the exercises get harder as you become more successful so it’s continually challenging your brain.  Check it out!  You can do it on your phone, iPad or laptop.

Favorite Keto Foods
Thankfully I love avocados and eat them daily with olive oil as they are a keto superfood. Packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and magnesium, you can eat them on their own or put them in salads, smoothies or enjoy some guacamole.

Eggs have gotten a bad rap but they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet – especially the yolk! I’ve been advised to only purchase ” Pasture Raised” eggs as they are the safest and healthiest.

My two new favorite snacks are macadamia nuts and raw cauliflower florets dipped in Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter, a delicious blend of almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.

In January we had a gathering of the clinical study participants with our doctor, nutrition coach and fitness coach. This allowed the participants to meet each other and share insights and challenges. The highlight of the meeting was a call in from Dr. Dale Bredesen, the creator of the protocol that we’re using. He was inspiring, answered all our questions with wisdom and humor and let us know through our participation in this study, that we were becoming a part of history.

Keto 101 Basics

If you’re interested in trying a ketogenic diet here are some of the main points.  You can also find plenty of info and recipes on the web.

Under normal circumstances, the cells of our body rely on glucose as their primary energy source. Glucose comes from dietary sources and from the breakdown of glycogen in the skeletal muscle and liver.  When glucose is in short supply, the cells tap into fats as an alternative source of fuel. The breakdown of fats leads to the production of ketone bodies and a metabolic state called ketosis.  The benefits of being in ketosis are listed at the end of this post.

Keto diet principles:

  • Fat: 60-75% of daily calories of daily calories
  • Protein: 20-35% of daily calories
  • Carbs: roughly 5% of daily calories

Most people are in chronic sugar burning mode due to a diet high in carbs for many years. That’s why it can take days to weeks on a low-carb, high-fat keto diet to get keto-adapted as the body learns to preferentially use fat/ketones for fuel.

What to Eat

Your diet should be a majority of healthy fats, polyunsaturated fats, and some saturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and ghee. This increases ketone bodies making the body crave fat instead of sugar.

Veggies preferred are non-starchy above-ground low carb veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cabbages, and leafy greens. I’ve substituted spaghetti with zucchini noodles using my spiralizer and honestly don’t miss the pasta!

Onions, garlic, cilantro, and basil are all great additions.

 

Fruits: best are organic berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries. strawberries, as well as lemons and grapefruit. Other fruit like bananas and oranges and tropical fruits like pineapples and mangoes are higher in carbs and should be avoided or minimized.

Alcohol is not recommended on this clinical study diet although red wine (1x /wk is permitted later in the study protocol)  Woo hoo!

We’re instructed to stay within 50 net carbs per day.  To calculate your Net carbs,  look at the label for Total Carbs and subtract Fiber and that = Net carbs.

For example: 1 serving of my Mixed Nut Butter is 7g carbs minus 3g of fiber so it’s 4grams total Net Carbs.

 

Are you afraid that eating fat will make you fat? 

That has been proven scientifically as incorrect. One of the major causes of fat accumulation is inflammation. Being in ketosis reduces inflammation and helps you lose extra fat weight as I’m experiencing first hand.

What to Buy

We’ve been advised to buy organic as much as possible with grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs to minimize toxic exposure of antibiotics and GMO’s. Grassfed animal products have the proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 to support optimal brain health, fat burning and keep inflammation levels down.  You’d be surprised how much affordable organic food you can find in Costco and Trader Joes.

Measuring Ketone Levels

There are several ways to measure your level of ketosis such as urine strips, breath monitors, and blood meters. The blood ketone reader  (I use Keto Mojo) is the gold standard, most precise and is what we’re using in the study. Here’s a link to the Keto Mojo kit on Amazon.  Although nutritional ketosis is defined as above 0.5 ml/mm, in the clinical study we’re shooting for a ketone level of 1.0 or above ml/mm as that level has been shown to better improve brain function and cognition.  Though it took me a while, I’m now pretty consistently at or above 1.0

Benefits of Ketosis as quoted by Dr. Jockers from DrJockers.com

  1. Reduced inflammation                                                 
  2. Enhanced mitochondrial health
  3. Reduced oxidative stress
  4. Increased mental clarity
  5. Abundant energy levels
  6. Reduced cravings
  7. Accelerated fat burning and Weight Loss
  8. Improved insulin sensitivity
  9. Reduced risk of chronic desease
  10. Improved mood and emotional balance
  11. Healthier Skin
  12. Anti-aging effects

Comment or post your questions below (rather than emailing me) to consolidate things and I’ll answer them as best I can and will try to include them in my next installment!

1st Installment

Do you find yourself forgetting appointments, names, where you put your keys, why you walked in that room you’re in? This is a concern for me.

My family history is steeped in Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s been difficult to witness my 94 y/o dad’s symptom progression. He is the last living sibling of a dozen brothers and sisters, more than half afflicted with this particular disease.

I’m certainly cognizant of my own risk especially as I begin to see my own decline in word recall, orientation, name/faces, etc.  But here’s the good news!

I just qualified to be in a national clinical study that’s administering a multi-modal approach to prevent or reverse cognitive decline. This approach was spearheaded already successfully by Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of the book “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.”  This is a must-read if you have cognitive concerns. The link above takes you to the book on Amazon. I get no personal gain for recommending this. The science is cutting edge.

As a ReCode (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) clinical study participant, I’m required to be on a gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, alcohol-free, Ketogenic diet, am being closely monitored by a physician, have had a slew of genetic tests, MRI, blood, poo and pee tests and everything in between. I prick myself daily to check my ketone levels. I’m on bioidentical hormones. I’m also supported by a nutrition coach and fitness coach with specific fitness parameters. Daily I’m required to do brain building games on the computer, and a computer program that promotes mindfulness and stress reduction.

This is a 9-month study and though I miss my latte’s, rice and beans, chocolate and wine/cosmos,  I’m committed to the long haul and choose to focus not on what I’m giving up, but on what I stand to gain.

If any of you are well versed in Keto diets, ping me. I would love to acquire more knowledge and favorite recipes. I can use all the support I can get!

I anticipate learning tons on this journey and will assimilate key learnings into the classes I teach. I look forward to sharing with you here on this platform, any nuggets that might help you on your journey to physical and cognitive health.

Who wouldn’t want to look better and feel healthier?  This is true no matter what decade of life you are in.  The good news is this: there are things you can do now to improve the way you age at a cellular level
 
In 2009, three molecular biologists – Elisabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, and Jack Szostak – won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into telomeres and their effects on aging.  Telomeres are the caps on our strands of DNA.  Think of them like the protective tip on a shoelace; without the tip, the shoelace ravels and becomes unusable.  This is similar to our DNA.  If protected by long telomeres, the cell can easily divide and renew the tissues that depend on it.  As telomeres shorten, the cell loses its ability to divide and dies.
 
In the book, The Telomere Effect:  A Younger, Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer, Blackburn, and co-author Elissa Epel, PhD, provide these tips to keep your telomeres thriving:
 
Telomeres Love Fish
They especially love fish that contains Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna.  In fact, they thrive on any Omega-3 foods: walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and soy.  Foods associated with shorter telomere length include sugar, saturated fat, processed meats, white bread, pastries, and excess alcohol.
 
Telomeres Don’t Care What You Weigh
More than a number on a scale, telomeres care about your metabolic health—how well you control blood sugar levels.  This is true whether or not you are diabetic.  On the other hand, yo-yo dieting (losing the same 20 pounds or so over and over ) puts telomeres into a tailspin.
 
Telomeres Favor a Couple Forms of Exercise
Two forms of aerobic exercise are especially popular with telomeres:
 
  1. Moderate exercise like light jogging or fast walking, done 3 times a week for 45 minutes each
  2. High-intensity interval training, with a 10-minute warm-up, 4 intervals of fast and easy running (or brisk walking), and a 10-minute cooldown
 
Although the current research hasn’t linked strength training to telomere length, strength training is still vitally important for revving metabolism and maximizing bone health – especially as we get older.
 
Telomeres Crave Sleep
Telomeres respond best to a full night’s sleep, at least 7 hours, allowing your body to complete its four required sleep stages.  Short-changing yourself on sleep prevents your cells from replenishing as they should.  Likewise, you can’t make up for lack of weekday sleep by sleeping in on weekends.
 
Telomeres Know When You are Stressed Out
Anxiety, depression, pessimism, chronic stress and hostility have all been linked to the depletion of telomeres.  This can be undone, however, through meditation and mind-body practices like yoga or tai-chi and by reframing stress as a positive.
  
The top takeaway is this:  lifestyle choices — including nutrition, movement, sleep and stress management – impact how you age at a cellular level.  It’s never too late to improve this picture.
About the Author 
Sally Duplantier is the founder of Zing, a company that helps people improve their Healthspan—the number of years in which they are healthy, active and mentally sharp. She has a certificate in Nutrition Science from Stanford Medical School and is studying the science of aging at USC, where she is working on a Masters in Gerontology.

Have you ever contemplated getting studio Pilates equipment for your home workouts?

What if I told you that you may already own something that lends itself wonderfully to Pilates work? This month I’ll share with you a Pilates workout that I designed to be performed on…an Ottoman!

Perhaps you don’t have the money or inclination to purchase big Pilates equipment for home use. Well I’ve discovered to my delight that my padded ottoman is the perfect surface for so many Pilates exercises. Here’s a way to do some Aging Strong Pilates® in the comfort of your home and notch up the level.

The video below is my personal quick and dirty ~15 min workout that I do in my bedroom before or after a shower about 2-3x a week. I do it in my underwear for maximum skin to leather traction so I have good grip and don’t slide. Some of the exercises are extremely challenging so proceed with caution. They are safe but difficult, so listen to your body and proceed at a level and pace that matches where you are today.

At the end of this blog post I’ve included a full written list of the exercises so you can print it and repeat on your own with your choice of music.

Note: Your ottoman should not be on wheels or have a base that swivels.

My ottoman has a slope to it. Depending on the direction your lying on it, the slope can make a particular exercise easier or harder. If your ottoman is sloped, try and drape yourself on it in the same angle I do in the video. I demonstrate the exercises at the angle that facilitates each movement.

For example, for the beginning chest lift core series I’m positioned on my back with my buttocks on the low edge and the lower tips of my shoulder blades at the top of the slope. This is the easier orientation but you’ll see quickly that it is by no means “easy”. If your ottoman is level, that’s fine as long as it has nice padded edges so it doesn’t dig into you. If you choose not to do it in your underwear then add a shelf liner to the surface so you don’t slide.

This workout includes all ranges of motion, Flexion (just from Extension (back bending) to Neutral (straight line) so it’s safe for conditions where flexion is contraindicated) Rotation, Side Bending, and Extension. I incorporate wonderful stretches after working the muscles in all these planes of motion.

I have to admit this is one of my favorite routines. It’s a Bad A_ _ Core workout that energizes me and makes we feel worked in a short amount of time!

The planks are extremely challenging but if you have stiff feet or bunions that make it difficult to curl your toes under for planks on the floor, having your feet elevated makes that part actually easier since you don’t have to tuck your toes under. Remember, the more leg you have on the ottoman, the easier it will be, so position yourself wisely.

 

The two sections that I do face down (opposite arm and leg reach, swimming and swan) are great for strengthening the muscles that strengthen the hips and support good posture. Firing those upper back muscles has the added benefit of stimulating bone growth in the spine.

 

Here’s a full list of the exercises so you can repeat them on your own with your favorite music. Note that as you see in the video – you don’t have to do a lot of repetitions to make it count. If you want to get feedback from me on your technique, purchase a 30 minute online Skype session and I’ll ensure you’re moving safely and effectively!

Go slowly. Be Precise. Breathe. Have fun!

Ottoman Pilates Exercise List

On your Back (face up)

  • Big X Stretch
  • Chest Lift Series
    • Center
    • Oblique twisting toward the lifted tabletop leg
    • Advanced: knees lift, lift, lower, lower, alternating lead leg
  • Finish with Big X Stretch to lengthen the abdominals

On Your Belly

  • Opposite Arm leg reach (ottoman under pelvis and belly)
  • Swimming
  • Final extension hands interlaced reaching toward feet-rotating head as you breathe w/ease
  • Child’s pose/Rest position (knees open wide if you have osteoporosis or herniated discs)

Side Lying

  • Leg lifts (bottom foot on floor, top leg lifts and lowers) Waist positioned at middle of ottoman
  • Side Kick top leg, keep hips stacked vertically.    Shift body so hips at middle of ottoman
  • Hover body parallel to floor and hold (head in line with spine)
  • Top leg lifts and lowers
  • Side-Lying Stretch (shift yourself so it’s comfortable for you, grab top wrist with bottom hand)

Repeat above on the other side

Face Down

  • Planks (first with lower thigh and shin on ottoman) Hold position
  • Add pushups if desired
  • Walk further out so less leg on the ottoman-increased challenge
  • Side Plank (one on each side-move slowly and hold/breathe)

Face Down

  • Swan (begin with breasts/chest hanging over the front edge, hands on the floor, feet on floor against base of the wall) Activate core and legs then Inhale as  you rise, Exhale as you lower
  • Child pose/rest position

 

 

Imagine a studio in 2004 at the El Camino YMCA filled with tiny dancers wiggling joyously as their hair bounces wildly to the beat of the music. With smiles beaming on their six-year-old faces, they giggle while holding hands and twirling in circles. To the side is another beautiful, highly active child. This child is different. She has yet to learn how to talk, loud sounds make her prone to outbursts, and rather than controlled little arms, they often flail, accidentally hitting some of the other children. Integrating this precious child is a challenge, for in the eyes of the others, she is not like them. But as the weeks progress, the children begin to see her as one of their own, one to protect and love. The child’s mom looked on and wished all children like hers could have an experience like this—an experience where they feel cared for, accepted, and free. Oh, the beauty of childhood innocence when looking beyond the visual and embracing not just the person, but the soul.

Today there is a space where young and old alike gather to experience the same joy of movement to music with no judgment, no criticism, and no fear. All levels learn at their own pace and are given the freedom to express themselves with no preconceived idea for perfection. This all-inclusive setting has parents dancing with their child with special needs alongside those labeled “normal.” All feel welcomed, included, and safe. This is pure magic—this is Dance for All.

In 2014, Teresa Maldonado Marchok and Mercy Forde, both fitness instructors, teamed up to create this delightful program. As fitness enthusiasts, they know firsthand how important physical activity is for everybody, no matter what age. As mothers to special needs children, they found it difficult to find classes for their children that were not separate from the community because of their challenges. Their children, just like all children, brimming with equal capability. All they needed was an opportunity to participate. And so, Dance for All was born.

The dance class is run similar to other fitness classes, with Teresa and Mercy demonstrating and instructing a variety of movements and techniques that develop and improve core strength, flexibility, and balance. Students not only learn current dance moves in rhythm with the latest music, but there’s also Pilates mat work, and a closing meditation that allows all to center themselves before leaving the studio. Participants are not only welcome but encouraged to interpret the moves as the music flows. Though they might not all be synchronized, they are all united in spirit and fun.

The program’s mission is “Connecting the Community through Movement,” and this inclusive class allows the unique twofold beauty of the program to shine. First, Dance for All gives the special needs participant the tools to conduct themselves in a movement class, thus enabling integration into other classes as well as a sense of belonging to society as a whole. Second, the class creates a fun environment for the typical fitness participant to learn more about and interact with this precious sub-set. Despite initial perceived differences in thought process and language, the typical student begins to see that each member of the class has dreams and desires, just like anyone.

Dance for All is celebrating its fifth anniversary. What started as a dream has morphed into a beautiful weekly event and a studio packed with participants. Whether dancers come alone or with their children, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Margie Pfister, who attends class with her adult daughter Ellen, summed up their experience, which many can relate to.   “Amidst the ups and downs of our days, Dance for All has been a positive welcoming spot from the moment we entered the class and are greeted by name.

Through the warm-ups, dance, and cool-down, my daughter and I are inspired to be our best as we encourage others to do as well. With the positive music, and Teresa’s and Mercy’s kind encouragement, we not only feel a sense of belonging, but our posture has improved in our daily activities. By the end of class, we feel a sense of accomplishment, have met new friends, and this world feels like a better place, and we feel better in it.”


As for that bright-eyed child in that dance class so long ago, she is Teresa’s twenty-year-old daughter, Katelyn, and I was privileged to be her dance teacher. Today, she takes all kinds of classes at the YMCA and is a joy to watch as her face still beams while dancing. How fortunate is our community to embrace such a program where students come together as equals and friends. Just as Margie said, this experience makes the world feel like a better place, and all feel better in it.

 

If you want to participate in a joyful experience, come check out Dance for All every Saturday from 1:00-2:00 pm at the El Camino YMCA/ 2400 Grant Road, Mt. View. Ages 8-88 gather in the multipurpose room and unite to elevate awareness, promote community acceptance and just have fun.

 

 

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Written by Jackie Madden Haugh

Critically acclaimed published author, former columnist for The Los Altos Town Crier,  realtor, dance instructor, devoted mom and grandma…and a dear friend.

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________________

 

 

Written by Jackie Madden Haugh

 

Critically acclaimed published author, former columnist for

The Los Altos Town Crier, realtor, dance instructor, devoted mom and grandma…and a dear friend.

Do you know someone who seems to have 80 hobbies and are always looking for the next one? Maybe you’ve thought, “They must just have too much time on their hands.”  The truth is, they probably work hard at making time for hobbies. Learning a new skill offers a slew of mental, physical and social benefits for people in all walks of life. 

Whether you’re in school, in the middle of your career, living in your golden years, recovering from substance abuse or anywhere in between, finding a good hobby can keep you healthy and enjoying life. Here are five mentally engaging hobbies that can be learned online or with a group of friends.

Learn an instrument

One skill that is good for the mind and helps people express their thoughts and feelings is playing a musical instrument. It can also increase your capacity for memory, strengthen your dexterity and coordination, lift your mood, and boost your self-confidence. Furthermore, developing musical comprehension can improve your communication skills, and playing in a group can strengthen your interpersonal skills. A lot goes into choosing the right instrument, so do your research and pick one that interests you and fits your personality. 

Read

Besides the entertainment aspects, reading is beneficial for people of all ages. Along with being a critical part of child development, reading a variety of topics and genres is an effective way of gaining general knowledge and expanding your vocabulary. It has also been proven to reduce stress and improve cognitive function by boosting memory, concentration and focus, as well as strengthening analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Reading a traditional book promotes healthy sleep. For those who are interested in writing, reading also helps you become a better writer. 

Write

Similar to reading, writing is beneficial for any age, whether it’s done traditionally or digitally. It engages and stimulates your brain, sharpens your focus and provides an outlet for creatively expressing unresolved thoughts and feelings. Writing can even slow down the aging process, calm the nerves, and ease anxiety and depression symptoms. Additionally, there is a plethora of different forms and subjects to write about, so there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for a good excuse to unplug from our tech-driven world, opt for writing some of your material by hand

Dance

If you’re looking for a hobby that’s more kinetic in nature, dance may be the one for you. Some of the many benefits include improved mood, positive self-image, increased energy and more neural connections, a big plus as we age! 

There are many ways to increase your skill in dance, whether by taking a class or just dancing to music in your living room. For the former, active agers may have access to dance classes if they’re signed up for a qualifying Medicare Advantage plan. SilverSneakers, a program specializing in senior-focused fitness activities, is included in many Medicare Advantage plans offered by health insurance companies like Humana. Your local YMCA is a valuable resource for Zumba and other movement-oriented activities. The Y offers programs for people of all ages and abilities and always has something fun for those ready to take up a new fitness-focused hobby. 

Volunteer

While volunteering is a great way for retirees to stay physically, mentally and socially active, it has just as many benefits for people in other age groups. Volunteering at a nonprofit (e.g., food pantry, animal shelter, church, museum, etc.) is a great opportunity to step out of the stresses of your personal life and help others. It can also be a base for socializing and building new friendships, enhancing school and college experience, providing better job opportunities, and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s while helping you age gracefully.  

Keeping your mind engaged is not only helpful, but it’s also essential for anyone who wants to live a long and healthy life. Reading, writing, playing an instrument, dancing and volunteering are all mentally challenging activities that are worth trying, no matter your age or life circumstances. Whether you opt for local classes or go online for free tutorials, find a hobby to make a lasting difference in your quality of life.

Photo Credit: Unsplash  

Cheryl Conklin

www.wellnesscentral.info

We’ve known about the perils of tech neck and texting thumb. Now we have budding phone horns?

Our mobile devices can seem like a godsend-until they wreak havoc on our necks and backs. There’s been a recent buzz about the research out of Australia. It shows that there are bony horn-like protuberances growing at the base of our youth’s skulls as a direct result of the forces on the neck from Tech neck, that extreme forward bent position of the neck while using one’s phone.  Whether or not the research on the “phone horns” will be replicated and further validated, that forward flexed posture should be of concern to all of us long term for the impact on our spine, especially as we age.  You can read the full article here.

Bony phone horn protuberances seen in the Australian research

Bad posture can lead to early joint wear and tear and possible future surgeries.  According to research done by Dr. Hansraj chief of spine surgery at NY Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, looking at a phone at a 60-degree angle is about the same as applying 60 lbs of force to your spine.  That’s roughly the weight of an 8 y/o child. It’s easy to see in the illustration below how the more forward bent the head is, the greater the forces and stress on the spine.

You can circumvent these problems with a little adjustment to your posture when holding your devices!

The following videos I’ve created, demonstrate practical strategies to hold your mobile phone/iPad efficiently in various positions:

  1. Standing

2. Sitting

3. Lying in bed reading (research shows that the blue light emitted from using a mobile device at night in bed interferes with melatonin production and sleep quality but if you choose to do so, please follow my postural guidelines)

I’d love to hear in the comments section if these tips help you, your kids or grandkids.