If there is one recurring question, one that I continue to encounter on this quest to promote brain healthy lifestyles, it is this: How do we overcome the challenges of the aging brain?
My answer? Embrace it.
Kalynn Amadio, host of The Boomer's Ultimate Guide Podcast,
asked me how it is different speakng with Baby Boomers and that recurring question frames my answer.
We, the Baby Boomer generation, have been taught that we are on this path, from birth to death and that along the way we lose brain cells and with them, hope of functioning well.
That, my friends, is simply not true. We need to push those out dated notions out of our lives.
We can guide our experience and our paths to live a better, richer, fuller cognitive life -- one where we solve big problems, tackle tasks (large and small), and function well in our worlds.
Listen in as Kalynn and I talk about the gifts and the power of our aging brains and soooo much more!
On stop #3 I had the honor of speaking with Doug Foresta on Empowerment Radio
on his show Creating Change.
LISTEN IN HERE!
Doug speaks about creativity and how to harness and maximize its power to live a better life. Yes, a conversation that fits my point of view perfectly.
We talked about how to replace negative thoughts with creative thoughts and how to shift your perspective, ever so slightly, so that you may live a life more fueled by the creativity.
How do you do that? Wake up your brain by activating your senses!
Did you know that using the sense of smell is one of the most powerful and under-utilized tools to spark creativity?
Think about this: Particular scents/odors/smells trigger not just memories but have that ability to transport you across space and time. How often does a memory triggered by something you smell, carry emotion and color and depth?
That bond between memory and the sense of smell is a gateway to spark creating new rich, deep, emotion filled memories.
You are more likely to know someone walking through the fog of brain injury than you are to know someone with cancer.
Really, you are. Think about this:
- 1.8 million people each year are diagnosed in the Emergency Room each and every year with brain injury from some kind of blow to the head
- 700,000 people have strokes that have some thinking deficits as part of the package, each and every year
Add to that the fact that no one really keep stats on those brain injuries related to chemo-therapy, anesthesia, medications, and neurological diseases that pop up each and every year. Now consider unknown number of combat-related brain injuries and all those brain injuries that are still significant but not diagnosed in the ER (like mine).
Trust me. You know someone who has had a brain injury.
In today's featured broadcast on the Being Brain Healthy Virtual Book Tour
I speak with an amazing woman, Tami Neuman from the Care Radio Network and host of Conversations in Care. Tami has years of experience caring for dementia patients and she really gets it that "reality" (yes those are
air quotes) is not the same for everyone and that support for those with brain challenges is best given with a healthy dose of compassion and joy.
In addition to everyday brain health and turning up the noise on life, Tami and I spoke about promoting dignity, self-respect, and understanding for those we are supporting by treating each as intelligent, vibrant adults. We talked about how I realized one day that we all (yes all of us) speak to people who are struggling to think or understand as if they were children – we speak slowly and clearly using simple, tiny words – and that is just not OK.
Listen in our conversation HERE.
Warning: Listening to Conversations in Care may be habit forming!
What have you noticed about how people change when they care for others?
Here's to remembering to put dignity, self-respect, and quality of life at the core of caring for others.
Finding hope in aging is a challenge that we must take on in order to thrive.
Finding humor and all that is good in that crazy process is exactly what I spoke to 2 Boomer Broads
about on the first stop on the Virtual Book Tour to promote Being Brain Healthy, the book, and spreading the hopeful message about brain healthy choices and lifestyles.
We talked a lot about the sense of smell and how to use that sense to activate your brain and your life. Did you know that you can use the sense of smell to spur creativity? Or that pairing a scent with an item will increase the chances of remembering it? Listen in to find out more!
I've been thinking about living intentionally and what that means for my day-to-day life.
I have goals. They are good goals according to all goal evaluation criteria I know and preach to others. They are WHY SMART goals.
That means they are:
Harmonious with who I am
Yours (mine -- not someone else's)
And they are:
So I know they are great places for me to focus.
Living intentionally goes beyond setting those goals and choosing activities that will allow me to attain them. It is intentionally paying attention to what is going on around me and shifting my perspective so I don't miss what might be the most important thing for me -- those things that will help me build a better brain.
Here, from Being Brain Healthy, is what I believe we all need to focus on, intentionally, and roll into our daily lives to live and "Be" better.
Be active. There is no better way to nourish yourself mind, body, and soul than to take an active approach to life. Be a thinker, a doer, a creator, and a motivator. Move your body, use your mind, and think bigger.
Be social. Not only are we better together, but reaching out to other people also activates multiple areas of the brain. When you interact with others, you stimulate multiple areas of your brain so sensory, language, memory, logic and reasoning, and emotional areas all work in concert.
Be engaged. Participate in things that fire your passion and excite you. Some days, it is not enough to just be active and social. Throw yourself in fully and participate in life by becoming a vital part of every experience.
Be purposeful. Find what drives you–those things that give you a reason to be—and work toward them. When you live more purposefully, you fill holes in your life and also contribute to something greater.
Be complicated. Combine activities and focuses. Make the most out of each moment by drawing from everything you know that helps you think and live better, and activate as much of that as possible all at once.
What do you do to Be Intentional in your daily life?
I don’t start many sentences with “I believe”. It feels like an irrevocable moral contract of some kind – something never to be taken lightly. Right now, I have a couple of those rattling around. I believe in energy and the body’s power to gently guide that energy to get results.
Let me explain.
We live our lives in these things made mostly of water, fueled by chemical and electrical activity – that’s energy. With all things that run on energy, the right mix of elements – all those key components to fire the mechanism properly—is pretty important for optimum functioning. If our goal is to maintain a mixture that supports living in a particular way, tracking those balances, as if watching a monitor, is necessary. Not too much and not too little but always fluid and flexible. I believe that we can reset those balances by doing course corrections, big and small, along the way.
Note the studies examining BNDF
– a little protein that we know is released during exercise. This little protein has the power to tap into DNA and make something happen. BNDF actually unlocks a rule programmed in DNA, found specifically on chromosome 11, and triggers a particular sequence of events that tells the body to create new cells – researchers believe that that sequence triggers the creation of new neurons.
Think about that for a second.
Every time I step on the elliptical or go out for a vigorous walk I am telling my body that I want more neurons… I want to grow. That is not just energy but that is power.
That is one protein and one tiny set of instructions in our DNA but one that can be seen in the lab – today. Not science fiction. Not voodoo or mysticism. One we can activate personally every single day.
Just imagine the possibilities as this branch of research deepens and scientist continue to unlock the mysteries of the relationship between our behaviors and our bodies. Goose bumps, right?
Brain injuries are tricky little devils. Most of the time they hide so well that no one is able to see them no less note that anything is wrong. Sometimes they show up after the most unlikely events like surgery or treatment for a disease, or as part of the progression of a disease not necessarily localized in the brain. They are not just the result of a traumatic physical incident or an accident or a fall or a stroke. Brain injuries and all the stuff that goes along with them sometimes simply pop up without warning.
Medical professionals give them names that sound so harmless, like post-concussive syndrome or chemo brain or brain fog, that they don't even feel worthy of a deeper look. But they are.
Here is the big question: How do you help someone with something you can't see? Even the well intended will miss the signs if they are not looking for them and, to be fair, how would they know to look?
The biggest indicator is change in behavior, attitude, level of involvement in life, personality, and routine. If you see a change, take a deeper look.
If you believe you are living with someone who has had some kind of brain change, here are some tips:
- Listen, watch closely, and adapt to changes as they happen.
- Drop assumptions and preconceived notions about how that person “should be”.
- Slow down and think through your questions, especially when you get unexpected answers. Perspective, among so many other things, changes so it may take a while to find the right question.
- Find those things that are difficult and create ways to practice those skills in a safe place. Games – board games, word games, car games, online games, apps – are ideal.
- Think about how frustrating the changes are for you and now imagine having those same frustrations with no way to control your emotions or think your way out of them….
- Find the experts as you need and support groups when you need.
- Know that, if this is a brain injury, that person will change, not just during recovery but also might be different in the end. Make the most of that new person and celebrate what you can.
Let's take a look at some real examples.
SYMPTOM: Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
• “What is that smell?” when there is nothing unusual.
• Favorite foods don’t taste good or are no quite right. You might hear “Did you try a different recipe?”.
• Children might have “crawly” feeling (skin sensations) or hear mosquitoes or bees.
• Limbs “fall asleep” more than usual and for not identifiable reason.
• Repeatedly cleaning glasses, moving closer to the TV, changing the position (closer and farther away) of reading material.
• Does not turn on the lights or sits in silence.
in ability to pay attention
• You have to repeat instructions more than usual and maybe things still don’t get done.
• Everything gets started (projects, tasks, chores, thoughts, games, puzzles, books, preparing dinner, laundry, etc.) but nothing is finished when that is normally not the case or at least to a lesser extent.
• Can’t sit still for personal normal periods of time.
SYMPTOM: Mood changes or mood swings
• Unusual emotional outbursts or periods of long silence.
• A lack of patience (resulting in agitation) in situations that would not normally be a source of anxiety as seen in little things like waiting for toast to finish or clothes to finish drying.
• Not interested in favorite things or routine things. In children, this could be things like not interested in favorite toys or activities.
• Does not want to be around people.
The key to all of this is look for change
! Keep a list and report all of this to the person or group managing care. They may be breadcrumbs that will help form better treatment but at the very least all of these things are indicators that help build the best plan for recovery.
What other practical, everyday signs and symptoms have you seen?
I thought long and hard about why I was writing Being Brain Healthy
before I started but once the process began I pushed that question so far out of my world.
The question came up again, after the fact, as part of an interview I did for the amazing author and blogger Doreen McGettigan
. And so did a whole line of digging just a bit more deeply to fill in the wholes in what I thought I was doing and why!DMcG: Have you always wanted to write a book or were you compelled to write this one for personal reasons?
REPLY: I remember the day that my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Chang, told me I was good writer. I was shocked. My handwriting and spelling were (and still are) horrendous so I was used to pages filled with red marks and comments about the benefits of taking my time and neatness – nothing beyond the surface and certainly nothing about the quality of my writing. Enter Watergate and Woodward and Bernstein and my passion for writing took another turn. I was going to be a great investigative reporter uncovering the lies and injustices in the world. Life, as it does, eventually led me in a different direction but every job I had involved some kind of writing. I don’t think I ever saw myself writing a book until recently. This book got in my head a couple years ago and it was not letting go. I started out writing a much expanded version of my blog on brain health, brain healthy lifestyles, and that connection between how we act and how we think. It was good information with great practical, everyday applications but it was not relevant. After some persistent questions and urging from a dear friend’s husband (who is also a treasured friend but she came first), I got it that I had to tell the story of how I got here and to own the fact that the value of my journey was being lost – especially if I just kept it locked up in a safe in my head. There are moments in our lives that feel safer tucked deeply behind the curtain. I was afraid of again finding myself vulnerable and exposed, and that made me horribly uncomfortable. That piece, just like the practical pieces, became something I needed to get out. My accident and the 18 month journey out of the paper bag that was my life poured out and the rest made sense.
Motivations are often multi-pronged and digging a bit more deeply to examine the roots of a piece of work, a choice, or a life path helps sort through the chaos.
Try this exercise: Think about a life choice you made. Now ask yourself Doreen's wise question. Have you always wanted to __________________________________ or were you compelled to _________________________ for personal reasons?
Think harder. Explore more. Fill in the gaps. The process will help you fire up so many pathways in your brain!