This is your brain on coffee

For hundreds of years, coffee has been one of the two or three most popular beverages on earth.

790420 009 790420 012 790420 010

In a large scale epidemiological study (National Cancer Institute 2012), men who reported drinking two or three cups of coffee a day were 10 percent less likely to have died than those who didn’t drink coffee, while women drinking the same amount had 13 percent less risk of dying during the study.

Other studies have linked three or four 5-ounce cups of coffee a day with more specific advantages: a reduction in the risk of developing:

And, most importantly (?), animal experiments show that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia. In a 2012 study, caffeinated mice regained their ability to form new memories 33 percent faster than uncaffeinated mice. This might be related to adenosine, which both provides energy AND can be destructive under stress; leading to inflammation, disruptive neuron function and neurodegeneration. And in a 2012 Florida study with humans, persons with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to  progress from MCI to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.

However, we still have so much to learn about the effects of caffeine. “But a cup of coffee “has been popular for a long, long time,” Dr. Freund says, “and there’s probably good reasons for that.” much love.

Adapted from: Reynolds, Gretchen. This is your brain on Coffee. NY Times, June 6 2013.

Advertisements

Is caregiving good for you?

In celebration of National Caregiver Month (November!), I want to share the idea that caring for a chronically ailing or disabled family member might be good for you! … what? Really? After all, we hear about caregivers being depressed, stressed, and fatigued…
Dr. David Roth, in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2013), presents his “healthy caregiver hypothesis” and shows non-caregivers have higher mortality rates than caregivers! Thus, we can’t dismiss the idea that caregiving can help increase physical activity, mental stimulation (multitasking!), social connection, sense of purpose and usefulness (L. Freedman)!
Paula Span, of The New York Times’ “The New Old Age Blog” does a great job of summarizing these findings here! On a side note, I had the pleasure of hearing Paula at the keynote address at the Canadian Association on Gerontology meeting last month (see HERE and pic below).
paula span canadian association on gerontology
… and I love this quote:

“caregivers are among the privileged ones who can make a difference in the life of the patient”.

Don’t forget to hug a caregiver this month! much love.

never too late…

(michellemyhre.com)

yoga is a gift for old age.

one who takes to yoga when old gains not only health and happiness, but also freshness of mind, since yoga gives one a bright outlook on life, and one can look forward to a happier future rather than looking back into the past which has already entered into darkness. the loneliness and nervousness, which creates sadness and sorrow, are destroyed by yoga as a new life begins.

hence, it is never too late to begin. yoga, if started in old age, is a rebirth that teacher one to face death happily, peacefully, and courageously.

therefore, nobody is exempted from doing yoga and there are no excuses for not doing yoga. how useful is yoga can only be understood by practicing it.

how true! much love.

(yogawithdavid.blogspot.com)

from Yoga: A Gem for Women, by Geeta Iyengar (Timeless Books, 1990)

coping skills for parkinson’s care partners – PDF expert briefing

I attended an online presentation from the Parkinson Disease Foundation on coping skills for PD caregivers, in honour of National Family Caregivers Month.

my grampy, who had PD, and his loving wife and eventual caregiver (1991).

my grampy and his formal caregivers at the care home.

Dr. Julie Carter, from the Parkinson Centre of Oregon, spoke about how caregivers are integral to the emotional and physical health of the persons with PD.

She spoke on how stress impacts the mind-body and introduced a concept called the “self care toolbox”.

1. Stress affects the mind-body

Due to stress, caregivers have chronically elevated levels of cortisol, which can be toxic to your cells!

Also, with increased stress, our telomeres (protective caps of DNA/chromosomes) get shorter! This is related to rapid aging and shorter life expectance.

This makes stress-managment important! But first, we need to recognize the signs of stress…

  • exhaustion
  • anger
  • depression
  • frustration
  • resentfulness
  • irritability
  • sadness
  • loneliness
  • sleep deprivation
  • panic attacks
  • anxious
  • colds, ulcers and other physical complaints

What to do? Tracking these signs of stress and noting the surrounding environment and situation when you feel the sign can help identify triggers/patterns of stress.

2. Self-care toolbox

The following are 7 skills that can help caregivers care for themselves and thus better care for their loved one

  • Self-compassion. Caregiving jobs are one of the hardest, so don’t be hard on yourself! Find support, be non-judgmental and know you are not alone.
  • Connections. Make good social networks that help you problem solve (support groups, family, friends, formal support). Learn to ASK for help – most people want to help you but don’t know how. Take advantage of formal support.
  • Communication. Express your emotions (through journaling, art, counselling, conversation) so you can communicate more effectively and meaningfully with your spouse. *Note: PD changes communication (i.e. lack of facial expression, quiet voice, slow response time, lack of spontaneous gestures), so you need to be more present and engaged.
  • Optimism. Change the patterns of automatic negative emotions/behaviours/beliefs. You can change the situation but you can change how you feel about it and behave.
  • Flexible/creative problem solving. Identify a problem and come up with a variety of ways to deal with it… try something new and be willing to try again!
  • Care for yourself. This is a necessity, not a luxury! Identify pleasurable activities (i.e. morning coffee, walking the dog, exercise with friends) and track how you feel when you are doing this activity… it’s not superfluous if it makes you feel GOOD!
  • Take charge. Focus on what you can control.

If you are interested, you can see the entire presentation here.

And a HUGE thank you to all the caregivers for everything that you do! Happy caring and much love.

P.S. want more caregiver care? See HERE , HERE and HERE.