DR. RICH’s Prescription for
(and enjoying an engaged and enriched mind as long as you live)
With the crazy costs of medical insurance going through the roof and the alarming rise in Alzheimer’s and memory-related illnesses among our elderly, there is one simple set of instructions you can start today to self-insure a better and longer life while lowering your chances of dementia as you age.
It starts with recognizing possibly your worst enemy - stress - and making a choice to kill it before it kills you.
Stress washes the brain in the toxic hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes lipids (fats) in the blood stream to stick to the walls of your arteries. Cortisol causes skin to wrinkle and cells to prematurely age. It tells belly fat to stick around as long as it can. It impedes the sleep drug - Melatonin - and keeps it from doing its drowsy duty of helping you fall and stay asleep. It sets you up for hypertension, obesity, stroke, diabetes, heart attack, and a host of cardiovascular ailments.
Aside from contributing to a host of physical problems, Cortisol also causes a myriad of mental problems that contribute to dementia by reducing blood flow to the brai It kills baby brain cells as they are born. After age 40, you're losing about 10,000 brain cells a day. You NEED all these brain babies you can get!
So, what can a person who hopes to live a long, rich, reasonably healthy life do to reduce stress and sop up the toxic cortisol from their brains, blood, and body?
It’s actually quite simple. Let me give you my top 8 prescriptions you can implement today for almost immediate results, plus a fun links to fun and understandable research. The first 7 prescriptions won’t cost you a nickel. Put them all together and you have nearly a magic bullet to help insure your brain and body's best future.
1. SLEEP: Most neurogenesis (birth of new brain cells) happens between the 6-8 hour of sleep. Thus, you need all the SLEEP you can get. Here are a few steps to help you get maximum sleep. Try these for 40 days and see what happens. (If you can’t handle 40 days, just try six weeks. If you can’t commit to six weeks, just try it for a month and a half.)
Start by dimming the lights and de-techifying a half hour before bed time. Say goodnight and goodbye to your cell phone, iPad, Blackberry, and any other weapons of mass distraction. Place them in a room where you can't see or hear them until morning.
Sleep in a darker, colder room than usual. Every light - even a glowing clock - can erode your sleep. Having a television in the room - even if it is off - negatively impacts sleep. Get rid of it!
Sleep on your left side with a pillow between your legs. (Yes, it sounds weird, but Google it.)
Use a weighted but breathable blanket.
My favorite current sleep tip links:
2. REGULAR EXERCISE - Along with sleep, moving your body is the best way to sop up cortisol from your bloodstream. Exercise oxygenates the brain, removes free radicals (the stuff that erodes cells), pumps glucose (brain food) into the brain, and also cleans toxins from the system. Growing research also points to how exercise pumps a brain fertilizer called BDNF throughout the brain and body. BDNF helps the brain to grow more nerve cells, more connections on the ends of the nerve cells, and more receptors on the ends of the connections of the nerve cells. The result? A bigger, healthier, cleaner, more efficient brain - and body! (Ok, not bigger. Just tighter and tougher!)
3. WATER - Water is called a “solution” for more than one reason. The healthiest, cheapest solution (literally) for washing near every toxin you have from your system is clean, clear water. Drink it. Drink more of it. And drink more than you think you should. Water also hydrates your lungs - giving your brain more oxygen and, thus, more attention.
4. LAUGHTER- A good laugh is great medicine. Some scientists believe a good belly laugh actually sops up more cortisol than exercise! It also draws oxygen into the brain and dumps dopamine - the pleasure drug - throughout your brain and body. It relieves tension, burns fat, contributes to blood flow and dampens the aging effects of stress. Here’s an odd fact: Even a forced laugh will give you these molecular benefits because parts of your brain don’t recognize fake laughter from real laughter. Try standing in front of a mirror for 30 seconds and laughing as hard as you can. You’ll still get free drugs!
5. TOUCH: Massage, wrestling, and even - yes – consentual sex are great cortisol reducers. The caveat – one-night stands increase cortisol. Regular sex in a committed relationship is a cortisol destroyer. Along with building muscle capacity, bringing more blood to more places, expanding your capillary network to flush cells of their toxins, there are a ton of healthy neurochemical gifts healthy touch brings.
6. PRAYING WITH OTHERS - Even if there were no God, prayer would still be a good idea physiologically and psychologically. Praying with and for others - especially if you are meditating, focusing, shutting off the outside stressors and focusing inward and upward - has a significant impact on lowering cortisol, decreasing depression, increasing optimism and lifting you out of depression. Add hands held in prayer or prayer in a circle arm in arm, and you get both the prayer and the touch benefits. These gifts flow both to the prayer and the prayee.
7. BEST FRIENDS: Having a BEST friend (not just any friend) will reduce cortisol in significant ways. Why? Take a look at:
8. DIET: This is simple enough and completely scientifically verifiable. You change your cortisol levels when you do the following.
• Follow a low GI (glycemic index) diet
• Eliminate transfats
• Eliminate/reduce caffeine intake after 2 p.m.
• Eliminate/reduce alcohol consumption
• Increase fiber intake
• Increase intake of omega-3's (good fats) such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish
Try this simple Paleo plan for 40 days and see what happens to your energy, wrinkles, and skin tone: Sugars, starches, and grains are out. Natural fruits, vegetables and meats are in. I spent two months in India this year working 6 days a week with an experimental preschool and 50 little ones, and halfway through started Paleo. with near immediate results.
BTW - Dr. Rich's favorite cortisol-reducing medicines - Dark Chocolate, black tea, almonds, blueberries, and a glass of red wine every night.
MAGIC BULLET: COMBINE THEM ALL
Seems to me if you can have a best friend who prays with you a lot, touches you in loving and welcomed ways a lot, helps keep you on your healthy diet together, laughs with you a lot, drinks water and wine and tea and eats chocolate with you, and does regular exercise with you before you have a glass of wine and go to sleep and - in the safe and loving bonds of a committed marriage - are having regular and delightful sex in a very dark, cool, techless room…well.
This sounds a lot like a healthy a pretty marvelous way of living and setting your odds in favor of a very long, rich, dementia free life.
PS - When I look at “It is not good for man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:!8) all I can think of is God must have read some of these neurology books.