Avoiding Alzheimers: Prescription 1

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.



 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:

• http://www.spine-health.com/blog/11-unconventional-sleep-tips-how-get-sleep-and-stay-asleep

• http://chriskresser.com/how-artificial-light-is-wrecking-your-sleep-and-what-to-do-about-it


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!)

•    http://www.livestrong.com/article/86687-exercise-cortisol-levels/


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. 

•    http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction

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!  

•    http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/laughter.htm


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.

•    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20391859


7. BEST FRIENDS: Having a BEST friend (not just any friend) will reduce cortisol in significant ways. Why? Take a look at:

•    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2041271/Why-having-best-friend-good-Our-No-1-mate-help-beat-stress.htmlhttp://www.benzobuddies.org/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=aas3o6oj0c0hqngr2ls0bpg104&topic=33758.msg484003#msg484003


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

•    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=154801903&page=1


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. 

•          http://www.ehow.com/how_4843438_reduce-cortisol-levels.html



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. 


Have you ever been woken from sleep by a voice that wasn't there?

This morning at 4:30 sharp I woke to a voice calling me: "Thank God for endings."

I jolted up and looked around the room. No one.

I lay in bed, wondering what it meant. Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. So I began to answer that call. For the next half hour I listed - one by one - the endings I've experienced in the last few years. Doors closing that I had hoped would open. The answer "no" when I wanted a "yes." Saying goodbye. Sunsets. Roads less traveled that I didn't bother to travel because I didn't have the time or energy or wisdom to explore them. Doors I shut on myself and others. Grave stones and grace stones. 

The half hour turned into an hour and a half of drowsily thanking God for endings.

If you hear a voice in the night, consider it a challenge. 

It may be a gift in disguise.

1986 "Restless" Tour

One of my fondest memories was our 1986 - "Restless" Tour. I wrote the two act musical and toured with a cast and crew of 120+ on two buses. We performed in the spring, then toured from the Midwest to the East Coast, with our best venue the Sylvan Theater under and the left of the Washington Monument (Thanks Marsh Drege!). Strips included Gettysburg (Electric Map, eh Arlyce), Niagara Falls, Camp Koinonia (I still have my hand-made cermaic cup from Leni Lenapi Village), and the Harvard emergency ward (for the Wolden). We performed at dozens of venues - including Harvard - and filled the three weeks with fun, excitement, and a final emergency ward when Wade Brua snuck out at night, stepped over a curb (which was an 8 foot wall) and broke both arms. 

"Restless" was the story of an angel sent to wake up a high school youth group. The play starred Monty Lysne, Mike Otto, Jennifer Sullivan, Jennifer Sullivan, Megumi Yamamoto, Jeff Buehler, Dan Knutsen, Howard Leder, Jill Schmidt and three sets of twins (Wolden, Lewis and Swensby) who would also return for critical acclaim in the 1988 play "The Best." 

Don't Let 'Em Quit Music


I've never met an adult who said, "I wish my parents wouldn't have made me take piano lessons all those years."


I have met plenty adults, however, who say they wish their parents would not have let them quit.

Musical training - and engaging kids young - has been proven to develop better language and mathematical skills, better spacial intelligence, higher IQ (about 7% higher) and overall greater academic achievement. It also changes the economics of a person's life. And if get your music training young, you create significantly stronger bonds, capacity and never connections in areas that normally deteriorate during Alzheimers and Parkinson's Disease... meaning you have a greater capacity of keeping enough brain cells and healthy connections later in life to prevent or at least reduce the effects of those diseases.

So if you are "forcing" your kid to take piano or another instrument and they want to quit, tell them: "This is not your decision. Just like I don't let you quit school on those days when you don't feel like attending, I'm going to make this decision for you now... and you'll thank me for it later."

Maybe bet them $100 that they'll one day thank you.

You can collect on that bet when they're 25... the same year they have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex (adult brain).



In order

to make a difference for the children around the world, we must first make a difference in the world around the children.


To re+cognizesomething, the brain must first cognize it. The child, teen, adult or aging brain must first be familiar with the new letter, number, word, concept. A child learning to speak must hear millions of words, watch hundreds of thousands of items being associated to words and watch thousands of smiling lips moving as they connect to the near-mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight. A child learning to grasp, to walk, to ride a bicycle must be developmentally, emotionally, and motivationally ready to take the first movements that preceed and set up the second movements that allow the first practices, mistakes, retries, and eventual first small successes in grasping, walking, and riding that bike.

Everything we learn in the brain, the body and the environment is built on a myriad of small exposures, gradual awarenesses, and larger constructs.

Nothing comes from nothing. Even the “ah-ha!” lightening bolt revelation doesn’t show up out of nowhere. Helen Keller’s “ah-ha!”, Edison’s light bulb, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and your very first word were all built on the exposure, experience, connections and networking of billions of neural connections.

An individual neuron firing alone in the human brain doesn’t mean anything. It is what it touches, and what it touches touches that allows us to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel and understand. The human eye can see an individual photo from a mile away. But an individual photon of light hitting the retina doesn’t mean anything. It is the symphony of pin-pricking photons swirling together, overlapping and bombarding the retina simultaneously that allows us to see the baby’s smile, the dancing flame, the starry sky.

Everything is context. Everything is connected.

For or Against?

RICH Learning Neurons.jpg

Neurologically, It's much better to be for something than against something. When you're for something positive, you get dopamine and endorphins. Your capillaries open up. You get more blood to the brain. Less wrinkles. Less cortisol. More Melatonin (better sleep). Less hypertension, stroke, coronary disease. Less constipation. Better memory and creativity. And you live longer and better. 

When you're against something, you get more cortisol, more adrenallin, more wrinkles, more heart disease, more chance of stroke. And hemorrhoids.

I know how I want to live.

My Favorite Super Bowl


My Favorite Super Bowl

My favorite Super Bowl wasn’t on television. It didn’t last four regulation quarters. It wasn’t held in a huge stadium.

My favorite Super Bowl was just 10 seconds of football when my daughter caught a touchdown pass in the end zone on the last day of her football career. She and one other girl were out for boy’s football that year. Though they practiced with full pads and took (and gave) plenty of hits all season, they didn’t get much action in the actual games.

I was standing on the sidelines, helping with the chain. Although we threw the football nearly every night after school for five years and she was just as good and just as fast as any end on the team, they didn’t use her much.

On this particular day, it was late in the fourth quarter and they hadn’t thrown to her all game. She ran deep. The ball went up. Time slowed to a crawl. I kept thinking “two hands, Kathryn!” She caught it. The crowd cheered.

And with nothing more to prove and a whole lot more pressing things to do, that was the end of her football career.

MLK, Michael King and Martin Luther


For my friends from other lands, our American Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday is today. You may be aware of him. What you may not be aware of is that MLK Jr. started out with the name of Michael until his father went to Germany in 1934 and was so impressed by the original Luther that he changed his name and his son's name. And for those of you Greek scholars, I'm guessing you may have thought it more than coincidental that the name "Luther" in Greek means "freedom".

In honor of both Luthers, enjoy this short song from "Luther the Rock Opera". The voice you're hearing is Robert Robinson playing Elector Frederick, Luther's protector, singing with Luther moments after his trial:

Isn’t it strange that they should name you Luther?
The word in Greek means “freedom”
Isn’t it odd?
All our lives, to fear we’ve been in bondage
Now we’re finally free
And captive to the Word of God

We are mortal and we’ll all die
It matters not so much how and when, but why
We’re all going to die - scad few of us live
Most everyone else is a pawn
But those who die for freedom
Well, there’s a chance that they will live on

You can watch the trailer of the official lyric version at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/luthertherockopera

Summer Arts Internship in South Carolina

Kids Allendale 2018 2.jpg

If you know of a young musician, visual artist, theater-type or dancer looking for something meaningful to do next summer for a paid internship, send them over to RICH Learning Carolina 2019.

We'll be partnering with local Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal churches for our 4th South Carolina summer enrichment program with 3-6 year-olds. If funding is sufficient, we may be expanding to inner-city Philadelphia. (More on that soon).

Applications are at the bottom of the home page.

The Loneliest Generation


Aging Alone

An article in this week’s "Wall Street Journal” made me think.

We need to connect in many, many more meaningful ways than just a passing "hi" in the hallway on the way to coffee and class.

We need people who can hold us when we cannot hold ourselves.

Hold us. Enfold us. Mold us. Sometimes even scold us with a loving twinkle in their eyes.

Otherwise it's just cold us...

…in a sometimes lonely world.

Stable Eyes

stable Eyes.jpg

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “stable” in the last 48 hours. As a noun, a stable is a place. As an adjective, you can make a stable table. To do that you have to balance it out. As a verb, to stabilize something is also to make it steady, stronger, balanced.

But how might people of the stable and the cross make this unsteady place and time and world a more balanced, strong and safe place for all God’s children?

Maybe in order to truly stabilize, we need to look at the world with stable-eyes.

The Camera


The Camera

In the year 2525

A shot from Will Oechsler just now gave me the impetus for a very short, short story:

In the year 2525, an alien explorer ship from the planet Oechlandia Major landed on a barren planet of ice. They were restocking their pantry (they use ice for fuel and food - breaking it into oxygen which they breathe and hydrogen which they eat) when one of the beings stepped around a rock to relieve himself and spotted a strange object that looked almost like an intelligent life form had once inhabited the planet.

He brought it in to the Captain, who immediately dismissed the find as a fake. "First of all, our records show there was never any intelligent life of this planet."

(He may have been right about that one.)

"And second of all, it is clear to any intelligent being that this camera-like object simply was formed by natural combinations of silica, metals and time.

The Admiral ordered that the object be destroyed immediately.

Later that day he privately told his psychiatrist that he knew something so complex as a camera could never have assembled itself, but by admitting that there was an intelligent creator for such an intelligent design would have endangered his position among his peers.

Where To Put Your Parenting/Teaching/Social Efforts?


This graph is from Harvard’s Center on Developing Children.

More happens between 4-5 in terms of executive function brain growth than in all of the rest of life put together. It’s pretty clear where we should apply our efforts in enlarging the creative capacity of a person.

The full article is at https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/building-the-brains-air-traffic-control-system-how-early-experiences-shape-the-development-of-executive-function/


What is the Message of Christmas?

16 Cells.png

What is the message of Christmas? Maybe it's that we are not alone. Maybe it's that life is not meaningless. Maybe it's that life does have a purpose. Maybe it's we are not some random accident. Maybe it's that there is hope. Maybe it's that there is a God, and it ain't you.

Maybe it's life has meaning, love conquers hate, and that God is with us. For us. Over us. Beside us. Within us. And wanting to be borne by us and through us, in quiet conquering love to be a gift again to the hurting waiting world.

Nursing Homes, Drugs and Preschools


Why place a preschool and a nursing home near each other?

Here's the best neurology. When the wisdom of the elder and the wonder of the child collide in a joyful space, you dump in the pain-killing pleasure drugs (Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, etc) and wash out the stress hormones (cortisol, cortisone, etc.) And you add the neurotransmitters Epinephrine (a.k.a. Adrenaline) and

Norepinephrine (a.k.a. Noradrenaline), with wake you up to even more joy, dilate the capillaries for more blood flow to the brain, and reduce the threat of strokes, cardiovascular disease, ulcers, blood clots). By reducing Cortisol, you also get better sleep, have less wrinkles, get rid of belly fat and have a better memory.

All in all, you reduce medical expenses, multiply joy, and create a world where people don’t lose all their marvels (sic!).