The Brain & Mental Health: Food, Exercise & Mood, Part Two

 NOTE: Last month, Mental Health Month, I posted Part One of the topic drawing on Dr. Amen’s terrific book, The End of Mental Illness. Today I am completing this topic, using Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, Keep Sharp, which focuses more on a healthy brain, especially for dementia, rather than mental illness, per se, but covers the topics of food, mood, and exercise quite well. Here are some highlights and quotes that apply to the whole body, which includes the mind.

“…In order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind.” (Introduction)

“ No matter what your DNA says, a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and some other surprising lifestyle decisions, can change that destiny.” (Intro.)

In one of his “boxes” to highlight information, Dr. Gupta writes about statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that 80% of Americans don’t get enough regular exercise. Equally important is the analysis that involved adults from age fifty to age 71. If these people exercised between two and eight hours per week from their teen years until their sixties, they have a “29 to 36 percent lower chance of dying from any cause over the twenty-year period.” (p . 101)

The above stats are a great endorsement for staying active at any age. As 96 year old Dick Van Dyke said in a documentary about older actors, “Keep moving!”

96-year old Dick Van Dyke (aka The Energizing Bunny! es)

Dr. Gupta covers muscle mass, the importance of “white matter (bundles of nerve fibers trough which messages pass between different areas of gray matter),” how exercise should be a lifetime activity, and as he notes on page 112, “exercise is a daily nonnegotiable activity like brushing my teeth.”

Since I am a big believer in the relationship between food and general health, including mental health, I think Dr. Gupta’s “Guide to Good Eating,” starting on page 170-176 is extremely important. Here are his ideas using the acronym: S.H.A.R.P:

S: Slash Sugar and Stick to Your ABCs. (A foods are ones to consume regularly, like fresh fruits and veggies. B foods are additional foods to include, such as whole grains, and C foods are foods to limit, such as fried foods and red meat).

H: Hydrate Smartly. According to the author, our ability to identify we are thirsty diminishes and also we often mistake hunger for being thirsty. He notes that there is a link between how hydrated you are and your energy levels as well as brain rhythm.

A: Add More Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Dietary Sources. Because our Standard American Diet is heavy on Omega 6s and not Omega 3s, we need to eat more “brain-nourishing” gems from seafood, nuts, and seeds” and fewer “processed, friend and baked food.” The 1:1 ratio of early humans is not honored, and he notes that the ratio is more like 12: 1 to 25:1 omega -6 to omega-3.

R: Reduce Portions. The emphasis here is in cooking your own meals so you can control the portions you eat. He also writes about different ways of preparing food that are more healthful, such as avoiding frying foods and replacing that technique “ with boiling, poaching, steaming, or baking.”

P: Plan Ahead. Here the author recommends that by planning ahead, we won’t “get caught” to buying and eating simple carbs, low fiber, and saturated fats. By planning ahead (ex. I take an apple or banana with me when I shop in case I get hungry.)

At the end of this section he provides a list of ideas called “Feeding Your Brain,which draws upon S.H.A.R.P. with some additional practical tips, such as eating a wide variety of different colored veggies, reminiscent of what he recalls as “eating the rainbow,” read labels, etc.

I read some time ago in a book by a doctor that diet is 80% of your health and exercise is 20%. I am not sure I agree with that ratio, but I do agree that some people tend to eat junk and they can go to the gym to exercise and offset the junk food (I disagree with that).

To me, eating well may not be 80% of our health, but it certainly is very important, with exercise as also necessary to stay healthy, especially as we age. Find your own balance/ratio and see how you feel, changing your habits as needed to remain healthy with your family doctor’s input.

Dr. Gupta’s book is an excellent overall guide to attain what his subtitle says:
Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

KEEP SHARP  is published by Simon & Schuster and costs $28 hard copy.


Review of Until the Day We Die by Jockie Loomer-Kruger

47.5 million people worldwide live with dementia. Jockie Loomer-Kruger’s new book, Until the Day We Die is not only tender and touching, but also very timely given the statistics.

While the book is a novel and therefore a work of fiction, it is based partially on the author’s experience with her own husband. As she notes: “It draws on stories lived, told, heard, and imagined.”

Most of the story takes place at the nursing home where Jenny’s husband Rudy is being cared for. What is important, however, is that the author tackles the issue of sexuality among seniors, a topic that not many people read about in such detail. The author has done a stunning job of creating a triangle that involves Jenny, Rudy, and a new female resident at the home.

While the story is very engaging, the reader also receives a great deal of information on the workings in a nursing home. The head nurse at the facility thinks that Rudy’s attraction to the new resident is quite natural among people with dementia, until the situation becomes somewhat dangerous.

Jenny’s feelings are spelled out with sincerity, drawing the reader into her efforts to take care of her husband while tacking the unexpected issue with the new resident. Jenny expresses her feelings with an honesty that I found very touching.

I could not put this book down, because the characters felt very real to me. Although the end of the book involves Rudy’s death, the book itself is not overly sad.

Until the Day We Die is a much needed “up close and personal” novel that gave me information, insights, and concern about the whole topic of dementia. I can’t say I “enjoyed” the book, but rather, I appreciated the author’s honesty, storytelling skills, and exploration of this timely topic. A must-read for those who know someone who is dealing with this disease and needs support, because in the end, it is the power of love that is the message.

Until the Day We Die is published by Moose House Publications.

The book is $24.95 plus shipping, payable through PayPal from Moose House Publications

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Personal Note:

I met Jockie online because of our mutual love of hanging clothes outdoors. She contributed wonderful folk art paintings of women hanging our clothes for my book For the Love of Clotheslines, available from Amazon and from me.  I envy her because she is now living with her daughter and has access to a clothesline!


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