Mental Sharpness Begins to Decline in Middle-Age

The brain’s abilities to reason, comprehend and remember may start to worsen as early as age 45, a new study from England suggests.Researchers gave tests of thinking skills to about 5,100 men and 2,200 women between the ages of 45 and 70 years over a 10-year period. They found people ages 45 to 49 years experienced a notable decline in mental functioning.”‘Senior’ moments that people often joke about are true,” said Dr. Gary Small, geriatric psychiatrist David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the work.

“If you follow people over time, you’ll see there are structural changes that happen in the brain as they age,” he said.

Previous evidence suggests that impaired cognitive function could be  an early sign of dementia. One recent study showed cognitive performance strongly predicted a 75 percent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, after six years.

About 1 in 8 older Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. They anticipate the numbers will grow each year as more and more people continue to live longer.

Though the age at which cognitive decline begins remains unknown, researchers say the new study demonstrates the importance of a healthy lifestyle, particularly paying attention to cardiovascular health, which may help stave off the effects of brain aging.

“A decline in mental function is inevitable,” said Steven Ferris, a psychologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, who was not involved with the work. “Following a healthy lifestyle can help a certain degree of mental functioning, but there requires more research to prove this.”

A healthy lifestyle includes exercising, which increases blood flow to the brain, providing it with much-needed nutrients. Eating foods that are good for the heart, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains is also important, because it could protect brain cells from age-related decline.

A faster decline among older people

Study participants were tested for memory, vocabulary, hearing and visual comprehension skills. People were given cognitive tests three times over the course of the study. The researchers took differences in education levels into account.

Researchers found that over the 10-year study, there was a 3.6 percent decline in mental reasoning scores in people who were between the ages of 45 and 49 at the study’s start. There was a 9.6 percent decline in the abilities of men ages 65 to 70 years at the start, and a slightly smaller, 7.4 percent decline, in women of those ages.

Results showed that cognitive test scores declined in all categories except vocabulary, and scores declined faster in older people.

The study also demonstrated that measuring people’s abilities at one point in time may not yield accurate results.

“This study follows the same people over a long period of time to see if their cognitive performance changes,” said Ferris.

“And these changes are beginning earlier than what people previously thought,” he said.

via Mental Sharpness Begins to Decline in Middle-Age.


The Last Dollar

In a few days I’ll probably appreciate it a bit more, but for now I’m simply quietly celebrating inside.  Today my bank is remitting the last payment under the divorce settlement to my ex.  No further obligation exists under the agreement.  After 30 years of work, I can now hurry up and pay off the mortgage so I can afford to retire and manage living expenses with a Social Security income.

I don’t seriously regret much of the past 3 decades and the 3 marriages over that time span, although I have to say it’s been expensive.  I have 4 great kids and 2 grandkids, and I helped raise 4 stepkids and a bunch of foster kids.  The rhythm of life seemed to dance between wonderful, horrible, and then resting in OK for awhile before it started all over again.  I’m guessing it just might continue that way, but maybe not.

Maybe I can start to let my foot off the gas now and not be so anxious about the future.  I have a lazy dog for a companion, and a wonderful girlfriend to spend pleasant moments together with.  I’m teaching myself how to cook, and joined a fitness center.  I can keep warm in the sauna in the winter, garden and cut grass in the summer.

With any luck, the next 30 years can be even better than the last 30.  Less expensive at least.


Without Regrets

We all have something stored in our memory banks of the past that we wish we could have done differently, or something we wish we didn’t do.

As we get older we learn and grow. But that doesn’t mean we have to regret what we did before we learned how to do things differently. If we didn’t go through those experiences we might not have grown into the strong and knowledgeable people we are today.

So what I’m proposing is that we get rid of the negative thoughts—the could have’s, might have’s, and should have’s—and start living a life that won’t make us feel regretful. Not even at an older, wiser age.

Here is a list of 40 things you can do to practice living life with no regrets:1. Realize that it’s okay to make mistakes. Just make sure to learn from your past mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

2. Make your health and wellness a top priority and always take care of yourself so you’re ready to take care of others.

3. Follow your own path—not one that others want you to follow.

4. Find the humor in life and laugh like there is no tomorrow.

5. Relax and move with the flow of life by being unafraid of change.

6. Be adventurous by trying new things and taking more risks.

7. Have more intellectual curiosity and embrace creativity.

8. Try to find happiness with as many different people as you can.

9. Think for yourself instead of letting other people’s opinions influence you too much.

10. Try not to judge people before you get to know them.

11. Be thankful for what you have now instead of thinking about what you don’t have.

12. Wish well upon everyone equally and try to admire without envy.

13. Share your happiness with others instead of hoarding it all for yourself.

14. Don’t try to change someone—love who they are now.

15. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

16. Know that happiness is bigger than any bank account.

17. Control negative thoughts so that they don’t contribute to the outcome of your life.

18. Use your energy wisely because spending energy complaining, worrying or being impatient is just wasted energy.

19. Be bold. Find the courage to change things that should be changed and accept that there are some things that cannot be changed.

20.Love your work. If you don’t currently love what you do, figure out what you would love, and take the first step toward that life.

21. Turn your discontent into a mystery and enjoy trying to solve it.

22. Face problems from different angles in order to find solutions.

23. Gain independence by realizing that on this earth we are all dependent upon each other.

24. Change your perspective by taking on a wider view of things.

25. Don’t waste time trying to bring disagreeable people around to liking you.

26. Become the person you would like to spend the rest of your life with.

27. Be honest with yourself and others by saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

28. Treat people with respect and compassion.

29. Live in the now by loving the present and being aware of your thoughts and actions. Think happy thoughts and speak powerful words.

30. Try not to put things off until later.

31. Never hold grudges.

32. Face your fears head on and try to do the things that you think you cannot do.

33. Spend time with people who make you happy while also not depending on other people for your own happiness.

34. Stand up for yourself and others and don’t let anyone or anything hold you back.

35. Be yourself and love who you are now.

36. Be a participant in life rather than an observer.

37. Do the things that you love to do as much as you can.

38. Write out a list of goals and achieve them by doing them step by step. Don’t give up when things get difficult.

39. Do something every day that makes you feel proud of yourself—commit random acts of kindness whenever you get the chance.

40. And always keep on moving forward.

via 40 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets.

Baby boomer women won’t go quietly into the good night

So here we are, at an age we thought happened only to our mothers. We thought we’d be wearing heavy gold bracelets by now and learning about wine. In Italian. While we traveled the world. Doing Yoga.

The children — if we had children — should have launched themselves into successful adulthoods, so we could go trekking in Patagonia and dabble in watercolors, gently dispensing wisdom and sassy quips. We expect any minute we’ll be full of infinite beauty and graceful maturity.

But alas, no. We’re not feeling very mature about this extra padding around our middle and the furrow that has taken up residence between our eyebrows. Sadly, we see no Italian-wine-lessons or water-color -dabbling on the horizon. We’re living in a household full of hot flashes, hormones and teen angst.

We are the women of the boomer generation, and we’ve arrived at “a certain age” with relative health and sanity intact. But some of us are inching into and past menopause with more than a little trepidation.

And some of us are doing what boomers have always been good at doing: We’re sharing. As a generation, we’ve learned to market our angst better than any generation before us. So now we’re writing about our aging selves.

Hurtling headlong into 50 and beyond need not be fraught with fear, anxiety and bad cheek implants. In fact, note Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, authors of “Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve,” it’s the perfect time to feel your power and admire the woman you’ve become.

In their book, Kinney — best known for her work as Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show” — and Ratzlaff set out to “redefine the idea of beauty, age and courage.” They think you ought to crown yourself queen of your own life and have a fun party while you’re at it.

Jaki Scarcello, author of “Fifty & Fabulous!: The Best Years of a Woman’s Life,” agrees with many of their points and makes a few of her own: “Life slows down as we age, not to take the sprint from our last mile, but to bring us back to wonder.”

Scarcello is not writing for the crown-and-cocktail set, but both books raise many of the same questions: Why do maturing woman become invisible? Why has the definition of beauty become so narrow that looking “younger” always means looking “better?” Why is the idea of being older than 50 laden with such fear and regret for so many women? Why this mad clinging to some youthful vision of oneself that no longer exists?

Speaking via Skype from Kiev, Russia, where she is in the middle of a six-week book tour, Scarcello bubbles with enthusiasm over her subject, although she is saddened to find an almost universal fear of aging. “In the pursuit of eternal youth,” Scarcello says, “everyone loses. A woman loses the gift of age, society loses the wisdom of the mature woman, and youth loses the hope of a deeper future.”

Youth also loses the hope of any visible role models, as attractive older public figures start zealously tightening and implanting. There seem to be fewer Jeanne Moreaus and Anna Magnanis and more Joan Rivers, who actually paid someone to cut and paste her face into a caricature of her former self.

Scarcello, who has worked as a corporate leadership conslutant, is very open about how changes in her life propelled her to write. “I was seeking an answer to that question driven by my own age,” she explains, “the death of my parents, my feeling of being off the bench and on the field … this curious ‘invisibility’ phenomenon my senior female clients and associates mentioned. I suppose I was interviewing women to get the answers I needed, personally. But I was amazed by what I found in the interviews. I had no idea that the answers would be as deep and as rich.”

Kinney concurs. During lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant, she discusses the current fear-based reaction to aging, which she said made her and Ratzlaff want to start a “quiet revolution.” But then they decided that their voices needed to be louder. And in print.

“We wanted to blast away the societal tall tale that young is beautiful and old is just … old,” she says.

The project got its start when Kinney was searching the Internet for an explanation as to why her feet were hot. She stumbled upon the word “crone,” which currently comes with a New-Agey spin meant to imply that we’re not old bags, really; we’re Wise and Wonderful Elders of the tribe.

Kinney cites “the C word” as one reason she and Ratzlaff wrote the book, and she skewers the whole idea that we’re supposed to “transition” into our “Crone years.”

“Being a crone for next 40 years just wasn’t an option,” she says over sandwiches. Fresh-faced and luminous, she seems entirely comfortable in her own skin. Not everyone, however, feels that way. “When we were on tour,” she adds, chuckling, “we did have a few hecklers.”

Hecklers? Apparently, some women have taken umbrage at Kinney and Ratzlaff’s take on the “crone” issue. It turns out there are a number of gals who do embrace their “inner crone” and don’t like to be told they can’t. Who knew?

For her part, Scarcello says she “was driven by a desire to find an answer to the question ‘What is a woman’s role in society once the biological urge to reproduce is past?'”

She continues: “I looked to a type of woman I had admired my whole life to find my answers. They are the vibrant, strong older women whose energy radiates from the light in their eyes.” In “Fifty & Fabulous!” she focuses on women between 45 and 103, who are not about to stop their lives because of some ridiculous notion that they’re “old.”

“Menopause is just a reminder that we’re aging, it’s a nudge,” Scarcello says. She points out that in days gone by “women generally died before they went through menopause. Now we have years ahead of us.”

Her concern is that so many women are spending those years trying to stay as young as possible instead of embracing and enjoying this new phase of life. “I want every woman — and man, for that matter — to know that life after 50 is a stage of human development,” she says, “not a stage of decline.”

Or, as Kinney puts it: “While we most definitely enjoyed our youth, the best might really be yet to come.”

Mellor is the author of “You Look Fine, Really” and “The Three-Martini Playdate,” among other books.

via Baby boomer women won\’t go quietly into the good night – Los Angeles Times.