Be Nice to Your Brain: Seek ways to intentionally move. Have you heard that“sitting is the new smoking?” It is easy to rationally see the dangers of inhaling smoke-laden chemicals, but more difficult to dissect all the ways our modern lifestyle keeps us immobile. It’s just so normal these days to sit! Recent research proposes that a sedentary lifestyle is within itself a primary risk factor for all-cause morbidity (the condition of being diseased) and early mortality (dying too soon). The good news is that the risks of sitting can be alleviated by finding ways to “moderately” move just 60 minutes a day!
Consider the London Transport Workers Study conducted from 1949-1952. Investigators examined the medical records and the sickness absentee work records of about 31,000 men between the ages of 35 and 64. All were employed in one of two categories:
1. Bus, tram, or trolley drivers
2. Conductors or underground railway guards
Cases of heart disease of any duration were flagged and death certificates were evaluated for any indication of coronary heart disease deaths. While these jobs are in the same industry, the results of the study showed very different health outcomes. In the drivers, the annual rate of coronary heart disease was 2.7 per 1,000 men, while the rate was only 1.9 per 1,000 men for the conductors/guards. The researchers concluded that the employees in positions that required higher physical activity had significantly lower rates of coronary heart disease.
What does this have to do with being nice to your brain? It is widely accepted that heart disease can result in cognitive decline and dementia. This is because coronary heart disease compromises the ability of the heart and vascular system to pump out the oxygen-rich blood that the brain needs for optimal functioning. It is becoming increasingly clear that the same factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity are also associated with a decline in thinking skills.
Be nice to your brain! Seek ways to intentionally move. It helps maintain memory and doesn’t have to be high impact exercise; moderate movement for about an hour a day has a huge benefit. Play pingpong, work in the garden, walk and talk with a friend, or even clean something. Find something you enjoy doing and START SOMEWHERE today giving your body more of what it was designed for. You can do it. I will help you.
#AskDrDebbie: “What suggestions do you have to help raise HDL naturally?” -Anne N.
High Density Lipoprotein, HDL, is often referred to as “the good cholesterol” because it helps carry cholesterol from the arteries to the liver where it is either used or removed from the body. Research has shown that minimum blood levels of 50 mg/dl in women and 40 mg/dl in men of this healthy cholesterol function to:
Have an antioxidant effect
Reduce heart disease
Genetics does play a role but the main factors that influence HDL are related to lifestyle. Here are four relatively easy START SOMEWHERES:
1. Exercise regularly. I promise that it wasn’t preplanned to answer this question along with my Be Nice To Your Brain series! Nevertheless, studies have consistently shown that movement, especially aerobic exercise that raises the heart’s rate, is effective in raising HDL.
2. Include coconut oil in your diet. Despite being high in saturated fat, coconut oil is actually heart healthy and tends to raise HDL better than many other dietary fats. Read what Harvard has to say!
3. Eat purple produce. Anthocyanins are abundant in purple produce and researchhas shown a marked increase in HDL along with improvements in other health markers. Although the studies typically include extracts from the food, eggplant, red cabbage, raspberries, and blueberries are rich in anthocyanins.
4. Enjoy fatty fish often. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which benefit heart health, reduce inflammation, and help raise blood levels of HDL. Examples of fatty fish are salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies.
Hopefully, there is one easy way in the list above that sounds like it will work in your life! Being aware of what is going on in your own body is the very best START SOMEWHERE!
hanksgiving Lentil Salad (Kitchn)
You will need:
1 medium butternut squash (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups French green lentils
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small bunch flat-leaf kale (about 6 ounces), stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Here’s the drill:
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.
2. Place the squash, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the oil, a big pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer (reserve the bowl). Roast until the vegetables are tender and very caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place the lentils and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the lentils and discard the bay leaves. Return the lentils to the pan and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Taste and season with more salt as needed.
4. Once the vegetables are roasted, remove the garlic cloves and set aside until they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the roasted cloves out of their paper into the bowl used to toss the roasted vegetables and mash them with a fork. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil, vinegar, mustard, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to the bowl and whisk to combine.
5. While the lentils are still warm, add them to the dressing. Add the kale and toss until well coated. Add the roasted vegetables, pecans, and raisins and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Just before serving, toss in the parsley. Transfer the salad to a large platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
This challenge to move more is not altogether new! Addressing Liverpool College on December 20, 1873, Edward Stanley, the Earl of Derby, said, “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”