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#992: Take the roles of those younger than you!

What?

Doing things usually done by those younger than you (eg, if you’re a grandparent, caring for your grandkids) can reverse some of your brain’s aging declines and boost antioxidant levels.

Why?

Amdam’s theory is that when older individuals participate in tasks typically handled by a younger generation—whether in a hive or in our own society—antioxidant levels increase in the brain and turn back the clock.

Source:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=changing-social-roles-can-reverse-aging

Question:

How can you “act younger”? Like Plato says, “life must be lived as play” :)

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#993: Exercise as little as 10 minutes a day!

What?

Engage in some light exercise at least 10 minutes a day. Most studies seem to show that this is where health benefits kick in. 

Why?

1. It helps us maintain muscle mass (we typically lose ~1% every year beginning in middle age). As we get older, more muscle allows us to continue doing things like walking, buying groceries, etc. Stronger muscles also mean better balance and reduced risk of falling (a leading cause of death among the elderly)

2. It improves our cardiovascular health. Again, as we age, our arteries get stiffer which increases risk of heart attacks. Exercise helps slow or reverse some of those changes

Sources:

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jul/13/health/he-exercise13

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/can-housework-help-you-live-longer/

What clever ways have you found to incorporate exercise into your day?

Tags: exercise
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#994: Take a 15 minute nap every day!

What?

Take a short, nice little nap every day. But not too long.

Why?

On the plus side, naps:

  • Restore alertness
  • Improve memory
  • Help you learn and retain new information
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce risks of heart disease

On the negative side:

  • You may feel sleep inertia for a short period after waking
  • It can impair nighttime sleep if a nap is too long or taken at wrong time of day.

How?

To ensure maximum good nappage:

  • Keep it short (no more than 20-30 mins before you start getting into a full sleep cycle and feel like SHIT when you wake up)
  • Find a dark, quiet, cool place
  • Don’t take it too early or late in the day

More

Here’s a GREAT guide to napping and its benefits: http://ririanproject.com/2007/09/05/10-benefits-of-power-napping-and-how-to-do-it/

Do you nap? What advice would you give prospective nap takers?

Tags: nap
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#995: Drink red wine 3-4 nights a week

What?

Red wine, not white.

Why?

Increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind).

Reduces risk of blood clots.

Lots of flavonoids (antioxidants) including resveratrol (which receives media buzz disproportionate to its scientifically proven health benefits).

How?

A few glasses (max), a few nights a week.

P.S. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol in general is good for you…reducing risks of multiple types of cancer and even increasing your resistance to the common cold! (click here for more)

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Here’s some of the stuff that I bought in Sunnyvale. Caution, it does not taste great…at all…

Here’s some of the stuff that I bought in Sunnyvale. Caution, it does not taste great…at all…

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#996: The “Immortality” Herb

In parts of southern China and southeastern Asia, there’s an “immortality herb” called jiaogulan (scientific name: Gynostemma pentaphyllum). In English, it’s known as poor man’s ginseng.

It’s widely used as an herbal medicine, and is known to have strong antioxidant effects; it helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and inhibit cancer growth. Jiaogulan is typically consumed as an herbal tea but is also available as pills and as an alcohol extract.

I bought some at a Chinese herb shop in Sunnyvale…the owner describes it as basically a “weaker ginseng”. Unfortunately, the taste is…terrible. It tastes like bitter gunpowder (just imagining what gunpowder would taste like). Here’s a photo thanks to PhBlog:

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#997: Stevia good. Sugar bad

Stevia is a zero-calorie, naturally-occurring sweetener which has been shown in some studies to lower blood pressure an blood sugar levels. It’s much sweeter than sugar so you need to use less of it.

Sugar is a high-calorie substance which weakens the immune system, promotes inflammation, and raises insulin levels (over time, a risk factor for diabetes). It’s also ripe for abuse and hard to avoid since it’s EVERYWHERE.

Stevia has been banned by the FDA in the past but is slowly gaining approval today as research builds on its benefits.

I try to drink one cup of tea a day with a half-packet to one packet of stevia.

Splenda also seems to have some of stevia’s upside with less of sugar’s downside, but I don’t know much about it.

Tags: stevia sugar
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#998: Eat lots of dark chocolate

So far so good, right? :)

Bitter = better. I read somewhere that dark chocolate triggers the same feelings as sex, too!

Chocolate contains flavonoids and good fat. It helps you:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Improve blood flow to the heart and brain
  • Increase HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • Lower LDL (the bad cholesterol)

Just don’t overdo it.

I eat one chocolate bar a week (about 15-20 grams), spacing it out into bites each day…. Usually as dark as I can find (at least 50%+).

More reading: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-eat-and-drink-high-cacao-dark-chocolate/

What kinds of chocolate do you really like?

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#999: Drink coffee every day

Coffee is awesome (and awesome for you), as long as you don’t over do it.

The more that we study coffee, the more health benefits we discover. Among them:

  • Increased focus and alertness (duh)
  • Reduced risk of: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s…even obesity
  • Higher energy levels
There are risks to overdoing it, among them sleep deprivation and higher anxiety levels. Also, coffee is acidic and because of that, some longevity experts (eg, Ray Kurzweil) think drinking tea is safer.

I drink one small cup a day (and maybe a cup of tea as well), with a little soy milk on top (no sugar or cream). I’m so sensitive to caffeine that I’ll nurse that cup up to a whole day - and it definitely helps me be more productive.

How much coffee do you drink in a day?

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#1000: Watch (good) TV

Watching TV can make you smarter. That’s one of the things Steven Johnson talks about in his book.

Smarter = less risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia = live longer.

For TV to be effective, it needs some of these elements:

  • multiple overlapping storylines (so your brain needs to work to sort through what’s happening when where why)
  • large number of primary characters (so your brain has to keep track)
  • moral ambiguity (so your brain thinks through complex issues)
  • non-linear action (think Memento…)

So there you have it…watch more TV!

Here’s some TV I like:

  • Breaking Bad
  • Mad Men (at least, the first few seasons)
  • Game of Thrones
  • Bob’s Burgers (today’s The Simpsons, which I plan to write a post about!)
  • The Wire
  • Archer (who has the same voice as Bob)

I’m also currently watching Sopranos (finally getting around to it!)…Modern Family (getting a little repetitive)…The Office (even the actors seem tired of the show)…

What TV do you watch that’s making you smarter?