Minding the Mind for Health’s Sake

scrabble letters spelling the word mind on a wooden table

My two biggest fears – spiders aside – are being kidnapped and held against my will, and getting dementia.

We’ll leave kidnapping for another day! Suffice to say I watch serial killer movies only to learn what not to do. For example: never, ever get in the car. It’s better to run and take a chance on getting shot.

Welcome to happy Friday fun talk, with Lisa! 😊

Mind Matters

My former father-in-law experienced dementia for the last decade or so of his life. While many dementia patients get belligerent and uncooperative, this sweet man was the opposite. He was kind and gracious and grateful. He did, as many do, escape his house several times, despite the use of alarms and other preventive measures. But the day he held my ex-husband’s hand and asked him – his son – who his father was, is one that will live in our memories forever.

My father did the same with me. In the latter stages of Parkinson’s disease he asked me who my dad was, and then quickly realized his error. I’d never seen him cry so hard. I convinced him it was medication messing with his mind and we ended up hugging and sharing a laugh. But it was awful to see him suffer like that. That period of time where they can still “come back” and know that something is wrong with their mind is excruciating to witness and much worse to experience.

So, I gobble up medical guidance about staving off Alzheimer’s and dementia. The first piece of advice is always: move your body. A sedentary lifestyle is the number one risk factor. Ever since I experienced vertigo, my sense of balance hasn’t returned to normal. Even just getting on the treadmill or the elliptical can make me tippy. But remembering to get up from the chair is a start. Going upstairs and putting on a YouTube dance lesson or aerobic class and following it, is better than nothing. I try to do this a few times a day.

Other Risk Factors

According to a Los Angeles psychologist:

*getting poor sleep (damn!)

*not eating a balanced diet

*excessive alcohol

*chronic stress.

For me, the sleep part is a problem but the others aren’t. Stoicism has really helped me reduce stress and just go with the flow. Accepting everything that happens – even the bad stuff – as part of my life, is the key to stress reduction for me.

But there’s one more recommendation that I didn’t always consider: socialization. Some people were very sad about a lack of social time during the pandemic. I missed my friends and family, sure, but I didn’t mind the isolation. (Granted, I isolated with Derek, not all alone.) But it made me see that I’m at risk for becoming a hermit! I need to push myself to get out and be social.

It has come to my attention that I’m an introverted extrovert. During my radio career I got up on various stages and emceed hundreds of events in front of thousands of people, but any mingling before or afterward drained me. Some people gain energy from socialization. It exhausts others. That’s me. I also used my weird morning radio hours as an excuse to not socialize. “Gotta go! I’m getting up at 3:30!” Being comfortable in a social setting doesn’t come naturally.

There are no guarantees, of course. People can follow all of this advice to a T and still end up with a bad diagnosis. Jim Fixx comes to mind. He wrote the best-seller, The Complete Book of Running, and advocated jogging for good health. Mr. Fixx dropped dead of a massive heart attack while out on a jog, at the age of 52. No guarantees.

Call it fate, attribute it to a higher power, or however you choose to look at it – life will do what life does. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to help things along. I used to think that living long was the goal. Now I believe that living long and staying well, is a better one.

5 thoughts on “Minding the Mind for Health’s Sake”

  1. Sleep has been an issue for me as I get older, 3 or 4 hours of sleep, 2-hours tossing and turning and a short snooze just before it’s time to get up. My mother and her sister are suffering with dementia and it’s sad to witness how they change.

    My greatest fears are a stroke which migraine sufferers are more prone to experiencing or a heart attack which my father, his father and several of his brothers all died of.

    Socialisation and lack there of has been something I’ve found challenging to deal with. Being single, disabled and a senior and living alone basically adds up to spending lots of time alone, well me and my dog.

    1. I’m so sorry about your Mother and sister. I’m sure you’ve looked into online meetups, Allan. It’s not perfect but it’s better than nothing. I appreciate your interactions here, as well.

  2. Do you think you would have poor sleep inow f you hadn’t spent years getting up at the crack of stupid to do your radio work?

  3. This was so touching and informative. A perfect mix…and I hope you’ll bring it up in Ep 61 of Gracefully and Frankly. How lucky I am to have a best pal and podcast partner who has such wisdom and heart. Hugs, E.

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