Archive for August, 2009

Singing Nuns

The Singing Nuns

Several media sources recently came out with results of a study of 38 Catholic nuns who donated their brains to science. In this nun study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers compared nuns with normal cognitive functioning at the end of their lives with those with cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Here are the results:

  • 10 had Alzheimer’s
  • 10 had asymptomatic Alzheimer’s
  • 5 had mild cognitive impairment
  • 13 had no cognitive deficits or brain lesions

Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s is when there are AD typical plaques and tangles in their brains, but the person still has unimpaired mental faculties throughout their lives.

What was the difference amongst these nuns? Those that had excellent language skills when they were younger diminished their chances of AD later in life. The researchers were able to obtain essays of some of the subjects when they were in their late teens or early twenties when they joined the convent. Grammatical complexity was unimportant, but those that were “dense” in ideas were less likely to develop AD or even mild impairment. The researchers do not know why superior language ability appears to be protective against dementia and AD, but suspect it has something to do with forming more synapses early in life.

Lead author of the study was Dr. Juan C. Troncoso of Johns Hopkins University. In Wired Science, he states, “It’s the first time that we show in humans that such a complex cognitive activity like idea density or language is connected with a neurodegenerative disease. Now with this kind of paper, we have shown that we should focus not only on what we can see in the brain, but also on what we cannot see, the connection between cognition and pathology. Our suspicion is that this is just the tip of the iceberg — there’s so much that we still don’t know about neural disease and the genesis of dementia.”

Related blog post:  Fear of Alzheimer’s. Click here.
Know anyone with Alzheimer’s? Advanced Russian adaptagens might help  with focus and mood. Click here to learn more.

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Skin Elasticity — Enzymes and Antioxidants

Elderly woman playing video gameWhen I was a very young girl, one of the things I remembered about my aunt was that I’d pinch the skin on the back of her hand and the skin would not go back down. I thought that was so hilarious and I would keep doing it over and over. Try this “Skin Elasticity Test.”

Pinch a large section of skin on the back of your hand between your index finger and thumb. Hold it firmly for 5 seconds. Release it, then count the number of seconds for the pinched skin to return to its normal flat appearance.

  • 0-2 seconds:   Good skin elasticity. Your functional age is under 30 years.
  • 3-4 seconds:   Reduced skin elasticity. Your functional age is 30-44 years.
  • 5-8 seconds:   Reduced skin elasticity. Your functional age is 45-50 years.
  • 10-15 seconds:   Reduced skin elasticity. Your functional age is 60 years.
  • 15-more seconds:   Very inelastic skin. Your functional age is over 70 years

DicQie Fuller, author of  The Healing Power of Enzymes, says this is caused by deterioration of tissue under the skin. She states, “Many researchers claim that aging skin is often caused by a  lack of protein and a weak circulatory system. These deficiencies cause tissue, muscles, nerve fibers, and blood vessels to become rigid. They are responsible for loss of muscle tone and skin elasticity, resulting in sagging and dropping skin and muscles. This degenerative process can be slowed and sometimes even reversed with enzyme therapy.”

According to, as we age, our skin loses its elasticity becoming leathery and wrinkled. This is the result of free-radical destruction and is a sign of degeneration and loss of function. A significant change in the skin becomes evident at about the age of 45. The following is recommended:

  • Decrease sugar intake — Keep your sweets to a minimum at no more than 10 percent of your total calories. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Antioxidants — These compounds are the weapon against cell-damaging free radicals that can lead to premature aging.

Although there are many antioxidants on the market, my antioxidant of choice is Limu Plus. I am in the 45 – 50 year range which puts me at least 14 years below my actual age. 🙂

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Lose Belly Fat — with Enzymes

Fat stomachFlat belly secrets! Flat belly in two weeks! Flat belly diet! Lose belly fat! It’s all over the media. I subscribe to the Washington Post. One of my favorite days is Tuesday when they publish a Health section. This week it published a small but interesting  article about George Griffing, MD and professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine who measures his big-bellied patients by putting the patient on their back on the examination table. He then uses a yardstick to measure the height of their bulging tummy from the table to the top of the stomach. He said he’d like to use a ruler, but that’s too short.

Griffing says that he’s looking for how much fat is in the abdomen and the liver.  The article goes on to say that, “Medical experts have long suspected that people with excess deep-belly fat are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and ongoing research bolsters that belief.” He believes that measuring height is more efficient and an accurate predictor than other methods because fat in other places is not as bad as fat in the gut. Don’t ignore this fat. Dr. Gabe Mirkin explains the danger here.

So here’s what studies have found is dangerous and will triple your chance of cardiovascular disease:

  • Abdominal height more than 10 inches in women
  • Abdominal height more than 12 inches in men

This technique has been endorsed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

Now, how do we get rid of those “love handles” or “spare tire.” There are a myriad of diets. Sticking to any diet is a challenge. But even if you were to eat healthfully and in reasonable amounts, losing weight might still be a problem. Have a look at enzymes. There’s a fascinating book by DicQie Fuller called, The Power of Enzymes. (See also The Power of Enzymes link on the right). In this book, she talks about the different body types and how you can control your appetite and cravings with enzyme supplements. (See also Enzyme Supplements link on the right). She also gives you a list of foods you should eat and those to avoid depending on your body type.

Taking probiotics is another possibility for your weight loss regimen. I have heard of many people having success with reducing the “middle.” However, nutrition specialist, JJ Virgin, has an insightful blog post here for severe cases.  Enzymes just might be the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon sought.

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Gout and Cherry Juice

Cherry juiceIn my last blog post, I talked about insomnia and cherries. This is also a solution for gout, a type of arthritis that can cause painful swelling of the foot and big toe. Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the blood, a condition known as hyperuricemia. Excess uric acid can form needle-like crystals that collect in the joints, most commonly the big toe. My friends with the ailment tell me that their doctors recommend cherry juice.

A new drug, febuxostat, is the first new gout medication in 40 years. However, like all prescriptions, there are possible side effects.

Cherry juice is an anti-inflammatory. According to, “…cherries have been shown to lower levels of uric acid in the blood, which is one of the most common causes of gout pain. A study at the University of California Davis showed that consuming a serving of cherries daily significantly lowered the blood uric acid levels of women by as much as 15 percent, and while the participants in the study were given fresh cherries to eat, a serving of dried cherries or cherry juice can have just as significant an impact.

“The secret to the benefits of cherry juice is a compound called anthocyanins, which are the pigments that give cherries their bright red color and are also believed to be the key to helping the body relieve inflammation.”

According to Monica Nelson, “A published paper in Michigan State University states that anthocyanins are at least 10 times more effective in cherries than in the most common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, aspirin.

“In essence, this natural compound relieves pain and helps patients by combating inflammation and reducing tissue tearing. Finding and using a natural shield against gout is very important to patients because it helps take away the dangers of prolonged drug use.”

Men between the ages of 40 and 50 are about twice as likely as women to experience gout. It used to be called the disease of kings because of dining in excess, but it no longer is limited to the rich. With our diets high in saturated fats, including red meat, gout is definitely on the rise.

Unlike medication, there are no side effects to eating cherries or drinking cherry juice. Drinking the juice or eating about 20 cherries every day is an excellent preventive.

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Insomnia and Cherries

CherriesWe’ve all experienced it — insomnia. Cherries may be the answer to insomnia. It seems that  age  plays a role in the change of sleep habits. It is generally thought that:
• Increasing age predisposes to sleep disorders (5% in persons aged 30-50 and 30% in those aged 50 or older).
• People who are elderly experience a decrease in total sleep time, with more frequent awakening during the night.
• People who are elderly have a higher incidence of general medical conditions and are more likely to be taking medications that cause sleep disruption.

According to, “As people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger. It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age.”

One of the simple solutions to the problem is to eat a handful of cherries before bedtime. Eating cherries is a natural way to boost the melatonin in your body. Melatonin is the same hormone created by your body to regulate sleep patterns. When there is insufficient melatonin produced, insomnia may be the result.

Unlike medication, there are no side effects to eating cherries. Although there are several different varieties, tart Montmorency cherries are purported to be the best. Cherry juice is also an alternative. Several sources also recommend that you take a hot bath to relax your muscles and your mind and use a pillow with lavender which induces sleepiness. Happy zzzzzzzzs!

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Autism and Older Parents

University of Wisconsin logoAs a University of Wisconsin alumna, I receive a quarterly publication, On Wisconsin. In the Spring 2009 issue, an article caught my attention: “Age, Order, and Autism.” Is there a link between autism and older parents as well as birth order? I have given birth to two healthy sons, but I often worry about the children they might have, my grandchildren, particularly since they both live in California. California seems to have a higher incidence of autism, although one theory is that it’s because of the way the data are collected.

Bascom Hall

Bascom Hall

What is autism? Wikipedia defines it as a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also include related conditions such as Asperger syndrome that have milder signs and symptoms.

The article cited a study led by University of Wisconsin pediatrics and population health sciences professor, Maureen Durkin. The study looked at 253,347 children born in 1994. They found that 1,251 showed signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a broad group of social and communication impairments. Less that .5% were affected, but the following patterns emerged:

  • The children of fathers over 40 years of age were 60% more likely to show symptoms than those of younger fathers.
  • The children of mothers over 35 were 40% more likely than those of younger mothers.
  • First born children were 30% more likely than second borns and 70% more than those born third or later.
  • First born of two older parents were three times more likely to than those third born or later to mothers 20 to 34 and fathers under 40.

In another study cited in the Washington Post, “Children of fathers who were 15 to 29 years of age had a risk of about six in 10,000 of developing autism. Children of fathers in their thirties had a risk of nine in 10,000. Children of fathers in their forties had a risk of 32 in 10,000, and children of fathers who were older than 50 had a risk of 52 in 10,000.”

No study is conclusive, but starting this year, there is a longitudinal study of 100,000 children. This National Children’s Study will follow the children from birth to 21 to examine environmental influences on health and development. This probably won’t help my grandchildren, but should hopefully help a future generation.

At the moment, many believe that the cause may be a toxicity from several possible sources. It may be for that reason that products that remove toxicity have helped some patients. For more information, click here.

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Hypotension — Low Blood Pressure



I went to my primary care physician for my annual physical. One of the things that’s routinely checked is blood pressure. To my amazement, my blood pressure was lower than I’d ever seen it in the past few years, which had been inching up as I aged. As a senior, most of us are concerned about high blood pressure or hypertension. So I wondered, could low blood pressure or hypotension also be a problem and at what point does it become a problem?

Here is a chart for the low blood pressure range.

Systolic pressure (mm Hg)

Diastolic pressure (mm Hg)

Pressure Range



Borderline Low blood  Pressure



Too Low Blood Pressure



Dangerously Low Blood  Pressure

Fortunately, my blood pressure falls within the normal range and not in the problem range for low blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, “…low blood pressure can cause symptoms of dizziness and fainting or mean that they have serious heart, endocrine or neurological disorders. Severely low blood pressure can deprive the brain and other vital organs of oxygen and nutrients, leading to a life-threatening condition called shock.”

Here is a list of the most common symptoms of hypotension provided by Medical News Today.

  • Blurred vision
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • General feeling of weakness
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Thirst

Mayo Clinic says you are at risk for low blood pressure if you fall in any of these categories:

  • Age. Drops in blood pressure on standing or after eating occur primarily in adults older than 65. Orthostatic hypotension happens after standing up, while postprandial hypotension happens after eating a meal. Neurally mediated hypotension happens as a result of a miscommunication between the brain and heart. It primarily affects children and younger adults.
  • Medications. People who take certain medications, such as high blood pressure medications like alpha blockers, have a greater risk of low blood pressure. This is especially true for adults over age 80.
  • Certain diseases. Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and some heart conditions put you at a greater risk of developing low blood pressure.

So get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have a monitor at home, be sure to take it with you when you go to the doctor. I know the numbers on my digital blood pressure monitor at home are at least 10 higher than the sphygmomanometer at my doctor’s office. Your pharmacy most likely has a blood pressure monitor as well, although they are known to be inaccurate. Actually, taking blood pressure requires a cuff of the correct size and the placement of your arm should be at the level of your heart. Most of the time, blood pressure is not taken correctly.

As for how I lowered my blood pressure, I believe I have finally found the nutritional supplement geared specifically for the heart that works for me and secondly, I’ve also picked up the pace of my cardio exercises. Take care.

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Chronic Pain Relief

According to WebMD, chronic back pain can shrink the brain and age you by as much as 20 times faster than normal. It shrinks the part of the brain responsible for memory and information processing.

Many seniors live with chronic pain day in and day out. According to Caroline Burnett, CMTPT, of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy, Inc. in Springfield, VA, a specialist in relieving pan and restoring function through muscle retraining, she says that 85% of chronic pain comes from the muscles. There is no medical reason for the pain.

My first reaction to “myofascial” was that it had something to do with the face. But I learned that “myo” means muscle and “fascial” is the connective tissue. Hence, she works to lengthen the muscle to release the triggers points. She is like a detective to find out what you’re doing to keep yourself in pain. It’s something that you keep doing over and over for many years, so cooperatively with you and the therapist, she tries to fix what you’ve been doing the wrong way. Muscles have memory … you’ve been working for many years to tighten your muscles.

Her goal is education because 75% of the work involves lifestyle changes. She shows you how you can help yourself. Changes involve postural as well as mental and physical changes. Once treatment starts to lengthen the muscles and release the trigger points, your muscles will learn the new habit and your pain will disappear. However, you must do your homework.

Caroline Burnett

Caroline Burnett

The doctor who developed this therapy was Janet Travell, MD. She was appointed as the personal physician to President John F. Kennedy. For more information and to contact Caroline Burnett, click here.

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