Food & Fitness After 50: Clint Eastwood Revisited

Guest blog post by Dr. Bob Murray

In a previous post Dr. Murray wrote about the powerful benefits of maintaining a young mindset on our healthspan—the number of years we enjoy good mental and physical health. In today’s post, he expands on maintaining a young mindset. (For the post, click here.)

attitude is everythingfamous study published in 2002 demonstrated that negative perceptions of aging can significantly influence longevity. Older adults with a positive mindset—a positive attitude—about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who harbored negative perceptions of aging. Putting a more personal spin on the topic, Hollywood director and actor Clint Eastwood—still incredibly energetic and productive in his 80s—said that when he gets up every morning, he tries not to “let the old man in.”  In other words, Clint strives to maintain a young mindset in everything he does.

The incredible power of maintaining a young mindset is worth revisiting because we all have control over how we think about ourselves and our place in the world and that control allows us to reshape negative perceptions about aging that may have inadvertently crept in over time.

That very message was the central theme of a One Day University lecture by Professor Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College.  To help make her point about the benefits of having a young, positive mindset, Dr. Sanderson spoke of how mindset has been shown to alter perceptions of pain, susceptibility to illness, surgical outcomes, hormonal responses to eating, and the benefits of physical activity.  And she mentioned the 2002 study as an example of how mindset can affect aging.  In a nutshell, mindset is powerful stuff.

bad attitude Dr. Sanderson stressed that in addition to having a positive mindset about aging, other factors such as maintaining a strong sense of personal control and good overall health habits (including a nutritious diet and regular physical activity) also contribute to longevity, as does how we react to the inevitable stresses of life.  Those who typically view stress as negative and debilitating live shorter lives than those who embrace stress as unavoidable yet positive challenges that enhance life.  Successfully coping with stress improves our capacity to handle life’s ups and downs and directly contributes to our overall happiness.  We all know people whose glass-is-half-empty approach to life is a burden to them and to those around them.

Do you wallow in feelings of rejection when things don’t work out the way you had hoped, or do you accept rejection as an impetus for redirection?  The first reaction—an adverse response to stress—has many negative physiological and health-related consequences.  Although it is not easy to alter how we deal with stress, it can be accomplished.

Dr. Sanderson suggests ten ways we can change our outlook on life, including how we handle stress:

  1. Work to change our stereotypes about what happens with age. For example, if we think that becoming more forgetful is inevitable as we age, that self-fulfilling prophecy is likely to come true.
  2. Physical activity—every movement counts. Housework can be just as valuable as a fitness class.
  3. Meditation each day, even if it that amounts to only a couple minutes of mindful solitude, can positively affect mental health and physical function.
  4. Learning—both mental and physical—helps restore, maintain, and expand neural circuits in the brain and throughout the body.
  5. Faith of any sort. The stronger the faith in a higher power, the more positive the impact on longevity.
  6. Spend  time in nature.  Good things happen to physical and mental health when we spend time outside, even when we just sit and enjoy our surroundings. (We wrote about the concept developed by the Japanese called forest bathing as enjoying nature. For the post click here.)
  7. Get a dog (or cat).  Not only do pets prompt us to move more, having the responsibility to care for an animal’s welfare adds a purposeful dimension to life. (see out blog on the benefits of owning a pet by clicking here.)
  8. Maintain good relationships. Healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, leads to happiness and happiness leads to longer, healthier lives.
  9. Manage stress. Often easier said than done, but how we react to unexpected events is usually under our total control.
  10. Embrace adversity. We can’t avoid it, so we might as well welcome adversity as a way to improve ourselves.

churchill quote on attitudeThere is a lot of compelling science to support Clint Eastwood’s advice to not let the old man (or woman) in.  The fact that our attitude—our mindset—has direct bearing on how we age gives all of us an amazing amount of control over our destiny.

For more tips on being well as we age, see Food & Fitness After 50 available on Amazon or from other book sellers.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Citicoline for brain health?

In 2015 I wrote a post on a dietary supplement called citicoline. For the post click here.

HealthyBrainIn the post I wrote about learning of citicoline at a conference and was given a sample. My husband had been experiencing some trouble finding the right word when he was speaking so he wanted to try the supplement. From that day on he has continued to use the product. Although his report of improved brain health is anecdotal (one person’s subjective experience does not equal a fact) there is some research to support the positive effects of the supplement. He is such a disciple of citicoline that many of his family and friends now take it. But, should you?

I was interested in finding additional and more current, research since the 2015 post was written but didn’t find much. One reason might be that dietary supplement companies tend not to invest in rigorous experimental research trials because they are not required to do so to market a supplement. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements don’t have to prove they work to be sold; that’s why there are so many supplements readily available.

Citicholine
Chemical structure of citicoline

To begin, citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical. It is not found to any great extent in foods (there is some in organ meats) but when taken as a supplement it is broken down into choline (a B-vitamin) and a compound called cytidine which is then metabolized to uridine. That’s important because citicoline can’t cross the protective blood brain barrier but choline and uridine can. Once in the brain the compounds convert to citicoline, sometimes called CDP-choline. In turn, citicoline increases the brain chemical phosphtidylcholine that helps brain function and increases the number of chemical messengers in the brain.

When I first reviewed the literature the small number of studies that had been published cautiously suggested that supplemental citicoline could be an effective treatment for mild cognitive impairment but more research was needed to see if the effect was long term (most studies are short term…a few weeks to a few months) and if it could slow the progression to dementia.

A study published in 2012 was well-controlled: by a well-controlled study I mean the participants in the study were randomized to treatment and it was double-blind…neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting the citicoline or placebo. The researchers studied 60 healthy women, between the ages of 40 and 60, and showed that when given either 250 or 500 milligrams of citicoline both groups improved on tests to measure mental attention compared to the placebo group. However, this was another short-term study; just 28 days.

My quest to find more current research was unsuccessful so I turned to Natural Medicines Database for their review. The conclusion, which was last updated in November of 2019, was that citicoline is “possibly effective” for a decline in memory and thinking sills that occur with normal aging. Supplemental citicoline “seems to help memory loss in people aged 50 to 85 years.” The review noted there is insufficient evidence to say it prevents or reverses memory losses in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are minimal side effects, although some people report trouble sleeping, headache, or nausea.

The dose of citicoline ranges from 250 milligrams to 2000 milligrams a day, but the range of 250 to 500 milligrams is a usual dose used the research studies.

If you choose to try citicoline, it is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider. And, be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, including dietary supplements, when your doctor asks about medications you are taking.

CDP_suplrgI found over 150 products marketed that contain citicoline, some with fanciful names, liked Active Mind or Brain Wave that claim to “speed up your brain.” Many of those products also contain caffeine; the likely source of “speeding” the brain. If you get the blessing from your physician and want to try it, stick to one that just contains citicoline. Two reputable products are Cognizin (Kyowa Hakko) and Citicoline CDP choline (Jarrow). The Jarrow formula is the one that my husband takes.

As for me, my memory is good and I haven’t found a reason to try a supplement, but my husband believes it has helped him.

To learn more about dietary patterns and supplements for those 50, 60, 70, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50available on Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no financial connection to any dietary supplement, including the citicoline brands mentioned in this article.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.