Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stepping up to the brain challenge

It's a repeating theme in my head: I'm running out of time.

No, not imminently (that I know of), but I'm 56 years old. If I'm really lucky, I'll get 30 or so more very healthy years on the planet. What am I going to do with that time?

As I told you a few months ago, I recently "retired" from a job, as a public-interest lawyer, that I had for almost 30 years. When I decided to leave, I hadn't nailed down exactly what the next step was. But I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to keep my brain busy.

Just about every study/article/conclusion on healthy aging involves an active mind. Gray matter will rot, figuratively speaking, if not stimulated.

Well... here comes the stimulation: shortly after I made the retirement decision, a public-interest law practice in Philly chased me down and made me a full-time offer. I accepted. So I "retired" for all of two months, and I'm headed back to work, in a different state, doing work that is related to my old work, in a very general sense, but it's really not the same kind of job.

"You understand that basically no one does what you're about to do? No one jumps jurisdictions at age 56 and takes on a whole new body of law. This move is going to be amazing for your brain." That was a friend telling me the positives of the new gig. "No one" is an exaggeration, but the point is a solid one. My aging brain will be still on the move, and that's awesome.

But it's going to be a hell of a challenge too. There's a reason that "no one does what [I'm]] about to do": because it's really hard work. I'm a very good lawyer. But, unlike my old job, where I already knew 98% of what I needed to do the job, this one has required me to realize that I have a lot of information to amass in a short time. I know New Jersey law; Pennsylvania is a land of mystery, so to speak.

So the last few weeks, I've been studying up. I've spent at least a few hours each day, sometimes a lot more, reading (and reading and reading...) case law with which I was previously mostly unfamiliar. I'm entering a new arena.

It's a little daunting.

It's also exhilarating and cool. And really, I don't screw around when it comes to being prepared. I don't know if "most people" would start prepping three to four weeks in advance for a new job, but I'm not most people, and prepping is exactly what I've been doing.

If I'm lucky, I balance this job with all the fun creative things I do as a drummer, and my brain is so awash in endorphins, challenges, and growth that I am -- to quote a tattoo artist who made me laugh when he applied the phrase to me -- "crushing life."

Or I suppose that I could hate it.

I'm about to find out. Wish me luck. My brain already is thanking me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

An "aging" podcast that's well worth your time, or: how eating paleo/primal matters a lot more as you get older

As I've been heard to say: "As you get older, don't eat like a six-year-old and don't drink like a college student."

Here's some science behind that concept:

I started playing catch-up with some Robb Wolf podcasts recently and stumbled on this one. Wow. What a keeper.

Dr. Michael Rose's research, which he describes at length in the podcast, has led to the conclusion that aging represents a cessation of adaptation. Translated, from a dietary perspective: at a certain age, our bodies cease to be able to handle certain neolithic foods as well as we previously have.

So, while no one should be eating crappy processed Frankenfood at any age, younger folks can do fine, even thrive, on a wide-ranging diet that is not remotely paleolithic. However, at a certain point -- Rose says between 30 and 50 years old for most people -- the ability to handle that neolithic food load decreases sharply.

In other words, between ages 30 and 50, the *adaptation* to neolithic foods disappears and those foods become a significant source of inflammation and aging. His prescription: eat paleo as you get older than 30, and certainly by age 50.

The concept makes sense to me. I watch 20-something friends shovel in all sorts of things that I wouldn't eat now, and they do so without significant current consequence. When I ate those things in my thirties and early forties, I got heavier, softer, less-athletic, and generally less healthy. When I went paleo in 2010 at age 46, things changed quickly for the better. I leaned out, gained energy, and generally felt stronger and more alive.

You probably knew the basic idea already: when you get to a certain age, you cannot eff around with bad food and drink like you used to. Dr. Rose's research provides a strong genetic/evolutionary-science basis for that "obvious" fact.

Link to the podcast is here.