Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Longer or Better? Sunday musings…1/14/24

1 Climate. 5 degrees Fahrenheit this AM in Cleveburg. Cities across the country are sending support people onto the streets seeking the undomiciled. This is your annual missive from my keyboard that it is COLD that kills.

2 Magic. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke

Another day, another deluge of articles on AI in the newspapers. So advanced it seems like magic, eh? Still, one doesn’t need to invoke an all-powerful new entity with the potential to end life as we know it to be blown away by technology.

Heck, it’s still a bit magical every time I pull a hot bowl of formerly cold soup out of the microwave.

3 Chronicles. Not gonna lie, I kinda miss my CrossFit community. Especially during January, the month where I would post an explanation of each day’s WOD for the inevitable questions that would come up when CrossFit.com was inundated with New Year’s Resolutionaries. It was fun, and I felt useful.

More than that, though, was the sense of being part of a tribe, one with shared values and shared goals. At least in the earlier, less commercial days of the movement. The FRAT, Usual Suspects, and various other groups on the Main Page and Message Board became my gym mates, and several are still close friends.

Anything that lasts changes. Still, on Sundays, especially in January, I miss the CrossFit that was.

4 Longevity. Welp, I’ve finally gotten bummed enough about my love handles that I have made a major change in how I eat. 3 weeks ago I stopped eating breakfast and began doing time-regulated eating. Also known as intermittent fasting, I am now eating between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 PM. Most days, of course, my last PM nutrition occurs earlier, but the no breakfast thing is my first significant, meaningful change since I embarked on many years of Zoning in January 2006.

Why? Why now? Not gonna lie, vanity is a big factor. My mid-life CrossFit bod, while not in any way impressive or noteworthy, was nonetheless not noteworthy for looking like a guy in mid-life. Plus, all of my clothes were the same size as they’d been for decades, and they all still fit. Since the 6 or 7 months prior to my first hip surgery in 2019 my ability to stick with any exercise program, never mind my preferred CrossFitty program, has been severely curtailed. To be sure it is my publicly stated intention to get back into a physical routine, but even with that, my apparently plummeting basal metabolism demands some changes in what passes through my pie-hole and when.

Why longevity as the marker for #3? 2022 was the year of my second hip surgery, and my “deep dive” topic while I was laid up was the science of longevity. While there is a ton of really cool stuff to learn and to know, every single author and expert I’ve listened to or read before or since begins their thesis with some sort of review of the effects of caloric restriction on lifespan. Depending on the severity of the restriction most research predicts anywhere between 10 (reasonable) and 20% (unlikely) longer life simply from caloric restriction. What is fascinating is that time-restricted eating produces an increased lifespan independent of any caloric restriction that might arise from that strategy.

So count me among the IF adherents. My weight is less a target than inches, not unlike my CF goals back in the day.

5 Mind. As in trying not to lose one’s mind. If one is going to make an effort to live longer, one should make an effort to be aware of what’s going on while you’re still around.

I had a brief, heartbreaking interaction with a friend who was in the office for a visit. They needed a very minor (to me) procedure to prevent a potentially cataclysmic problem that could occur. Diagnosing, discussing, and doing the treatment is literally a daily occurrence in our office. Once identified we very matter-of-factly move on to a procedure with >95% success preventing the cataclysm. The procedure itself is a nothingburger experience; thinking about it is 1000X worse than having it done. Most folks arrive for their post-procedure visit relaxed and ready to move on.

Not my friend, though. They were teary eyed from the get-go that next day, something we almost never see. Although younger than I, needing this procedure made them feel old. Made them terribly worried about getting older. When I noted how different their reaction was and asked them why they thought it might be, they told me about their mother. Once a strong, independent, vibrant woman, their mom had been laid low by dementia so severe that she no longer recognized her children. Everything about this terrifies my friend. Was this to be their fate? Despite everything they have done to remain healthy, is their destiny to outlive their consciousness?

It was truly heartbreaking to listen and to see how visceral their fear is.

Along with my deep dive into longevity there was no way to avoid the parallel discourse on brain health and the pursuit of a strategy to “bomb proof” your brain against dementia. This is an impossible task, of course, since at least part of the risk for dementia of all types is genetic. A tiny time bomb hidden in our genome that increases one’s risk for one or another of the various and sundry dementias. I promised my friend that I would share some resources with them over time, the books and blogs, podcasts and other productions I’d been looking at to help me understand both my risks and what types of risk mitigation I might engage to erect some walls to contain my own risk. In addition I thought I’d pretend that I was chatting with them, here, and share some of what I’ve discovered every now and again in “musings…”

Along with time-regulated eating the other nutritional change that I am going to try very hard to incorporate is a much stricter approach to alcohol in my diet. Now, anyone who has read any of my drivel over the years including my self-declared epic adventures “Drinking with John Starr” is aware that a carefully crafted cocktail or consciously curated cuvee are simple joys that bring me happiness. I adore everything about the process of drinking a cocktail or glass of wine. The research, repartee with fellow travelers, resource gathering and final rendering of the recipe into being. I love all of that.

The alcohol part? Like most folks I am deeply conflicted about the alcohol and its effects. Regardless of what it may be on any given night the first glass doesn’t contain enough alcohol to really move my needle up or down; it’s simply a part of the potion, if you will. No, it’s the subsequent ones where the alcohol is an issue, and to be honest, not a part of the experience I enjoy. Everything gets kinda duller, at least for me. On top of that there would be the worthless calories which we all know are gonna be deposited directly on top of those love handles I so despise.

But it’s the longevity, and more than that the task of bullet-proofing your brain so that you are present to enjoy your longevity that is the issue. All of the best research of the last 10 years comes to pretty much the same conclusion: the safest amount of alcohol is zero. What of the prior studies and the findings that a “modest” amount of alcohol led to greater longevity than both drinking to excess and not drinking at all? Honestly, I don’t know what to think about that. Each one of us probably has some sort of internal gauge we can’t see. Maybe a little is OK for a lot of folks. I kinda think so, or maybe just hope so. But if your main concern is to do everything you can possibly do to prevent the onset of dementia, like my friend, dramatically reducing your alcohol intake or forswearing it altogether is one obvious place to start.

For every Winston Churchill (Champagne at lunch, wine with dinner, whiskey or brandy at bedtime), arguably still as sharp as a tack at life’s end, there are probably 1000 Foster Grants stumbling through the endgame.

Over the next few weeks I will carry on this “conversation” with my friend here on “musings…”. I’ll try to touch on some of the other important things I’ve learned that any of us can do like get better quality sleep and enough of it, foster a healthy relationship with exercise, and think about the newest frontier, our microbiome. It turns out that I am fairly decent at taking huge gobs in information at distilling them down into digestible nuggets. Kinda like I used to do for the fitness newbies each January over on CrossFit.com.

I’d sure like my friend to rest easier.

I’ll see you next week…

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