Monday, July 28, 2014

NBC Today show gives quiz on "biological age"; music therapy can halt dementia

The NBC Today show on Monday morning offered a quiz to help a viewer to assess her own biological age, link here. I couldn’t get the NIH link on body mass index to resolve, so I had to estimate mine.  I wound up with a score of -20, or 2 years credit, making my biological age “just” 69.
But some of the questions were interesting. 

One of the most critical was level of social engagement.  Volunteering is a big plus – but that means time and personal contact – especially giving less intact people (children or adults) personal attention and “love” – not just writing a check (or even working alone on a website or Wikipedia article for a charity). Another was to have a web of people who can help “you” in a pinch.  This sounds like social communism or collectivism and might come across as morally objectionable to some.  It certainly is not what Ayn Rand believed.  It’s more what happens in closed knot communities, like the Amish, or intentional communities.  People do tend to live longer in these circumstances.

Mehmet Oz (somewhat discredited recently) has said that, as a heart surgeon, he is much more likely to recommend aggressive treatment to a married patient with a partner whom he or she loves and who loves the person back – or to someone whose extended family is close knit. It’s much more likely to work if others will sacrifice.

As far as getting help in a pinch, that is indeed double edge in another sense.  Bad things happen to people.  I’m not talking about the normal aging issues – because everybody dies of something eventually, without exception (except for Christ).  I am talking about sudden harm because of the malice of others – whether street criminals, who are becoming more brazen, or war or terrorism.  I’m also talking about natural disasters, particularly if they are unusual for the area in which someone lives.  An F4 tornado in this area would be devastating, but an F0 (which I think has happened “to me” once) would not.  But if I lived in Florida, on the Gulf Coast or much of the Midwest, I’d have a full disaster plan in place, with an alternate place to go and set up operations temporarily.  (Funny, when I lived in Dallas and Minneapolis, or was a student in Kansas, or in the Army, I never thought about this.)  What would be bad for me would be a disaster so calamitous (including a terror attack like a dirty bomb) that normal preparations (like generators, hotels, homeowner’s insurance, availability of contractors) didn’t work as they are supposed to.  I’ve never had to stay in a shelter before and deal with others there (or have them deal with me).  But it could happen to anyone.
So I try to be more cautious about a lot of things,  avoid “mistakes” and some kinds of dangerous situations.   I was mugged at a Metro station, on an escalator, in Washington in March 2013, not injured and with no financial losses resulting – the banks and particularly Metro ate all the losses (in many thousands) – as a security camera wasn’t working.  But what if I had been pushed down the escalator?  It could have been much worse.  And twice I’ve faced a possible carjacking (once was in Ohio) and simply gunned and sped off and called police when at a safe distance (Mark Zuckerberg did the same thing on time right after moving to CA to start Facebook).   But I may have been “lucky”.

On a weekend trip at the end of June to NYC for Pride, I almost got hit by a car (or had a foot run over) in lower Manhattan Sunday morning as I was racing to the 9/11 Memorial site (I was late), the car speeding and making a very illegal turn.  I jumped out of the way just in time. 
The survey gave no "credit" for hot having ever smoked (or used recreational drugs); but it penalized tobacco use heavily.  It gave modest uptick for very occasional alcohol use. 
The survey didn’t mention some others things.  While it asked about regular exercise, it didn’t ask about mental exercise.  Playing chess is good (or any game requiring strategy – card games like bridge or poker – and Las Vegas is probably pretty good for stimulating cognitive thinking).  So is jotting down dreams as soon as you wake up before you forget them.  I don’t think that the Bingo, popular in assisted living centers, does much.


One idea for improving cognition and longevity is music therapy, as shown in the film “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory” and promoted by the group “Music & Memory”, as reviewed on my Movies Blog July 26 (with the QA, at Landmark E Street Theater in Washington DC, July 25).  

Update: July 29

NBC Nightly News cited a report that regular running or fast walking, even for only about ten minutes three times a week, can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 45% at any age over 50. 

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