It’s interesting that a few cups of coffee per day may slow down the deadly progression of advanced colon cancer. So says new research. Over 1200 patients were studied who drank four or more cups of coffee on a daily basis. They were found to have 36% higher odds of surviving cancer spread during a 13-year study period. Cancer metastases or spread is quite a problem and a few lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise have been associated with prolonged lifespan for those people dealing with metastatic cancer. The study quoted by Dr. Christopher McIntosh, a student at the Mayo Clinic school of medicine in Phoenix, found that his study patients treated with chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancers who also drank coffee, experienced a longer period of time where both cancer spread and time to death were prolonged. The researchers found that the more coffee consumed the greater the survival benefit. Researchers found that patients who consumed a single cup of coffee per day survived 30 months after their diagnosis, but those who drank two or 3 cups daily survived 32 months. And those who consume four or more cups a day saw their survival shoot up to 39 months. This would indicate that coffee slows cancer progression say the investigators. The interesting thing about this study is that it did not matter whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated, the coffee tended to work regardless. (JAMA Oncology)

What are some other bad habits that affect our brains?

There are many bad habits that affect our brains. One particularly bad habit which is now causing major problems during the COVID19 pandemic is social isolation. Humans need contact to survive and thrive and it’s extremely important for brain function. Because of the pandemic many are socially isolated, and loneliness is a risk factor for poor cognitive performance, depression, and faster decline of brain function. People who have friends, really close friends, are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and brain decline. If you want to meet new people and you try to take up social hobbies it helps. But during the pandemic of COVID19, dancing, tennis, and bridge are examples of activities with which we cannot participate due to the need for social isolation.

Another bad habit is eating a lot of junk food. Neuroscientists have studied certain foods that promote brain health and avoid other foods that cause a decrease of brain function. To improve your brain’s health, limit your intake of cheese, butter, margarine, and fried and fast food to no more than once a week. Red meat is said to promote inflammation. The MIND diet study determined that you should eat fewer than four servings of red meat per week. Sugars and pastries are not good for you either and so those servings should be significantly limited. Of course, we all hear that eating leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and berries rich in antioxidants and beneficial fats protect your brain. This is important.

Is loud music bad for the brain?

Yes, loud music is not good for the brain. Hearing loss is often linked to brain issues including shrinkage of grey matter and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The brain has to work harder to process what is being said and is not able to store what is heard into memory. Do not listen to your musical device for more than a couple of hours at a time. Listening to a device that’s too loud can permanently damage your hearing in as little as 30 minutes. Many people such as myself who were musicians in the 60s and 70s have significant hearing loss and require hearing aids because of loud music. There is a condition called musicians notch, which results in wavelengths missing from the hearing repertoire. It often results in the loss of hearing in places where there is a lot of background noise such as restaurants.

I being sedentary bad for the brain?

Couch potatoes have a greater risk of dementia. Being a couch potato increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease all of which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. If you garden or walk for at least 30 minutes several times a week, it’s enough to reduce the risk of dementia and other conditions. Walking is one of the most effective and easiest types of exercise you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool indoors or perhaps go to the YMCA or YWCA, you’ll find that that exercise is terrific to keep you in shape. Physical activity affects the health of blood vessels including those in your brain. it also improves something called neural plasticity which is the ability of the brain to form new connections in response to experience, learning, or an injury.

What about other things bad for brain function?

There are many things that I could talk about the brain. Some things like dehydration, which means the loss of fluid when the climate is hot, is extremely bad for the brain. Not getting enough sunlight is also a problem, because researchers have determined that natural light is necessary for good brain function. Adequate sun exposure is necessary to maintain adequate vitamin D levels which are not only necessary for the brain but also healthy bones and good moods. There are neurotransmitters like serotonin and hormones like melatonin that rely on sun exposure. With as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure per day fair skinned people are able to make a lot of vitamin D. Dark skinned people need up to several hours of sun exposure to manufacture adequate levels of vitamin D. It’s worthwhile to ask your doctor to measure your vitamin D level on your next visit to their offices.

What happens when your blood clots prematurely?

This is a favorite question of many people, simply because we now know that the pandemic can lead to unexpected blood clots which can cause serious problems and even death. A clot inside your body is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. When the clot goes to your lungs it’s called a pulmonary embolism. Both the DVT and the pulmonary embolism are to be considered emergencies. During the pandemic it is apparent that people do get blood clots, but they are microscopic blood clots that affect the functions of their lungs, their brains, and even their kidneys. Some people are hereditarily prone to have blood clots whereas most people get blood clots if they are overweight or obese, are recovering from surgery or had to sit for many hours on an airplane or in a wheelchair, or have diabetes or high cholesterol. A blood clot stops or slows the flow of blood which can build up in a vessel and make the vessel swell. If it happens in your lower leg or your calf it is often a sign of a DVT.

My Pandemic corner:

I promised my readers that I would have a pandemic corner. As I’m writing this article, I’m talking incessantly about Pres. Donald Trump and members of the White House staff who unfortunately became COVID19 positive 10 days ago. It is proof that virtually anyone can contract the coronavirus infection. At this writing four companies have finished phase 3 clinical trials with the vaccines and are about to compile their data and apply to the FDA for approval. I do not anticipate a vaccine being ready until March or April of 2021, but we are very hopeful that any vaccine will be amazingly effective and allow us to resume normal lives.