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Nurses for Brain Health: Being Outliers as Role Models
Psychology is the scientific study of human
flourishing; the study and application of what it takes for people and
communities to adapt and thrive; and the study of building the best things in
“Get nurses involved because they are
the work force of the world.”
When told of my international effort to
improve Brain Health, that was the advice given to me by Patrick DeLeon, PhD,
JD, a visionary and a trailblazer, who was Chief of Staff for former US Senator
Daniel Inouye and a former president of the American Psychological Association.
Let’s agree with DeLeon. In addition to
nurses being “the work force of the world,” they also are the role models of
healthy living that most folks trust to give them wise counsel. The purpose of
this writing is to share some evolving neuroscience that is both invigorating
and empowering to enhance what you’ve been doing as a great role model who
gives wise counsel.
Let’s begin with an example of how
evolving neuroscience can enhance how we help self and others. Across my entire
career, I’ve encouraged focusing on the fact that we just have more data on our
minds as we age, much like the fact that all my important papers used to be portable
in a briefcase; in comparison, the “important papers” now crowd 27 drawers in
five file cabinets; that requires a remarkably different complex set of skills
to get in the right drawer before finding the paper that must be found.
Ramscar and colleagues completed a
series of random controlled trials to arrive at a more elegant statement. They wrote
that the performance of elders “reflects increased knowledge, not cognitive
decline;” they emphasized that changes in cognitive performance around
retirement age reflect greater memory search demands as experience grows.
Seeing an aging population as a problem bound to place undue burdens on society
would “only serve to perpetuate myths” such that “the myth of cognitive decline
is leading to an absurd waste of human potential and human capital.”
Let’s restate that in the empowering
perspective of Positive Psychology: By believing that our differences in
processing information and memory with aging are associated with the richness
of our life experiences, we hold onto the positive emotions that can enhance
our immune response as well as our motivation to keep on keeping on. This could
give us a much better purchase on our resolve to build better brains with our
positively evolving personal best.
One rather lovely example of aging well
is the oldest working nurse, Florence Rigney, RN, who turned 92 in May 2017.
KING-5 in Seattle quotes her saying she feels “honored and humbled” to still be
working at Tacoma General Hospital in Washington, USA, as well as “very blessed
to be still able to function.”
Another is Frieda Lefeber who had her
first solo art exhibit at the age of 100. Working as a nurse for more than
fifty years influenced her commitment to healthy lifestyle choices which
reportedly includes exercising five mornings a week.
Speaking of exercising: Robert Marchand
of France set a world record for his age group by bicycling 14 miles in one
hour at the age of 105. His ten years of bicycling ended at the age of 25 when
he began his career as “a gardener and wine dealer.” His first world record in track cycling was achieved in 2012 when he
was in the over-100 age group and completed 24.250 kilometers in one-hour. He
improved his performance two years later at age 103! Scientists studied Mr.
Marchand for two years during which Mr. Marchand trained 5,000 kilometers per
year with 20% of his cycling at a rapid rate of perceived exertion and pedaling
at a rate between 50 and 70 revolutions per minute. Although this is a case
study, it is noteworthy that it is the first proof of a centenarian having
capacity to improve physical performance and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max)!
These scientists suggest that this improved performance in centenarians is a
way to “add life to life.”
That’s particularly pertinent to Brain
Health. Aerobic exercise can
help you build a better brain because it may: reduce toxins in your brain –
even those associated with Alzheimer’s disease; reduce inflammation which has
been associated with neurodegeneration; reverse some of the effects of aging; improve
your immune response; increase your healthy cholesterol and lower you LDL;
protect against brain damage; elevate your mood (better than medications);
lengthen your telomeres (protectors at the end of your DNA & antiaging) AND
improve your sleep, memory, concentration, speed and executive functions. Also,
aerobically fit nurses and others have more fun!
Shaffer, PhD, is a psychologist, nurse, speaker, global bicyclist and
author. Nothing that she writes or says is
as healthcare advice; her only promise is to bring you as much
evidence-based information as she can get her mind around. She is co-founder
of Brain Health by YOU for the sole
purpose of improving brain Health internationally.
and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health” is her open source
peer reviewed research article published by Frontiers in Psychology.
- © Joyce
opinions expressed in this Make-up Article do not necessarily represent
the opinions of Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff
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