[4MV] Chronic stress kills our hippocampal cells ✔ Meditation reduces stress and brain degeneration

publishedjust now
9 min read

Like what you read in this newsletter? Invite your friends to sign up as you did for my regular health and exercise tips to live longer better.


I trust you're safe, fit and well.

All strength to Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦

Side stitches.

Men on the moon, hypersonic missiles, and self-driving cars, yet there’s still no standard advice for how to prevent a side stitch, says sports chiropractor Brad Muir, because we don’t know the mechanism that produces the pain in the first place. “It’s still up in the air.”

Here's one for us oldies - all that seems to be known about side stitches is that they occur less as we get older. On face value - age-related. My immediate thought was about activity and movement - we move less and run less. In which case the correlation is age, but the causation is the intensity of activity - possibly?


Each week I will produce an online version of the exercise(s) of the week - Section #4 below. You can view them on your mobile or web browser simply by pasting the personalised link which I will send you upon registration. Free forever. Opt-out any time. Opt-in by CLICKING HERE PLEASE SEND ME THE EXERCISES.

One thing that all the fittest people have in common is their habits. Here are the "big four" that count - see item #2.

Stress raises our cortisol levels, and this kills brain cells. Meditation lowers cortisol levels and hence is medically shown to help reduce chronic brain degeneration - see item #1.

Here are the topics I have chosen for you to help you live longer better:

⭑ Meditation reduces the rate of death of brain cells - meditation tips ✔
⭑ Habits - the secret of fitness - here are four that matter most
⭑ Supplements, snake oil or not? A picture tells a thousand words.
⭑ Back pain - four exercises that will help your nervous system adapt

01 Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention - Research

I think most of us have a feeling that "meditation" would help relax us and be good for our bodies in reducing stress and strain. I put meditation in quotes because it can still seem like something for hippies, and Jane Fonda.

However, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and pain. It can help people live longer by reducing their risk of heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline.

And there is good scientific evidence showing how meditation reduces cortisol levels. This reduction appears to be the causative factor behind the health benefits.

Cortisol is released by our adrenal gland in response to stress. The hippocampus is responsible for regulating our stress response, but alarmingly it turns out that chronic high cortisol levels damage the specific neurons that control cortisol secretion.

The hippocampus is then unable to regulate our stress response properly, leading to persistent toxic cortisol levels which in turn accelerate hippocampal cell loss.

Meaning, that chronic stress leads to chronic high levels of cortisol which ultimately destroys the body's natural ability to regulate our stress response.

⇒ As hippocampal cells die, this allows the leakage of excessive intracellular calcium into our neural structures, which is known to accelerate Alzheimer's.

What it means for us: Mediation is available to us all and in many settings. You can do this at home, at the beach, in a park, or on your bed. Just apply these three factors - comfort, quiet, and focus.

1. Comfort: Sit easily in a chair or on the floor - anywhere that suits you.

2. Quiet: Be alone in a spot where you will not be disturbed, i.e., no texts, emails, cell phones, or Amazon deliveries.

3. Focus: Place your attention on a single word, thought, breathing, sound, or short prayer.

Start by meditating for 5 - 10 minutes every day. It's better, in my opinion, to do two shorter periods than one longer period. You might find an app very useful. I like Breathing Zone as I have mentioned before.

There are many resources available to learn how to meditate, and classes are popular at local gyms and community centres. I prefer to do it on my own, but you may prefer the social aspects of being in a group and sharing the experience.

The main thing is that you develop an awareness of what it means when you are relaxed. Tune in to this feeling. Then, when you feel stressed, bring yourself back to that feeling. You may well live longer if you master this technique.

Related: How Bananas Benefit Your Bones — And Brain

02 The Fittest People I Know Maintain These 4 Habits

This is a really useful article. Its subtitle is:

A couple you know, a couple you don’t.

It's really useful because even if you have all the exercise and nutrition knowledge in the world, it won't get you fit or help you live longer unless you habitually apply it.

As Nike says, just do it.

But do what? There are so many options and slogans and suggestions that it leads to paralysis by analysis. I have fallen into this trap myself.

⇒ People who are in good shape maintain good habits.

Here are four that work and will make a difference:

1. Consistency. This is the key to keeping fit. Consistency comes from purposefully making the time - time after time.

2. Aim for a goal in the exercises you do, and the total result. And when you reach a goal modify it and start moving toward the new one. Your goals can be simple e.g. 20 pushups, then 40 pushups for your 40th birthday etc. Reaching goals motivates you to keep training, not just "doing".

3. Eat according to your needs. Develop a feel for how much energy you are using and how you look in the mirror and judge your calorie intake accordingly. Initially, you may have to weigh yourself, say weekly, and roughly estimate total daily calories. But your goal is to not make it a chore, and do it by feel. If you run 10km you might eat a little more, if you eat a pizza one night then aim to work it off over a few gym sessions.

4. Consciously pursue "non-exercise" activity every day. Walk the dog, do the lawn, clear up the garage. Think of people who are always on their feet, always on the go. They walk everywhere. They engage in social activities centred around movement of some sort. This is a mental attitude rather than having to be fit. But it gives a purpose to you exercising, and it burns extra calories without being a diet.

What this means for us: We exercise to live, not live to exercise. Applying these four habits means that you will get the biggest carry-over into your daily life from the effort that you put into exercising.

These habits are mental challenges. It takes time to change. I recommend that you start with Consistency.

Master consistency and then work down through the next three one by one. Take small steps at a time. Being consistent once a week is better than aiming for 4 days a week and giving up after 3 weeks because it is too disruptive to your life.

Good luck.

Related: The Surprising Benefits of Black Tea Daily

@Medium - Follow my publication there↗, covering food, brain, body, life

03 Scientific Evidence for Popular Health Supplements - Visualised

Which are the best supplements to take to enhance your health and well-being? I found this intriguing and informative visualisation during the week.

It states that qualified people have assessed current scientific evidence for all health supplements, and presented this evidence in one chart. It is "regularly updated", however the last update was November 2020.

Supplements and their respective claims are graded above and below a "Worth It' line. Those with strong evidence at the top of the chart and those with no supporting evidence for their claims are bunched at the bottom.

You can also filter for certain conditions, as seen in the image below.

What this means for us: The chart is fun to explore and also thought-provoking. It shows that of all "supplements" coffee ranks highest in terms of evidence supporting its claims. That is, to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Caffeine also ranks well in terms of supporting memory function.

On the other hand, it shows no supplements above the "Worth It" line for reducing the risk of diabetes.

If you click on the bubbles it opens the supporting scientific documentation.

Note: You might see multiple bubbles for certain supplements. This is because some supplements affect a range of conditions, but the evidence quality varies from condition to condition. For example, there's strong evidence that garlic can lower blood pressure. But studies on whether it can prevent colds have produced inconclusive results. In these cases, the supplement has a bubble for each applicable condition.

Related: Forget Beetroot Juice, Eat More Vegetables For Nitrate Potency And Longer Life

04 Back Pain - Exercise and Movement May Be The Best Medicine

Our exercises of the week are ... 3 more exercises to relieve back pain. Last week I suggested 3 such exercises recommended by Stuart McGill, an expert in spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Why more?

Two things happened during the week: (1) I remembered how I had put my lower back into a spasm just by innocently picking up a small weight at the gym, and (2) I read an article that said the best remedy for back pain is to keep moving.

At the time, I could not believe how much the spasm hurt. I thought that my days of exercise were over! And that caused as much stress and sweat as the pain itself, which was sharp and immobilising.

Medical research continues to conclude that chronic back pain is more neurological than physical. Researchers have found that the intensity of reported back pain most often does not correlate with the degree of physical degeneration.

Intriguingly, they also found that the tendency to experience more or less back pain runs in families!

⇒ What they agree is that "active treatment" is the best rehabilitation i.e. exercise.

Subject to the proper medical advice, no matter what else you should keep moving.

This is because movement seems to be the stimulus to normalise pain responses in the nervous system.

Keep walking. Keep exercising - but which exercises? Here are the ones I did, which gradually "de-spasmed" my lower back.

What this means for us: The best exercises that you can do are those that strike a balance between instability and immobility.

That's why you never use the gym machines for these.Gm machines over-stabilise you and dull your neuromuscular activation. Developing strength and mobility
and also postural alignment are key.

Get these exercises on your phone or browser. Free forever. Opt-out any time. Opt-in by CLICKING HERE PLEASE SEND ME THE EXERCISES.

You need to engage, to balance, to move your joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons mindfully through a proper range of motion. Try these, every day.

  1. Child's Pose - reaching forward as far as you can with your hands while sitting on your buttocks on your heels. Hold for 30 seconds. See here.
  2. Cat Stretches - kneeling with palms flat on the floor and arching your back up and down, moving your head as a cat etc as in the yoga movement. Do five mindful repetitions. See here.
  3. Upward-Facing Dog - Lie on your stomach, place your palms flat on the floor under your shoulders and push your head and shoulders up until your elbows are straight. Hold for one complete breath. See here.
  4. The Natural Squat - feet shoulder-width apart and squat down to bring your buttocks close to the floor and shins as vertical as possible. Optionally hold your arms around your knees, do not hold on to anything else for balance. Hold for 30 seconds. See here, but lower to the point that you can, and possibly with your buttocks swung right down and wrapping your arms around your legs.

There are more exercises here and here. But honestly you don't need a catalogue you just need to do 3 or 4 exercises regularly and consistently.

Just use the ones above, or substitute if you have another which you prefer and which will keep you more

Good luck.

In case you missed it...

Related: This One Exercise Will Reshape Your Body And Your Brain, If You’re Game

Thanks for reading!

About the newsletter: Do you think it can be improved? Have a story idea? Want to share about the time you met Chris Hemsworth, or your questions about how to live longer better? Send those thoughts and more to me at walter@bodyagebuster.com

'4 Most Valuable' is a weekly newsletter from Walter Adamson. If you like it, please forward to a like-minded soul. Someone forward this to you? You can subscribe from this page.

Resources for you:

The Exact Slow Pace You Must Run and Cycle To Max Fat-Burning

As You Age Pistachios Can Help You Sleep Better

I Started Trail Running At 70. Besides Being Bitten By A Dog I Love It

Vitamin D Is Free Yet We Don’t Get Enough And Our Health Is Suffering

Are You Ab-Wheel Rolling To Back Pain? I Was — Not Now

Measuring Your Waist Will Tell You If You Are On Your Way To Diabetes

Rebuilding Your Fast-twitch Muscles Doesn’t Require Fast Movements

Brain Health Is Boosted By Eating Less, Often — Here’s How To Start

How To Keep Your Weight Off With Daily Walks — 5 Fun Level-ups That Everyone Can Do

The Surprising Way Hip Flexors Pull You Down Into An Elderly Stoop And Shuffle, And How To Avoid It

Shining Light On Infrared Therapy - It Helped Unlock My Shoulder

How To Go From On-knee to Full Pushups, and Reap The Benefits

Why Walnuts Lower Heart Disease and Help You Sleep Better

Every one of these weekly emails has [4MV] in the subject line to help you filter them and search for previous ones.

Four Most Valuable [4MV] Weekly Tips For Living Longer Better | Newsletter

​"I empower mid-life men and women to make the choice to live as actively and as independently as they can, for as long as they can", Walter Adamson Get access to my weekly research that I don’t share elsewhere. “My wife and I both read your articles each week, and I have to say there is so much confusing data out there, but yours is a great source, well researched, scientific and always relevant.” — Steve Ridgway, subscriber.

Read more from Four Most Valuable [4MV] Weekly Tips For Living Longer Better | Newsletter