Do THIS to Improve Brain Health!



Hello, friends! All the school-aged kids in my family are back in school again, and now it’s time for ME again! I get so busy taking care of everybody else in the fam that I forget to take care of myself, especially when the children are home for the summer. But, now they’re happily (HA!) engaged in learning, Jacqueline is enjoying her interior design job at Haverty’s (see her for all of your furniture needs :)), and I can focus on getting strong!

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Lifting weights is my FAVE way to workout these days. It’s super important for our bodies to lift weights as we age, especially since the aging process causes us to lose muscle mass, and weight training builds muscle mass. Weight lifting is great for the heart too. It really gets the heart pumping and strengthens the cardiovascular system.


However, something that I thought was a really cool benefit to weight lifting is that it’s great for the brain. Weight lifting= healthy brain?!! It’s not immediately obvious, is it? But it’s absolutely true and I’m going to tell you all about it.


Get your workout on!

Exercising improves our memory and cognition, and it also helps to prevent dementia as we age. Additionally, strength training has been shown to have a strong impact on brain function and memory, especially working leg muscles. Also, senior citizens who engage in medium to high intensity exercise can slow brain aging by as much as ten years.

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All this is possible because exercise promotes brain health by releasing hormones like brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) from the muscles, which encourage the growth of new brain cells. Neurogenesis is what this process is called. The memory center of the brain is very adaptable and capable of growing new cells throughout our entire lives, even into our 90’s, provided we live a healthy lifestyle.

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Weight training also increases and improves blood flow to the brain. It reduces damaging plaques in the brain, and alters the way these damaging proteins reside inside the brain, thereby slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, it increases production of nerve-protecting compounds, lowers levels of inflammatory cytokines associated with chronic inflammation and obesity, improves development and survival of neurons, and prevents brain shrinkage by preserving both gray and white matter in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortexes.

Another really super advantage to weight training is that it helps eliminate depression, in many cases more effectively than antidepressants, and purges the body of stress chemicals associated with stress-related depression. Wow, that’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?!!

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So that’s what I have to tell you today, wonderful readers. Get out there and work those weights! It can help decrease depression, improve memory and cognition, slows the development of Alzheimer’s, helps prevent dementia, slows brain aging, and can actually increase our brain cells. That makes it worth my while to weight train! Try it, you’ll like it. It will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!




Brain Food- Really!


Hello friends! Are you busy with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season? Are you attempting to juggle all of your various responsibilities? Afraid you will allow one of the MANY balls you keep in the air to drop because you’ve forgotten to do something, or buy that perfect present for Aunt Sally and therefore feel her wrath for the rest of your life? Or are you one of my many college student readers, and you’re trying to cram tons of knowledge into a brain that feels much too insufficient? Well, if you are feeling like this right now, (ME!!!!) take heart dear readers because I am going to impart some critical information that will help you deal. This post was written at the request of my stressed out college senior daughter, Jacqueline, who would love some nutritional help for her brain going into finals week. 

The answer to improving brain health lies in the food we eat. Yes, that’s what I said, plain and simple food. However, it’s not just any food that will help your brain, but some specific foods which I’m going to share with you right now. Come along for the ride, I promise this will help you!

Top Brain Foods


1. Blueberries– I researched many resources in coming up with this list, and blueberries were at or near the top of every one. One reason is that they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin which is thought to cross the blood brain barrier, protect brain cells from oxidation and boost communication between brain neurons. A Harvard University study found that women over 70 who consumed 1/2 cup of blueberries twice a week remained sharper mentally than women who didn’t eat berries. Short term memory, navigational skills, balance and coordination are all improved by eating blueberries. 

2. Fatty fish-For two reasons, vitamin D and omega 3’s. Omega 3’s contain EPA and DHA which are highly concentrated in the brain and are critical for optimal brain function. Vitamin D, a nutrient plentiful in fatty fish like salmon, protects the brain. A Tufts University study found that people who ate fish like tuna, salmon and halibut 3 times a week reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.

3. Avocados– are high in monounsaturated fatty acids which help promote healthy brain blood flow and benefits healthy brain function. And they’re good for your heart too because they’re loaded with potassium. That’s a win-win!

4. Nuts-Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats and Vitamin E, both contributing to better brain function. Also, almonds, pecans, and walnuts are thought to prevent cognitive decline. 

5. Eggs-Saturated fat and choline are both contained in eggs. They help boost memory skills and overall brain health.

6. Olive oil, coconut oil-Both oils are healthy fats which contain polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent or even reverse dementia and cognitive decline and help improve memory.  

7. Green leafy veggies-which are loaded with Vitamin K, like kale, collards and spinach, have been shown to slow cognitive decline. People who consume 1-2 servings a day have the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger who consumed none.

So eat your healthy fats, like avocados, fatty fish, eggs, olive and coconut oils, your dark green leafy veggies like kale, collards and spinach, and your blueberries to help you get through finals, or for us older folk to get through the Christmas season (or life!). You’ll live a brain healthy life if you do, what could be better than that? Foods like this will help you live a life of vitality, with Valerie! 

Adding this to your day could extend your life!


 Hi friends! Well we’ve had some amazing weather here in the Midwest, it’s been so warm and sunny, great weather for doing more walking. That is the focus of my post today. 

Did you know that you can add SEVEN YEARS TO YOUR LIFESPAN BY WALKING FOR 20-25 MINUTES DAILY?!! I had to put that in caps because it is such an incredible fact. 

Now that’s not to say that’s all you need to do, obviously you still need weight training and a healthy diet. If you also add in weight training and interval training to your fitness regime you can add an ADDITIONAL 3-7 YEARS TO YOUR LIFESPAN!

 Walking is important for a few different reasons. First, if you’re walking you’re not doing one of the worst things for us and the thing we Americans do far to much of, and that is sitting. Sitting for long periods of time is known to lead to type 2 diabetes, among other diseases. Second, walking helps delay the onset of dementia, serves as an anti-depressant and improves cognitive function. Yep, all that with a simple 20-25 minute walk! 

And if you vary the pace of your walk you can burn 20% more calories than if you walk at a consistent pace. Slowing down and speeding up help to create a varying pace, but stopping and starting are where the most energy is expended in a walk. Another thing that helps is to walk with weights or a backpack to burn more calories. Oh, and walking in a curving route rather than a straight line will also burn more calories. All of these things can be achieved when walking with dogs because if you’ve ever walked a dog you know they slow down, speed up, stop suddenly, and definitely don’t follow a straight line. Also, since I have two dogs and they pull hard despite wearing pronged collars, it takes all of my energy to pull them back so they don’t run into the road and get hit. I’m burning some calories for sure!! Getting a dog has so many advantages, too many to name here, but one of the best ones is that they get me MOVING.


So that’s my message for the day for my wonderful readers, get moving and keep moving! If you have a fit bit or a step app on your phone aim for 5,000-7,000 steps per day, but 10,000 is the ultimate goal to reach for. Moving to a new home is a great way to get your steps in because since we moved a week and a half ago I’ve increased my steps to the 10,000 range daily unpacking all the boxes, and it’s great weight training at the same time. Win-win! Keep on walking and you’ll live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!


Coffee11This morning after a late night at the Fleetwood Mac concert, which was such fun by the way, I really needed my morning coffee. My coffee is a necessity to give me a much needed boost of energy in the morning. It’s also warm, homey and comforting to me. It really is a hug in a mug! I have previously spoken of my love for coffee and it’s benefits but today I want to talk about the stuff that goes into your coffee and how important it is to keep those things healthy. Otherwise, you can add HUNDREDS of calories to your coffee, and it can easily go from a healthy start to your day to a caloric wasteland. Besides being high in calories, some of the things you can add to your coffee can be downright BAD for your health, full of chemicals that can’t even be pronounced. I wanted to use this opportunity to save you all the calories and chemicals, and show you what I use so that you can benefit from my experience and drink delicious, HEALTHY coffee.

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

My coffee area highlighted by my Nespresso espresso machine!

1. Start with high quality coffee- If you can find organic coffee, by all means use that. I have an espresso machine that I’ve used for the last few years. I really enjoy espresso but I recognize that many people don’t like the intensity of it, so use whatever works for you. But for me the first step is to use really good coffee/espresso that doesn’t have any artificial flavors or additives in it (artificial flavors=chemicals). Nespresso sells high quality, sustainably raised coffee in their espresso cubes. You put the cube into the machine and it makes delicious espresso.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

I use an aeroccino or as I call it, a milk frother.

2. Add REAL cream- I don’t use artificial creamers in my coffee. I will only use half and half, but the cool thing is that I use a milk frother. I pour the half and half into the frother, press the button, and it whips the milk up into a foamy deliciousness that makes me feel like I’m getting my coffee from a professional barrista! Of course I only use organic half and half also. I use an organic hazelnut half and half and add a splash of that to the regular half and half and whip them together so I get a bit of sweetness into the cream.

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

I use Mexican hot chocolate bricks to impart sweetness into my coffee!

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.

Organic hazelnut half and half adds a bit of sweetness to the cream.










3. NO FAKE SUGARS- As I’ve said in previous posts, artificial sweeteners are bad for your health in MANY ways. They are full of chemicals and are NOT a component of a healthy lifestyle. In an effort to keep the calories down and impart sweetness to my coffee, I use a small splash of hazelnut half and half as I said above, and I also shave a small amount of Mexican hot chocolate into my coffee. I use a very small grater and shave no more than a half teaspoon of it into the coffee before adding the cream. I let the chocolate melt into the coffee, and then I add the cream and stir a few times to combine everything without adding too much air to take the fluffiness out of the foam.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

Spices like cinnamon add tons of flavor to your coffee and are good for you too.

4. Add different flavors to enhance your coffee- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom can really jazz up your coffee, adding a lot of flavor without adding calories. I add organic cinnamon to my coffee whenever I make it. Cinnamon is a healthful spice and has been said to help prevent diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and blood sugar spikes. It also is very warm and flavorful, and really complements the flavor of coffee. It’s a must for me!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

There it is, all done and waiting for me to drink it!

Well, that’s how I make a perfectly delicious and healthy cup of coffee. The idea is to add layers of flavor so that you get an amazing taste without adding a lot of chemicals or calories. Coffee can help enhance your memory and workouts, as well as preventing liver damage, helping to lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, lessen our stress, and add antioxidants to our bodies. So I am perfectly justified in indulging in my morning cup of Joe, and I know it’s good for me too. Drinking coffee with healthy additions to it can help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!