Today I went to the first day of the Alaska Nurse Practioner Association Conference. I try to go annualy to get the latest information and network with my peers. Today I attended lectures on The Teen Brain, Autism in Alaska, Vitamin D and Allergy (Is there a link?), and a refresher course on Kawasaki disease. So in the morning I learned a lot about brain chemistry and neuropsych. Fastinating stuff. Everyone knows about how much the brain grows from infancy through early childhood, but did you know that between 14 and 22 years of age there's all this "pruning" going on? Eventually more than 40% of all synapses are eliminated. Without this pruning, there is unregulated growth that can lead to disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disease and autism. I've always suspected that children lose their baby brain before adolescence and the adult brain doesn't grow in until at least 22, now it's been confirmed.
Vitamin D is the latest end all, be all, cure all. I have a healthy skeptism about taking massive quantities of any supplement. It seems like every few years we are told to take large doses of some kind of micronutrient, and then a few years later, the latest research shows that it's not good to take high doses. I still subscribe to the school of moderation. Besides, why get all your nutrients from a capsule when you can eat food? You already know how much I love to eat...
Barb Bancroft, our keynote speaker this morning was hysterical. She is one of those really funny, really smart nurse practitioners who, in addition to having a thriving practice, travels all over the country giving speeches at seminars. Some of you might know that I have been known to do a little stand up comedy on the side, at girl parties with my female friends when we let our hair down and whoop it up. Maybe when I grow up I can take my show on the road and become a professional nurse practitioner comedienne. Anyway, this lady had me in stitches. Her first lecture reminded me of all the stuff I know is good for me but am not doing enough:
1. Exercise at least 30 minutes 5-6 times per week
2. Eat more fish, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil and less red meat, simple carbs and fat.
3. Drink small amounts of alcohol, 1-7 drinks per week (but not all in one night, and not if you are a recovering addict or just plain alcohol intolerant like me.)
4. Get enough sleep, 7-9 hours per night (Most adults sleep 5-6)
5. Stress is bad for you. It causes depression and other health problems.
6. Meditation lowers your risk of heart disease by 30%, cancer by 49%, and risk of overall death by 23%. Plus it builds NEURONS!
7. Pets decrease stress. Pets are good for you (unless you have allergies to animal dander!)
8. And as discussed above, we need more vitamin D. Half the people living above or below the 35 degree latitude have vitamin D deficiency. Dark skinned people are at higher risk! Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk for all kinds of autoimmune diseases, mental illness and cancer.
9. And last but not least, laughter is still the best medicine. Barb made me laugh so hard, I bought her book called Live a Little, Laugh a Lot. While flipping through it, I found my favorite quote for today:
"I'm allergic to drugs and alcohol. They make me break out in handcuffs." Rober Downey, Jr.