On April 1, at 4:30 in the morning, I had a stroke. Correction, I had two strokes. It wasn’t until a week after I was released from the hospital that I realized this happened on April Fool’s Day. 

For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable, rather than bulletproof.

I know what the warning signs of a stroke are, but apparently I didn’t know all of them. I knew what my risk factors were, but again, I didn’t know all of them. Now I do, and I want to be sure you do too. 

I wrote about it yesterday here:  For brevity’s sake, I left out some details that still have me shaking my head in bewilderment. Tell me what you think.

THREE MONTHS AGO I began working on a new novel. I’d had bits and pieces of it for a long time, but suddenly, it all came together. It’s about an attractive, successful woman, early 50’s, who has a stroke. 

Her prognosis is for a full recovery, but after more than a year, she still can’t speak. She loses most of her business, many of her friends drift away, and her marriage falls apart. 

Make no mistake, she will triumph over all of this.

ONE MONTH AGO, on Friday evening, March 22nd, I went to a “Pots and Plants Party” to help them “plant” 1,000 pink flamingos. For those of you who have been in Austin for a while, these are the folks who always had the “flock” of flamingos at the corner of Bee Caves Rd. and Capitol of TX highway.

AAE19564-8B79-48A9-823B-17C1C4EE4B03Although I was feeling exhausted and had just driven an hour home, for some unknown reason I felt compelled to change clothes, con my sweetie into coming with me, and drive another hour back to this gathering. 

We met the owner of the compan. I told him I missed seeing the flamingos, and asked him why he had closed his business. He told me he’d had a stroke back then, but you’d never know it! I told him about the book I was writing and he enthusiastically recommended a book by a woman neuroscientist who had a stroke.

I bought it the next day, and my hair stood on end when I read that the type of stroke the neuroscientist had, was the same type of stroke I’d created for my protagonist!

NINE DAYS LATER I had my strokes. Do you think I haven’t stood out in my yard and yelled at the heavens, “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 

As I think about it more and more, I marvel at the coincidences… and wondered if they were all preparation for me to know that like the neuroscientist, “flamingo man,” and my fictitious character, I will be fine.

Again, please read, it’s important:

XO Donna

Drain Bamage

We received a casual invitation from a friend to come hear him play at a little cafe out our way. His exact words were, “if you’re not doing anything interesting, and wanna come hear some mediocre music, we will be there from 5:30-7:00. ”

BrainHow could we resist? The band was better than he said and played music everyone enjoyed. On a break, he sat with us and we asked why he was playing bass rather than drums. He said he was learning a new instrument as “brain exercise” and we talked about that.

Old ideas held that you were born with all of your brain cells and aging (and other delightfully bad habits) diminished them. Period. New research shows that we can create new brain cells, and there are three ways to give these new cells the support they need:

  1. Learning new things
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Our diet

I heard that sigh. But the produce aisle is the one place where the more you eat, the healthier you will be! Just increase your fruit and veggie intake to 5-6 servings a day. Easy. The superstars are:

  • Blueberries, which boost neuron signals and help with memory and cognitive skills (you will be able to recognize and remember your kids when you’re old).
  • Spinach, which just shows that Popeye was right. It builds muscles and your brain, helping avoid confusion and lack of focus.
  • Apples. One a day will keep both the doctor and Alzheimers away.

antioxidantsA study on rats found that those fed a diet rich in spinach, blueberries and strawberries were “able to reverse age-related deficits in neuronal and cognitive function.” (Journal of Neuroscience, 15 Sept. 1999)  If the rats can get younger and smarter, then so can I.

Add to your diet: Wild-caught fish, Walnuts and Flaxseed.  All are excellent sources of Omega-3 fats that are essential to our grey matter and improve memory. Eggs are rich in choline, a B vitamin. Grass-Fed beef  is rich in both zinc and iron which help overall brain health, memory, and concentration. Iron also enhances the distribution of oxygen throughout our bodies.

I generally choose what I eat wisely; nutrient-dense foods with an occasional binge…the 80-20 rule. The cleaner I eat, the better I feel. I became brutally aware of the difference when I fell off the wagon during the holidays.

Eat well. Exercise regularly.  And learn something new.

This trio will avoid any further brain MelBrooksdamage,  and hopefully reverse some of it.  All a boon for keeping us sexy and engaged for a very long time to come.

Then again, should we choose not to bother, we won’t  remember or care anyway.

XO Donna