Category Archives: brain health

7 Sleep mistakes you don’t know you’re making – Infographic

Sleep is one of the truly under-appreciated aspects of living a long and healthy life. I know for sure that when I was in the working world, I pretty much considered sleep to be an imposition on my life.

Times, and my mind, have changed. Please check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep for more on this crucial aspect of our daily lives.

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Tony

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Food and health cliches revisited – Wake Forest

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – I always liked that one. While apples boast many health benefits, they do not, sadly, bulletproof us against all diseases.

“Everything our parents said was good is bad,” complains Alvy Singer, the character played by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” his 1977 Oscar-winning romantic comedy.

Green-vegetables

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but when it comes to what certain foods can do to or for you, it’s probably best to take motherly advice, familiar sayings and other bits of conventional wisdom with a grain of salt.

“There’s some validity to some of them, but many of them are just old wives’ tales or myths that have trickled down over the years,” said Annette Frain, a registered dietitian at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Continue reading

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Tips on sharpening your brain – WebMD

I write about exercise almost daily and about the brain nearly as often, but I think they really need to be tied together for the best understanding. Also, because we all want to live past 100, we certainly want the old cabeza to fully functional.

WebMD has a nice 12 part slide show  called Tips to stay smart, sharp and focused. If you want to experience the entire show, just click the link above. I am have picked out a few examples for the folks too lazy busy to do the whole thing right now.

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Number one is superb: USE YOUR BRAIN  “It’s true: Use it or lose it. Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp. Try these:
•    Read a book.
•    Go to a lecture.
•    Listen to the radio.
•    Play a game.
•    Visit a museum.
•    Learn a second language.”
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Get the jump on Alzheimer’s and dementia – Rush

Regular readers know that because I have lost three family members to Alzheimer’s and dementia I have a serious interest in keeping myself safe. And, by extension, you. This isn’t just for seniors.

Rush Medical Center has some very  useful suggestions on the subject.

Do you have the power to prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Although some risk factors — age and family history — are beyond your control, increasing evidence from research indicates that you aren’t helpless.

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Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and around the world have found that certain lifestyle choices can protect your brain against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Incorporate the following activities into your life, and your brain could reap the benefits Continue reading

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Seniors’ brains benefit from distraction – Study

While I want to live past 100, I also want to have my brain fully functional. So, any piece of information that satisfies that criterion, is music to my ears.

As you age, you may find it more difficult to focus on certain tasks. But while distractions can be frustrating, they may not be as bad as we think. In a review published November 15 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, researchers at the University of Toronto and Harvard University suggest that there may be some benefits to reduced focus, especially in people over 50. Using behavioral studies and neuroimaging evidence, the researchers discuss how being easily distracted can help adults with, for example, problem solving and learning new information.

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“Different types of tasks benefit from a more broad focus of attention, and this is usually seen in tasks that involve thinking creatively or using information that was previously irrelevant,” says first author Tarek Amer, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto and a graduate student at the Rotman Research Institute. “The literature gives us the impression that older adults are essentially doomed as their cognitive abilities decrease, when, in reality, many older adults get along just fine in their day-to-day lives, and we think that shows that aging adults don’t always need to have high cognitive control.”

When people have high cognitive control, they are able to maintain their focused attention and ignore distractions to get things done. But Amer and his colleagues found that people with reduced cognitive control had an easier time thinking of creative solutions to problems, and they were better at noticing patterns in the world around them. These findings also indicated that older adults could outperform their younger counterparts on certain problem-solving tasks, as they were able to broaden their attention more easily. Additionally, people didn’t require high levels of cognitive control for inherent, day-to-day tasks, like walking down the street or learning new information.

In order to explore the benefits of cognitive control, many lab-based behavioral experiments require participants to complete a specific set of tasks, limiting the role of distraction. But the researchers say these experiments have shortcomings, as they don’t explore situations when distractions and reduced cognitive control could be helpful, making the conclusions fairly one sided.

“Many of the tasks that we study in classic cognitive psychology are tasks that require high cognitive control, but these assigned tasks might not accurately mirror what people do in the real world because they limit distractions,” says co-author Lynn Hasher, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the Rotman Research Institute. “But a distraction in one setting can actually be useful information in another setting, and the more information you have, the better able you’re going to be to address a current problem.”

Amer and his colleagues hope to use this information to determine exactly what tasks can benefit from reduced control in order to better simulate these experiences in a lab. Although they also hope to expand the research beyond the aging population to examine how distractions can be beneficial for people with a range of cognitive impairments, for now they recognize that this understanding of cognitive control is a step closer to understanding the aging brain.

“There is a question about what really sustains performance in old age, and it’s clear that working memory alone cannot provide us with the answer to that question,” says Hasher. “But we think it’s possible that studying reduced cognitive control can help us understand how older adults can still perform independently and successfully in their lives.”

While it is gratifying to learn that some slippage in our mental acuity is not necessarily harmful, it is also crucial that we keep are mental ‘hardware’ in toptop shape. Please check out my Page -While it is gratifying to learn that some slippage in our mental acuity is not necessarily harmful, it is also crucial that we keep are mental ‘hardware’ in toptop shape. Please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more.

Tony

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Aerobic Exercise Preserves Brain Volume / Improves Cognition – RSNA

I seem to remember a line from a Clint Eastwood movie – Go ahead, make my day.  That’s how I feel every time I read something in the press about how exercise helps the brain the function better. It absolutely makes my day.

This is from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA):

•    Aerobic exercise may increase brain volume and cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment.
•    MRI results showed increased local gray matter volume in patients who engaged in either aerobic or stretching exercises for six months, but some white matter atrophy in the stretching group.
•    Cognitive testing revealed the aerobic exercise group also showed improvement in executive function after six months.

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Using a new MRI technique, researchers found that adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who exercised four times a week over a six-month period experienced an increase in brain volume in specific, or local, areas of the brain, but adults who participated in aerobic exercise experienced greater gains than those who just stretched. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). Continue reading

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Portions of the Brain Fall Asleep While we are Awake …

I am blown away by the brain and how it functions in our body and allows us to function. Remember, the brain which accounts for about two percent of our body weight burns around 25 percent of the calories we use in a day. This item from Neuroscience News moves the needle further.

When we are in a deep slumber our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.

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What’s more, it appears that when the neurons have cycled into the more active, or “on,” state they are better at responding to the world. The neurons also spend more time in the on state when paying attention to a task. This finding suggests processes that regulate brain activity in sleep might also play a role in attention.

“Selective attention is similar to making small parts of your brain a little bit more awake,” said Tatiana Engel, a postdoctoral fellow and co-lead author on the research, which published Dec. 1 in Science. Former graduate student Nicholas Steinmetz was the other co-lead author, who carried out the neurophysiology experiments in the lab of Tirin Moore, a professor of neurobiology and one of the senior authors. Continue reading

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5 Ways to keep your memory sharp – Harvard

Regular readers know that I am a senior citizen; will be 77 in January. So, I have a lot of senior friends. We have all experienced ‘senior moments’ when we find our memory becoming slightly elusive. Because my family has had Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia I am particularly sensitive to any brain stuff. So I was impressed with the suggestions that Harvard brought forward regarding enhancing our memory.

The way you live, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body can affect your memory just as much as your physical health and well-being. Here are five things you can do every day to keep both your mind and body sharp.

1. Manage your stress. The constant drumbeat of daily stresses such as deadline pressures or petty arguments can certainly distract you and affect your ability to focus and recall. But the bigger problem is an ongoing sense of anxiety — that can lead to memory impairment. If you don’t have a strategy in place for managing your stress, protecting your memory is one reason to get one. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and a “mindful” approach to living can all help.

I have posted a number of times on stress. You can find them by searching s t r e s s in the box at the right. If you want one excellent example check out: Super tools for handling stress.

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A 2 minute psychological pick-me-up

I  confess that I am one of Wonder Woman’s oldest fans, literally, I fell in love with Wondy in the comic books I read growing up in the 1940’s. We are about a year apart in age. So, I need little excuse to run a picture of her.

What I did like about this, though, is that after all we have heard and read about body language, it turns out that altering our body language can also send signals to our own brain – not just others.

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If you find yourself feeling a little macho, and would prefer a male model. Here is Superman showing you the way:

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The subject of body language is a really fascinating one. Here is Amy Cuddy delivering her TED Talk on the subject:

Tony

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5 Hobbies that can make you smarter – Infographic

One of the aspects of living a long and healthy life that goes without saying is that our mind is fully functional. No one wants to life a long life if he is simply drooling into his oatmeal.

What I love about this infographic is that the first thing it mentions is – Exercise. I felt so strongly about this aspect of living that I created a Page on it – Important facts about your brain – (and exercise benefits).

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Tony

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What are some actions that prevent or delay Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

The question of brain games and other cerebral activities to prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease was taken up by The Ask the Expert column in the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry.

“What kinds of brain activities did we find to be beneficial? While more research is needed to learn the best types of activities, the studies we reviewed included a wide range of possibilities….”

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“Here are some ideas:
•    Read a novel, a non-fiction book, a magazine, or newspaper.
•    Play board games with your children or grandkids.
•    Volunteer for a local organization.
•    Host a weekly card game for friends.
•    Register for an adult education class at your local college.
•    Look for art, cooking or other fun classes in your community.
•    Play video games with a young person in your life.
•    Attend a play or visit a museum.

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Brain exercises – all hype? – Wall Street Journal

As a senior citizen, 76 years old as of this writing, I think that the condition of my brain is probably my number one priority. Right there along with the physical condition of my body. Also, regular readers know that I have several cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family on both parents’ sides. So the concept of impaired cognition has my full attention.

I know that most of my contemporaries and younger compatriots are also very sensitive about their mental condition. Everyone experiences ‘senior moments,’ but they are not funny to those of us over 60.

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When I attended the ‘Healthy Transitions’ talks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (for folks over 50), the most well-attended were the lectures on cognitive impairment and dementia. Always a packed house. This is a very hot topic for seniors.For these reasons, I have particular contempt for the snake oil salesmen who try to prey on seniors’ fears of cognitive impairment. These include the drug companies that offer surefire memory boosters and particularly the brain games. I have written a number of posts about the ineffectiveness of these games. You can access them by checking out my Page – Brain games for seniors – What you need to know.

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Research Reveals How A Single Choice Affects Mental Health More Than Medications

Regular readers know that I have stressed the importance of exercise for the brain. So, it seems a logical corollary that food also affects the brain as well as the body.

nutrition

Tony

Our Better Health

“We need to get serious
about the critical role played by nutrition.”

– Julia Rucklidge, Clinical Psychologist

We pretty much all agree that good nutritional habits are vital to good physical health, yes? But what about mental health? Do good nutritional habits translate to a healthier mental state? On the surface, it would make sense. After all, the food that we eat contains nutrients – and these nutrients are transported throughout our entire body via our bloodstream. We already know that the brain requires nutrients to operate effectively…so, yeah, it makes sense.

But is eating right more important to mental health than prescription medicine?

Ah, this is a bit trickier. After all, pharmaceuticals are research-intensive and science-based products that have undergone extensive trial and error, often over a period of multiple years. These same products have earned the coveted “seal of approval” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…no easy…

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Can Ayurveda Help with Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Because my family has suffered from both Alzheimer’s and dementia, I am especially sensitive to anything that might reduce my vulnerability to them. I really  liked the Tips to Nourish Your Brain at the end.

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Please be sure to check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more information.

Tony

STAYING HEALTHY WITH AYURVEDA

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, a brain disorder affecting the parts of the brain controlling thought, memory and language. About 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and the number of cases are expected to quadruple by 2050. Ayurveda, the original health science of India, offers much needed knowledge on how to reverse aging trends, even in cases of brain deterioration such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Early detection provides a greater opportunity to delay or reverse the existing symptoms of aging disorders. Ayurveda, offers a comprehensive system of effective interventions.

A consultation with an Ayurvedic health expert using the ancient technique of Ayurvedic pulse assessment can help with early detection. Pulse assessment can help identify specific imbalances in the body which can predispose an individual to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. This individual diagnosis is a powerful tool for designing an individualized treatment program and…

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Brain boosters & brain busters – Infographic

This is a nice little roundup of foods that benefit the brain and those that don’t.  I was pleasantly surprised to see pumpkin seeds on the list and good for it as I love them and snack on them regularly. Check out my post Are pumpkin seeds good for you? for more, or you can type pumpkin seeds into the search box at the right. I think I have posted on them about five times.

Regular readers know I am a big fan of brain lore in general. Please check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to read further on this critical organ.

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Tony

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Boost Your Brain Health – Infographic

I really like this incredibly simple infographic on brain health. Regarding the first item on the graphic ‘Move Your Body’ – please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain – (and Exercise Benefits) to learn more.

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Tony

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