Posts Tagged ‘brain’

Have you ever had any of these experiences?

**You walk into a room and forget what you wanted to do.

**You want to drive somewhere but you can’t remember where you left the car keys.

**You’re shopping and you see one of your close neighbors, but you can’t remember his or her name.

These are but a few examples of what are commonly referred to as “senior moments.” Many people who have these forgetful moments fear that they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but the fact is that almost everyone, especially starting around the age of 50, has these experiences.

Factors that can worsen memory loss are:

**Lack of sleep

**Uncontrolled high blood pressure

**Excessive use of alcohol


**Loneliness, anxiety and depression

Just as aging affects our bodies, it also causes changes in our brains. Memory lapses are some of the more obvious changes that we will all experience.

Although we can’t keep our brains from physically aging, we can be proactive to slow down those changes. The following are my recommendations to keep our brains as healthy as possible as we age:

**Concentrate, pay attention and use mental images to help remember things.

**Maintain a positive attitude and continue to find purpose in life.

**Remain physically active with some form of regular exercise.

**Stimulate the brain by doing puzzles and word games, reading and conversing.

**Maintain adequate sleep. A regular brief nap is very beneficial.

**Eat a healthful, balanced diet.

**Avoid alcohol, or at least limit its use.

**Get organized. Use calendars, notes and lists to jog the memory.

**Do not isolate yourself. Remain socially active with family and friends.

**Relax through yoga, meditation and prayer.

The bottom line is that we all experience occasional memory loss. This is part of the normal aging process. Senior moments usually cause only minor annoyances, occasional slips and inconvenience and are no cause for worry or concern. If your moments become persistent, worsen or interfere with daily activities, however, you should see your doctor so your symptoms can be evaluated.

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Be Good to your Brain

Throughout the general media, much is being said these days about improving and maintaining good health. Most of this information tends to emphasize our physical health, such as preventing conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, etc. There is much less information, though it is equally important, about keeping our brains healthy, especially as we age.

Although the current literature about maintaining brain health is geared toward the elderly population, the information in this article is important for the entire population. No one is too young to start thinking about keeping his or her brain as healthy as possible.

The following are suggestions anyone can take to promote a healthy brain:

• Maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. This can be done by treating or preventing conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart and blood vessel disease.

• Exercise. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week will help to increase your heart rate and boost the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. (Even a small amount of exercise is better than none.)

• Weight control. Try to maintain what your doctor figures should be your ideal weight to help avoid conditions that include heart disease, diabetes and overall stress and strain to the body.

• Watch your diet. Try to eat more of what is referred to as the “Mediterranean diet.” This diet avoids saturated and trans fats and emphasizes lean meat, fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, healthy fats such as canola and olive oil, nuts and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.

• Consider taking omega-3 supplements. These are important fatty acids that are beneficial to the brain and can be bought at pharmacies and health food stores.

• Avoid unhealthy behaviors. Don’t smoke or use any tobacco product. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, which is now considered to be no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men.

• Get adequate sleep. Seven hours or more of good sleep per day is deemed necessary to maintain a healthy brain.

• Stimulate your mind. Challenge your brain with memory tasks, learn new information, engage in frequent social interactions and pursue a variety of stimulating activities, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, card games, and so on.

• Don’t worry — be happy. Think positively, learn to tolerate uncertainty, spend time with upbeat people and try to improve your feelings of self-worth.

Some people, unfortunately, will have an abnormal deterioration of their brain function because of bad genes, illness, or diseases over which they have no control. However, current research shows that the previously mentioned suggestions could be beneficial in maintaining a healthy brain.

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From time to time, I’ll write about various vitamins and how they affect our health. But what exactly is a vitamin?

A vitamin is an organic substance essential in small quantities to normal metabolism. It is found naturally in various foods, but it can also be produced artificially. A lack of vitamins can produce certain diseases.

Vitamin D has received quite a bit of press these days both in medical literature as well as in newspapers and magazines.

Vitamin D is the only nutrient the human body makes itself. Ultraviolet rays from sun exposure interact with a chemical in the skin to form an inactive version of vitamin D, which is then converted in the liver and kidneys into an active version useful to our bodies.

Because people have been warned to wear sunscreen and to limit sun exposure, though, we might not be able to manufacture enough of this vitamin on our own and may need to look for other sources.

Vitamin D can be found in a limited number of foods, including fatty fish, fish liver oils, liver, and egg yolks. Commercial milk products, breakfast cereals and juices are often fortified with low levels of vitamin D. People don’t usually eat enough of these foods to consistently cover their daily vitamin D requirements, though.

The primary benefits of vitamin D for our bodies are these:

• Bone health: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are two minerals needed for strong bones. People taking vitamin D have a lower risk of bone fractures and also have been found to have a lower chance of falling in the first place.

• Brain function: People with higher blood levels of vitamin D have higher cognitive performance, including memory and thinking skills.

Low levels of vitamin D, by contrast, have been associatedwith some increased risks: cancer of the colon, breast and prostate; arthritis; diabetes; and infections, such as tuberculosis.

The accepted recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 to 600 international units per day. Most common multivitamins contain 400 IU. Momentum is building within the medical community to increase the daily recommended dose to at least 800 to 1,000 IU. From what I can tell, this is a reasonable recommendation. The higher level should help to strengthen bones and muscles and hopefully prevent a variety of diseases, such as those I have mentioned.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain.

First described in the early 1900s by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, it is a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that causes severe memory loss and difficulty thinking and eventually robs a person of the ability to perform even the simplest of tasks.

More than 5 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the seventh leading cause of death. It afflicts one in eight people age 65 and older and one in two people older than 85. Few families are untouched by this disease.

Our brains, like all organs in our bodies, change as we age. Slower thinking and some memory loss occur in all of us the longer we live. Serious memory loss, confusion and inability to perform simple tasks are not normal, but reflect a more severe deterioration of our brain cells, of which there are more than 100 billion in the average adult brain.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but it is thought to be associated with genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors.

Abnormal structures called plaques and tangles have been identified in and around brain cells in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. They are thought to block communication between cells and lead to their destruction. Unlike other cells in our body, brain cells regenerate very slowly, if at all, allowing the continued progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Various stages of Alzheimer’s disease have been identified and described as follows:

• Early: Increasing memory problems

• Mild: Increasing memory loss, with problems such as getting lost, trouble handling money and paying bills, repetition of questions and poor judgment

• Moderate: Difficulty recognizing family and friends, inability to learn new things, and trouble with tasks such as getting dressed

• Severe: Inability to communicate and complete dependence on others for care

Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, several drugs have been approved for the treatment of its symptoms. These drugs help maintain memory, thinking and some behavioral skills, but they don’t change the disease process and may help for only a few months to a few years.

Be proactive to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease:

• Keep your cholesterol level normal or below.

• Boost your vitamin D level by sun exposure, appropriate foods or vitamin supplements.

• Exercise your brain by playing cards or working crossword puzzles.

• Maintain social contact with friends or relatives.

• Keep physically active.

Those who are close to someone with Alzheimer’s disease understand the tremendous toll it takes emotionally, physically and financially. Caregivers can be helped by a support network of family and friends. Organized support groups, such as the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org), are also available and can offer much-needed advice for those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Much research is being done throughout the scientific community to develop a successful treatment and, ultimately, a cure.

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