Archive for December, 2009

A Suggested New Year’s Resolution: Improve A Random Senior’s Brain Fitness!

Brain Fitness for Seniors, New Years Resolutions 2010! Image by ba1969 on Stock.Xchng New Year’s Resolutions are often very self-centric; they’re about us losing weight, quitting smoking, improving our own health, finances, and so on.  I almost followed that trend, and made this post about resolving to improve our own brain fitness, but then… I thought of a better way.

Why not resolve to improve someone ELSE’S brain fitness?

Pick a Senior, any Senior (or heck, a whole group of Seniors!) and spend time over the next year educating them about the importance of brain fitness, and, perhaps, providing them with products, encouragement and activities to improve the health of their own brains.

And  it doesn’t really need to be a random Senior’s brain fitness that you improve.  Maybe it’s your Great Aunt Martha,  the elderly neighbor you wave to each morning, your child’s favorite teacher who just retired, or that silver haired gentleman who signs you in at the local community center.

One hint: the less emotionally connected to someone you are, the more likely you are to be amused if they don’t quite understand, and the less likely you are to get frustrated with them.  But I totally understand the desire to see Great Aunt Martha stay sharp-witted and bright, so you can certainly pick her, if you like.  Shucks, you can pick MY Great Aunt Martha, if you really want to! (more…)

December 31, 2009 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

Serving Your Community: Another Path To Brain Fitness?

Volunteer... it's good for your brain! (Cool little thought balloons by Ambrozio on Stock.Xchng) Seniors are frequent beneficiaries of volunteer organizations, from groups like Meals on Wheels, to home visitation programs.

But new research suggests new ways that older adults can benefit from the other side of volunteer efforts: offering their help to others through volunteer programs may help preserve and improve their cognitive function, and ward off mental declines.

So what’s this research?

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December 29, 2009 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

12 Days of Brain Fitness Christmas

Thanks to ba1969 on Stock.Xchng, who provided the hat for my Santa Brain, and flaivoloka for the background.Forgive me this little indulgence… It’s Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t resist. Feel free to sing along, and/or throw things at me. Ahem!

On the first day of Brain Fitness
My true love gave to me,
Brain training For neuro-plasticity!

On the second day of Brain Fitness
My true love gave to me,
Two power naps,
And brain training for neuro-plasticity! (more…)

December 24, 2009 at 8:40 am 1 comment

Chemo-Brain: How Cancer Treatments Interfere With Cognitive Function

(Brain) Foggy Morning:  Image by AyeCeeYou on Stock.Xchng For years, cancer patients have complained about “chemo-brain”:  a mental fog that seemed to start with their chemotherapy treatments, the effects of which can last long after treatments had stopped – for weeks, months, or even years.

The medical community has been slow to recognize these effects, believing any mental difficulties were due to other known side effects, and issues like depression, anemia, and so on.

But recent studies have not only confirmed that  the mental fog associated with chemotherapy is real, but even revealed at least part of how the brain-fog occurs: commonly used treatments  seem  to prevent the development of new brain-cells – in one case, reducing regeneration in the brain by as much as 30%!

Understanding the impact means accepting the new realities of neuroscience… that  adult brains are not (as previously believed) concrete and fixed, but constantly renewing and rewiring themselves through.  When we interfere with the process of renewal, our mental functions suffer – it’s harder to learn new things, store and retrieve new memories, focus on tasks and maintain a stable mood.

What does this mean in practical terms, for helping cancer patients deal with the brain fog of chemo?

It’s too early in the research to know for sure, but treatment with an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) shows promise in reversing the problem.

And though the existing studies don’t reference the idea (and this is pure speculation on my part!)  it  seems possible that tactics of brain-fitness might minimize or slow the negative-effects of chemo on the brain both before, during and after treatments.   Physical and mental activity, a healthy diet, lower stress levels and adequate sleep (among other things) normally help the brain to build a cognitive reserve that might be drawn on during the stress of chemo, or they might simply help the brain recover more quickly.

Because of debilitating side effects of chemo, patients are often inactive, unable to participate in their normal intellectual and social activities, are unable to eat much, are almost universally stressed.   Could efforts to stay more physically or mentally active reduce the cognitive struggles, or help patients recover more quickly?  It will be interesting to watch as this research develops further, but if I had to guess, I’d think that the more fit your brain is, the better able you’ll be to maintain your cognitive functions in the face of nearly any health challenges, whether it’s normal age-related declines, Alzheimer’s, brain injuries, or, perhaps… chemo-brain.

So if you or someone you love has gone through cancer treatments, and you’re noticing a difference in mental state, memory or focus, don’t assume it’s just advanced age or hopeless.  Talk to your doctor, then go on a brain-fitness quest to give your brain an extra boost towards recovery!

December 22, 2009 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

For The Sake Of Your Brain: Fight Holiday Depression

Sad Christmas: Image from IStockPhoto.com Ok, I’m setting down the wrapping paper, bows and ornaments for a minute, and addressing a problem for many people (and especially seniors) this time of year.

During the holidays, depression rates rise significantly, and depression is a major drain on cognitive function.  The more blue you feel, the less effective your brain is… and if a seasonal funk becomes longer term, it has serious implications for the health of your brain.  Even short term depression can be responsible for problems with memory, concentration, focus and decision making. Long term depression is associated with an actual reduction in brain size, with implications of increased risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s. symptoms.

So what can you do about it?

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December 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm 1 comment

Origami Cranes: Exercise For Brains!

The Holidays can be mind-numbing — too little sleep, too much stress, poor dietary  choices, and long established routines and traditions that fail to challenge Origami Cranes for the Brain!   image by djeyewater on Stock.Xchngthe brain.   At least that’s how things go in my family, and most families I know of.

So I’m being a bit obsessive this year about introducing a bit of brain fitness into the mix. Today’s contribution?  Using Origami ( the Japanese art of paper folding) to make holiday ornaments.  Learning Origami can  improve cognitive functions (especially visual-spatial and motor skills) and create a wealth of new neural connections in the brain.  It’s good excercise, really!

Available patterns range from very simple to advanced, so nearly anyone can participate at a level that challenges them.  That range of difficulty is crucial for brain-boosting activities, because they must be challenging, but not *too* challenging.

What do you need?

Paper: You can buy special Origami paper in crafts stores, but any light weight paper will do for simple designs.  Holiday wrapping paper works well for many  Origami models.  Traditional patterns will begin with a simple square, and don’t require scissors, glue, or any other supplies.  Seriously, all you need is some paper, and a flat surface.

Simple, huh?

And About Those Patterns…

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December 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

Holiday Gift Baskets for the Brain!

Brain Fitness Holiday Gifts! (Image by Egilshay on Stock.Xchng)Feeling a bit stuck on your holiday shopping?

Why not become a Brain-Fitness Elf, and put together a holiday gift basket with a brain healthy theme?  You’ll educate the lucky recipient about brain health & fitness, give them a practical (and yummy!) gift, and as an added benefit, reinforce your own understanding of the basic elements of brain fitness.   Best of all, you can likely put one together within nearly any budget, on your regular trip to the grocery store!

Ready to get started?  Just pick out an inexpensive basket, holiday box, stocking or large gift bag, and toss in a selection of items that teach about brain health.

Gift Basket #1:  Brain Super-Foods

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December 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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