Archive for January, 2010

Preventing Falls (For The Sake Of Your Brain)

Watch Your Step: Preventing Falls in Seniors - image by harry_lund  on Stock.Xchng For Many Seniors, taking a tumble is all too common an experience. And though bruises and broken bones are the biggest and most immediate concerns, falling can put your brain-health in jeopardy, too.

Head injury is the most obvious risk; concussions can have both short and long term affects on cognitive functions like memory and decision making.  A knock on the noggin increases the likely hood of developing Alzheimer’s.  And even minor brain injuries often affect balance, putting patients at risk of even more falls.


January 28, 2010 at 5:13 pm 1 comment

Could Snoring Be Damaging Your Brain?

Unhappy Bed: image by michelsick on Stock.Xchng Snoring, that night time bane of bed partners, may be doing more than irritating our spouses.  It’s frequently (but not always!) a sign of sleep apnea, a condition where sleepers stop breathing many times during the night, disrupting the quality of their sleep and jolting them awake for a brief, sometimes un-noticeable instant.

In terms of brain fitness, it’s a pretty serious issue.


January 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

Out Of Autopilot, Into First Gear

Is Your Brain On Autopilot? Image by uyo14 on Stock.Xchng Routines, ruts, and habits: they’re comfortable, easy, maybe even a bit lazy. When your life is filled with familiar routines, your brain doesn’t have to work very hard as you move through your day… and therein lays the problem.

For your brain to be healthy, it needs exercise, and it needs exposure to “new”: new things, new thoughts, new ways of doing ordinary tasks and actions.


January 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Yawn For Brain Fitness! No, Really!

Yawning Puppy Brain!  Image by Bjearwike on Stock.Xchng Yawning: it’s considered rude, a sign of boredom, disinterest, laziness and exhaustion.

And it just might be really good for the brain, at least according to Andrew Newberg, the director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania.

In an essay published last November, Newberg explains that yawning isn’t just a response to being tired or disinterested, but an attempt by the brain to be more alert and focused.  Yawning also reduces stress, improves self-awareness, and, curiously, ties strongly into social connections.

Intrigued? Me too!

Turns out that yawning stimulates parts of the brain that deal with social awareness and empathy, which is why yawns are contagious.  (In fact, yawns are so contagious and responsive to suggestion that I bet you’ll be yawning by the time you finish reading this post! ) One of the affected areas of the brain is the precuneus, which is believed to be central to our self awareness, ability to reflect, and retrieving our memories.

According to Newberg’s article, it’s also a part of the brain strongly affected by cognitive declines, which suggests that yawning might just exercise it enough to help keep our memories fit and healthy.

How else might yawning benefit brain fitness?

It actually touches on several elements of our 7 keys:

  • It’s relaxing, and reduces the effects of stress and anxiety, which take a huge toll on the health of our brain, our memories and general cognitive function.
  • Yawning helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles; sleep deprivation is very harmful for the brain.
  • It regulates the temperature and metabolism of the brain, increases blood flow, and stimulates a cocktail of bio-chemicals that improve mood, social connection, and empathy.
  • And although Newberg doesn’t say so directly, I have to wonder if the social connection in yawning might be related to the importance of social interaction on brain health.  Social activities are known to be a factor in preventing/minimizing the effects of age-related cognitive decline and disease.

So Go Ahead.

Now do it again.

And one more time!.

If you don’t feel like yawning, fake it  a few times and let the auto-response take over.   Pretty soon you’ll be yawning away naturally, and almost certainly feeling the positive effects.

Newberg suggests we yawn often, whether waking up or falling asleep, trying to focus or relax.  For more of his suggestions and futher information, check out Dr. Newberg’s essay in the Penn Gazette:

Yawn: It’s one of the best things you can do for your brain

January 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm 1 comment

Experiencing A Mental Decline? Get Physical!

Exercise protects the brain!  Image by icthus8 on Stock.Xchng Physical Activity is widely recognized as a key to maintaining a healthy brain, and now a new study out of the University of Washington suggests that regular exercise may be an effective treatment for some cognitive declines. It’s a small study, but interesting… read on!

The 33 study participants were all patients from a memory disorders clinic.  With an average age of 70, they were all experiencing mental declines.   Researchers divided them into two groups — one group participated in high intensity aerobic activities for up to an hour each day, while the other group did low-impact stretching exercises, keeping their heart rates low.


January 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

Knit Yourself A Better Brain!

imageKnitting: it’s been a  traditional activity for older women for as long as I can remember. In fact, the first three or four decades of my life were punctuated with slippers, scarves, potholders and afghans crafted out of from yarn by the eldest generations of my and my husband’s families.  A couple of times a year, I’d dutifully open a package containing yet anther set of curiously colored  pom-pom’d slipper-socks that I’d never wear,  nod and smile, and offer a kiss on the cheek.

The gifts were  quirky curiosities of an older age, accepted with the same love they’d been made with – even if I never wore the things.

But you know what? Every one of those needle-working women had a sharp mind into their 80’s and 90’s.   Back then, I would have never connected the dots between knitting and a healthy brain.  Now, I wonder if a bit of yarn doesn’t run between them, and if the resurgence in popularity of knitting and crocheting might hold promise for a sharp-witted older generation of women.


January 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

Alzheimer’s, Cancer & Cell-phones: Puzzling New Science Studies

Cellphones & Mouse Brains! Phone from HelloMoto1, Gerbil from lockstockb, both on Stock.Xchng The past two weeks brought some startling results from Alzheimer’s related research.

The first, out of Washington University School of Medicine, suggests a curious reverse-link between Alzheimer’s and cancer: patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are less likely to develop cancer, and vice versa.

Although the results were at least partiually unexpected, they do make a strange sort of sense.  In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells inexplicably deteriorate, while cancer causes cells to inexplicably and wildly multiply.  It seems possible that related errors in the same biochemical or genetic switch underlie both conditions.


January 7, 2010 at 4:56 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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