Archive for February, 2010

Take A Nap For Your Memory

Caught In The Act! Napping photo by k_vohsen on Stock.Xchng I grew up with a pretty negative view of napping – catching a few extra Z’s at work, school or even on a weekend was treated as lazy and indulgent, tolerated only if someone is sick or seriously overworked.

But evidence is piling up that naps are not only good for general brain health, but  can improve our  memory and actually make us smarter. The longer we stay awake, the slower our minds seem to function – and this is true whether we’re pulling all-nighters or just staying awake during a normal working day.

In a new study led by Matthew Walker  of UC Berkeley, researchers separated 39 healthy adults into two groups.  Both groups were put through a mentally taxing study session at noon, requiring them to connect faces and names.   Both groups did about as well on their tasks this first time around.

But at 2pm, one of the groups was sent to take an hour and a half nap, while the other group stayed awake. (more…)

February 25, 2010 at 7:53 pm 4 comments

Milk: A Prevention Against Dementia?

Milk: It Does A Brain Good  (Image by Anadin on Stock.Xchng) We know milk is important for bone strength, and growing children, but could it also help protect the brain as we age?  According to researchers at the University of Oxford,  milk’s high levels of B12 may make it an easy way to help keep the brain healthy.

Why B12?

Patients with B12 deficiencies suffer more from brain atrophy (where the brain actually shrinks) than those with normal or above levels of the vitamin.  And brain atrophy is associated with dementia’s of various types, including Alzheimer’s.

(more…)

February 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

Healthy Brains For Generations: Getting The Grandkids Involved

Generations of Brain Fitness: Image by boletin on Stock.Xchng Earlier this week, I wrote a short bit entitled Brain Fitness: It’s Not Just For Seniors.  It’s about how seniors are usually the most concerned with brain fitness, but that younger folks can benefit from developing brain healthy habits, too – habits that can improve cognitive functions now, and help protect those functions as we age.

Seniors are in a unique position to educate their families and community on the subject.  But  since most brain fitness material is aimed at older generations, how do you get the younger ones to sit up and pay attention?

(more…)

February 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm 2 comments

Brain Fitness: It’s Not Just For Seniors!

Relations & Generations: Image by columbine69 on Stock.Xchng Brain Fitness is a hot topic these days, and most of the attention, marketing, research, and media reports (even this blog) are understandably aimed at an older audience.

But the over-65 set aren’t the only ones who can and should benefit from brain fitness practices.  The children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of today’s seniors can benefit from brain healthy habits and lifestyle choices, too.

(more…)

February 16, 2010 at 11:32 pm Leave a comment

Of Mediterranean Diets, Memory & Healthy Aging

Olives: Part of a brain-healthy Mediterranean Diet.  Image by sasicd on Stock.Xchng

A new study shows that a “Mediterranean Diet” may be helpful in protecting memory.

Why? It seems to reduce the risk of small areas of brain damage caused that often contribute to cognitive problems.   Those areas of damage come from  (frequently undetected)  mini-strokes known as “infarcts”, and they’re involved in many cases of dementia.

(more…)

February 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Taking Ginkgo? Take Care If You’re Epileptic

Ginkgo Leaves - Image by saflora on Stock.Xchng For years, Ginkgo Biloba has been a  top selling herbal supplement among seniors.  Early studies suggested that the way it increases blood flow might be helpful for protecting memory and mental functions, but more recent and in depth studies show few (if any) benefits to memory.

Still, Ginkgo was considered generally safe, and while experts were no longer recommending people start taking the herb in the hope of improving their memory, they weren’t recommending people stop, either.

But a research review released this month has revealed potential risks with the remedy, especially for those with epilepsy.  Ginkgo appears to increase the risk of seizures, even  among those on anti-seizure  medication.

The herb contains a potentially harmful substance known as Ginkgotoxin, which appears to alter signaling pathways in the brain.  Those changes to the pathways seem to trigger seizures.  Ginkgo also appears to interact with some anti-seizure medications, reducing their effectiveness and increasing the risk of what’s known as “breakthrough” seizures.

So Ginkgo is clearly not “safe” for epileptics.

Additional studies have hinted at a potential increase in stroke risk when Ginkgo is taken regularly, and Ginkgo is known to interfere with blood clotting and increased bleeding in case of injury, so it’s hardly risk free.

Many seniors like the idea of herbal supplements – they’re  inexpensive compared to many pharmaceuticals, they’re easy to obtain, and generally assumed to be safe because they are natural.

But they aren’t as safe as people believe. Herbal supplements aren’t subject to the same approval process that drugs go through, and little is often known about they interact with each other, or with pharmaceuticals (prescription or over the counter).

As for the popular belief that natural means safe, many poisons and toxins are natural, too. Natural, but definitely not “safe”.

And while brain-fitness aware seniors are the most likely users of products like Ginkgo, they’re also at special risk for complications; their systems may be more sensitive, they’re more likely to have existing health conditions, and to be taking medications that may have interactions with the supplements.

So if you’re taking Ginkgo or other herbal supplements (or are considering starting) make sure you check with your doctor and pharmacist to evaluate the risks — especially if you’re epileptic.

February 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Getting Good Zzzz’s: More On Sleep Apnea and Brain Damage

Image by tizwas01 on Stock.Xchng Last week, I speculated about the potential for sleep apnea to stress and potentially damage the brain. (see Could Snoring Be Damaging Your Brain?)

I’ll be honest – I thought I was stretching things a bit.  There just weren’t a lot of studies on the subject, except for a curious link between the breathing/sleep disorder and Alzheimer’s. My thoughts were based the idea on the way apnea disrupts sleep and causes stress responses in the body and brain, both known to lead to problems in cognitive function.

But this week?
Well, I’m feeling a bit prescient.

A new study just came out of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.that confirms a link between sleep apnea and brain damage. (more…)

February 4, 2010 at 3:10 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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