Archive for April, 2010

The Fledgling Science of Brain Fitness: A Reality Check

Fledgling Science:  Image by heberends on Stock.Xchng This week brought an important reminder about just how early we are in the scientific exploration of brain fitness and the influence of lifestyle on diseases like Alzheimer’s.

An independent panel assembled by the National Institutes of Health reviewed available studies on a variety of lifestyle changes that have been suggested to delay, slow or reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s disease.

Their finding? The evidence just isn’t clear.  The studies are promising but often conflicting, and there are problems with even the most basic concepts, like the definitions of Alzheimer’s and how to measure cognitive abilities.


April 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

Staying Active: At Age 77, Alzheimer’s Patient Plans To Explore Loch Ness… By Canoe!

Loch Ness: Image by Someguy on Stock.Xchng I love people who refuse to give up on their brains. According to a story in Scotland’s Inverness Courier, Mr. John Forsyth, age 77, certainly seems to qualify as one of those fighting spirits.

You see, Mr. Forsyth has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. And yet, this May, he plans to spend a little more than 3 days paddling  his canoe around Scotland’s famous Loch Ness, about a 50 mile excursion.  He’ll be sticking close to the shore, hoping to get close to the native wildlife, and camping at night.

According to the Courier Article, he’s well aware of the risks, and  has said  “My problems could be the weather, the wind or the sun. I could get heat or sun stroke and there is also my friend Nessie!”  (more…)

April 27, 2010 at 3:15 pm 3 comments

Going Green as Brain Exercise?

Recycling Saves The Earth: Image by nazreth on Stock.Xchng This week marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a worldwide effort to raise environmental awareness.   Everyone is encouraged to participate by making changes to their lifestyle, changes like recycling household trash, saving energy and water, changing habits that can negatively impact the natural world around us.

What’s this got to do with brain exercise? (more…)

April 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Meditation for Mind Improvement: It Only Takes A Little!

Ever wanted to try meditation, but thought you wouldn’t be able to stick with it for long enough to make a difference?  Good news! Even a few short meditation sessions turn out to have measurable effects.Meditation Garden:  Image by Renaudeh on Stock.Xchng

Quite a few studies have documented that  that meditation seems to have a positive impact on the brains of long-term practitioners, but it’s usually been assumed that the length and intensity of their practice was necessary to see the benefits.

That made meditation an unlikely tool for your average Jane or Joe, who has neither the time nor the discipline for a 3 hour daily meditation practice.

But a new study (published this week in Consciousness and Cognition) suggests that even brief flirtations with meditation may have measurable brain benefits.  Over a period of four days, the study participants were instructed in 20 minute mindfulness meditation sessions.  Surprisingly, their cognitive skills improved significantly after the training.

Why is this important?


April 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

5 Quick & Easy Brain-Healthy Snacks

Looking for Brain Healthy Snacks? This isn't one of them ;) Image by mzacha on Stock.Xchng Snack foods. They’re typically high in salt, fats, and high-fructose corn syrup. The salt is hard on the heart, the sweeteners can spike glucose levels,  and long term, they can put your cognitive function at risk.  But snacking itself isn’t a bad idea – it keeps energy levels on an even keel throughout the day, making sure the brain is well supplied with the fuel it needs.  Luckily, substituting brain-healthier snack foods is simple and tasty.  Read on for  5 examples of healthy snack alternatives!

1. Grab a  handful of almonds and dried berries – look for unsweetened dried blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries in your grocery store.   Easy to carry in a ziplock bag, the berries add antioxidents and satisfy your sweet tooth, while almonds are rich in Omega-3’s, give you a crunch and a feeling of fullness from their healthy fats.  For even more variety, add walnuts, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds – just try and choose unsalted, unsweetened  varieties!

2.  Try smoked wild salmon, or foil pouches of salmon and albacore tuna. Again, it’s easy to carry with you,  provides you with a mid-afternoon protein boost, and plenty of omega oils for an extra brain boost.

3. If you’re more adventurous with fish, try canned sardines, herring and kippers.  Opt for lower salt versions packed in water.

4. If your sweet tooth needs a fix, try the darkest chocolate you can find.  Yes, chocolate can actually be *good* for your brain if you eat it in moderation, keep the sugar content down and the cocoa content up.

5. Experiment with teas. Herbal teas come in a wide variety of types and flavors – green teas are a great choice, and have been the focus of many brain-related studies. Other herbal teas are being investigated for stress and mood related impact…  and simply the ritual can be calming and beneficial.

With a bit of creative thinking, snacks can do far more good than harm when it comes to cognitive health.  And as a bonus? Every time you stretch your synapses  to think up new snacks, you’re exercising your brain.

What’s your favorite brain healthy snack? Have an idea or recipe to share?

April 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

When To Stop Driving: New Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Patients (And Others)

Senior Drivers - Image by SailorJohn on Stock.Xchng In many parts of the US, driving is crucial  to a sense of independence as an adult. Getting your license, owning your first car – they’re rites of passage, the first real sign that society sees you as responsible.

As we age, giving up those keys is just as significant –   it’s an undeniable return to dependence on others. Trips to the doctor, the grocery store,  visiting friends and taking part in social activities become more difficult.  And it has negative consequences – the desire not to be an imposition on others often leads seniors to procrastinate and avoid situations where they’ll have to ask for a ride.   The avoidance has a snowball effect, that can lead to a poor diet, poorer health, isolation, and depression – all of which worsen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues.

So while the risks of an accident go up as cognitive symptoms worsen, it’s important not to give the keys up any earlier than necessary.   Studies suggest that around 75% of patients with mild dementia can still pass driving tests and be considered safe to drive.

But how do you know when it’s time? (more…)

April 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

How Spring Cleaning Can Exercise Your Brain

image One of the simple (and perhaps slightly wacky) pleasures of my life is trying to figure out how even the most mundane of tasks can be done so that they help stimulate  the brain, trigger new neural growth, and maintain old memories and skills.

This week’s focus?  That odd urge so many of us get this time of year, to clean out the corners and cubby holes of our homes.   So in between my own dust-triggered sneezes,  I’ve been pondering how spring cleaning could be used to exercise our brains.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1.  Refresh Old Memories

Digging through closets, project boxes, and even dresser drawers always seems to trigger old memories.  Whether it’s a box of old family photos, a blouse you wore for a special date many years ago, or scraps of wood that came from the birdhouse you built with your father many years ago,  don’t just skip over these items. Let the memories flow, and see just how much you do remember about each item.   The very process of remembering strengthens the memories, and makes it more likely you’ll hold onto them in the future.

2.  Change Your Environment (more…)

April 9, 2010 at 12:17 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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