Saturday, November 30, 2019

Make a Not-to-Do List for Better Brain Health

A lot of people have a To-Do list loaded with tasks, errands, and projects that they intend to take care of either during the course of that day or at some reasonable time in the future. Most of the people who have lists like this tend to get a few things done, then transfer whatever was leftover to the new list they write up the following day, week, or month. 

Typically, these lists end up getting so filled with uncompleted tasks that they become daunting. It can even get to the point where your bloated To-Do list is a source of stress. If something isn’t getting done it may be due to procrastination, or it’s simply something that just wasn’t important. Leaving trivial items on your To-Do list bogs down your brain capacity and starts causing you to feel things like worry and fear, which are the two most damaging emotions for the brain.

I encourage my clients to keep a Not-To-Do list. This type of list can actually have several different uses. First and foremost, it’s a sort of garbage can where you can dump meaningless tasks that probably shouldn’t have been on your To-Do list in the first place. 

This turns the list into an exercise in prioritizing. It forces you to sit down and think about what you really need to get done, what you should do, and what really isn’t all that important. Then you can sharpen your focus and execute the important tasks in your life with fervor. 

The other aspect of a Not-To-Do list is to serve as a reminder of bad habits you want to avoid. It might be eating too much sugar, having one too many drinks, or keeping up with your efforts to quit smoking. Writing down bad habits that you know you shouldn’t do can be an empowering way to break negative cycles in your life. 

It can also be a tool to help you identify sources of stress in your life. You might include things on the list like ‘I’m not going to get angry in traffic today’, or ‘I’m not going to let my annoying co-worker get to me’. 

When you think about all of these things and how they can all add up, a Not-To-Do list can be a very powerful stress management tool!

Many successful people, like Tim Ferris, are advocating Not-To-Do lists. It allows them to be much more proactive and productive than the actual To-Do-list. At the same time, it also invokes creativity and innovation, because you’re no longer bogging down your brain with things that are seemingly not that important.

Sit down and brainstorm about what is not serving you well on your list and in your life. Then compile a Not-To-Do list. You might find that it will become more important than your To-Do list.  This is a really powerful tip to ramp up your brain for peak performance.

Contributor: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. For more information, please visit https://apexbraincenters.com/.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Risk and Dementia – Genetics


For some types of diseases that cause Dementia to occur, there is a genetic association for having the disease by the time an individual is 60-years of age or older. It’s a subtle distinction, but people who have the altered gene inherit the risk and not the disease itself. In fact, Dementia is not a disease, rather, it is the expression of the cognitive challenges that come about because of the changes in brain tissue, caused by a particular disease.

This post mainly focuses on Alzheimer-caused Dementia but there are many other causes, e.g., Lewy body, Vascular, Frontotemporal, et al.

On the bright side, knowing that you have an inherited risk factor gives you the opportunity to do those things known to reduce risk - maintain a healthy weight, refrain from smoking, engage in socially and intellectually satisfying activities, exercise, and eat a heart-healthy diet.

For the most part, the at-risk genes change how the body processes cholesterol and other blood lipids. Therefore, it’s not surprising to find that having high cholesterol blood-levels is another risk factor associated with having Dementia later-in-life.

Early-onset familial Alzheimer disease (eFAD) is inherited Dementia that affects people as young as 30 years of age. (1) Unlike traits that are observable shortly after birth, such as eye color, symptoms of eFAD do not appear until the individual is 30-years of age or somewhat older. By that time, it is likely he or she has one or more children and may have unknowingly passed the early-onset gene to them.

Fortunately, there are DNA tests that can identify the presence of the increased-risk genes as well as those that cause eFAD. 

Making the decision to undergo testing is difficult. Will knowing make you feel anxious, relieved, or empowered? Will other family members also want testing? How might this information affect family planning for you or your adult children? Will having a positive test for a specific cause of Dementia risk factors or early-onset disease influence your employer, your career, or make it more difficult to receive health insurance? (2)

Often, people find talking with a genetic counselor can make the decision to test--or not--easier. The genetic counselor, by explaining the technical and emotional issues associated with genetic testing, can help you make a personally comfortable decision. Afterward, the genetic counselor can explain the test results to you and guide discussion about any further steps you may want to take. (2)

You can find more information about genetics and genetic counseling on the following webpages: National Association of Genetic Counselors (https://www.nsgc.org/page/find-a-genetic-counselor)and the American Board of Genetic Counselors (https://www.abgc.net/about-genetic-counseling/find-a-certified-counselor.aspx/). Both of these sites may help you find a genetic counselor located near your home.

Notes:
1. What is Early Onset Familial Alzheimer Disease? http://www.alzforum.org/early-onset-familial-ad/overview/what-early-onset-familial-alzheimer-disease-efad (accessed April 26, 2016)
2. Genetic Testing and Counseling for Early Onset Familial Alzheimer Disease, http://www.alzforum.org/early-onset-familial-ad/diagnosisgenetics/genetic-testing-and-counseling-early-onset-familial (accessed, April 26, 2016)

Want to Know Even More?
Alzheimer Disease Genetics Fact Sheet, https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet#genetics
(accessed, April 26, 2016)


Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, PhD, is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.


The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org

Monday, September 30, 2019

Exercise in Nature to Build a Better Brain

Research has found that there are benefits imparted by exercising in the natural world or a setting that is rich with the things we find in nature; like plants, fresh air, and wildlife.

While gyms serve a great purpose, and some people love them, I prefer to exercise in nature. The natural world provides a deeper and more dynamic level of stimulation for your brain that you simply cannot find at any gym.

One study conducted by Richard Louv, coined the phrase 'Nature Deficit Disorder'.

At first glance, this might sound a bit contrived. However, Louv asserts that human beings are hardwired by evolution to have a connection to nature. Unfortunately, the modern world and the trend for people living in large urban and suburban places reduces the opportunities for people to spend time in nature.

This sentiment that exposure to the natural world has an impact on us has been echoed by many people throughout the generations. The father of the National Parks system and one of the first naturalists, John Muir, said: “Civilized man chokes his soul.”

Although Muir himself lived a significant amount of his life in Martinez, California just outside of Oakland, the goal in his eyes was not that man needed only urban or natural settings, but that both were of equal value and that people who only embraced urban life were indeed cutting themselves apart from the very therapeutic aspects of a direct relationship with the natural world.

'Green Exercise' involves hiking in nature, or getting involved in other activities in the natural world. For people who live and work deep inside urban areas, this could also extend to things like taking a walk in the park, or along a natural stretch of river, or even getting involved in something like a community garden.

When you’re in nature, there is a lot of multimodal stimulation. You’re smelling the trees, flowers and the other scents in the air. You start to notice things like changes in humidity and the presence of birds and other creatures around you.

When you’re in the gym you’re going to have certain smells but you can usually predict what those smells are. It’s old gym equipment and rubber mats on the floor.

When you’re exercising in nature there is a greater sense of self-awareness, improved mood, increased sense of self-esteem, and even an increase in creativity. People exercising in nature tend to have creative thoughts come to them and find it easier to express those ideas with greater clarity.

The bottom line is that exercising in nature does, in fact, elevate the level of your brain and body functions. It’s a win-win for you and nature, and an important way to help build a better brain. I recommend that everybody get out there and do it!

Contributor: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. For more information, please visit www.ApexBrainCenters.com/memory.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dementia Risk Factors: Alcohol

The health benefits that various foods and diets to improve overall health or lower risk for disease is a newsworthy topic. Some reporters state that eating fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps us to maintain a healthy weight as well as may lower risk for colon cancer. Others assert the Mediterranean diet, one which encourages replacing red meat for fish and chicken, saturated fats with olive oil, and refined carbohydrates with whole grains, reduces the risk for heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

Many research studies are touting the benefits of red wine on lowering cholesterol blood levels and thereby reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes, cataracts, and colon cancer. Though a controversial area of research, some studies indicate drinking moderate amounts of red wine may slow declines in brain function. 

With respect to consuming wine and other alcoholic beverages - moderation is the keyword. However, most people are unsure of how much is a moderate amount. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a low to moderate alcohol consumption is no more than one drink a day for women and older adults, and two for men. One drink is usually one 1/2 ounce or 15 grams of alcohol, which equals approximately 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. (Note 1)  

These dietary guidelines refer to the amount consumed on any single day and not as an average over several days. In other words - do not save your daily allocation for a weekend binge.

Alcohol-related brain damage, (ARBD) conditions that include Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome  (WKS) and alcoholic Dementia is the result of drinking too much alcohol over several years. (Note 2) Though both types of ARBD exhibit Dementia-like symptoms, neither condition is true-Dementia. (Note 2) The difference between ARBD and a Dementia such as Alzheimer disease is in the ability to treat or stop the progression of symptoms.

Consuming more than the recommended amounts of alcohol does increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer disease and vascular Dementia later in life. However, researchers have yet to establish the scientifically measurable relationship between alcohol consumption and risk for Dementia. The reasons are many and include research entirely dependent on reported observations and evaluating the variables that, in combination with alcohol consumption, affect the long-term risk for Dementia. 

However, one can state with certainty, the more you drink, the greater the likelihood of developing Dementia later in life. High alcohol consumption also increases the risk for stroke, heart and liver disease, and depression – all of which are well-known Dementia risk factors. 


Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.


The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org

Notes: 
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition, Washington, DC; 2015, http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
(accessed June 15, 2015).
2. What is Alcohol-related Brain Damage?, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=98 (accessed June 16, 2016).

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Brain Healthy Diaphragmatic Breathing

Relaxing diaphragmatic breathing focuses on breathing by engaging the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is basically a series of big round, long broad muscles that sit under your lungs. They’re positioned about halfway between your neck and your pelvis.

When they go down (breathing in) they fill your lungs up with air that feeds oxygen into your bloodstream. The diaphragm muscles then go up (breathing out) and it forces that air out. 
Sometimes people have a tendency to suck in their gut, sit improperly in their chair, or have poor posture, which causes them to breathe more from the chest. Chest breathing should be secondary to stomach breathing.

If you look at the way a baby breathes, they breathe through the stomach. Then they breathe in with the help of the chest and the neck muscles. Those secondary muscles of the chest and the neck should come into play after the diaphragm activity.

There’s a simple exercise to show how much you’re incorporating your diaphragm in your breathing. Start by lying on your back, then put your hands on your stomach and take a nice deep breath. You’ll feel your stomach move up towards the ceiling. Your hands will rise and fall.

The goal is to draw about 75% of your breath from the stomach by expanding the lower lobes of the lungs fully. Then the end of the breath "in" should be through the chest. It’s like filling up a sponge with water and then squeezing it out. We’re filling up the lungs with oxygen and squeezing all of it out into our bloodstream.

When you’re breathing in and out really quickly or breathing more through the chest, you’re not getting as much oxygen into your lungs. You end up utilizing about half your lung capacity, and you’re only getting out about half of the carbon dioxide that needs to be expelled. 

There was a great book written in the 1970s by Dr. Benson, called the Relaxation Response. The book is still widely read today. It talks about diaphragmatic breathing, and what he calls Paced Breathing; where we have to breathe through the stomach in order to get the best oxygen exchange. It’s a great book to look at and still relevant today.

Contributor: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. For more information: ApexBrainCenters.com/memory.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Risk for Dementia: Head Trauma

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) describes situations in which an external force, such as a fall or a blow to blow to the head causes extreme pain that is often accompanied by a short or a long period of unconsciousness. People who experience multiple traumatic brain injuries are at high risk of developing dementia later in life. (Note 1)

However, the key phrase “increase risk for” means that TBIs do not cause dementia but do increase the likelihood of having dementia sometime in the future.

In a recent and extensive review of the research literature, Sharan Shively, MD, Ph.D., and colleagues report that a history of moderate and severe TBIs increases the risk of having late-life dementia 2 - to - 4 times that of people who have never experienced a traumatic brain injury. (Note 2) To come to this conclusion, Shively and colleagues reference earlier studies that compare the presence or absence of later-in-life dementia in people who suffered concussions of sufficient severity to cause loss of consciousness to individuals who report never having experienced that degree of head trauma. (Note 2) People who experience multiple traumatic brain injuries are at high risk of developing dementia later in life. (Note 1)

The syndrome, associated with having multiple traumatic brain injuries was originally described in 1928. Called dementia pugilistica or “punch drunk” was first observed in boxers who suffered repeated knock-outs. (Note 3) It took many more years of casual observation before medical researchers linked a history of repeated sports and military-related head injuries, to the onset of dementia symptoms later in life. The condition, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, (CTE) now receives considerable coverage in the public media.

Signs and symptoms of CTE usually begin eight to 10 years after the traumatic brain injuries and include difficulty in thinking, impulsive behavior, memory loss, substance abuse, as well as suicidal thoughts or behavior. (Note 4) Over time, the changes caused by CTE worsen as well as progress to aggressive behaviors, tremor, and speech and language difficulties. (Note 4) More than one-third of people with CTE eventually show signs of other degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Parkinson disease. (Note 3)

Undoubtedly, ongoing and future research will improve our understanding of traumatic brain injuries and their relationship to later-in-life dementia. In the meantime, you can reduce the likelihood of receiving a head injury by trip-proofing your home, being observant of hazards such as low tree branches and open kitchen cabinet doors, as well as by wearing a helmet to prevent sports-related injuries.

Even if you have experienced multiple head injuries, you may be able to reduce your overall risk of developing dementia by implementing lifestyle changes that include such things as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, as well as participation in an assortment of physical, social and mental activities.

Notes:
1. Alzheimer’s: Can a head injury increase my risk?”, http://www.mayoclinic.org/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/faq-20057837 (accessed March 21, 2016)
2. Shively et al, “Dementia Resulting from Traumatic Brain Injury” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229011632_Dementia_Resulting_From_Traumatic_Brain_Injury_What_Is_the_Pathology (accessed March 22, 2016)
3. What Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?, http://www.brainline.org/content/2010/12/what-is-chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy.html (accessed April 7, 2016)
4. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy/basics/definition/con-20113581 (accessed April 6, 2016)

Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Limit Social Media Time

For some, social media is a significant part of their occupation. For other people, it can be an obsession that can cause problems in their daily life and career. Social media in your personal life can cause a significant amount of stress. There are so many things happening in the realm of social media and it impacts your brain function! You need to find a healthy balance.

Socialization and interaction with other human beings can have significant benefits for the brain. Social media often creates a false sense of interaction. These sites give you a sense that you’re interacting with other people, but there is often little quality or stimulation to the interaction.

Facebook is a parallel universe that cannot, and should not, replace normal healthy social interaction. It pulls people away from normal healthy interactions and relationships; which are critical to the development and maintenance of the aging brain.

In the last decade or two, we’re starting to see evolutionary shifts in the brain that haven’t occurred in the last several hundred thousand years; many related how our brains pay attention to things and how we respond to stress.

While there is a valuable function for these outlets when it comes to businesses, it’s also a tool for keeping in touch of friends and family that might live far away. When it starts to become a lifestyle that takes the place of healthy interaction, it can be a serious problem on multiple levels.

There was a study that was done where people went 30 days without hitting the Like button on Facebook. The study measured several quality-of-life parameters. Each person reported their quality of life improved through the course of the study, simply by not hitting the like button. Imagine what would happen if you took a break from them for extended periods of time on a regular basis! When you set up these habits, your brain simply starts to work better.

It’s important to look at all of these outlets and how much time you spend on them. It’s a good habit to simply allow yourself to check your social media at specific times, limited to about 30 minutes per day.

Contributor: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC. For more information, please visit www.ApexBrainCenters.com/memory.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org