Brain Health is Important

This month’s tips for brain health come from the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health.  In their mission to raise awareness about cognitive health, they have partnered with ‘Walk With a Doc’ as a way of providing information about brain health.

As it happens, there is a lot that can be done to help maintain our brain health by avoiding or when needed, managing chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.  Often these are related to lifestyle issues and can be helped by changing diet, reducing stress, keeping a positive attitude, engaging in social activities, being more physically active, and challenging ourselves mentally.

The Council reminds us that if they could make only one suggestion for supporting mental health and memory, it would be, “Exercise!” It doesn’t have to be at a gym.  Walking can also be a great way to keep our heart and brain healthy!

Exercise helps the body release hormones that make us feel great and aids in providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.  Of course, physical activity is crucial for maintaining good blood flow to the brain, reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, but it also helps protect against the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Many of us have a friend or family member who is living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.  For those not so familiar, there are many misconceptions about dementia.  Dementia is actually not a specific disease.  It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. There are many different diseases that can cause the symptoms of dementia. A common myth about dementia is that it is a natural part of aging, but Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are in fact, not a normal part of aging.

Because of the growing number of people affected by dementia, it’s clear that few are doing enough to protect themselves.  If you would like to learn more about ways you can keep your brain healthy, download the dementia tip sheet.

            Perhaps by now, you have another good reason to take a walk.  If you have a park or greenway nearby that can give you a chance to combine the health benefits of nature with the benefits of walking. If not, a local gym or an indoor treadmill can still be very beneficial.  My favorite is a morning walk around the lakes at Jones Family Park.  It’s a triple win with the benefits of nature, social connections, and exercise.  For a bonus, expect to see an armada of new ducks that not long ago were ducklings hurrying about the lakes in tight formation behind their moms.  They grow up so fast.

            Nancy Neighbors, MD

Ideas for Helping Build a Cognitive Reserve

            A single memory may be stored as groups of neurons in many different locations of the brain.  As memories become interconnected with other memories, our ability to recall improves. For example, a memory that is associated with an emotion is more easily recalled than an isolated fact. In practice, the more connections you create, the more likely you will be able to remember.

            Most memory improvement methods involve building extra connections.  Here are a few methods that can increase these connections and thereby increase your cognitive reserve.

            • Learn a new language

            • Learn how to play a new game

            • Teach a friend your favorite card game

            • Volunteer to read to children

            • Build a complicated model

            • Assemble a complicated puzzle

            • Plan a trip with friends

            • Tutor a child

            • Join a book group

            • Learn how to play a musical instrument

            • Take up a new hobby

            • Usher at a local community theater

Ideas for Keeping a Positive Attitude

• Set personal goals. Goals don’t have to be ambitious, but reaching them builds morale and a sense of satisfaction.

• Keep a journal. Expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective and release tension.

• Share funnies. Life is too serious, so when you hear or see something funny, share it with someone you know.

• Accept yourself. Seek out and embrace the positive traits of yourself and your life.

• Express gratitude. People who are appreciative cope with stress better and have more positive emotions.

• Meditate or visualize. Simply imagine yourself in a calm soothing place. Try this for just 10 minutes each day.

Summertime GrillingThere is Good News and Bad News

            Throwing a piece of meat on the grill is seen by many as living at its best.  The problem with grilled meat is that it has been shown to cause inflammation in the body and can contribute to several chronic diseases.  In part, the problem with grilled meats is that the grilling process creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both of which are carcinogenic compounds formed when the fat and juices in meat drip into the open flame.  Of course these carcinogenic substances stick to the food and get released into the air the chef breathes.  The good news is that HCAs and PAHs don’t form when you grill fruits and vegetables.

            The four-minute video, “How To Grill Vegetables” has more than enough tips to make you a vegetable grilling pro.

            For more vegetable grilling tips, the four-minute video, “The Best Technique for Grilling Vegetables” fills in a few more of the finer points.

Published by Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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