Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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This Is the Surprising Factor That Can Predict Long Life

You’re only as old as you feel? Research says it’s true. Here’s why.

Posted May 09, 2016      Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.

As I get older, I find myself drawn to news reports and research findings that provide information about how long I might live. After all, this is a key piece of information that would help me plan the most strategic and successful retirement, even though I think that I do not really wish to know for sure how long I have left. Much advertising aimed at people in my age group involves dietary choices, vitamin and mineral supplements, and medications that directly or indirectly promise not only more years of life, but more years of healthy, productive life. Many, if not most, of these promises are based upon little more than wishful thinking and anecdotal evidence. Hence, it is always exciting for a researcher like myself to see studies that bring actual scientific data to bear.

In a recent issue of Psychological Science, a team of European scientists including Stephen Aichele of the University of Geneva, Patrick Rabbit of Oxford, and Paolo Ghisletta of Distance Learning University in Switzerland published such a study. The researchers reported the results of a longitudinal study of more than 6,000 British individuals conducted from 1983 to 2012. The average age of the participants was 64.7 years when they first joined the study, but ages ranged from 41 to 93.

Key medical and psychiatric data including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and tobacco and alcohol use, were collected at three- to six-year intervals throughout the 29-year duration of the study. Daily life measures such as the number of prescription medications taken, sleep patterns, hobbies, and the rated difficulty of activities such as climbing stairs, traveling, preparing meals, and managing social interactions were also examined.

hugs

In addition to those measures, each participant had his or her cognitive abilities assessed up to a total of four times at four-year intervals. These included measures of:

  • Crystallized intelligence (the ability to use knowledge you already have);
  • Fluid intelligence (the ability to solve new problems, use logic, and identify patterns);
  • Verbal memory;
  • Visual memory; and
  • Mental processing speed (how long it takes to perform a mental task).

All together, the researchers looked at 65 different mortality risk factors as they tracked participants through the later years of their lives. Once the number crunching was finished, the factor that rose to the top was surprisingly simple and straightforward.

The most sensitive measure of longevity was the individual’s own subjective evaluation of how healthy he or she felt. In other words, a person reporting that he or she feels healthy outweighed any other single predictor of a long life, including any medical measures such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Other variables that fell into the top group of predictors included being female; not smoking (or at least not smoking for very long); and cognitive processing speed.

The researchers seemed genuinely surprised that psychological variables such as subjective health and mental processing speed were better predictors of mortality risk than all the other predictors they studied. It has long been known that remaining cognitively active is associated with aging well, but it has never been clear if the cognitive activity is the cause of healthy old age or the result of remaining healthy into one’s golden years. The findings of this study confirm the association between the two domains, but cannot resolve how the cause-and-effect relationship plays out.

In a completely unrelated study published in 2003, researchers asked college students to rate the attractiveness and perceived health of individuals in photographs from the 1920s taken from high school yearbooks. The researchers then tracked down the age of death for the people whose pictures were rated. They discovered that having a handsome or beautiful face as a teenager predicted a long life but, ironically, participants’ judgments about the perceived health of the photographed individuals were completely unrelated to how long they lived. I replicated this finding several times in projects in my Evolution and Human Behavior class by having students do the same thing with photographs taken from Knox College yearbooks from the 1920s.

The explanation for a pretty face predicting a longer life appears to be that attractive faces are symmetrical and “normal”—average in terms of things like size of nose, distance between the eyes, etc. These qualities may reflect a lack of unusual genes, good health, and freedom from parasites or physical trauma—all of which are good if you wish to live long and prosper.


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Vitamin Found to Delay Aging Process in Organs

Relaxnews    Published Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An international study, published in the journal Science has led to a promising breakthrough in the field of anti-aging medicine. A vitamin called nicotinamide riboside (NR) — already known to boost metabolism — has been found to restore the body’s ability to regenerate and repair itself.

The regenerative capacity of cells and organs deteriorates with age. The “powerhouses” of cell function — called mitochondria — lose energy over time and prevent cells from regenerating as they once did.

Research teams from Switzerland, Canada and Brazil studied how these changes occur over time. The role of mitochondria in metabolism has already been identified, but the scientists were able to demonstrate for the first time that healthy, functioning mitochondria were important for stem cell function.

In younger bodies, these stem cells usually regenerate damaged organs by producing new, specific cells. “We demonstrated that fatigue in stem cells was one of the main causes of poor regeneration or even degeneration in certain tissues or organs,” explains Dr Hongbo Zhang, a PhD student on the team.

The study set out to revitalize stem cells in the muscles of elderly mice by giving them nicotinamide riboside (NR). This substance is close to vitamin B3 and is a precursor of NAD+, a molecule that plays a key role in the activity of mitochondria. NAD+ levels can be diminished by the stress related to aging.

Nicotinamide riboside (NR)
Nicotinamide riboside (NR) could
help stop the ageing process in organs.

The findings, published in the journal Science, proved highly promising. Muscular regeneration was found to be much better in mice that were given NR. These mice also lived longer than those not given NR. As yet, no negative side effects have been observed from NR use, even at high doses.

The NR vitamin has been discovered in milk. It’s also thought to be found in beer, but the nutrient’s presence is very difficult to measure and quantify. In fact, it’s not yet known precisely which foods contain NR or in what quantities, the specialists explain. The compound is currently on sale in the form of dietary supplements, but as yet there are no scientific guidelines recommending their use.

For the researchers, the study represents a major breakthrough for regenerative medicine, highlighting a potential future means of reestablishing the body’s own ability to repair itself with a dietary supplement.

The findings also hold promising possibilities for the treatment of potentially fatal conditions affecting young people, like muscular dystrophy (a form of myopathy).

However, more detailed studies are required to investigate the action of this substance on pathological cells.


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7 Nutrients To Help Protect Your Brain From Aging

Flavanols, Fish, Nuts, And Blueberries May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Apr 21, 2015      By Lecia Bushak

Eating certain nutrients, like cocoa flavonals and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, help boost your cognitive function and brainpower.

While genetics and exercise play a large role in your brain health and risk of developing dementia, diet is quite influential, too. There is no magical elixir that can cure or completely prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but scientists have been able to pinpoint certain nutrients that are associated with improved cognitive function or memory. Keeping your diet full of the foods that contain them, then, can help you protect your brain.

Cocoa Flavanols

Cocoa flavanols are found naturally in cocoa and can be beneficial to your brain health; they make dark chocolate healthier than regular chocolate, which has been washed out with milk and sugar. A 2014 study examined the impact of eating a high cocoa flavanol diet over the course of three months. The researchers focused primarily on the dentate gyrus (DG), a part of the hippocampal formation in the brain that, when it declines, is often associated with aging. Scientists believe this part of the brain is linked to memory loss. After eating a lot of cocoa flavanols, the researchers report that the participants experienced “enhanced DG function.”

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, are going to not only help your heart health, but they’ll also give you a boost in brainpower. According to a 2014 study, mice that were given supplements of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid showed improved cognitive function while they aged — showing better object recognition memory, spatial and localized memory, and aversive response retention.

nuts

Nuts

Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids like fish, so adding nuts to your diet in addition to fish will provide you with solid amounts. Walnuts, in particular, have been shown to fight memory loss. In one recent large-scale analysis, researchers found that a diet supplemented with walnuts — which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, folate, antioxidants, and melatonin — improved adults’ performances on a series of six cognitive tests.

Magnesium

Scientists believe that a magnesium deficiency may play a role in cognitive decline, brain aging, and ultimately, dementia. So taking magnesium supplements — or eating foods that contain magnesium, like chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, almonds, black beans, avocados, figs, dark chocolate, or bananas — can help you fight off the effects of the aging brain.

Blueberries

Blueberries are delicious, but they also help in boosting your memory. According to a 2010 study, blueberries were shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They also contain anthocyanins, compounds that are associated with increased neuronal signaling in the brain’s memory areas. In the study, researchers found that participants who drank wild blueberry juice on a daily basis had improvements in paired associate learning and word list recall; they also found lower depressive symptoms and glucose levels.

Cruciferous Vegetables

According to the National Institute on Aging, eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help stave off cognitive decline as well as other chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Green, leafy, cruciferous vegetables in particular (like broccoli and spinach) have been shown to reduce the rate of cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet, in particular (vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, olive oil, mild amounts of alcohol — as well as low consumption of saturated fats, dairy, meat, and poultry) has shown in studies to be beneficial for cognitive health compared to more “Western” diets that are high in fats, carbs, and meat.

Green Tea

Green tea is good for a lot of things — but it’s also going to help you protect your brain. In a recent study completed at the University of Basel, researchers found that green tea extract enhances your thinking process and working memory. Participants scored higher for working memory tasks after they received the green tea extract, and an MRI showed a boost in connectivity between the parietal and frontal cortex of the brain, meaning that green tea “might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain,”  said Professor Stefan Borgwardt, an author of the study.


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7 Free Ways To Fight The Effects Of Aging

By Dr. Agnes Frankel    October 3, 2014 

The essence of anti-aging medicine is not only prolonging one’s life span, but to ensure that we are experiencing life while being our best, most vibrant, energetic and healthy self — whether in our 20s or 60s.

Think of your body as an ocean full of beautiful underwater life. When the water is dirty there is no way the colorful fish will stay healthy and vital. The same goes for your cells and organs — when their environment becomes polluted they get weaker and die prematurely, meaning they AGE!

That’s why the key is to be focused on proactive actions that will help your body and mind stay balanced in their best and most optimum state. Let me share with you some easy yet powerful tips that, when implemented, will set you up to win and thrive every single day of your life.

1. Stand up.

Sitting for too long is harmful to your health. Be proactive! Make it a habit to move and stretch your body for five to 10 minutes for every 50 minutes you sit. Just think how many “sitting” activities you could approach differently and use as an excuse to stand up, like a phone conversation, reading, or drinking your favorite cup of tea. There are even different phone apps that can help you keep track of your break routine.

2. Move it!

It’s been said over and over, but somehow so many people do little to no physical activity. If you’ve read about the positive effects of sports on your body and mind, but never actually put yourself into the position to do it, NOW is the time! Think of it as the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Start out by exercising three times a week for an hour. Schedule the time as a “necessary appointment” with yourself to make sure no one will interfere.

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3. Finish in “last place” in the meal marathon.

You want to take your time when having meals. If you eat in a rush, it’s likely you don’t chew properly, and you overeat. As a result, your body does not extract all the essential nutrients, plus you burden yourself with too many calories.

When you take a five-minute break, it’s much better to drink some fresh juice than taking huge bites just to finish quickly. Remember — that’s the race you DON’T want to win!

4. Be on a mission.

Setting clear goals about what you want to achieve will boost both the quality and length of your life. If you haven’t done it already, ask yourself: what is your purpose? What do you what to give and achieve while being here? Give yourself time and space for this reflection. Write your thoughts down or make a vision board. This is significant, so don’t push yourself if you don’t have the answer straight away. Stay focused and be patient: it will come!

5. Connect.

You’re not a lonely island, and you shouldn’t be. So get out there! Never underestimate the time spent with your colleagues, family, and friends. Make it a daily habit — even a five-minute talk during a busy day will make a huge difference in the quality of your life. Don’t limit yourself only to Internet connections; go offline and experience the real world. There’s nothing more refreshing than a face-to-face interaction.

6. Be the director of your own life.

In life, not like in the movies, you can be successful only when you act to your own script. Don’t let anyone else write it for you. Don’t wait. Live your life according to your own rules. And remember: today is the best day to start!

7. Be happy!

You can’t change everything that surrounds you. Nonetheless, it’s always up to you what you focus on. Yup, the glass can be either half full or half empty. Make sure to find empowering meanings in every situation. The more you exercise this, the more organic it will become for you! And when doing that, of course, smile!


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10 Reasons Why Life Gets Better As You Grow Up (Not the Opposite Way Around)

 Brianna Wiest   Writer, editor, professional human being. Founder of Soul Anatomy  11/30/2015  

We don’t age by years, we age by experience. Yet, we’re largely under the impression that life gets worse as it goes on — the “golden days” we’ve attributed to being our budding adolescence, yet generally speaking, that is the most difficult and uncertain time of life, both biologically and socially.

Research shows that we get better as we age, we become happier as life progresses, and that the loss of “childlike wonder,” or, the magic that makes youth what we want to hold onto, is not a natural occurrence, it’s a learned behavior. That is to say – we can just as easily reclaim it.

Happiness increases as we age because we develop and master the cognitive functions required to sustain happiness, we settle into a sense of who we are, we accomplish a few things, and we evolve past our erratic, emotional adolescent selves. Essentially: life doesn’t get better, we become better equipped to deal with it. Here, all the reasons why you have the rest of your life to look forward to, whether you believe it or not:

1. As you get older, you build the cognitive functions that happiness requires: gratitude, objectivity, problem-solving.

The more you see of the world, and the more you experience yourself within it, you learn that there’s a lot to be grateful for, things exist separate from our perception of them and most issues are resolvable if only you decide you’re committed to resolving them.

2. Science says you’re generally more content after you have a few major life achievements under your belt.

Some research argues that 37 is the happiest age: we’ve done enough that we feel accomplished, settled and as though our identities are validated, but not so much that we don’t have anything to look forward to.

3. As you age your attitude shifts from “What can I do” to “what can I enjoy.”

Your objective is less to prove or establish yourself, and more to enjoy your life and be present within it fully.

4. If life becomes more difficult as time goes on, it indicates you’re not learning, evolving or adapting in some way.

There is not actually a point in time when life gets “easier,” we just become better equipped to deal with things that we didn’t know how to deal with prior. Likewise, people who do not develop those tools do find that life gets more difficult as it goes on, not because circumstances are more challenging necessarily, but because from their perspective, they are unable to handle them well.

5. You’re most emotionally erratic as a young adult.

The brain circuit that processes fear, the amygdala, develops ahead of the prefrontal cortex, which is the center for reasoning and executive control. This means that adolescents have brains wired for an enhanced perception of fear, and underdeveloped ability to calm or reason with themselves.

happiness

6. We are taught by experience that nothing external we assume will bring us happiness actually does.

Very often, the goals we choose to pursue as adolescents have some deeper link or connection to believing we’ll be more loved, accepted or admired for having achieved something “great.” It’s only after we have one or two of those things under our belts that we realize we’re not fulfilled in the way we hoped to be. As we age, we learn to separate our desire for emotional fulfillment from our false ideas of how we could achieve it.

7. Bonds you build with people over years cohere into emotional “safety nets.”

This is to say that as time goes on, friendships deepen and relationships evolve, you begin to choose your own family and bond with them in more and more intimate ways. This, of course, translates to us as a feeling of “safety,” and genuine inclusiveness, which is a primitive desire as well as a key component of happiness.

8. You know how to get through things — because you’ve done it before.

You know you’ll survive the death of a loved one because you had to teach yourself how to mourn and move on a few times before. You know you’ll get through a financially sparse month or a difficult breakup, because you’ve done it before. Your past challenges gave you the tools to deal with your current, and present ones.

9.You move from assuming that your time here is a guarantee to seeing it as a gift and an opportunity.

Friend’s parents pass on. Friends pass on. People get ill. Tragedies occur that remind us our time is not a given. Nobody expects that they’ll die young, but they do. You may project your ideal life to carry on until 95, but that will not necessarily make it reality. When we sober up about how delicate and precious life is, we are fully present in it.

10. You learn about who you are, and learn how to create a life that person will enjoy.

The portals of self-discovery are endless and not always obvious, and they don’t end after your mid-20s. As time goes on, you learn your habits, your preferences, what works and what doesn’t, what you want more of and less. That self-knowledge is invaluable, and makes up the building blocks of a life well-lived.

This post originally appeared on Soul Anatomy
Follow Brianna Wiest on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/briannawiest


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The Two Most Important Things We Can All Do To Protect Our Brain Health

by Dr. Roger Landry       November 8, 2015  

When I was in medical school in the 1960s, the prevailing belief was that once we reached physical maturity, our brains ceased to make new brain tissue. Therefore, all of the conditions associated with aging gradually depleted the neurons in our brains, causing them to atrophy until we eventually succumbed to dementia … Depressing, right?

Fortunately, we were wrong. We’ve since learned that our brains are not the static organs we once thought they were. They are actually dynamic and have the incredible potential for growing, rewiring, and healing.

Neurogenesis, or the ability to make new neurons, and neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to reorganize and build new neural pathways, continue well into old age, which means that we are, in fact, “architects” of our own brains.

With that in mind, and in honor of November’s National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, I’d like to share the two most important things we can all do to prevent brain decay:

1. Keep learning new skills (they’re a virtual fountain of youth).

Think of the brain as 100,000 miles of interconnected roads, or neural pathways. Every time we learn something new, recall a fact, or recognize someone, messages travel like cars along these pathways at nearly 300 miles per hour to get us to our destination (i.e., enable us to perform a task).

For example, say you want to learn something new, like the list of presidents or how to play a song on the guitar. Think of that skill as a destination, like Boston. Once you’ve learned that skill, you’ve built a neural pathway to the city. Keep doing it, and you’ve soon created a better, faster freeway to get there.

But stop using that road, and eventually potholes develop and you won’t be able to get there as fast or at all.

Atrophy of the brain used to be viewed as a side effect of aging. Now, we know this may simply be a lack of use.

brain

In other words: Use it or lose it! When we use the skills and knowledge we have, the many connections in the brain remain in the best shape they can be. Don’t use them, and they become more difficult to use through a process known as synaptic pruning, in which the brain atrophies in areas where these functions are rarely used.

So what do I recommend? Continue doing those Sudoku puzzles, playing the guitar, speaking a second language, and cooking new recipes. Neuroplasticity and effective neurogenesis can only occur when the brain is stimulated by environment or behavior.

And the added benefit of learning something new? When we are fully focused on a task, we become mindful and less stressed. Which leads me to my second point:

2. Use mindfulness to manage stress and protect your brain.

Stress, quite literally, rots us from within. The chronic stress that is accepted as part of our modern world is destructive to our cognitive function and raises our risk of dementia.

Within the hippocampus, the memory area of our brains, new cells appear. However, not all survive because stress and depression decrease neurogenesis. The hippocampus, in fact, is one of the first areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease, bringing into question just how large a role depression and stress are in the development of the disease.

Sadly, we as humans are the only mammals (as far as we know) capable of self-inducing the stress-producing “fight-or-flight” mechanism with our thoughts.

In other words, we can get ourselves worked up over a missed deadline and trigger the same bodily responses as though we were suddenly trapped in a cage with an angry lion. And we can maintain that level of stress for days … weeks … months … even years after the threat is gone.

How can we combat this? Rather than let your thoughts become the driver of your emotions, observe your mind as it begins to get wound up with worry and negativity.

Simply practicing mindfulness and observing your thoughts puts you back in control so that your emotions don’t trigger the stress response. Don’t judge your mind; just notice. Wow, look how my mind is getting itself all out of joint over this thing. This reminds you that you are not your mind — and that you can control what you think. This will result in lowering your stress.

The bottom line: By keeping your mind engaged and managing the self-induced stress response, you can help your brain continue to function at high levels for a lifetime.


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The Memory Challenge: 8 Ways to Construct Cognitive Reserve

Cognitive reserve, the term used to describe the mechanism by which a person’s mind can compensate for damage to their brain, has become a buzzword among seniors and their caregivers, thanks to its connection to one of the most infamous issues of modern aging: dementia.

Research indicates that people who have solid stores of cognitive reserve are generally less likely to exhibit the classic signs of dementia—short-term memory loss, difficulty multitasking, etc.—even if their brain scans indicate mental damage. This is because cognitive reserve effectively makes the mind stronger and more nimble, enabling it to come up with ways to compensate for disease-related loss of functioning.

Seek out and embrace new challenges; your brain will thank you

Shlomo Breznitz, Ph.D., founder of Cognifit, and co-author (with Collins Hemingway) of “Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom,” feels that finding ways to consistently engage the brain with new and stimulating experiences is the key to cultivating more cognitive reserve and staving off mental decline.

No matter what age they are, Breznitz stresses that starting a cognitive fitness regimen may help a person ward off the symptoms of dementia. “Our cognitive skills are not fixed. At all ages the brain has the ability to respond to new information and new stimuli,” he says.

And caregivers shouldn’t hesitate to encourage their loved ones to take part in mentally stimulating activities as well. Of course, you may have to scale them to fit the elder’s current cognitive capacity. Some of the suggestions listed in this article may not be appropriate for elderly parents, but would benefit caregiver’s own cognitive function.

While commenting on a previous article on cognitive reserve, Jeannegibbs, one of AgingCare.com’s most active members, discusses exposing her loved one to new experiences: “Whether or not it really helps mitigate the dementia, it has made our life richer. It’s also a no risk strategy as far as I’m concerned—until the person with dementia truly can’t take stimulation anymore.”

More confusion now may mean less confusion later

According to Breznitz, the twin traits of novelty and variety are invaluable when coming up with activities to enhance cognitive reserve. Sudoku and crosswords alone won’t work, he says. You’ve got to get creative when coming up with ways to stimulate the brain.

In the same way elite athletes and their trainers use the concept of muscle confusion (varying the types and duration of exercises to expose weaknesses and challenge muscles in new ways) to maximize their physical fitness, switching up the things you do to engage your mental muscle can help maximize your mental fitness.

“Challenging the brain helps maintain cognitive vigor and capacity. And maintaining our cognitive health maintains our quality of life,” Breznitz says.

He offers a few suggestions of things practically anyone can do to beef up their brainpower:

Challenge yourself

  1. Work on your weaknesses: “Since novelty and variety are the keys to battling routines and enhancing cognitive ability, engaging out minds outside of our established domains would be more beneficial,” says Breznitz. For example, if you’re really good with numbers, but not such a big literary buff, try picking up a classic such as Moby Dick and see if you can read the whole thing. You may find that you’re actually a closet book-lover.
  2. Take the road less traveled: Take a different route when going to the grocery store or driving your elderly loved one to the doctor’s office. Because we travel them with such frequency, driving routes are one of the biggest routines we have—and one of the easiest to practice breaking. Just make sure you leave a little earlier than normal to give yourself some time in case you get lost or your new route takes longer than you anticipate.
  3. Dominate your non-dominant hand: Pretty much everyone has a dominant hand that they use to eat, write, and perform other daily activities. Mix things up by recruiting your neglected hand to some activities. Your non-dominant appendage might not be up to the task of transcribing a beautiful handwritten letter, so you may want to start off small by holding your fork in the other hand during mealtimes. Take it slow and try to avoid getting frustrated. Remember, challenging exercises like this may make you feel foolish, but you’re actually helping to preserve your mental capacity.
  4. Change your point of view: You don’t have to limit yourself to academic or physical challenges. Emotional experiments may serve the dual purpose of helping your personal life as well as your mental health. For example, say you’re in a fight with your sister over who should take care of your mother’s finances. Since you’re mom’s primary caregiver, you feel that you should be in charge of the money. But your sister, who has experience as an actuary, feels that her knowledge can help make your mother’s nest egg last longer. Try to really listen to what your sister has to say, and attempt to approach the issue from her point of view. Forcing yourself to get out of your own head and examine the problem from a different perspective will tax your brain and, as an added benefit, you may find that empathizing with your sister’s position helps the two of you come to an agreeable compromise.

Be a curious cat

  1. Go back to school: Taking a class on something that is interesting to you is a great way to flex your mental muscles, according to Breznitz. And, thanks to the Internet, a time-crunched, cash-strapped caregiver can enjoy free lectures without leaving their house. There are a number of different websites that offer video lectures on everything from organic chemistry to classical mythology, taught by professors from such celebrated institutions as Stanford and Harvard University. Apple also has a program called, iTunesU, that can be downloaded to any computer and has a collection of college courses that you can bookmark and stream for no charge.
  2. Take a trip: Traveling to someplace you’ve never been is a fantastic way to fire up dormant neurons. If caring for your loved one means that you don’t have the opportunity to be a part of the jet-set, don’t worry, you can still get away. Breznitz says that simple activities like walking a new path along the beach, or in a local park can be enough to stimulate your mind.
  3. Explore your strengths: Attending to your mental and physical weaknesses is likely to produce a greater cognitive challenge. But, Breznitz feels that it’s important not to neglect your strengths. “Investment in one’s strengths is needed for both self-image (sense of success) and for a more in-depth understanding of problems,” he says. Expanding upon an existing talent can be a great way to boost your self-esteem while challenging your brain. If you’ve always been an avid reader and want to branch out into writing, set aside time each day to practice. You can buy books of daily writing prompts at your local books store, or go online and get a few for free. Who knows, you may find your inner romance novelist.
  4. Get a hobby: Have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, learn a new language, etc., but you just never got around to doing it? Why not start now?


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20 Everyday Activities That Keep Memory and Thinking Sharp

These 20 activities have been linked to reduced risk of developing memory and thinking problems.

Computer use, as well as socialising and doing arts and crafts in middle age may help preserve memory in later years, a new study suggests.

The research, published in the journal Neurology, asked 256 seniors to report how often they took part in various everyday activities (Peterson et al., 2015).

None of the people, whose average age was 87, had memory and thinking problems at the start of the study.

The artistic activities included:

  • drawing,
  • sculpting,
  • and painting.

Crafts included:

  • pottery,
  • quilling,
  • woodworking,
  • ceramics,
  • quilting,
  • and sewing.

 

brainfit

Socialising included:

  • socialising with friends,
  • trips to the movies, theatre or concerts,
  • book clubs,
  • Bible study
  • and travel.

Using the computer included:

  • conducting web searches,
  • online purchases,
  • using the internet,
  • and computer games.

Around four years later just under half had developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI may include problems with memory, planning, language and attention which are relatively subtle in comparison to dementia.

However, those who had participated regularly in arts, crafts, socialising or computer use were less likely to develop MCI.

The activities which appeared to have the strongest protective effect were artistic.

People who engaged in artistic activities in middle and old age were 73% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems.

For crafts the reduction in the chance was 45%, for socialising it was 55% and for computer use it was 53%.

Professor Rosebud Roberts, one of the study’s authors and an expert on the causes of dementia, said:

“As millions of older US adults are reaching the age where they may experience these memory and thinking problem called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), it is important we look to find lifestyle changes that may stave off the condition.

Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age.”

source: PsyBlog


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3 Inner Virtues That Come With Age Which May Surprise You

On top of wisdom, there are three inner virtues which unexpectedly come with age.

People become more trusting as they get older, a new study finds.

This is just the reverse of the stereotype of cynical, suspicious, grumpy seniors played on by many a sitcom.

And trust is not the only inner virtue that comes with age.

Dr Claudia Haase, one of the study’s authors, said that greater trust may lead to more happiness with age:

“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss.
But a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age.
Our new findings show that trust increases as people get older and, moreover, that people who trust more are also more likely to experience increases in happiness over time.”

On top of greater trust and happiness, people often experience more optimism with age.

Dr Haase said:

“We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things.
As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people and forgive the little let-downs that got us so wary when we were younger.”

The conclusions come from two groups of people, one huge sample of almost 200,000 people from 83 countries.

happiness

This found a connection between aging and trust.

A second group of 1,230 people from the US were followed over time.

Dr Haase explained the results:

“For Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers alike, levels of trust increase as people get older.
People really seem to be ‘growing to trust’ as they travel through their adult years.”

There was no evidence of disadvantages to older people’s more trusting nature.

Dr Michael Poulin, who co-authored the study, said:

“Both studies found a positive association between trust and well-being that was consistent across the life span, suggesting that trust is not a liability in old age.
Our findings suggest that trust may be an important resource for successful development across the life span.”

The study is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Poulin and Haase, 2015)

source: Psyblog


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Can a Positive Attitude Reverse the Effects of Aging?

AgingCare.com     November 6, 2014

The world is full of stereotypes. Some are born from over-generalized kernels of truth, while others are more like misguided myths gone wild. And, at some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced the effects of stereotyping.

One of the most pervasive stereotypes in modern North America is that of the frail older adult. Once a person ages beyond the apex of the proverbial hill, it’s almost as if society collectively gives them a shove, sending them tumbling down the other side, towards death. Advocates for the elderly have been fighting against this perception for decades.

Overturning this stereotype is about more than just changing minds, it could also be an effective way to lessen the damaging economic and health care effects of North America’s rapidly aging population. New research from the Yale School of Public Health has found that encountering positive messages about aging can enhance the mental and physical well-being of older individuals, potentially enabling them to maintain their independence for longer.

Changing minds could change lives

Reversing ingrained stereotypes about aging—even a little bit—can be a tricky endeavor, as lead researcher Becca Levy, associate professor and director of the Social and Behavioral Science Division at Yale, and her team found out. “The challenge we had in this study was to enable the participants to overcome the negative age stereotypes which they acquire from society, as in everyday conversations and television comedies,” Levy says in a Yale press release.

Previous studies led by Levy have shown how negative age stereotypes can have a damaging effect on older adults’ physical health. This time, she wanted to see whether the process worked in reverse.

Optimism, Laughter May Bring Long Life

To help older adults overcome negative thought patterns about their age, scientists divided 100 individuals whose average age was 81 years old up into several different groups. One group was instructed to write about aging adults who were able to maintain lively, active lifestyles. Another group was placed in front of a computer screen that periodically flashed positive words such as “creative” and “spry” at speeds that were slow enough for participants’ eyes to recognize them, but too fast for their brains to fully process—a form of subliminal messaging.

The hope was that, by altering participants’ perceptions about aging in a subtle (yet positive) way by exposing them to subliminal messaging on the computer screens, the older adults would feel better about themselves and be able to more effectively perform everyday activities.

The researchers were not disappointed. By the end of a three week period, people in the subliminal messaging group had better balance and walking abilities, and could sit down and stand up from a chair more easily, while the older adults who wrote essays or did nothing did not experience any enhanced mobility.

Help for an aging North America

Of course, unraveling negative stereotypes about aging won’t work miracles for the millions of older people struggling with serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.

But the Yale study does demonstrate the power that taking a positive approach to the aging process can have on healthy older adults. A senior who is steadier on their feet is less likely to fall—the number one cause of injurious death in the elderly. A person who can get in and out of a chair on their own is more likely to be able to age-in-place in their own home.

The best part about these findings is that all of us can help foster an environment of esteem and kindness towards the elders in our community. Treating aging adults with respect and valuing their contributions to society is something that can provide countless benefits to members of all generations