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Health Tip Tuesday

Neurobics for your mind. Get your brain fizzing with energy. American researchers coined the term ‘neurobics’ for tasks which activate the brain’s own biochemical pathways and to bring new pathways online that can help to strengthen or preserve brain circuits.

Brush your teeth with your ‘other’ hand, take a new route to work or choose your clothes based on sense of touch rather than sight. People with mental agility tend to have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline.

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Can Gut Bacteria Affect Alzheimer’s Disease?

New research finds the microbes in your gut may play a major role in escalating the chronic brain disease.

A raft of recent studies has shown that the microbiome is a factor in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease. Now, we can add Alzheimer’s disease to the list.

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, has shown that certain gut microbiota may speed up the development of the chronic brain disease.

Researchers studied both healthy and diseased mice and found that those with Alzheimer’s had a different composition of gut bacterium. Healthy mice also had a lower level of beta-amyloid plaque in their brains than the mice with Alzheimer’s. (Beta-amyloid plaques are the lumps of protein fragments that form at nerve fibers, creating tangles leading to neuroinflammation.)

To further test the connection between intestinal flora and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers placed microbes from mice suffering from Alzheimer’s into germ-free mice. The result? The germ-free mice given the gut microbes from the mice with Alzheimer’s developed more beta-amyloid brain plaques than those who received bacteria from healthy mice.

“The results mean that we can now begin researching ways to prevent the disease and delay the onset,” researcher Frida Fåk Hållenius, PhD, of Sweden’s Lund University Food for Health Science Centre, says in a press release. “We consider this to be a major breakthrough as we used to only be able to give symptom-relieving antiretroviral drugs.”

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‘TAKE CARE OF YOUR MICROBIOME, IT’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU’
The findings open the door to testing new preventive and therapeutic strategies — such as dietary modification — on bacteria’s role in Alzheimer’s disease development.

In November 2016, for example, Iranian researchers found that probiotics helped improve memory in people suffering from severe Alzheimer’s disease. Although the sample size was small (60 participants) and the study lasted only 12 weeks, the results indicate that eating microbiome-boosting foods may improve memory in those who are cognitively impaired.

“If you take care of your microbiome, it’ll take care of you — and that’s all the way up to your brain,” says leading Alzheimer’s researcher Rudolph Tanzi, PhD.

To reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, Tanzi advises avoiding eating processed and other inflammation-promoting foods, which negatively affect gut microbial communities, and focusing on real food.

HEIDI WACHTER · FEB 16, 2017


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This Type of Exercise May Guard Against Dementia

People who worked out on a bike, a treadmill, or the elliptical showed improvement in their memory and problem solving skills after six months, a new study found.

Working out is good for you in more ways than we can count, but a new study may have uncovered a new perk for people with memory problems.

Researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine found that aerobic exercise appears to boost thinking skills and brain volume in adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that sits in between normal age-related memory decline and more serious dementia. Stretching routines also increased brain volume over a six-month period, but had no noticeable impact on brain function.

The study was presented today at an annual meeting of radiologists in Chicago, and hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or published.

Researchers used a new MRI technique to measure both volume and shape changes in specific areas of the brain, which are both important indicators for tracking the development of dementia.

At the start of the study, the researchers performed MRI scans on 35 people with mild cognitive impairment, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were then divided into two groups and assigned to four weekly sessions of either stretching exercises or aerobic activity—walking on a treadmill, cycling on a stationary bike, or training on an elliptical machine. After six months, the researchers did a second MRI scan and compared the two sets of scans.

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Both groups showed increases in most gray matter regions of the brain, including the temporal lobe, which supports short-term memory. But those increases were greater in the group that walked, pedaled, or spent time on the elliptical.

“Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain,” said lead investigator Laura D. Baker, PhD, associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest, in a press release.

People in the stretching group had less total brain volume increase, and their brain scans also showed signs of “directional deformation”—shape changes possibly related to volume loss—within the brain’s white matter. The researchers believe these hard-to-detect signs could be early indicators of dementia. “Directional changes in the brain without local volume changes could be a novel biomarker for neurological disease,” co-author Jeongchul Kim, PhD, said in a press release.

In an abstract presented at the conference, the researchers concluded that aerobic exercise “could preserve or possibly even improve brain volumes” in people with early cognitive problems.

What’s more, the researchers also reported that over a six-month period, participants in the aerobic exercise group improved in tests that measure executive function—a set of thinking processes that include working memory, reasoning, and problem solving—while the stretching group showed no change.

That doesn’t mean stretching didn’t help in some way, the authors say, especially when compared to completely sedentary behavior. It does suggest, however, that aerobic activity may be a better bet for overall brain functioning.

Plenty of previous research has tied exercise to better brain outcomes in older adults; a 2014 Canadian study, for example, found that brisk walking (but not resistance training, balance exercises, or muscle toning) was associated with enlargement of the hippocampus. Aerobic exercise may have some competition when it comes to brain health, however. Last month, an Australian study found that women who lifted weights regularly had better cognitive function than those who did regular stretching and calisthenics.

This newest study, although small and preliminary, is in line with previous research suggesting that “any type of exercise can be beneficial,” said Kim—good news for older adults who perhaps can’t get out and walk, ride, or otherwise break a sweat. However, he added, “If possible, aerobic activity may create potential benefits for higher cognitive functioning.”

 

 By Amanda MacMillan      November 30, 2016


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Keep Busy! Stay Sharp!

Study suggests a full schedule may enhance your mental prowess

By Amy Norton    HealthDay Reporter   WebMD News from HealthDay

TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 (HealthDay News) – Although people complain when their schedule gets too busy, new research suggests that being overbooked might actually be good for the brain.

The study of older adults found that those with packed schedules tended to do better on tests of memory, information processing and reasoning.

Researchers said the findings don’t prove that “busyness” makes us smarter. For one, sharper people may seek out more mental stimulation. These people may also have more resources, such as higher incomes, that allow them to lead active lives.

On the other hand, past research has found that learning new skills can improve older adults’ overall mental acuity, said study leader Sara Festini.

“We think it is likely that being busy is good for your cognition,” said Festini, a researcher with the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas.

She and her colleagues reported the findings in the May 17 online issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

The results are in line with those from many previous studies, the researchers said.

Past research has found that older adults who are more active — mentally, physically or socially — tend to have better mental function and a lower risk of dementia. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends all three types of activity for maintaining better brain health.

According to Festini, busyness could be a proxy for people’s “cognitive engagement” in daily life.

For the study, she and her colleagues had 330 men and women rate their “busyness” levels — asking questions such as, “How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?” The study volunteers were between 50 and 89 years old.

The researchers also gave the volunteers a battery of tests that gauged memory, information processing speed, reasoning and vocabulary.

Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park.  Main focus on senior man (60s).

Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park. Main focus on senior man (60s).

Overall, the study found, the busier people were in their daily lives, the better their test performance — especially when it came to remembering specific events from the past. The findings were not explained by age or education level.

Still, there are other potential explanations for the connection, said Debra Fleischman, a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.

“Occupation, income, ethnicity and race are all important factors that can influence accessibility to resources that support an active lifestyle,” said Fleischman, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Plus, she added, people’s health – physical and mental – could affect both their daily activities and their scores on tests of memory and thinking (“cognition”).

Festini said she was interested in studying the subject because people often talk about their tight schedules, but there’s little research on how our “busyness” relates to health.

On one hand, a packed schedule could cause unhealthy levels of stress; on the other, busy people may have more “effortful engagement” with life, the researchers suggested.

According to Fleischman, it would be interesting to know whether the busy study participants were stressed out by their schedules. And that, she noted, could vary by age.

Older adults might tend to see a hectic schedule as a good thing – a sign that they have purpose in life, Fleischman said. But, she added, it’s possible that younger people could view busyness in a more negative light.

The current findings say nothing about the types of activities that are related to sharper mental skills, Fleischman pointed out. But past studies have already shown there may be benefits from physical exercise, mental tasks — such as crossword puzzles and reading — and social activities, she said.

“Daily activity is important to promote cognitive health in people over age 50,” Fleischman said.
Festini agreed. “[This study] provides further motivation to seek out additional activities and to keep learning new skills throughout adulthood,” she said.

Article Sources 
SOURCES: Sara Festini, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Center for Vital Longevity, University of Texas at Dallas; Debra Fleischman, Ph.D., professor, neurological and behavioral sciences, Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; May 17, 2016, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, online

source: HealthDay www.webmd.com


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7 Brain Boosting Foods to Eat More Often

Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA     May 3, 2016

For decades, scientists have viewed food as fuel, but the latest research suggests what you eat impacts your brain, too. In fact, study after study suggests adding certain foods to your plate can sharpen your mind, build new brain cells and may even help you remember where you left your keys.

With that in mind (pun intended), researchers at Rush University in Chicago developed the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which is basically a combination of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. The main difference: MIND stresses the importance of brain-boosting power foods, including nuts, berries and fatty fish. And research shows it’s remarkably effective.

According to the study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, seniors who closely followed the MIND diet slashed their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 53 percent. Even those who only did a so-so job of following the plan had a 35 percent lower Alzheimer’s risk.

So, consider stocking up on these 7 brain-boosting staples to gain the MIND advantage:

1. Fish: This nutrient powerhouse boasts high-quality protein, important minerals, including iron and zinc, and heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show these powerful fats help reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to the brain and build new brain cells.

2. Olive oil: Thanks to a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is a simple and tasty way to boost brain cell activity and slow down an aging brain. A bonus: monounsaturated fats also help reduce plaque buildup on the inside of the arteries, ensuring your brain gets the blood it needs to perform at its best.

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3. Nuts: Like olive oil, nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, but they also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant linked to improved brainpower.

4. Berries: An anti-aging superstar, berries are loaded with disease-fighting compounds that improve brain function. Blueberries in particular seem to slow down the memory loss that goes with aging.

5. Leafy green veggies: Research shows people who load up on produce, especially those with deep, rich colors, have better focus and mental sharpness compared to those who skimp on fruits and vegetables.

6. Wine: Don’t drink? There’s no reason to start. But if you enjoy an occasional glass of wine, go for red—it packs greater brain benefits than white. Just be sure to resist a refill. People become more susceptible to the toxic effects of alcohol with age.

7. Beans: Loaded with fiber and protein, beans provide sustained energy and keep blood-sugar levels on an even keel. That not only keeps hunger pangs at bay, but improves mental focus, too.

On the flip side, foods to limit or avoid due to their potentially harmful effects on your brain function include fatty red meat, butter or stick margarine, cheese, sweets, and fried or fast foods.

The takeaway? The MIND diet is similar to other successful, healthy eating plans in this important way — eating whole, minimally processed foods, free of added sugar, sodium and harmful fats, is key to both a healthy mind and body.

Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA, is the manager for Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Center for Weight Management. Passionate about preventive disease management, Pat became a registered dietician to help people live long, healthy lives.
For more tips on healthy eating and more, visit our health and wellness blog at henryfordlivewell.com and subscribe to receive a weekly email with our latest posts.


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This Fine Belief May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

This belief about ageing may protect against memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s.

Holding more positive beliefs about ageing may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a new study finds.

The results come from one of the longest-running studies of ageing in the US.

People who thought of the old in negative terms, such as being decrepit, were more likely to show signs of Alzheimer’s themselves.

Dr Becca Levy, who led the study, said:

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.
Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Brain scans of participants found that those with negative ageing beliefs had smaller hippocampi.

In fact, those with negative beliefs had the same decline in three years as those with positive beliefs had in nine years.

brain

The hippocampus is an area of the brain vital to memory.

Shrinking of the hippocampus is a sign of Alzheimer’s.

Autopsies also looked at two other signs of the disease.

Researchers found that those with more negative beliefs about ageing also had more amyloid plaques and tangles of proteins in the brain.

Both are also indicative of Alzheimer’s.

The results tie in with previous studies findings that negative stereotypes about age are linked to worse memory and even cardiovascular problems.

Negative stereotypes about age can even affect people’s senses the same as their cognitive abilities.

Professor Alison Chasteen, author of a recent study which confirmed the link, explained:

“People’s feelings about getting older influence their sensory and cognitive functions.
Those feelings are often rooted in stereotypes about getting older and comments made by those around them that their hearing and memory are failing.
So, we need to take a deeper and broader approach to understanding the factors that influence their daily lives.”

The study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

source: PsyBlog


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Why You Should Have Ginger Every Day

by Jonathan Galland   October 19, 2015

Ginger is a treasure in Asian cuisine, where it’s cherished for its unique ability to bring a touch of tanginess to dishes. Its distinctive lemony aroma and touch of spiciness can awaken the flavors of favorite recipes.

But ginger’s amazing role in cooking is just the start — the spice is also well-known for its many medicinal benefits. For centuries, ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat colds, stomachaches, nausea, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.

In traditional Chinese medicine, sliced or grated ginger is boiled in water as a soup to help fend off early signs of a cold. And it’s often the last resort for those who suffer motion sickness when pills won’t work. (A freshly cut ginger slice is either placed in the mouth or on the belly button with a Band-Aid.)

Right into the modern age, ginger is still the go-to herbal remedy for those who believe in natural healing.

And science is now catching up. Here are some of the research-backed revelations about the powerful benefits of this exotic spice:

1. It’s anti-inflammatory.

Ginger contains dozens of the most potent natural inflammation-fighting substances, like gingerols. The ability for food to reduce inflammation is important, as inflammation contributes to many chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, pain, and heart disease.

2. It’s anti-aging.

Ginger also has powerful antioxidant effects. It raises levels of the master antioxidant glutathione in the body. And by fighting oxidative stress, ginger helps control the process of aging.

3. It reduces pain from exercise.

One study found that eating ginger before cycling reduced quadriceps muscle pain, likely thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects.

4. It assists with weight loss.

Research shows that ginger tea helps prevent metabolic disorders and reduces the feeling of hunger, meaning it plays a role in weight management.

ginger

5. It helps treat anemia.

Ginger and its bioactive components, such as gingerols and shogaols, stimulate the production of blood cells in the body and can improve anemia symptoms.

6. It can help manage diabetes.

One study showed that ginger can improve fasting blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients. And scientists have discovered that combining honey and ginger reduces oxidative stress as well as the complications of diabetes.

This is especially important, given that the number of people with diabetes across the world is predicted to increase from 171 million in 2000 to 552 million by 2030.

7. It helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Since ancient times, natural compounds of ginger have been appreciated for their use in preventing various age-related ailments, including brain aging and neuro-degeneration. Recent studies have emphasized ginger’s benefits in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

8. It can ease symptoms of osteoarthritis.

In traditional Indonesian medicine, red ginger has been prescribed to relieve arthritis pain.

Now, an unprecedented study has found that topical ginger treatment using either a traditional manually prepared ginger compress or a standardized ginger patch could relieve symptoms for people with chronic osteoarthritis.

9. It can prevent liver disease.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common liver disease that’s quickly turning into an epidemic. Insulin resistance is a major feature in patients with NAFLD.

But research has shown that gingerols, the active component of ginger, could help improve insulin resistance, serving as a natural way to prevent NAFLD.

How to Spice Up Your Life with Ginger

Shop for whole ginger root in the vegetable aisle, looking for ginger that is firm to the touch and not wilted, dried out, or moldy. To use fresh ginger, remove the skin and cut a section of the yellow root. Finely chop the ginger, and it’s ready to use.

You can also make fresh ginger tea by adding finely chopped ginger to boiled water, letting it steep for two to three minutes, and then straining out the ginger.