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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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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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This Fruit Reverses Brain Ageing

A natural compound found in strawberries can reduce the mental effects of ageing.

The antioxidant fisetin, when given to mice, was found to reduce their mental decline with age and inflammation in their body.

Fisetin is also found in many other plants, such as apples, onions, cucumbers and persimmons.

Dr Pamela Maher, who led the research said:

“Companies have put fisetin into various health products but there hasn’t been enough serious testing of the compound.
Based on our ongoing work, we think fisetin might be helpful as a preventative for many age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, not just Alzheimer’s, and we’d like to encourage more rigorous study of it.”

Previous studies in the same lab have found that fisetin can reduce age-related memory loss.

The study was carried out on mice that had been genetically modified to be susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Maher said:

“Mice are not people, of course.
But there are enough similarities that we think fisetin warrants a closer look, not only for potentially treating sporadic AD but also for reducing some of the cognitive effects associated with aging, generally.”

The mice were given food with fisetin in it for 7 months and compared to a control group.

Dr Maher said:

“At 10 months, the differences between these two groups were striking.”

Those given the fisetin had hardly suffered any age-related deficits.

The study was published in the Journals of Gerontology Series A (Currais et al., 2017).

 
JULY 16, 2017
source: PsyBlog


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This Beverage Reversed Normal Age-Related Memory Loss in Three Months

Drinking this could reduce your brain age twenty years in just three months.

Cocoa flavanoids — like those contained in a cup of cocoa — can reverse age-related memory loss in older adults, a new study finds.

This is the first direct evidence that an important component of memory decline that comes with age can be improved with a simple dietary change.

Typically, normal age-related memory declines are noticeable to people in their fifties and sixties: things like forgetting where the keys are or having trouble recalling a name or word.

These changes are much less severe than those which typically occur as a result of devastating dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found a high-flavanol diet could restore aspects of older people’s memory back to that of a typical 30- or 40-year-old (Brickman et al., 2014).

The changes were clearly visible in brain scans, as Dr. Adam M. Brickman, the study’s lead author explained:

“When we imaged our research subjects’ brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink.”

The image below shows the dentate gyrus in green (this is part of the hippocampus).

Previous research has shown that it is changes in this area of the brain that are associated with normal age-related memory loss.

dentate_gyrus

Participants in the study were 37 healthy people aged between 50 and 69.

They were randomised into two groups, one of which was given a high-flavanol diet (900mg of flavanols per day) and the other given a low-flavanol diet (10mg per day).

At the end of the three-month period of the study, participants on the high-flavanoid diet showed improvements on memory tests.

Professor Scott A. Small, one of the study’s authors, explained the results:

“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

Flavanols are also found in tea leaves, and certain fruits and vegetables, although the exact amounts and forms vary widely.

The researchers cautioned that people should not eat more chocolate as the critical flavanoids are not present at the required levels — the dietary supplement used in the study was specially formulated.

Naturally, this is only a small trial, but the results are promising and the researchers are planning a larger study.

source: PsyBlog


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Personal Music Playlists May Reduce Medication Use With Dementia

Nursing home residents with dementia who listen to a personalized music playlist may need less psychotropic medication and have improved behavior, a recent study suggests.

The individualized music program designed for nursing homes, called Music and Memory, didn’t improve mood problems, but patients who listened to music tailored to their tastes and memories did need less anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic medication, researchers found.

“Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can result in aggressive or other difficult behaviors, which affect people’s lives and take a toll on their caregivers,” said lead author Kali Thomas, an assistant professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“We think that familiar music may have a calming or pleasurable effect and reduce the need for caregivers to use medications to control dementia behaviors,” Thomas told Reuters Health by email.

The potential of this kind of intervention was illustrated in the 2014 documentary “Alive Inside,” which shows nursing home residents with dementia moving, singing and engaging with others while listening to their favorite music, the study team writes in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But the effects have never been tested to see if the intervention is evidence-based, the authors write.

To determine what the program accomplishes, the researchers implemented Music and Memory in 98 nursing homes with a total of about 13,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease or non-Alzheimer’s dementia and followed a roughly equal number of residents with dementia in 98 nursing homes without the program for comparison.

In the Music and Memory program, nursing home staff are trained to create music playlists for residents based on each patient’s personal history and music preferences.

At the start of the study in 2012, the researchers used records to assess patients’ behavioral problems, depressed mood and their use of ant-anxiety and anti-psychotic medications. The same assessments were done in 2013, after the experiment was over.

Among the facilities included in the music program, the typical proportion of residents who discontinued anti-psychotic medications in a six-month period was 17.6 percent prior to the program’s implementation, and rose to 20.1 percent after the program. In the comparison homes without the program, this proportion remained stable at about 15 percent.

Similarly, the proportion of people discontinuing anti-anxiety medications rose from 23.5 percent to 24.4 percent, while in the comparison group discontinuation rates dropped from 25 percent to 20 percent over the same period.

Nursing homes using the music program also reported greater improvements in residents’ behavior. The proportion of residents with reduced dementia-related behavioral problems rose from 51 percent to 57 percent, while the comparison group remained the same.

The cost of the program depends on the size of the facility and ranges from $250 to $1,000 for staff training, plus $200 per year for program support, the authors note. Some participants also receive a “starter kit” including an iPod for their music, or ask family members to provide them with an iPod to use in the program.

The benefits of music for people with dementia go beyond behavior management, said Orii McDermott, a senior research fellow at the University of Nottingham in the UK, who was not involved in the study.

“Sharing favorite music or taking part in music activities offer social opportunities for people with dementia,” said McDermott, adding that social interaction is extremely important because the progression of dementia often leads to isolation.
“For busy care home staff, finding out each resident’s preferred music may feel like a time consuming task,” McDermott said. However, “people with dementia find individualized music interventions meaningful and improve their quality of life – so it will be a time well spent in the long run,” she noted.
“The population of older adults with dementia, in particular those residing in nursing homes, is large and is growing,” Thomas said. “This study suggests that Music and Memory may be one intervention that holds promise.”

By Madeline Kennedy     Fri May 19, 2017     Reuters Health
SOURCE:    bit.ly/2pEIEhN       American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, online April 14, 2017          www.reuters.com


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Still Cooking with Aluminum Foil? You’ll Want to Read This

Cooking and baking with aluminum foil is fast and convenient, and makes cleanup a cinch, but it’s not without health risks.

A lot has changed since aluminum arrived on the scene back in 1910, after the first aluminum foil rolling plant, Dr. Lauber, Neher & Cie, opened in Emmishofen, Switzerland. The first use of foil in the United States came about in 1913, when it was used to wrap Life Savers, candy bars, and gum. Eventually, aluminum foil made its way into American kitchens as a way to bake fish or roast vegetables on the barbecue, to line baking pans, and to trap steam when cooking.

And we’re using tons of it—so much that experts are getting concerned. Because according to research, some of the foil used in cooking, baking, and grilling leaches into your food, which can pose health problems over time.

According to the World Health Organization, human bodies are capable of properly releasing small amounts of aluminum efficiently, so it’s considered safe to ingest 40mg per kilogram of body weight of aluminum per day. Unfortunately, most people are ingesting far more than this.

Scientists have been looking at the potential threat that overexposure to aluminum may have on human health for years, and have found some disturbing results. For example, researchers have found high concentrations of aluminum in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also found that high aluminum intake may be linked to a reduction in the growth rate of human cells, and may be potentially harmful for patients with bone diseases or renal impairment.

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science investigated the amount of aluminum that leaches into food cooked with foil. The amount varied based on factors such as temperature and acidity (fish and tomatoes are highly acidic), but the findings showed conclusively that aluminum foil does leach into food cooked in foil. “Aluminum foil used in cooking provides an easy channel for the metal to enter the human body,” the study authors wrote. “The increase in cooking temperature causes more leaching. The leaching is also highly dependent on the pH value of the food solution, salt, and spices added to the food solutions.”

Ghada Bassioni, Associate Professor and Head of the Chemistry Division at Ain Shams University, conducted research with a group of colleagues that explored the use of aluminum for cooking and preparing food particularly at high temperatures. “The acidity of the food would enhance further leaching of aluminum into the meal,” she said, adding: “How aluminum will actually harm your body depends on many factors like your overall well-being and consequently how much your body can handle accumulation of it in relation to the allowable dosages set by the World Health Organization.”

So should you stop cooking with aluminum foil? It seems the general consensus is that we should, at the very least, cut way back.

For grilling veggies, you can get a stainless steel grilling basket, or even reusable skewers. Use a glass pan when roasting veggies in the oven; use a stainless steel cookie sheet under baking potatoes as opposed to aluminum foil to catch the mess; and even try replacing foil with banana leaves when wrapping foods for baking!

BY ALEXA ERICKSON
 
source: www.rd.com


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A Cup of Tea a Day Could Keep Dementia and Alzheimer’s Away

Tea is one of the most widely consumed and healthiest beverages of all—perhaps only second to plain old water. Known to provide a variety of health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of cancer and heart disease, there’s now new evidence to suggest that older individuals who regularly drink tea may significantly reduce their risk of cognitive decline.

A study from the National University of Singapore, which involved nearly 1,000 community-living Chinese adults ages 55 or older, looked at tea consumption data from 2003 to 2005. The study participants also underwent cognitive assessments every two years up until 2010.

After controlling for lifestyle factors, medical conditions, physical activities and social activities, the researchers found that regular consumption of tea — specifically the types of tea brewed from tea leaves — was linked to a 50 percent reduced risk of cognitive decline. And in those who carried the gene responsible for the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, there was an 86 percent reduction in cognitive decline.

Feng Lui, assistant professor and lead researcher of the study pointed out that the cognitive benefits come from the bioactive compounds found in tea leaves, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help prevent vascular damage and neurodegeneration in the brain. Given how much of a mystery the brain still is to scientists everywhere, a lot more research is needed to gain a better understanding of these complex biological mechanisms.

This certainly isn’t the first study to suggest that tea is great for brain health. Green tea, in fact, is widely known for its cognitive benefits with previous research showing it has a particularly significant effect on working memory.

While there’s still more than we could imagine to be discovered in the field of brain science, it’s likely safe to say that drinking tea regularly (perhaps daily) is a good habit for almost anyone, young or old, who is healthy and doesn’t have any medical conditions that may conflict with certain types of tea. As mentioned previously, tea brewed from tea leaves are best — including green tea, oolong tea and black tea.

Ready to start drinking more tea for the long-term health benefits? Here are a few ways you can make it a daily habit:

  • Compliment your morning cup of coffee with an additional cup of tea. Go for black or oolong tea varieties if you’re looking for higher amounts of caffeine compared to other types.
  • Bring tea long with you on your commute. All you need is a reusable travel mug and a few minutes before you head off to allow your tea to steep.
  • Wind down before bed with a cup of tea. Try loose leaf, herbal tea varieties that are free of caffeine to help you relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
  • Make your own iced tea for when you need something refreshing. Hot tea is lovely, but maybe not so much when the weather is warm and you need to cool off.

 

By: Elise Moreau        March 25, 2017
Follow Elise at @elisem0reau