Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Memory and Weight

Are you aware that overweight and obesity are linked with more than 50 diseases—including memory loss? This doesn’t just appear out of a vacuum. Typically, obesity reflects one’s lifestyle choices. The overweight and obese (especially those with high amounts of belly fat) are more than three times likely to develop memory loss and dementia later in life. A study done by researchers at Rush University and published in the journal Cell Reports indicates that the liver uses a protein known as PPAR-alpha: interestingly, the same protein the brain uses for memory functions. In bodies with a lot of belly fat the liver must work extra hard, which depletes the PPAR-alpha. The liver then turns to other parts of the body to locate another source. As the liver steals PPAR-alpha from your brain, the hippocampus (the brain's “search engine”) starves, triggering potential memory loss. Eventually, you may not know a cauliflower from a computer or a cat from a caftan!  Memory loss and dementia are devastating—both for those who have it and their loved ones. Bottom line? Maintaining an optimum weight through diet and exercise is more than worth the work. (Better you than your liver!)  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Happiness--a Choice

A common question or comment involves how a person can find happiness. Since happiness is a personal perception, no one can tell another person how to be happy. It is an individual journey. However, there are some general principles to consider. Remember, everything starts and ends in the brain. Yours. When replying to those questions I typically suggest that one place to begin is by finding out all you can about your family-of-origin. “But I was a foster child or adopted or homeless,” you may say, “and I don’t know my biological family.” Since you are a combination of nature and nurture, (nature representing biology and nurture standing for the environment), review what you do know about either one or both. Did you hear about any family history of happiness or unhappiness? At conception you received some cellular memories from your biological ancestors and from conception onward you began building your own  memories related to your environment. Remember, in adulthood many people either replicate what they know from childhood or go for 180 degrees different (and I typically add that 180 degrees from dysfunctional is still dysfunctional). Do you gravitate toward joy and pleasantness or do you find yourself hanging out with those who are grumpy, unhappy and unpleasant? If so you might want to take a close look at that. Studies have shown that within the space of two to three years, humans tend to pick up the habits of the four or five individuals they spend the most time with—and happiness is one of the habits you can pick up. Happiness is a choice.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Stress and Gender

You probably know that unmanaged stress is linked with several chronic diseases. But did you realize that stress reactions may differ for males versus females, especially when comparing the now with later? Every brain needs effective stress-management strategies, but these strategies may be even more critical for females as their brains appear twice as vulnerable to stress-related disorders such as PTSD and depression—likely because the female stress-signaling system appears more sensitive from the start. Studies with rats have shown that when the stress response is triggered, male neurons activate a mechanism that reduces the amount of Corticotropin Releasing Factor that is absorbed. This process does not occur in female neurons. This means that males tend to under-react and females tend to over-react to the same stressful situation. Other studies have shown that the male brain is at increased risk for a major depressive event 25 years later. Understanding differing stress responses to a similar incident can help you avoid harboring hurt feelings or retreating to your own corner when dealing with members of the opposite sex during stressful events. Instead, meet in the middle and brainstorm a solution that represents neither underreacting nor overreacting.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Brain and Spanking

Who doesn’t want their child to be smart and successful? Studies at the University of New Hampshire and the Prevention Research Center of Berkeley, California, have found that children who were spanked in childhood have lower IQs. The more they were spanked, the slower the development of their mental ability and the lower their IQ level. The IQ of children 2–4 years old who were not spanked was 5 points higher when tested four years later compared with those who were spanked. The more corporal punishment received, the more they fell behind children who were not spanked. Those who experience corporal punishment into the teenage years may have their brain development hampered even more. Because children tend to find spanking highly stressful, they often experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. Ways to discipline that avoid undesirable outcomes take careful thought and time to implement. Such strategies, however, have been linked with a reduction in juvenile delinquency, adult violence and masochistic sexual activity, an increased probability of completing higher education and earning a higher income, and lowered rates of depression and alcohol abuse. Bottom line? If you want smarter and more successful children, avoid spanking and correct misbehavior in other ways. It’s a long-term wellness issue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Brain Trauma

Did you catch the movie Concussion, in which Will Smith plays the forensic pathologist who identifies (on autopsy) neurological deterioration in the brain of a former football player similar to Alzheimer's disease? Known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE], this progressive brain disease is linked to head trauma. It can occur from direct blows, blast injuries, hitting your head in a vehicle accident or fall, from sports that “head” the ball, or by failing to wear appropriate protective head gear for any number of activities. Brain tissue has been shown to display an abnormal buildup of tau, a protein which negatively impacts neuron pathways. Although symptoms may not show up for years, they typically include problems with short-term memory, mood and fear, and behavioral disturbances—e.g., depression, impulsivity, judgement, aggressiveness, anger, and irritability—that can escalate to suicidal behavior and lead to dementia. A small subset may develop Motor neuron disease (MND), a progressive condition similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS], which is characterized by profound weakness, atrophy, and spasticity. Bottom line: plan ahead to avoid brain bashing. Today’s choices can impact your brain in the future and potentially even shorten your lifespan. No simple fixes or replacements are available for your one and only brain! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Anger-Memory Link, 2

Unresolved anger triggers the release of adrenalin that can interfere with quality sleep, which can negatively impact your health. A study published in a journal called Social, Psychological, and Personality Science points out the importance of resolving anger before you go to sleep. Going to bed mad worsens the anger, which can make it harder for you to manage negative memories appropriately. Moreover, memories are consolidated during sleep, i.e., moved from short-term to long-term memory. Once consolidated, the angry memories tend to retain their emotional reactivity and over time may become resistant to change. This can have implications for recovering from conditions such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as well as dealing effectively with other painful emotional memories—crucial for good mental health. Even staying awake for a while after a traumatic experience may help to prevent the formation of traumatic aversive memories. Resolving anger before going to sleep may prevent anger memories from becoming consolidated in long-term memory, thereby gaining strength and becoming resistant to change. Bottom line? Anger responses are learned so healthier responses can be relearned. Stop going to bed mad! Your brain and body (and loved ones) will thank you.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Anger-Memory Link

Did you know there is a link between anger and memory? First, anger is one of the protective emotions (the other two being fear and sadness) and is critically important. Anger is designed to tell you that you have been injured, think you have been mistreated, or faced with problems that prevent you from getting what you need or want or from attaining your personal goals. Once alerted, you can use the information to help you better manage your life and take appropriate action as needed. Anger is not designed to be “hung onto,” however, and many reasons to avoid doing just that. Unmanaged anger can increase your risk for heart disease and ulcers—and alter brain chemicals that can decrease serotonin levels and increase aggressive behaviors. Plus life is unpredictable, and the person you’re angry with may not be around tomorrow. Figure out what anger is trying to bring to your attention and take appropriate action; then let the anger go—as soon as possible—to avoid a negative impact on your brain’s memory functions. Studies have shown that the average adult experiences anger about once a day and becomes annoyed about three times a day—and that going to bed mad is a bad idea. More tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Brain & Water

With temperature levels seemingly skyrocketing in many parts of the country, it is particularly important to avoid dehydration. Being outside in humid high heat for a prolonged period can result in a heat stroke. Signs of overheating of the brain may include headache, dizziness, faintness, confusion, nausea, hallucinations, and even coma. Even without the extra heat, studies are linking dehydration with a variety of brain conditions and even suggesting that proper hydration may help reduce the risk of Dementia, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Drinking sugary drinks or colas is not particularly helpful because they trigger digestion, whereas water can begin to be absorbed immediately. And speaking of headaches, they can be an early sign of dehydration. As the cells lose water, brain tissue can begin to shrink and pull away from the skull. This results not only in discomfort, but also difficulty in thinking. Shrinkage of brain tissue is now a known factor that is linked with dementia—and that can be exacerbated in hot weather. Drink for your health! Water of course. Your level of wellness depends upon it!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Performance Choking, 2

Performance choking can occur when the brain is under pressure striving for superior performance. This unfortunate state of affairs can be managed and often prevented by using the STP antidote:  Stay in the moment. Think about what you need to do now—not about what just happened or about the finish. Breathe slowly, relax your muscles momentarily to help you refocus. Take control of your mindset and self-talk. Imagine only what you want to have happen. Tell yourself: “Jack, trust your brain. It’s got this.” Or “Jill, you are smooth and relaxed.” Perform with pleasure. Trust the skills you have honed, remembering how much you love what you are doing. Bottom line: Having fun and enjoying the performance can take your wellness—and success--to new heights.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Performance Choking

Did you know that the neurophysiology of performance “choking” (paradoxical performance effects) begins in the brain? It describes a person’s less-than-stellar personal performance when under pressure despite striving for superior performance. Typically, high levels of anxiety result in your attempt to seize conscious control over a task that should be executed automatically.  Ultimately, you fail to trust your highly-honed skills—a syndrome seen in almost any type of performance. Choking is linked with four variables: audience presence, competition, performance-contingent rewards and punishments, and ego relevance of the task. This state of affairs can be managed and often prevented by using the STP antidote. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Most Important Nutrient, 2

Estimates are that most Americans over the age of fifty are chronically dehydrated due to drinking insufficient amounts of water. Normally, more water exists inside your cells than in the spaces outside. Dehydration disrupts this balance, resulting in memory problems, wrinkling of skin and body organs, concentration of body fluids, and fatigue. A loss of fluid within the cells can cause brain tissue to pull away from the skull. Bottom line? Shrinkage of brain tissue is now a known factor linked to dementia. Since thirst sensation tends to fall after age fifty, it becomes crucial to drink by design. Some physicians suggest drinking enough water to pee one or two pale urines every day. Your most important nutritent is water—your level of wellness and brain function depends upon it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Most Important Nutrient

What would you guess is your most important nutrient? It’s WATER because your body cannot manufacturer it! You can live much longer—maybe ten times longer—without food than without water. In general, the brain and body follow the same ratio as does planet Earth: 75% water, 25% solid matter. Muscle cells are 75% water, but brain cells are 85% water. According to Mayo Clinic, the average adult loses more than ten eight-ounce glasses of water every day through sweating, breathing, and waste elimination. The average adult drinks less than four eight-ounce glasses of water each day, which puts them six eight-ounce glasses in the hole. And that’s deadly for your brain and body. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Brain and Interactions, 2

In order to really take in and understand what one other person is saying to you, you need to process 60 bits of information per second. Can you see the problem when more than one person is trying to talk to you at the same time? The triplets, or three neighbors, or you name it . . . With a processing capacity of 120 bits of information per second, you can barely understand what is going on when two people are talking to you at the same time. Three people? Dream on. Under most circumstances you will not be able to understand what three people are saying. The brain was not set up to multitask well. When two people are talking to you the brain may be able to manage that, but if a third person comes into the mix the brain may try to multitask—and will likely engage in rapidly alternating shifts of attention. Naturally, some parts of the conversations will fall through the cracks and never get filed away in your brain. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Brain and Interactions

Have you ever been talking with several people in a group and noticed that it seemed as if some of the brains were either “not keeping up” with the conversation or seemed to be missing “sections” of what was being said? Maybe you’ve even sensed that in yourself and wondered if Alzheimer’s was knocking at your door. Turns out that the part of your brain known as the “conscious mind” has a processing capacity. Based on research this capacity has been estimated to be 120 bits of information per second. That represents the amount of information that your mind can pay conscious attention to at any one time. This has a definite impact on your interactions with others—and helps to explain what you take in and what you miss. You really need to pay attention—consciously—for something to register and encode itself in your life experience. More tomorrow.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Brain & Happiness

Recent studies have added to the body of knowledge regarding happiness—often a rather misunderstood concept. For some, happiness means “feeling high” all the time, which likely is way off the mark. As pointed out by Daniel J. Levitin in The Organized Mind, individuals who are happy are not those who have “more.” Rather they are people who are happy with what they already have. They regularly engage in what he calls satisficing—“all of the time.” Instead of wishing for what they do not have or comparing what they have with what they perceive others have, they are thankful for what they already have (even as they pursue their goals and dreams). Oprah Winfrey put it this way: "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Relationship Recovery, 2

When there is something you don’t understand, ASK the other person what he or she meant and do that as soon as possible. The more time that goes by and the more water that flows under the bridge, the more problematic this can be. Sometimes one or both even forget what the initial triggering incident involved. Review how you saw others behave growing up in similar situations and decide if you want to continue that pattern or craft a healthier response and a new strategy. If you care about the other person and want to maintain the relationship, it can be worth the work—given he or she has the same goal. If you don’t care that much about the friendship and choose to walk away, be sure that unless you change your own behavioral patterns the same “silent treatment” based on triggers will likely be repeated in the new friendship.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Relationships Recovery

Every human being comes out the proverbial chute with undesirable baggage, often from cellular memories of behaviors exhibited by individuals in their biological line. This gets added to by the events and environments each child and each experiences, by watching how others respond to difficulties, the self-worth and self-esteem issues that can accrue. In any disconnect, it is critical to ask yourself: “What was my contribution to this?” Identify that, take responsibility for what you contributed (and not for what you did not contribute). Be willing to apologize for your contribution and negotiate the issue. Regardless how much you care about the other person, miscommunications occur, especially when you are texting and emailing because there is no visual recruitment of nonverbal body language to accompany the words. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Toxic Relationship Pattern, 3

 Researchers studying the Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Interaction between individuals concluded that the bottom-line reason for the relational problem and the resulting “silent treatment” was something fairly simply. Each person viewed the other as “the problem.” Is it possible to alter this toxic pattern? Of course, if both individuals care enough about the friendship or romantic relationship to choose to do so. Resolution likely starts with each individual “doing their own rat killing” as an old expression goes. Most individuals have some idea of what the other’s “hot buttons” are and yet continue to press them and then blame the other person. They fail to look at the fact that in any two-person misunderstanding, estimates are that only 30% has to do with the present moment and the other person; while 70% has to do with each person’s own baggage from the past. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Toxic Relationship Pattern, 2

The “silent treatment” in the ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern is not only difficult to escape from but does horrible damage to the relationship. Individuals who got caught in this relational trap reported the lowest level of satisfaction. They also showed poor communication skills, lower intimacy (especially if it was a romantic relationship), higher levels of anxiety and aggression. Some even reported accompanying physical symptoms including bowel problems, urinary trouble, and erectile dysfunction in males. Sometimes it was the female in the relationship/friendship who asked for something, complained, or was critical and the male initiated the “silent treatment” in response. Sometimes it was the other way around. No matter: it was equally damaging to the relationship to say nothing of each individual’s own level of physical and mental health. More tomorrow.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Toxic Relationship Pattern

Social Scientists have often studied the impact of negative behaviors on relationships including resentment and withdrawing from conflict. Researchers completed A Meta-Analytical Review of 74 studies and 14,000 participants and a Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Interaction and its Associations with Individual, Relational, and Communicative Outcomes. Their conclusions were that the “silent treatment” is part of one of the most common and most toxic patterns in any relationship. Psychologists tend to refer to it as a ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern. One partner/friend asks the other for something, or makes a critical observation or complaint. The other partner/friend then initiates the “silent treatment” that may last for hours, days, or even weeks. One person reported continued that silent-treatment pattern for two years. Two years! More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy July 4th

No doubt in all the fun and frolic of this holiday you may hear some Paraprosdokians. The word comes from the Greek and means: “against expectation.” And that’s exactly what happens in this figure of speech: the last portion of the phrase or sentence part of a sentence or phrase is unexpected in a way that causes you to reframe or reinterpret the first part. Paraprosdokians are frequently used in humor and/or for dramatic effect.

Light travels faster than sound. This is the reason some individuals look bright—until you hear them speak.

Never argue with idiots. They’ll pull you down to their level and beat you with experience.

If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

Many never really grow up, they only learn how to act in public—some of the time.

War does not determine who is right—only who is left.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Brain & Parental Rejection, 4

While waiting in line recently, the woman next to me began to chat about recently reconnecting with her parents 40+ years after she had left Asia as a small girl with her older brother—whom she was very close to. During all those years she had wondered “why my parents rejected me.” Her parents said that she had begged to go to American with her brother, but they had refused and locked her in her bedroom. Somehow she had climbed out of her bedroom window, caught up with her brother, and he had taken her with him to America. As they talked together, the woman began to get glimpses in her mind’s eye of running down the street after her brother, crying, and calling to him to take her with him. The woman said “I’m so glad I finally got up the courage to ask them why they had rejected me. Turns out they hadn’t!” Admittedly, things don’t always turn out like this—but unless you try, all you are left with are your brain’s own perceptions . . .

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Brain & Parental Rejection, 3

How can you recover from parental rejection? The steps are much like those used in other instances of emotional pain. First, identify what you believed happened and describe it to yourself. If possible, tell your parent(s) you felt rejected as a child and ask what was going on with them because you “might have misinterpreted something.” If they are willing to talk, just listen, then thank them for sharing with you and being honest. Now just think about what they said or if you cannot ask them, ask an aunt or uncle; and if that is not possible, move into your mind’s eye and ask your brain what might have been going on with them. You cannot undo the past. You can create a healthier future by resolving the emotional angst and letting it go. Sometimes the best you can do is acknowledge that it was their baggage and not yours. If you hang onto “why” and “if only,” you are allowing the rejection to continue to taint your life. When you work through what happened, raising your level of EQ, and asking questions when possible, sometimes amazing healing can take place. More tomorrow.