Fats are tricky. Too much fat in your menu may translate into weight gain (they have 9 calories per gram, more than twice as many as either proteins or carbohydrates) and/or an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, it is important to eat some healthier fats as they help keep your skin and hair in good condition, assist in absorbing the so-called fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K; and provide essential fatty acids. Some recommend plant-based fats such as cold-pressed olive oil for salads and coconut oil for cooking. Myelin, the insulation around nerve axons, is about seventy percent fat. Oleic acid, one of the most common fatty acids in myelin, is found in cold-pressed olive oil as well as in almonds, pecans, macadamias, peanuts, and avocados. Structurally, brain tissue is composed of a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of meat and dairy products may lead to a ratio of 20:1. An imbalance of fatty acids may be linked to hyperactivity, depression, some mental illnesses, and possibly some allergies. Learn to read labels—and then take time to read them. Carry a magnifying glass, if need be. Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats and minimize the use of saturated fats from animal sources. Be judicious in the amount of plant-based fats you take in on a daily basis.
Friday, February 28, 2020
How can you lower your risk for infection? There are recommended prevention strategies, including the following.
1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid contamination from other people’s hands, door handles, table surfaces, and so on. Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol when you are unable to wash your hands.
2. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth, or putting inanimate objects in your mouth such as pens and pencils or sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Send a text or email or chat by phone. If someone is sick in your own home, ask them stay in their own room as much as possible, away from other family members. Stay at home if you are sick and take precautions to avoid sharing your germs with other people and pets. If you have pets, wash your hands after touching them, and keep them away from your face to avoid their licking.
4. Maintain a social distance of six-feet from others. Nod and smile but avoid handshakes, hugs, kisses, and even fist bumps or elbow rubs because that involves close contact. This includes avoiding all nonessential travel and crowds of people, as well as even smaller groups of people where you are unable to maintain a six-foot social distance.
5. Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow. If tissue is easily available, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it into the trash immediately.
6. Disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
7. If you develop symptoms and need to seek medical care, call ahead to the office, urgent care, or Emergency Department first—before going there. Describe your symptoms and follow the instructions you receive.
Physical exercise stimulates the release of dopamine, the feel better brain chemical that is linked with the brain’s reward and pain-pleasure systems. Levels of this critical neurotransmitter tend to decrease with age so physical exercise becomes even more vital. Exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural morphine. Apathy is sometimes seen in the elderly, especially when they are facing the need to move into a retirement community or into an assisted living center. Regular physical exercise can help to combat apathy through the release of both dopamine and endorphins. Exercise can help protect your brain cells against stress, improve your mood, age-proof your brain against mental decline, and decrease your risk for heart disease, vascular disease, and diabetes. And when you reach your optimum weight-range, exercise can help you maintain it, as well. Jennie Brand-Miller pointed out in The New Glucose Revolution for Diabetes that there are really only two requirements when it comes to exercise: one is that you do it; the other is that you continue to do it.
(For more information see “Age-Proofing Your Brain” by Taylor and Briggs.)
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Any physical exercise can improve your brain’s performance and help protect against cognitive decline. Individuals who are aerobically fit may actually have an intellectual edge. Physical exercise has been shown to improve creativity, concentration, and problem-solving. It prepares your neurons to connect, while mental stimulation allows your brain to capitalize on that readiness. Many people have no idea how closely physical activity is tied to brain function. Candace B. Pert PhD pointed this out in her book Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind: “The most important function of exercise is to stimulate and cleanse the bodymind so that it is free to do its best work. You can enhance the benefits of your daily exercise by linking it to something you enjoy, such as listening to your favorite music on headphones while walking.” In her book Molecules of Emotion, Pert indicated that twenty minutes of mild aerobic exercise at the beginning of the day can turn on fat-burning neuropeptides, the effects of which can last for hours. Twenty minutes is a deal for hours of fat-burning benefits.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Many people think of physical exercise primarily in relation to their body and musculature. But physical exercise is definitely about your brain, too. According to Richard Restak, MD, “Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.” How so? Dr. Kenneth Guiffre in The Care and Feeding of Your Brain indicated that physical exercise helps the brain to ‘boot up’ efficiently, much as you would boot up a computer. Your brain has no muscle tissue per se. Physical exercise enhances blood flow to the brain. This not only brings increased amounts of oxygen, glucose, and nutrition to brain tissues but also releases and washes away toxins and waste substances that have accumulated in the brain. Some even refer to exercise as a general antioxidant. Studies of men and women over age 65 found that those who exercised were less likely to lose their mental abilities or develop dementia. But start now. In The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, Dr. Pierce J. Howard points out that benefits are associated with long-term exercise. More tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
What is active mental picturing as compared to passive mental picturing? When you watch TV or a movie, your brain is processing something that another brain created—passively. Active mental picturing requires that the brain does the work itself. Your thoughts and words create a picture for your brain to follow—a map, as it were. Visualization can work as an extremely effective mind exercise. It is so powerful, in fact, that visualization is one of the three researched strategies that have been shown to enhance communication between the brain and the body (the other two strategies being affirmation and meditation). Without a defined target the mind’s energy can be wasted. Imagining something in your mind’s eye is essentially the same as perceiving it in the external world. Dr. Daniel Goleman explains this as mental rehearsal and wrote: “When we mentally rehearse an action—making a dry run of a talk we have to give, or envisioning the fine points of our golf swing—the same neurons activate in the premotor cortex as if we had uttered those words or made that swing. Simulating an act is, in the brain, the same as performing it, except that the actual execution is somehow blocked.”
Monday, February 24, 2020
The human brain thinks in pictures. A thought is really just an internal mental picture. Visualizing is another name for the process of forming pictures in your mind’s eye. Robert Collier put it this way: “Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.” You “see” what you want to accomplish in your mind’s eye. The subconscious mind doesn’t use language, per se, but it can follow the picture that the words create. Because the subconscious is much more powerful than the conscious mind, the subconscious pushes you toward your mental blueprint. It is important to see what you want to have happen and speak positively about it. That goes back to Dr. Daniel Wegner’s “White bear phenomenon.” If you say, “Don’t think about the white bear,” a representation of a white bear goes into working memory and you think about it even more. Never picture what you do not want and only see and speak positively about what you want to have happen. More tomorrow.
Friday, February 21, 2020
You train your brain by your self-talk style: positively or negatively. It is important do use positive words because your words are converted into pictures that the subconscious can follow, since it doesn’t use language, per se. If you say, “Don’t touch the stove,” a picture of touching the stove pops up, and the brain may follow that picture. “Keep your hand away from the stove” is more likely to get the desired result “Remember your homework,” is more effective than “Don’t forget your homework.” You’ve no doubt heard on TV or billboards, “Don’t forget to vote.” “Remember to vote,” would likely be much more effective. Estimates are that most people grew up hearing 7-10 negative comments or instructions for every positive. People’s brains are filled with negative-comment tapes. No wonder people keep repeating old negative patterns of behavior. The subconscious doesn’t seem to understand the word “no,” either. It wants a yes! So, use “yes” plus a qualifier. “Yes, you may have a healthier cookie after you finish lunch.” Just keep repeating that as many times as you need to for the brain to “get it” and stop asking for a sugary treat right now.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Studies have shown that the brain responds better to a specific communication style. The formula: speak in short, present-tense sentences as if what you want to have happen is already a done deal. Your brain tends to get in gear to help you if it believes this is a “now happening,” and not something down the line in the future. Use your given name so your brain known who you are talking to. For example, “Joe, this presentation is going well. You are remembering what you need to say.” Or, “Janice, you are drinking a glass of water before each meal.” If you say, “Janice, you are going to drink a glass of water before each meal,” the brain recognizes that as future tense and is likely to think: “That is then, and this is now. When then is now—if you still want to develop that habit—I will help you. Based on past experience, however, by the time ‘then’ becomes ‘now’ you’ll likely have forgotten all about this. Just imagine all the time and energy, I, your brain, will have saved.” You are the only one who can program your brain positively for success. What are you waiting for? Time is passing. Embrace a new self-talk communication style. Consistently choose to think and speak affirmingly to help you be successful in living a high-level-healthiness lifestyle and age-proof your brain. More tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
What is self-talk? Simply what you tell yourself silently or aloud. Studies suggest that most people talk to themselves internally almost continually every waking moment. What self-talk style is your habit? Are you using positive can-do statements or negative failure statements? Are you imagining the worst in life or the best? The subconscious mind that includes your entire body and 80 percent of your brain is very powerful—more powerful than your conscious mind. The subconscious is also highly receptive to simple, positive statements (often referred to as affirmations), so use that information to your advantage. Program your subconscious with positive self-talk. That doesn’t mean you pretend that bad things never happen. It does mean you address the issue and then speak affirmingly—to yourself and to others. Affirmation is not a magic wand for unrealistic expectations. For example, if you are 5 feet tall, saying, “You are 6 feet tall” will just make your brain chuckle and think “dream on or buy stilts!” More tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Every thought you think is a health-relevant event that moves you toward or away from high-level-healthiness living; toward or away from health; toward or away from happiness and life satisfaction; toward or away from potential longevity. A negative mindset can drain your energy, decrease self-esteem levels, increase anxiety and depression, suppress immune system function, and trigger the release of stress hormones that can adversely impact your brain and body over time. Although thoughts do drive behaviors, thoughts are still just thoughts and you have the power to change them if you choose to do so. Jon Gordon wrote about it in his book Become an Energy Addict: “Think positively about the day ahead and you increase your mental and physical energy.” When you identify a negative thought, choose to change it into a positive one. Look for the silver lining in every situation because there is one, just like the rainbow after the rain. You cannot prevent everything you would like to avoid, but you can choose how you respond to that event and how you manage it. Go for a growth mindset!
Monday, February 17, 2020
Everything begins in the brain—with a thought. This is not “new news,” however. Marcus Antonius has been quoted as saying “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” That goes for your health, wellbeing, and potential lifespan, as well. In her book, Mindset, Carol S. Dweck, PhD, explains that people with a fixed mindset believe that who they are is basically carved in stone. Thus, they tend to interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic abilities, feel worthless, unlucky, often hopeless and helpless, and often give up. Those with a growth mindset believe that they can acquire almost any needed skill provided they invest effort and study. Even though they face challenges, growth-mindset people refrain from putting themselves down or throwing in the proverbial towel. They just keep on building their skills and practicing. Having a growth mindset tells you that you can develop your skills—it’s still up to you whether you want to do that. It can help you live a less stressful and more successful life. Most children are already developing a growth or a fixed mindset by the ages of four to six. Do you have a fixed or a growth mindset? Think about it. If you have a fixed mindset, you can change it. If you have a growth mindset, that can help you implement strategies to age-proof your brain. More tomorrow.
Friday, February 14, 2020
Dump Gerontophobia: the fear of aging and of losing your brain functions, including loss of memory. Identify and examine your perspectives about brain function and getting older. Embrace: Growing older is part of the cycle of life and there are benefits at every stage—the best is yet to be. Think: Living is a privilege and I am fortunate to be doing so, especially since many are denied the opportunity. Do you see the glass of your life half empty or full to overflowing? Speaking of the glass half empty, in their book The Art of Possibility, authors Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander wrote: Those who say the glass is half empty are dealing with a mental abstraction of emptiness and lack. The optimist is describing a measure of physical reality, a substance that is actually in the glass. And since today is Valentine’s Day, there is no better time to take a look as the perspectives you have absorbed since early childhood about aging and the brain. There is no better gift you can give to yourself and to those who love you than this: Get busy age-proofing your brain!
(For more information see “Age-Proofing Your Brain” by Taylor and Briggs.)
Thursday, February 13, 2020
In one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s presentations, he was quoted as saying: If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.Many suffer from Gerontophobia¾a negative perspective about the process of growing older. Your perspective will impact your process of growing older. Dr. Ken Dychtwald, author of Age Wave, challenged his readers to uncover their beliefs about aging. For example, do you believe that life is hard and then you die? That can contribute to both anger and fear. Do you believe that young is good and stimulating and old is bad and boring? That can contribute to sadness and depression. Do you believe that brain decline associated with getting older can often be slowed if not prevented and even reversed to some degree? If so, you may be very motivated to increase your knowledge and applying on a daily basis. More tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
The brain can keep only one thought or tasks at a time in working memory. This means that the brain was not designed to multitask effectively. Multitasking involves rapidly alternating shifts of attention from one task to another. Sanjay Gupta MD points out that likely you aren’t actually doing multiple tasks at exactly the same time. You’re just diverting your attention from one part of your brain to another part, which takes time and resources. This can not only fatigue your brain but can increase your risk for making mistakes. Whenever possible, focus on one task to completion, and then work on another one. To save time and brain energy, if you need to get something from another room, say aloud what you are going to get in the other room as you pass through a doorway. This helps keep that thought in working memory. Otherwise, your brain will likely implement its “event boundary” and wipe working memory clean as it passes through a doorway.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Your knowledge level about the brain and how it functions—what you know or don’t know and how you apply it—profoundly impacts your brain’s health. Knowledge can be defined as information, facts, and skills you acquire through education and through personal experience. However, knowledge must be applied on a daily basis to make a difference in your brain and your life. What are some key pieces of knowledge that can help you implement practical strategies that work for you? Here are a few.
1. Regardless of race, gender, or culture, human brains are more alike than they are different. Brains are the same color regardless of the skin tones on the body that houses the brain. However, every thought you think changes the structure of your brain so no two brains are exactly alike. There is not another brain on the planet that is identical to yours so honor yours and avoid continually comparing with the brains of others. More tomorrow.
Monday, February 10, 2020
I’ve heard you speak about age-proofing the brain and I need some tips! Alzheimer’s runs in my family and I’m scared. So does dementia. Can you help me?
First of all, I empathize with your concerns about your brain since dementia appears to run in your family, Alzheimer’s being one type of dementia. Studies have shown that there are steps you can take to help prevent some types of dementia (due to failure to stimulate and challenge the brain on a regular basis, for example) and to slow the onset of development of some other types. I can share some strategies with you. However, you are the only person who can do it for you—the only person who can actually build these strategies into your daily life. Can everything negative be prevented? Of course not. But recognize that genetics is believed to contribute only about 30 percent to how well and how long you live. Epigenetics (everything that impacts you except genetics), including your lifestyle, contribute at least 70 percent to how well and how long you live. More than half of all the factors that impact aging are within your partial if not complete control. More tomorrow.
Friday, February 7, 2020
The girls who were Chinese native speakers and the girls who were adopted from Chinese mothers into French families, showed (by fMRI) activation in a portion of the brain crucial for processing sounds (the left superior temporal gyrus). Girls adopted from Chinese mothers into French families showed activation in the left superior temporal gyrus — an area crucial for processing sounds — that was identical to that of the Chinese native speakers. The French speakers, who were not sensitive to tones in the same way as Chinese speakers, showed activation in the right superior temporal gyrus. According to the researchers, the similarity between Chinese adoptees and Chinese speakers illustrates that early acquired language information is maintained in the brain and that early experiences unconsciously influence neural processing for years, if not indefinitely. Based on the conclusions of this study, my guess it that you would have an advantage in learning to speak Chinese now.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
I was an orphan in China and was adopted by a French family early in my life. Do you think my brain remembers anything about the Chinese language? Could I learn to speak Chinese more easily if I started studying it now?
The results of a study led by Lara Pierce and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has provided some interesting conclusions. Three groups were studied: a group born and raised speaking only French; girls who were adopted from Chinese families and stopped speaking any Chinese and learned to speak French; and bilingual girls who spoke both Chinese and French. Study participants listened to fragments of Chinese as their brains were scanned using fMRI. The brain activation pattern of the adopted Chinese who totally discontinued the language, matched the same brain activation pattern as those who had continued speaking Chinese since birth. The brain pattern in the group of French-speaking girls only, was very different. More tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
There are many ways to exercise your brain. Becoming computer literate is one of them. Studies show that doing a complex internet search is as challenging to an older brain as reading an entire book. So can doing math. Studies have shown that you get more bang for your buck when you exercise your brain with simple rather than complex arithmetic problems—but continually try to better you own time for arriving at the answers. Pick up a simple math workbook that contains pages of addition,, subtraction, division, and multiplication exercises. Time yourself as you do one page. The next day redo the same page and see if your brain can go faster. Word puzzles and jig-saw puzzles are helpful, as well. Variety can be helpful, as well. In addition to reading aloud for 10 minutes each day, add a different mental exercise each day. Tell yourself: “____ (your name), your brain likes these exercises. You are having fun.” Find something you like to do and just do it—on a regular basis! You are the only one who can do it for you.
What can be done? In addition to toxic fumes carried in the air, poor air quality due to particles in the Personally, I drive a hybrid vehicle to do my part to reduce emissions. Some people have no easy option in terms of where they live. Others can relocate off a busy highway or more than a quarter of a mile from a freeway. I also carry a N95 particulate respirator (mask) with me in the car and if I am driving through a dust storm or smoke, I put it on. Part of the problem is that particles in the air take up space that oxygen molecules would ordinarily occupy. Therefore, the brain is slightly anoxic—which, of course, diminishes the amount of oxygen the brain can receive with each breath. It’s a global problem and one person cannot solve it. But one person can do something and cumulatively, that can make a positive difference. Do what you can do!
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
In a new study, Beckwith and colleagues naturally took into consideration known factors that could influence brain development (e.g., maternal IQ, neighborhood poverty level). They found that children exposed to the highest pollution levels had thinner cortexes compared to those with little pollution exposure. This corroborates earlier findings that showed exposure to high levels of traffic-related pollution tend to perform poorly on standardized tests. Darby Jack, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, reportedly said that Beckwith’s research tended to reinforce earlier study findings. It was noted that although children living in areas with high pollution tend to be poorer than those who get to breathe clean air, brain imaging showed that only specific brain areas appear to be affected, suggesting that this is due to pollution and not simply poverty. More tomorrow.
Monday, February 3, 2020
I don’t know if you have blogged about this before or not, but I am really concerned about hearing that the quality of air a child breathes can negatively impact brain development. So, what can be done?
The report of a research project led by Travis Beckwith was released this month on this topic and it does give one pause. Beckwith and colleagues did MRI scans on 135 children participating in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study, or CCAAPS. Exposure to air pollution for each child was estimated using data from an air sampling network that included 27 sites in the Cincinnati area. Participants were evaluated at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 12. At age 12, the children were assessed on reading ability, executive function, mental health, intelligence, and other neurodevelopmental outcomes. At age 12, the children were assessed on reading ability, executive function, mental health, intelligence and other neurodevelopmental outcomes. The conclusion was that that “early life exposure to air pollution poses a significant risk to brain development from direct exposure to toxicants or via indirect mechanisms involving the circulatory, pulmonary or gastrointestinal systems. In children, exposure to traffic related air pollution has been associated with adverse effects on cognitive, behavioral and psychomotor development.” More tomorrow.