April 17th, 2014
Watch Your Noggin | 3 Easy Steps to A Brain Healthy Spring

Spring has finally arrived here in the Northeast, in a way that this year felt much more hard-fought than usual. What a relief to be able to finally shed our coats and savor the sunshine and warm breezes April brings.

The return of warmer weather (and for those in perpetually warm climates, to spring activities) finds us getting back outside, reacquainting ourselves with activities such as cycling, skating, or even just diving into some spring cleaning or gardening. Yet our “spring awakening” also brings with it some risks that matter to brain health. Here at Total Brain Health, we find our thoughts turning to head injury and some easy steps we can take right now to better “live with our brains in mind.”

Head injury can affect anyone, no matter their age. Active boomers enjoying cycling, running, and the like can keep up with the best of them, but may run an increased risk for falling due to slower reaction time and changes in balance that comes with age. The Centers for Disease Control reports that falls alone account for slightly over 40% of head injuries in the U.S., and are the leading cause of head-injury related death in adults over 65.  In addition, sports-related activities that affect the head – think heading the ball in soccer, for example — are increasingly a concern in children, with growing attention to both the short-term and long-term consequences they bring. Clearly head injury is something that should be on our minds.

The good news? There are some very simple steps we can all take right now to reduce our risk for head injury. Here are 3 simple ideas on ways you can share with your clients of all ages and use yourself to “spring clean” your routine for falls risk:

1. Re-Train Your Balance. Many of us think of balance training as something only necessary for older adults. Yet balance exercises should be part of our everyday workout routine, especially if we enjoy fast-paced activities such as biking or in-line skating. As we age, we experience changes in our proprioception, or the “feedback” loop our body uses to manage our sense of ourselves in space. This, along with slower reaction times, can make it harder for us to “recover” when our bike hits a divot in the road or we hike or even walk on uneven terrain. Simple routines, such as the one here from the Mayo Clinic, help us better maintain our balance and should be part of everyone’s workout. You can also look to balancing boosting activities such as yoga and tai chi, which are great for brain health overall as well.

2. Trip Patrol.  Tripping is a significant cause of injury, including head injury. Many “trip and fall” injuries are avoidable if we simply identify and remove things that well, trip us up! Here’s a great way to get everyone on board in reducing fall hazards: set up a “Trip Patrol.” Lead a group of residents and clients through your community or center and look together for things that could be trip hazards. Talk about ways to avoid these hazards, such as surveying your surroundings, moving small pieces of furniture to a better location, removing small area rugs or runners, etc. Bonus points to folks who then help you keep track of potential trip hazards going forward!

3. Spring Clean for Trip Risks.  Here’s something we can do not only for our clients but also for ourselves: Spring clean with your head in mind. Just as we’ve learned to make checking our smoke detector batteries part of our “fall back” time change in the autumn, let’s make inspecting for trip risks part of our spring- cleaning routine. Check for uneven stone pathways in the garden, frayed or turned edges on rugs, objects that have somehow found their way onto staircases or hallways, or lighting on stairways (especially the ones to the basement) that could be a bit brighter. Its just another way to make common-sense prevention part of our routine!

Happy spring to all!

Dr. Green

April 10th, 2014
Brain Healthy Eating from Cal-a-Vie Health Spa | Chef Curtis Cooke’s Awesome Savoy Cabbage Salad with Walnuts

I was recently the featured guest presenter at the spectacular Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, CA. In addition to the opportunity to engage in great discussions about brain healthy living with the spa guests, I had the chance to get to know the spa’s talented chef, Curtis Cooke, and amazing nutritionist, May Tom. The week featured some brain healthy recipes they have given us permission to share with our readers. Just a little way you can bring Cal-a-Vie home to your own kitchen!

First up — a brain healthy salad that combines the antioxidants of crucifers with the omega-boost of walnuts. This delicious salad is a great lunch main course or side for dinner with a lean protein such as chicken or salmon. Enjoy!

Dr. Green

Cal-a-Vie Savoy Cabbage Salad with White Balsamic Vinagriette Dressing

March 29th, 2014
March 2014 | Total Brain Health Science Update

This month’s science update focuses on new findings on Alzheimer’s disease risk:

Why Women Should Worry About Their Brains First: Important New Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association

What: Recent findings from the Alzheimer’s Association show that women run an estimated 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease during their lifetime, a significantly increased risk compared to men (who run an 1 in 11 chance). The numbers, released as part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s “2014 Facts and Figures” show that women 60 and over are twice more likely to develop dementia than breast cancer, and that women also bear the brunt of the collateral costs of the disease, through caregiving and its associated economic and health-related tolls.

Why This Matters: While being female has always been a top risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s Disease, the real significance of the impact the disease has uniquely for woman is rarely considered.

The Takeaway: These findings underscore the reasons why women should start now to take good care of their brains. Following a better brain fitness plan such as our Total Brain Health® blueprint can help reduce risk for the disease. In addition, as the primary health advocates within their families, women can set good role models for brain healthy living for their spouses, children, relatives and friends.

 

More Coffee or Tea?  Caffeine May Protect Your Brain from Dementia

What: A recent review article in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging showed the potential long-term benefit of caffeine use in lowering dementia risk.  Researchers reviewed the existing data to consider the possible benefits of caffeine for reducing dementia risk, as well as the potential mechanisms by which caffeine may work to lower that risk. They found a strong association between regular use of coffee, tea, or other caffeine-containing foods and reduced dementia risk.

Why This Matters: Caffeine has been associated with improved everyday cognitive performance. However, its effect on long-term dementia risk remains unclear, as does the means by which it might reduce that risk. Since coffee, tea and other caffeinated products are popular in diets around the globe, more knowledge about potential positive benefits of caffeine vis-à-vis dementia risk would be an important to know. In addition the researchers question whether there may be differential effects based on one’s genetics or metabolism or caffeine, such that there might be a way to determine an optimal “dose” of caffeine for dementia risk reduction.

The Takeaway: It appears that caffeine, most specifically coffee, may have long-term benefits for our brains. While the current studies looking at these long-term effects are small, this review offers compelling reasons for further research. It also gives us a great excuse to have that extra cup!

February 27th, 2014
February 2014 | Science Update

This month’s science update continues our focus on healthy hearts and healthy minds by taking a look at some studies on the heart-brain connection:

Elevated Pulse Pressure and Alzheimer’s Risk: New Findings

What: A recent study found that folks with elevated pulse pressure had changes in levels of biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease compared to others with normal pulse pressure. The findings, published in JAMA Neurology, showed significant changes in levels of beta-amyloid and p-tau protein levels in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) of middle-aged, cognitively normal adults with higher pulse pressure. However, the finding did not hold for those subjects with pulse pressure in the older age group studied.

Why This Matters: Pulse pressure (systolic – diastolic blood pressure) has long been associated with increased risk for dementia. This study is one of the first to demonstrate a possible mechanism for why that is, as the changes in biomarkers may be a sign of cell damage early in the disease process. The fact that these changes were most prominent in the middle-aged folks in this sample underscores this fact.

The Takeaway: This study gives us yet another reason to control our blood pressure, and start familiarizing ourselves with our pulse pressure number (found by subtracting the lower or second number in your blood pressure from the higher or first number). If it is over 60, consider reducing sodium or taking folic acid (check the dose with your doctor, usually 5 mg a day), which has been shown to reduce blood pressure safely. You can also try getting more regular aerobic activity or mindfulness exercises.

Blood Pressure Medications May Increase Falls in the Elderly

What: A study of approximately 5,000 adults over age 70 with hypertension found that those treated with hypertensive medications were more likely to experience serious fall injuries.

Why This Matters: While effective management of hypertension is critical to reducing stroke and other vascular injuries to the brain, injury from falling can in itself increase risk for head, hip and other injuries that may lead to higher rates of morbidity and mortality.

The Takeaway: This new finding suggests that older adults using hypertensive medications should be more careful about their fall risk. Simple steps such as learning to stand slowly (from a lying position, sitting first prior to standing, for example) and practicing simple balance exercises can help.

January 29th, 2014
30 Days to Total Brain Health featuring TED | Day 29 | Elizabeth Loftus: The Fiction of Memory

While we often worry about losing our memory, we rarely concern ourselves with whether or not our memories are accurate. Yet compare your memory of a specific childhood event with a sibling or parent, or your recollection of trip details with your spouse, and you may be surprised at how differently two people may recall the same event.

Researcher Elizabeth Loftus has made significant contributions to our understanding of memory and has introduced to the field the concept of “false memory,” or our ability to convince ourselves of recollections that are, in fact, inaccurate. Its a fascinating topic with implications not only in the field of memory, but also in the legal field and beyond. Her TED presentation is a great one to really think about. Enjoy!