February 26th, 2015
February 2015 | TBH Science Update

As we usher out Heart Awareness Month, here are two recent findings that further underscore the close relationship between heart health and brain fitness:

Mild Heart Dysfunction and Dementia: Findings Suggest Closer Monitoring Warranted

WhatAn investigation out of Iceland looked at the relationship between the range of cardiac function and brain physiology in older adults. The study considered a subset of older subjects who were part of the AGES-Reykjavik Study on aging, and found a significant and graded association between cardiac dysfunction and lower brain volume. In addition, these changes were linked to poorer performance on cognitive tests of processing speed and executive function.

Why It Matters: While the association of advanced heart failure with brain dysfunction is well established, less is known about the impact of more mild changes in cardiac hemodynamics on cognitive status. This finding suggests that the relationship of cardiac function to cognitive health develops gradually over time, suggesting that intervening to maximize cardiac function in older adults may reduce their dementia risk.

The Takeaway: Older patients with mild changes in cardiac hemodynamics should be monitored for changes in their thinking. This study also suggests that physicians should perhaps be more vigilant and consider earlier treatment for patients with such cardiac changes, as doing so may provide protection from dementia risk.

 

Do Blood Pressure Medications Reduce Dementia Risk?

What: Chronic high blood pressure during midlife has been previously associated with vascular dementia. The growing use of anti-hypertensive medications such as calcium channel blockers has raised questions regarding that class of medications possible impact on reducing dementia risk, including for Alzheimer’s disease. A new review study published online this month looked at over 38 published studies to examine this issue. The study found that antihypertensive drugs may indeed be of use in preventing cognitive loss.

Why it Matters: High blood pressure, long been associated with increase risk for stroke and dementia, is increasingly available to better control by lifestyle modifications and medications. Knowing whether the medications used for hypertension control may also lower dementia risk would be a key finding to determining other possible benefits of successful high blood pressure management.

The Takeaway: If past studies hadn’t already convinced you, here is a large, confirmatory finding that effectively managing your blood pressure is not only good for your heart but may also protect your brain. While the researchers call for further longitudinal studies where cognitive decline is a primary outcome measure to gain more insight into the mechanisms of this benefit, this and other studies continue to make it clear that managing your blood pressure should be a “no-brainer.”

February 16th, 2015
February 2015 | The Brain’s Favorite Valentine: 3 Ways to Share the Love for the Heart-Brain Connection

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to once again take focus our thoughts on what is without doubt the brain’s favorite valentine, the heart.

Why does heart health matter so much to our intellectual wellness? The relationship between cardiovascular function and our brain health is well established. Numerous studies have shown over and again that the same factors known to impact cardiac health, such as physical activity, weight and stress, also play a significant role in determining dementia risk. The robustness of this relationship is strong and clear, and many of us know and teach that what is good for our heart is good for our brain as well.

What can we do to make sure everyone engages in the many health-boosting activities that benefit both heart and mind? Here are 3 heart — and brain! — warming activities across the Body|Mind|Spirit pillars of our TBH Blueprint you can use to share the love:

“Move to Your Heart’s Desire” Party. Physical activity is without a doubt one of the very best things we can do for both our hearts and our brains. Regular physical activity has been associated with sharper thinking and lowered risk for serious memory disorders, as well as better brain physiology, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and combatting emotional distress.

Why not give everyone a fun way to get their hearts and minds pumping this month with a fun and different improvised movement class? Have folks stand in a large circle. Begin by creating a large body movement (i.e., pumping your fists above your head in a victory move, swinging your arms in a large circle, swishing your hips back and forth, a pantomimed golf swing, cha-cha stepping into the circle and back, etc.) that you couple with a nonsense sound (i.e., “boom-boom,” “whish,” “cha-cha-cha”). Moving clockwise, have the person next to you repeat your moves and sounds, and then add their own. Keep moving around the circle, with each person repeating the moves and sounds of the classmate right before them and then adding their own. As the class becomes more comfortable with the activity, have everyone go a bit faster. Be sure to bring along some music to move along with to really keep the “party” going. Need to keep it simple? Have everyone in the group simply repeat the movement and sound that each class member comes up with, one at a time.

Act on Those Passions. Numerous studies have shown that staying intellectually engaged can reduce our dementia risk, in some cases by as much as 63%. Often changes in role such as retirement, relocation or health challenges can limit the degree to which we find ourselves exercising our minds. Have folks talk about something they are passionate about – it might be politics, cooking, childrearing advice or even the common area décor! Next, have them formulate some ideas on what they can do to engage more fully with their passions. It might be organizing a speaker, teaching a class themselves, writing an article, or even shooting a short video.  Finally, have them write out at least three steps they will take to fulfill their “Passion Plan.”

Pen a Heartfelt Wish. Nothing warms our hearts more that sharing our love or support with others.  But did you know that giving back or having a sense of purpose, not to mention being social, have all been linked to a reduced risk for memory loss? Here’s an activity that spreads the love in a social and community-building way. Have your group write anonymous “I wish for you” letters to share with others. These letters should be very general in tone, and include a kind or heartfelt positive wish or statement of support, such as “I wish for you a day filled with smiles” or “Here’s wishing you many simple pleasures today.” Address the envelopes to “The Person Who Finds This.” After everyone is done, go ahead and have the class hide the letters around the community for folks to find by chance. For more ideas similar to this, visit www.moreloveletters.com, which inspired this activity.

January 30th, 2015
Science Update | January 2015

Don’t Blame Mom! Twin Study Shows Exercise Reduces Dementia Risk Over Genetics

What: Finnish investigators reported this month in The Annals of Medicine that physical activity was associated with a significant reduction in dementia risk in a large group (21,791 subjects) of twins followed over a 29-year period. Using data from the older Finnish Twin Cohort, the researchers divided the subjects into categories based on their reported level of physical activity over time. They found that the twins who engaged regularly in vigorous exercise were half as likely to develop dementia as their less active twin.

Why It Matters: This study underscores once again the tremendous impact regular physical exercise may have on one’s risk for developing dementia. Twin studies provide one of the best ways to “control” for the influence of genetics on our risk for various diseases. These findings, from a very largest robust database following twins, strongly suggest that how we live matters very much to our dementia risk.

The Takeaway: Go for a walk, take a dance class, or swim. Do anything that gets your pulse pumping, and do it regularly and for many, many years. What you choose to do can really make a difference to your dementia risk. And spread the word – exercise really may be the best medicine!

 

Warning Label: Benzodiazepine Prescribing Increases With Age, Despite Known Risks

What: A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry  looking at patterns of prescribing for benzodiazepines in the U.S. found that this class of medications is increasingly prescribed with age, with a whopping three-fold increase in prescriptions from ages ages 18-35 years (2.6%) to folks ages 65-80 years (8.7%). Moreover, long-term use (defined as prescribed 120+ days) doubled with age, ranging from 14.7% in the youngest subset to 31.4% in ages 65-80 years. The study, using data from the 2008 LifeLink LRx Prescription database (IMS Health Inc.), confirmed the dangerous yet growing trend to prescribe long-term use of benzodiazepines for older adults.

Why This Matters: Doctors continue to overprescribe benzodiazepines for older adults, despite repeated warnings from experts against their use in this population. Prescribed primarily for anxiety and sleep disorders, benzodiazepines are known to significantly increase risk of confusion, falls, and impaired judgment (i.e., increased vehicular accident risks). The American Geriatric Society Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Use of Medications in Older Adults carries a warning level of “strong” against their use in this population. In addition, a study published in BMJ in September reported an associated increase in dementia risk in adults using benzodiazepines, with a noted increased associated risk tied to the length of time subjects were prescribed the medication, suggesting that exposure is linked to magnified risk for dementia.

The Takeaway: Any older adult – or any adult for that matter – should think twice or even three times before taking a benzodiazepine. There are proven alternative and effective treatments for sleep disturbance and anxiety without these associated risks, such as behavioral interventions and other classes of medication.  As a care professional, you can help educate your clients and their families regarding the risks of benzodiazepines and other medications for older adults.

 

January 15th, 2015
What is Your “Dawn Wall?” | Meeting Great Expectations in the Year Ahead

To the casual observer, the goal itself might seem mundane or even pointless. After all, the summit of El Capitan’s 3,000 foot Dawn Wall has been climbed and conquered countless times since 1958. In fact, it’s a simple hike to the top. Why the fuss?

One key thing – Just one simple shift. No assist. The climbers would “free climb,” using only their own bodies to make the ascent, no ropes or other equipment (other than to break a fall). And that one critical difference flipped the climb from just another climb to one of the most challenging ascents in the world. Completed yesterday, after 19 days on the sheer rock face, by a team of men who had meticulously planned this ascent for over a decade.

Each year, we set out to achieve something – it might be new, it might be a repeat of something that worked “just fine” previously. It might even be something that seems pointless. Yet how amazing would it be if we could make up our minds to just tweak one thing – one element – that changes everything. And makes our goals newly challenging, energizing, and shifts us into expecting incredible things of ourselves?

This month, many of us look at the calendar ahead and plan – For new initiatives, sales goals, marketing campaigns or program planning. As we go about these tasks, we can learn a lot about shifting into higher expectations from climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who did something many thought impossible, and achieved spectacular greatness – on a rock wall climbed by a multitude, but never before as they did it.

In an interview after reaching the top of the Dawn Wall, Jorgeson said the following about their climb: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.” (New York Times 1/15/15)

So what is your Dawn Wall? How can we take the lessons of the Dawn Wall free climb and make it work for us, to shift our thinking and lead us to greater expectations, even if we may see the tasks we face are common and everyday?

Here are four lessons I have taken from the Dawn Wall climbers:

Seek the Extraordinary in the Ordinary. The Dawn Wall of El Capitan is a very well-known climbing spot, easy to access and popular. It was only Tommy Caldwell’s dream of “free climbing” the wall that completely turned the quest from the ordinary to the extraordinary. While we may be earthbound, we have the same choice to make each day. Do we see a task as simply something ordinary? Are we just going to repeat the same program, give the pat marketing pitch, deal with that difficult client in the same way? Or will we shift?  And in that shift of our perceptions, attitudes and expectations, will we perhaps start to seek the extraordinary in the day-to-day, and achieve even more?

Plan with Patience. It took the Dawn Wall climbers 19 days to make their ascent. Yet the climb took over a decade to plan. On the climb itself, Jorgeson needed 7 days and 10 attempts to move across just one horizontal “pitch” (move). Achieving our own Dawn Wall requires similar planning and patience. We are programmed for immediate rewards, and often deal with clients or colleagues with similar expectations. Yet achieving extraordinary things requires us to sit back. Think through. Patiently plan. It even may mean we have to stop along the way and take a bit longer than we would like to get to the next step.

Teamwork Matters. While Caldwell had been dreaming of free climbing the Dawn Wall for over a decade, it was not until Jorgeson joined him in 2009 and they became a team that the plan truly moved forward. Having a partner can be exactly what you need to shift the ordinary to something truly different. The energy that comes from brainstorming ideas, differing points of view and other perspectives can be that critical component in making your goals something more amazing.

Stoke the Passion. The Dawn Wall climbers never gave up. They had a dream, a quest and they kept after it, and it kept them going against all odds. What is your passion? Why do you do this work? And what do you do to keep it fresh, to love what you do, so that you want to get up each and every day and rush to climb your own Dawn Wall?

Here’s to achieving our own Dawn Walls and all the extraordinary things as we plan for 2015.

December 25th, 2014
Through the Seasons Program Featured in JAA Article on Making the Most of Unstructured Time in Memory Care

How can we make the most of unstructured time when working with or caring for someone with memory loss? The current issue of the Journal of Active Aging addresses just that common concern. We are very pleased to have our Through the Seasons program featured in the article, alongside the Best Friends and the Keep in Mind programs.

Through the Seasons is a multi-modal approach that emphasizes activities-based engagement for cognitive stimulation and communication. The book, Through the Seasons: An Activity Book for Memory-Challenged Adults and Caregivers (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) can be found here.

For more information about our Through the Seasons Program, contact our offices at info@totalbrainhealth.com.

December 21st, 2014
For Our Colleagues | Thinking Gratefully, With You In Mind

Dear Colleagues:

This article is just for you.

As professional caregivers, you know better than anyone else about the burden of stress the job entails on a regular basis. Speaking recently with a colleague of several years, we found ourselves once again bemoaning the sense everyone seems to share of “more work, fewer people, fewer resources.” However, the winter holidays really seem to magnify that weight. And for that reason, we just want to hit pause and share – from the bottom of our hearts, with simple, full sincerity – how much we admire and appreciate you and all that you do.

At this time of year more than ever, chaos rules. There is the ongoing variety of holiday activities, end of the year deadlines, juggling of vacation schedules and just worrying that everyone in your community is feeling cared for during a season where celebration can be tinged by loneliness and isolation, especially for the older adult. On top of that, we layer our personal frenzies of holiday shopping, planning, cooking, obligatory party appearances and travel.

So this one is just for you. We are thinking about you and about all you do to care for others, and hope that in the midst of the whirling, pressing activity of this season, you spend even just a few moments to take care of yourself.

Knowing that all you have may indeed only have a few moments, we’d like to share some ways we can all pause when things feel really overwhelming and stress starts to rule. It’s a small gift in return, offered with the deepest of thanks from us to you.

Take a Moment. When things get crazy, it can be hard to take a bit of time for yourself. But let’s remind ourselves of the very advice we give to families and other caregivers – if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. A TBH coach who attended this year’s ICAA Conference mentioned that one of the very best things she got out of the meeting was Dr. Jamie Huysman’s counsel to professional caregivers to “take your own oxygen first.” What great advice! Whatever your “oxygen” ¬– a cup of herbal tea, a brisk walk around the community, practicing a bit of yoga – make sure to take it.

Take a Breath. Have you ever noticed that when you’re really stressed you tend to hold your breath or breathe in a shallow, rapid manner? This is our body’s natural reaction to stress, but it is no way to “be” on a regular basis. Try this remedy: Set an alarm to ring at the same time each day. At that moment, check in with your breath – is your breathing superficial or fast, or are you holding your breath? Now that you’ve brought awareness to your breath, change it. Take a few deep, regular breaths. Note the difference not only in how you are breathing, but also in how you feel.

Take It In. Each day, take a moment to stop and be mindful of all around you. Put aside the worry of what is not yet done or the need to rush on to the next thing. Just stop and look around you. Drink in that moment – the sound of laughter coming from the two ladies walking together down the hall to your left, the sight of a colleague bent over offering a reassuring hug to the chair-bound resident, the warmth of the sunlight you feel as you sit at your desk – all of it. Using all our senses to attend fully to the world around us is a wonderful way to step out for a moment and realize a bit of gratitude for ourselves and for those around us.

May this holiday season and the coming year bring you and those you care for many moments filled with gratitude, joy and love. We look forward to sharing it with you.

November 14th, 2014
Give the Gift of Better Brain Fitness! Our 2014 Brain Healthy Gift Guide

Snow is falling in the midwest, colder air is moving in and Thanksgiving is just weeks away … it must be time for our annual Total Brain Health® “Brain Healthy Gift Guide!”

We know that finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list can be difficult, so we’ve put together our 2014 Brain Healthy Gift Guide to keep your holidays stress-free. At Memory Arts we are always on the look out for cool and fun ways keep you, your family and friends brain healthy, and what better way to celebrate the season than with a gift to boost the brainpower of those on your list? From your boss to your spouse, mom or mom-in-law, kids, grandkids and all those folks in between, each can use a way to maximize their intellectual potential.

We had such a great time putting together our Total Brain Health® Brain Healthy Gift Guide and know these items are sure to tickle the neurons of those on your list.

Here’s this year’s top 10 list for brain healthy gifts, plus a few extras for good measure. We’ve covered the full range of Body|Mind|Spirit activities that are part of our Total Brain Health® blueprint, with ways of engaging that have been shown to improve everyday performance and long term brain vitality. There’s something for everyone and every price point – even some suggestions that are free! Each suggestion is linked to make your shopping even easier.

Here’s to a holiday season full of many wonderful memories!

 

THE TOTAL BRAIN HEALTH® 2014 BRAIN HEALTHY GIFT GUIDE

You Can Banc On It. What better gift could you give someone than peace of mind? Keeping the details of our day-to-day lives in order can become difficult as we age, but the MemoryBanc Register organizes and records all of the important personal, financial, medical, online and household details and documents so that you can easily access them as needed or pass them on to your loved ones. Additionally, the beautiful leather-like binder can be personalized, making the gift even more special. For the holidays, Kay Bransford, the creator of the MemoryBanc Register, has graciously offered a 10% discount to TBH subscribers. Enter the code GREEN at checkout.

 

Puzzle Them. The sign of a great game is when everyone, from kids to adults, waits anxiously for his or her turn to play. Katamino is a multi award-winning game that challenges and develops spatial, visual and observational skills, which are all important in keeping us brain healthy. Start at the lowest level, with only four pieces, and once you’ve mastered that, increase the level of difficulty by adding blocks and increasing the size of the playing space. The deluxe version, with it’s beautiful neutral wood pieces, is pictured, but there’s also a colorful version for kids and another that’s great for travel. It will keep everyone engaged for hours.

 

Give Them The Gift of Relaxation. How many times have you said to yourself, “If I could just close my eyes for a few minutes, I’d feel so much better?” Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes of down time to feel completely rejuvenated. Studies have shown that during a nap or other resting states such as wake relaxation, our brains are active but in a different and special way, doing some mental housekeeping, organizing, and processing of information. The Savasana Eye Pillow, from our friends at Priti Collection, is filled with aromatic lavender and flax seed oil. It’s designed to relax the eyes and surrounding forehead muscles and is a wonderful tool for recharging. Again, the wonderful people at Priti have offered a 15% discount to TBH subscribers for the holidays. Just enter the code TOTALBRAINHEALTH15 at checkout!

 

A Recipe For Health. If you’ve received our Gift Guides in the past, you’ll know that we’re in love with chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. The newest, Plenty More,“ is filled with over 150 amazing vegetarian dishes inspired by his Mediterranean background. Recent studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet can be linked to better cognitive function, lower decline in brain activity, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s diseaseWhile these dishes will surely dazzle friends and family, they’re also brain and heart healthy.

 

Desktop Nirvana. Did you know that meditation may be one of the best things you can do for your brain? It can help us manage pain, stress and emotional distress, all of which can detract from daily memory performance. Some studies suggest that it may even offer a way to target different centers of the brain to maintain function. While it would be wonderful to sneak away to a relaxing zen garden for some time dedicated to mindful meditation, most of us, with our busy lives, can’t afford that luxury. Inspired by the famous rock garden at Ryoan-ji in Kyoto, Japan, the Zen Garden by Toysmith will transform an ordinary office in to a tranquil, magical space. We love the peaceful simplicity of the Deluxe version, but if you’d like to add a few pagodas to your garden, there’s a Mini version that includes three! Breath deeply and let all of that holiday season stress go!

 

Give The Gift Of Balance. Hands down, Suspend is the favorite game at our house right now! STEADY hands are required as you work to balance individual game rods on a steel frame while trying to prevent the entire structure from collapsing. This is a really entertaining game for 1 – 4 players and a great way to work on hand-eye coordination and cognitive skills.

 

 

Do They Doodle?  Studies suggest that doodling may help us maintain focus and remember more effectively. These notebooks from Denik have been featured in the New York Times and on MTV, the Huffington Post and Good Morning America, among others, and are the perfect place to express your creativity. All covers are designed by global artists, and a portion of each sale goes to building schools worldwide. Choose from over 45 designs, or if you can’t decide, go for the Epic Bundle of 10! Gift giving with a conscience!

 

AAAAHsana.  Renowned yoga instructor Jillian Pransky’s new DVD is titled “Calm Body, Clear Mind,” and that’s exactly what you’ll be giving with this gift. Mind, body and spirit are all satisfied by yoga: it builds sustained mental focus, strengthens our bodies and increases our stamina, and is a wonderful resource for maintaining emotional balance. No wonder we’re fans!

 

 

 

A Daily Dose Of Art. The originals may be a bit expensive, but you can still give your friends and family a piece of fine art every day.  This free app delivers one classic masterpiece and the story behind to their smartphone or iPad every day, and there’s also a Pro version for $4.99, with added features like creating a personal gallery and searching for artists or works of art.  Such an inspiring way to start the day!

 

The Gift of a Great Book.  “Still Alice” is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman’s sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer’s disease, written by first-time author Lisa Genova, who holds a Ph. D in neuroscience from Harvard University. Genova tackles a difficult subject, but does so in a very gentle and caring way. Written with compassion and realism, the book gives the reader a sense of what it must be like to live with Alzheimer’s disease. Mark Warner of Alzheimer’s Daily News describes “Still Alice” as “the best portrayal of the Alzheimer’s journey that I have read.”  The book – which we can’t recommend highly enough – has also been made in to a motion picture starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Alec Baldwin, to be released in January 2015.

 

Yes, It’s A Top 10 List, But We’ve Got A Few More Great Ideas!

Give In Their Honor. The holidays are a wonderful time to give to charity. Why not make a donation in a recipient’s name to those who are in need? Among our top choices are the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which funds early stage research in Alzheimer’s treatments.

Finally, A Brain Fitness Gift That Keeps On Giving. Why not give them the chance to keep on top of their brain fitness? Sign them up for our Total Brain Health® Newsletter! They’ll get a great resource full of science updates, tips for getting brain healthy, and other information four times a year – and it’s free!

Happy shopping!

 

October 29th, 2014
October 2014 | Science Update

Show Me the Science: Leading Researchers Question Real Value of “Brain Games”

What: A large number of leading researchers in the field of brain science released a joint consensus statement on the limited value of brain fitness software as demonstrated by the current state of the science. The statement, spearheaded by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, formalizes concerns raised consistently over the years within the brain health community (including by Total Brain Health) regarding the scientific validity of the claims made on behalf of the commercially available digital brain games.

Why It Matters: The digital brain fitness industry has grown by leaps and bounds, with future market share estimated to reach $6 billion US by 2020 (Sharp Brains, 2013). However, the booming space of “brain games” has been driven primarily by perceived consumer demand and resulting capital investment, rather than by the science. Studies to date on the benefits of brain gaming have been small, experimental, and have not demonstrated any real or meaningful impact on long-term dementia risk. While such exercise programs may have benefit for the maintenance of everyday intellectual skills, the science is still young and the popularity and commercialization of the training programs has far outstripped the available evidence.

The Takeaway: When leading researchers come together like this and offer up a big “whoa,” it’s a good idea to listen. While you don’t need to cancel that subscription or delete the app for your favorite brain game, understand that it may be more fun than science. Finally, perhaps this is a good time to remind you what we’ve been saying for years – the science shows us there are many steps we need to take to stay sharp and lower our risk for memory loss, so why not start focusing on those instead (see the Total Brain Health® blueprint if you need a guide)?

 

Can I Dip That In Chocolate? Pilot Study Suggests Chocolate May Benefit Brain Health

What: Researchers at Columbia University recently reported that subjects ages 50-69 years who drank a beverage high in cocoa flavanols performed on average 25% better on tests of memory than those in a low-flavanol beverage comparison group. In addition, participants in the high-flavanol group showed increased activity in the dentate gyrus, an area of the brain associated with pattern learning and memory.

Why This Matters: This study has received an amazing amount of attention, probably in no small part due to the fact that it involves a beloved indulgence – who doesn’t want an excuse to eat more chocolate? While the study does demonstrate a potential link between cocoa flavanols, a known anti-oxidant, and cognitive function,  there are several caveats to bear in mind, not the least of which is that the study had only 37 participants. In addition, the beverage used contained a much higher concentration of the brain-boosting material than what is found in commercial chocolate. Finally, the study was funded in part by Mars, a leading candy maker.

The Takeaway: Cocoa is a berry, and a natural source of anti-oxidants, which as a group have been previously associated with successful aging in several studies. While this study shows an interesting possible pathway for the nutritional benefits of cocoa, it is not enough to justify raiding your child’s Halloween candy stash and making off with all the chocolate (sorry). You’d not only have to eat a lot of it – a whole lot – but it would also have to be unsweetened and probably unprocessed cocoa. Stay tuned, however, as we have heard that the Columbia University researchers plan to see if these findings can be replicated in a larger sample. And we promise to cover it! Volunteers, anyone?

October 28th, 2014
Dr. Green Featured in Woman’s World Magazine

On newsstands now! Check out this month’s Woman’s World Magazine, which features Dr. Green’s tips for “Getting a Younger Brain in 24 Hours.” Morning, noon and night, there’s always something you can do to boost your brainpower!

(Click on the image for a larger version of the article.)

October 20th, 2014
Falling into Order: 3 Simple Ways to Bring Organization to that Next Level

As the autumn days turn crisper, bringing “sweater weather” and an earlier end to the daylight, it seems natural to turn our focus closer to home. While we traditionally think of spring as a time for getting our house in order, fall brings its own natural pull to cleaning up the clutter left by the carefree days of summer and create a more orderly, inviting environment in which to spend the winter months.

Chances are you and many of your clients are already very familiar with basic organizational tools such as appointment books, calendars, “to do” lists and the like. Yet what about those “higher level” organizational tasks? Ways to unclutter not only our environment, but also the way we work or track critical information (the kind that sometimes we don’t think about organizing until its too late)? This fall, I suggest we use that great autumn energy to focus on ways to foster that “higher level” of organization in ways certain to benefit our sharpness and long-term brain health.

While we may not think of getting organized as “brain healthy,” there is no doubt that bringing routine to our daily lives benefits our cognitive function. Folks who are well-organized remember better because they have effectively mastered the use of simple memory strategies that help them keep track of things like appointments, information or just their keys or reading glasses. Why? First, being organized allows us to function more smoothly by making it easier for us to keep track of our everyday “what, when, and where.” In addition, being organized increases our sense of control and efficacy, reducing the chances that instead of routine we will routinely just feel “stressed out.” Since chronic stress has been linked to increased memory loss and dementia risk, as well as emotional disorders, we can also think of begin organized as having long-term benefits to our brain’s health as well.

Here are three ideas to get “next level” organization going for both your clients and for yourself. We’ve deliberately limited them to some simple steps we can all take immediately to get going – no excuses!

“Download” Critical Data. If something happened to you or your clients, would a family member or work colleague know how to access health information? Important accounts? Manage a website or social media?  Critical information is often something we delay or don’t even think about organizing. Help your clients start organizing critical information with a Locator Log: Using an address book, have them write the name of the item in the correct alphabetical section (for example, “will” under “w”), and note the location under the address (“safety deposit box at United Bank”). Or — better yet — check out Memory Banc, a workbook specifically designed to organize our critical information. Developed by Kay Bransford in response to her own experience in managing her parents’ affairs after they both experienced memory decline, this comprehensive guide will insure your clients (or you yourself) cover all the essentials in organizing that essential data.

Tackle a Big Task. Often it is the “big jobs” – Moving, repainting our apartment, starting a new project – that stop us in our organizational tracks. The easiest way to help clients take on those big jobs? Work with them to create a “Master Plan,” which breaks up the larger task into small, concrete and manageable ones. In fact, I recently came across a quote attributed to Mark Twain that describes exactly what we need to do to create a “Master Plan”: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and starting with the first one.” No one could say it better than that.

10 in 10.  Are your clients always asking you to help them figure out how to get rid of “stuff?” Does the clutter around your own office or home drive you to distraction? Often organizing our things can seem overwhelming and as a result we put off doing anything about it.  Yet de-cluttering has big brain health payoff. Not only is it easier to find everything we need, but re-organizing challenges us to problem solve and be more flexible in how we keep track of our things.  Here’s a quick way to start de-cluttering: Try 10 in 10. Have clients commit to spending just 10 minutes a day for 10 days de-cluttering. Those tasks can be at home or work, big or small. Just 10 minutes. For 10 days. Want to up the brain health challenge? Have them put everything back in a different place (for example, change shelves for toiletries) to break up the organizational routine.

Want more great organizational tips to work with this fall? Our Total Memory Workout plan has a whole chapter devoted only to organizational strategies and tips.