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.

September 30th, 2014
September 2014 | Science Update

Something Else to Feel Anxious About: Anti-Anxiety Meds May Increase Alzheimer’s Risk

What: A recent study out of Quebec found that individuals who reported using chronic use of benzodiazepines had a significantly increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The study, in a large sample of community dwelling persons over 65, showed that the strength of this association increased with longer use, suggesting the possibility of a direct link between use of this class of medications and dementia vulnerability.

Why It Matters: Benzodiazepines are commonly used for the treatment of anxiety and sleep disturbance. While previous studies have shown that they may increase risk for cognitive impairment and other factors such as falls in the elderly, this is the first study to show a strong link between the magnitude of exposure (the amount of drug and length of time that the medication was used) and AD risk.

The Takeaway: This study should serve as a wake-up call for professionals and consumers concerned with healthy aging. While medications for anxiety and sleep disturbance may be necessary in certain circumstances, their use should be limited and time-specific. When dealing with chronic anxiety or sleep issues, we should look to non-pharmacological interventions that have proven track records, such as behavioral therapy, meditation practice, movement therapies (yoga, for example) and aromatherapy.

 

Can Older Adults Use the Method of Loci?  Results From the ACTIVE Study | Andrea Schneider, Denison University, Summer 2014 Intern

What: People use many different strategies to remember not just important things, but also things for their everyday lives.  This recent study was conducted to test whether the method of Loci – a more complex memory strategy that enables people to use known locations in their lives, and pair aspects of those locations with to-be remembered items from a list – could improve the memory of adults over the age of 65.  Using the results from one of the largest studies to date testing the cognitive performance of older adults, the ACTIVE study, the researchers randomly divided over a thousand adults into four different training groups, teaching the method of loci in sessions over a six-week time frame.  The researchers followed up with the participants over a five-year time frame.  By the end of the study the researchers concluded that over 25% of the older adults used the method of loci with immediate memory improvement.

Why This Matters: This study is very important to the field of brain health because it indicates that the method of loci can be used to help older adults improve their recall.  It also is important because it shows that memory strategies not only can help us remember short-term things, but could help our cognitive function in the long-term.

The Takeaway:  While we all have our own strategies for remembering, sometimes branching out and using different ones can really change the way we remember.  The next time you are trying to remember if you got everything on your grocery list, try a new memory strategy!  It might help you in the long-term more than you think.

September 15th, 2014
Flavors of Fall: Autumn Activities that Engage Our Brains

Here on the east coast, school is back in session and it is already beginning to feel like fall. While it seems the summer flew by, there is something comforting about returning to days structured around the simple routine of work and home.

I love the way seasonal transitions offer us so many opportunities to engage our brains. The changes in season challenge us to slow down and use all our senses to notice the world around us. It is too easy in the busyness of our days to miss out on the simple reminders of the subtle shift from the languorous days summer to the crisp, cool days of fall or the damp, warm smell in the air as spring arrives. Autumn also offers its own unique ways to get brain-healthy, from the arrival of seasonal foods with brain-boosting nutrients, to using that “back-to-school” feeling we all get to become more disciplined about our own memory strategies.

Here are some great brain-fit ways we love to welcome fall – we hope you enjoy sharing them with your clients, family and using them to take care of your own brain as well.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie: Want a delicious, healthy drink that’s full of brain-healthy vitamins and the flavors of fall? Blend together 1 cup of almond, soy or cashew milk, 1 cup of cooked pumpkin (or ½ large cooked sweet potato or yam), 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, and a handful of ice cubes (more or less depending on how chilled you like your smoothies). Serve this smoothie as a snack at your fall programs, or pair it with other brain-healthy recipes for a fall activities program filled with brain-boosting treats.

Walk in the Woods. For many of us, one of the clearest signs that fall has arrived is the changing color of the leaves. Taking a walk in the woods, nearby park or even just around the neighborhood gives us a chance to appreciate the turning of time, marked by the array of colors of the foliage. Use this fall walk to focus on the changing season. Encourage clients and others to use all their senses to fully experience the smell in the air, the sensation of being outdoors, and the differences in the world around them.  In an area where the sun always shines? Use this exercise to help folks simply use all their senses to connect with the world around them, and notice any subtle changes that may come as the season changes.

Spicy Scents. Think of all those warm, spicy scents we associate with autumn – Cinnamon, apple, allspice, nutmeg, among others. Gather essential oils or other items filled with the scents of fall for folks to sample. Talk about the memories they evoke, or the feelings that arise as clients try the different scents. If time allows, try baking a few fall treats, such as pumpkin muffins, baked apples, or make applesauce.

School Your Desk. Remember how good it felt to have new things to start the school year? Even if it was just a few new pencils and notebooks, or all those new books, refreshing our supplies always seemed to add to the excitement and enthusiasm of starting a new year. Getting organized is a great way we can help ourselves be more effective at work and at home; After all, folks who are better organized get more done and forget less frequently. We can recapture some of that “back to school” sensation by taking the time to clean out and reorganize our desks or other work areas. Work with clients to identify what they need to do to get their desk area more organized and talk about steps to get it done. If the task is a big one, help them set up a Master Plan that breaks the job down into doable steps (see Step 4 in our Total Memory Workout for instructions on doing so).

 

August 21st, 2014
Summer 2014 | Science Update

The Summer 2014 Science Updates focus on cutting edge research reported at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, held this past July in Copenhagen.  The summaries below were written by our fantastic class of summer interns.

Multi-Modal Brain Training Benefits Patients At-Risk for Cognitive Impairment |  Sara Skutch, UNC-Chapel Hill 

What: The Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (known as the FINGER study) recently shared the results of a 2 year trial at this summer’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. A sample of 1260 cognitively at-risk participants, between the ages of 60-77, were randomized and assigned to a multidimensional intervention or left alone. Those who received an intervention were guided in terms of nutrition, exercise, cardiovascular health, and activities believed to benefit cognition and prevent degeneration. The battery of tests on memory, retrieval speeds, and general functioning showed significantly better performance in the group that received the intervention. 

Why It Matters: These results are the first to show that it is possible through intervention to change the course of cognitive decline in potential victims of dementia or impairment. The multidimensional approach showed that taking care of oneself across the mind/body spectrum produced the best cognitive results; isolating one area of cognitive functioning, like memory, does not have broader benefits. They are scheduling a 7-year follow-up and will publish those results

The Takeaway: There are proven benefits to early identification of at-risk patients because this study has shown that interventions can slow the onset of cognitive impairment or dementia. Taking care of your body, mind, and emotions all impact the health of your brain and are vital to its functioning.

 

Smell and Eye Tests Show Potential for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease | Andrea Schneider, Denison University

What:  Researchers have long theorized that the decline of our sense of smell and certain eye examinations could be potential biomarkers that could help with the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.  Several studies presented at this year’s AAIC conference found  that the loss of one’s ability to detect odor as well as the detection of beta-amyloid in the eye could both be indicators of Alzheimer’s.  As the disease begins to progress, it kills brain cells associated with our sense of smell, and tests that researchers used to detect the presence of beta-amyloid in the eyes of participants indicated that it could be a promising technique for the detection of Alzheimer’s.  These studies are key in some of the first steps in exploring less invasive and promising diagnostic tests for people with Alzheimer’s.

Why This Matters:  There have been promising developments in early detection tests for Alzheimer’s, which are further supported by these findings.  This is important to the field of brain health because it shows that there are increasing biomarkers to the detection of Alzheimer’s disease, which will help in the future to take steps to prevent the disease as early as possible.

The Takeaway:  As the promise of tests used for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease increases, so the chances that better treatments can be developed.

July 29th, 2014
Want Cutting Edge Brain Health Science? Try This Hot New Trend Now!

Watch out – a recently released study is certain to start a hot new trend in brain fitness. Your clients will clamor for it; you will spend hours trying to figure out how to fit it into the calendar, and may even start trying it yourself.

After all, brain health science is a field where all new findings – no matter how preliminary or even off-the-wall – seem worth checking out. Whether it be injecting the blood of those who are younger to reduce memory loss (which had positive results, albeit in a sample of laboratory mice) or following a new diet fad, we love to think we are living on the brain fitness edge. 

So what’s this latest study sure to kick off the newest brain fitness craze? A study out of the Netherlands tested the impact of a revolutionary intervention on dementia risk. The researchers found that after only 2 years, this cutting edge approach could significantly reduce the risk for dementia in individuals at risk for the disease. Remarkable, right? 

But wait, there’s more. You may not even have to do that much to take advantage of this new trend – in fact, there is much you already do and program for that supports it. Isn’t that great news?

So what exactly is this revolutionary approach? I’m sure you want to know what everyone seeking the latest ways to stay brain fit will be doing next. Here it is – that exercise, eating well, staying intellectually challenged and socially engaged, among other lifestyle changes, can significantly reduce our chances of developing serious memory loss as we age.  The Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability, or FINGER Study, testing a multi-modal intervention of lifestyle modifications and cognitive stimulation, found that subjects who participated in the training program had a significantly reduced risk for memory loss after two years.

That’s right. The hot new trend? Brain healthy living.

I’ll bet you’re not surprised to learn that promoting a brain healthy lifestyle is a proven way to improve memory and reduce dementia risk. Yet perhaps you are feeling a bit disappointed.

The truth is it’s a hard thing to “sell” the truth of brain health science – we are drawn to quick fixes, edgy solutions and the latest secret ingredient. Telling our clients to move more, eat smarter, and engage their brains more just doesn’t feel, well,  “trendy” enough. Changing the way we lead our lives – let alone convincing someone else to change theirs – is hard work, requiring time and commitment.

Perhaps the failure is ours. Why not promote what we know really works, rather than looking for a new technology to offer or exotic berry to try? As a thought leader in your community, you have the lead in insuring that your message on brain health reflects what really matters. You can  make sure that what trends on brain health is what the science shows can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those you serve. 

Here at Total Brain Health®, we believe strongly that this new trend is the right path to promoting better brain fitness. We know that the weight of the science consistently and wholly points in the direction of engaging body, mind and spirit for better memory and long-term brain wellness. Our favorite brain craze is not looking for off-the-wall findings, but taking the proven science and creating ways to teach it that are cutting edge. We seek ways to make your work easier through education, training and programming based on our Total Brain Health® Blueprint, an actionable plan that promotes the real science of brain fitness. Whether you share what you read in our newsletters, try tips from our blog, use our new Total Brain Health® Solutions toolkits for programming, or join us as a coach, we’d love your company in promoting this new trend.

So let’s make brain healthy living the latest, greatest thing to try.

 

June 28th, 2014
June 2014 | Science Update

This summer we are proud to feature Science Updates written by our awesome summer interns. June’s updates focus on recent findings about nutrition and long-term dementia risk.

Can Nuts Keep You Brain Healthy? Sara Skutch, UNC-Chapel Hill

What: Nuts are an invaluable food for brain health because they contain essential fatty acids and support cardiovascular health, which has been highly correlated with better brain function. Data was collected from 15,467 women, aged 70 or older, who completed 4 interviews on their average nut consumption and 4 cognitive assessments over six years. Women who reported being in the highest group of nut consumers (>3 servings/month) showed higher performance after age 70 on memory tests, had higher recall speeds, and did better on general cognition assessments. The cognitive scores of the highest group were about two years better than the lowest group when controlled for age. They also were more likely to have lower body mass indexes, have attained higher levels of education, and were much less likely to have a history of high blood pressure.

Why it Matters: This study was the first one to focus on nuts having a direct impact on cognitive function. The findings were very valuable because they showed that eating nuts more frequently is a simply way to sustain brain health as people age. Including more nuts in one’s diet is relatively easy intervention, something that many people can do.

The Takeaway: Including more nuts in your diet is an easy way to keep your brain healthy at any age. And the benefits are not limited to your brain; the findings also showed that people who ate more nuts had lower body mass and blood pressure. You can’t lose with nuts!

 

Do We Age out of Anti-Oxidants? Andrea Schneider, Denison University

What: This study was conducted in 2013 to test if there was a relationship between the amount of antioxidants in the diet of elderly adults and the chance of them having a stroke or getting dementia.  The researchers used a sample of about 5,400 participants, all 55 or older, either stroke-free, dementia-free, or both.  The participants had to complete a meal-based checklist at the beginning of the process in order to measure their antioxidant levels throughout the study.  Over the 14-year time frame there were three follow-up assessments, which indicated over 600 cases of stroke/dementia, leading them to conclude that there was no apparent connection between the levels of antioxidants in their diets and the participant’s risk for neurological disorders such as dementia or stroke.

Why This Matters:  Better nutrition and the diet of elderly people has been associated with the improvement of cognitive function. This study is significant because it shows a lack of support for one aspect of this idea: that total antioxidant levels in the diet of elderly people can improve their brain health.  Other studies referenced in the article highlighted that in other age ranges there were improvements in brain health as a result of antioxidants, but for this particular age range there showed little to no connection.

The Takeaway:  While this study shows that increasing the amount of antioxidants in one’s diet does not influence the risk for stroke or dementia in older adults, it is still beneficial to include a well rounded amount of foods rich in antioxidants in our diets, including berries, beans, and dark greens.