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Introduction ........................................1 1 The Importance of Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) 17 2 How Your Brain Works 31 3 Adopting a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y Brain Lifestyle 51 4 The Five Critical Areas of Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) 61 5 Critical Area 1: Socialization 77 6 Critical Area 2: Physical Activity 91 7 Critical Area 3: Mental Stimulation 105 8 Critical Area 4: Spirituality 125 9 Critical Area 5: Nutrition 141 10 Pioneering a Bold Future for Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) 187
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Every author can only hope that the content of his or her work will generate enough interest to connect with people. I have been fortunate enough to work directly with the public for more than a decade and witness the deep personal connection that brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) can make. My work across the United States has taught me several lessons, including the need to make sure my message is personal and is felt on a personal level by the audience. Second, people are genuinely interested in learning about their brains, and for most, our interaction is an introduction into the miracle of their brain. Third, people are willing to change behavior to promote their health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), but that change does not occur unless informed by the why and the how behind the change. Fourth, millions of baby boomers are now caregivers for parents who have dementia, and these caregivers do not want to suffer the same misfortune; they want to preserve access to their life stories. Finally, due to current public interest in health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care, there is recognition that a proactive lifestyle toward health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is important, particularly for the brain. Together, these lessons have motivated me to write this book—to connect more with people about the most personal of all stories, their brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of their loved ones.
As a clinical neuropsychologist, I have cared for hundreds, and probably thousands, of patients who suffer from diseases and conditions of the brain ranging from depression, mania, schizophrenia, and substance abuse to dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, tumors, epilepsy, and head injury. These and other afﬂictions of the brain provide a real picture of the signiﬁcant loss that can occur when the brain is damaged. There is a realization that the brilliance of the brain is, at the same time, fragile. It is from the loss of brain capability that a deeper appreciation of the brilliance and gift that is the brain emerges. It can also be the motivation to learn more about your brain and to begin the lifelong work toward brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak to thousands of people from diverse sectors of society all across the United States and beyond about the human brain. My work and my message is to provide information on the basics of the human brain, how the brain operates and can be shaped by environment, and how my brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle can be a guide to follow to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). As you read along, you will ﬁ nd that this book is written in a personal, informative, and fun manner so that everyone can beneﬁt by learning more about their brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
From feedback I have received on presentations delivered to small groups in basements of buildings and audiences of more than ﬁve thousand people, I have learned that the public is very interested and enthusiastic about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). The message has found its way to the United Nations, the National Press Club, major media outlets, newspapers and magazines, the Internet, and new business start-ups and into the hallways of education, health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care, corporate America, libraries, health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) insurance, and retail. I’ve spent many hours speaking to reporters and audiences about the miracle of the human brain, and I’ve written several books on the topic. A lot of what drives this mission is my ﬁrm belief that it is critical to take what we learn in the lab and from research and communicate it and apply it to the general public, which is why I approach brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) from the perspective of lifestyle.
As the brain is the center of our identity, it is easy to understand why people are so interested. Most people enjoy learning about themselves and will work to improve their health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) if they are told how. This book is a major step toward taking my message of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) to a larger audience and instilling in them the idea that there is a miracle sitting within our heads that enables our every thought, emotion, and behavior.
We know more now about the human brain than at any other time in our history. We will continue to learn, and we certainly have much to learn. However, it is now abundantly clear that many stimuli in our everyday environment can shape both the structure and function of our brain. We now believe the human brain is directly affected by the types of environments we are exposed to on a daily basis. For some individuals, an enriched environment can literally promote the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of the brain, while others may cope with more traumatic stimuli, such as war. Regardless, it is critical that we all understand that our brains will be shaped by the type of environmental input, or stimuli, that we encounter on a daily basis.
I was less than twenty years of age when I began working as an activity assistant in a local nursing home. The home was new and had a specialized wing for persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This was quite progressive in 1983. It was also my ﬁrst “real job” for which I got a paycheck. My role was to work speciﬁcally on the Alzheimer’s unit and to construct a research project that focused on an activity program with the persons living on the unit. We were able to show that Alzheimer’s patients who remain involved in social programming can evince a decline in depression over a period of time. The study was presented at a national conference and published. My memory of the time I spent on the Alzheimer’s unit, however, was much more personal and meaningful with regard to my early impressions of how the brain functions.
There was a gentleman living on the unit who became agitated at times, and he would try to “elope” off the unit. In fact, on occasion he would be found in the parking lot walking away from the building. Obviously, this was a major safety concern, and staff needed to be vigilant to this man and his behavior. I was asked to try and modify the “elopement,” a clinical term we use in the ﬁeld to describe someone who tries to get away from their unit. The person may or may not have a logical reason to leave the unit or building. Regardless, it is a serious concern due to the obvious safety risks for someone who is confused traveling in an unsupervised manner.
My ﬁrst thought and feeling about this challenge was fear. I probably was afraid that the man would not cooperate with me and that I would fail. During one episode when he was walking away from the building, I approached him and asked him where he was going. He replied that he was going to his farm to tend to his crops. It turns out he was a farmer by trade, and his memory loss placed him back at this stage of his life. He had an accurate memory, but the context for that memory was no longer valid, and in fact, he had not worked in more than thirty years. I listened to him, and although he was agitated, I suggested to him that his farm was the other way, pointing toward the back of the building where his room was, and that I was happy to walk with him to the farm. He seemed to be pleased with my suggestion, and we walked safely back to the unit where he lived. I made sure we started a garden on the patio, and this gentleman was now in charge of growing tomatoes and other vegetables for residents living in the home. Of course, this experience was signiﬁcant to me and taught me a great deal about Alzheimer’s, memories, passions, and how to modify agitation by redirecting the agitated energy into purposeful pursuits.
On the same unit lived a friendly older female who suffered from Alzheimer’s and was often sitting with others engaged in some activity. I noticed she would occasionally sit on her own, and at times she was tearful. I noticed this behavior tended to occur around dinnertime, a period of the day when some persons with Alzheimer’s can demonstrate increased agitation. This behavior is often referred to as “sundowning.” We do not know why this occurs, and we struggle to change the behavior when it does occur.
I sat next to the woman and asked her why she was crying. She explained to me that she was upset that she could not get home to cook for her children, that they were going hungry. Once again, a memory that was accurate was simply out of context. This woman did cook for her children for many years. The problem was that she had not cooked for her children for many years, as they were all grown and independent. Alzheimer’s placed this woman into a time frame that was no longer real. Her emotions were real, and she felt very sad. I asked her to go with me to the kitchen area, where she helped me make some drinks to serve to the other persons living on the unit. This seemed to make her feel better and to grant her the role of traditional mom that she missed so dearly.
Several years later, I accepted a position as director of an aging and research center, where we conducted applied research and programming for nearly a thousand older adults living in a continuum of care. There was a large population of persons who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I recall a husband walking into my ofﬁce one day and breaking down in tears as he described his desperate efforts to connect with his wife, whom he loved. His emotional plea to me to bring her back continues to resonate with me today. I felt helpless as I tried to comfort this good man.
These are typical stories that are too real and very moving. This is what Alzheimer’s is; in the real world, it is not the academic and clinical deﬁnition of plaques and tangles. Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases steal our soul, our spirit, and our identity. Neurodegenerative diseases attack our life story, the most precious gift we have. Anyone who works on the front line with persons suffering from Alzheimer’s knows these experiences and stories well. These experiences showcase the devastation that Alzheimer’s can cause to a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain and the emotional discord that relates to memories that are out of context and no longer attached to real time. Families are emotionally drained as they struggle with observing or caring for their loved one who is no longer connected to real time because memory is impaired, and memory requires some sense of the past and the present. Having these experiences with Alzheimer’s patients also permitted me the opportunity to connect with them even though their brains were compromised and confused. The brain is brilliant enough to provide pathways of connection that enable emotional stability and calming. The brain will offer clues about the emotion and about the desire of the person. The human brain never stops its ability to be brilliant, even in the midst of a progressive degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s.
A more personal experience that hits closer to home is my relationship with my brother Robby. Robby is now ﬁ fty-three and was diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder when he was an infant. The doctors never were able to determine the cause for his disability, and some advised my parents to place him in an institution, advice my parents fortunately rejected. Robby suffers mental retardation, seizure disorder, and other neuropsychiatric illnesses. He lived at home for the ﬁ rst thirty-ﬁve years of his life, attended a school, but otherwise was dependent for basic activities of daily life. He then moved to a community living arrangement, where he continues to live and thrive today. As Robby is seven years older than me, I learned a tremendous amount about behavior and brain function growing up with him well before my academic training in neuropsychology. I recall trying to understand why Robby would get upset, and I also recall feeling bad when others made of him. These experiences guaranteed I would never make fun of anyone who was different or had difﬁ culty.
Anyone who works with people with mental retardation understands quickly how important the frontal lobe is to brain function. As the chief executive ofﬁcer of the entire brain, the frontal lobe organizes, choreographs, and initiates behavior in beautiful harmony. It also ﬁlters emotions, such as passion, rage, anger, and driven states, so behavior is expressed appropriately. When functioning in a normal way, the frontal lobe permits a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y balance of mood and behavior. When disturbed, the frontal lobe expresses a variety of emotions that can range from mania to depression to an inability to control rage or temper. Some persons with mental retardation can display the disturbed version of frontal lobe function, and it is generally up to the caregiver to try and modify the behavior through routine and calm reassurance. All of us like routine.
My early observations of Robby and the many residents with Alzheimer’s disease taught me a tremendous amount about human behavior, brain disease, and the importance of bringing calm to a chaotic brain. Each brain is capable of being comforted even though it may exist in a state of confusion and agitation. One interesting thing about the human brain is that it maintains ability and skill even when disease and disability are present. The man with Alzheimer’s was able to grow tomatoes and vegetables, the woman with Alzheimer’s was able to cook and serve under supervision, and Robby is employed and takes wonderful trips to other cities even though he has a documented mental age of three. Ultimately, Robby has provided his entire family with a gift of humility and love, and a reminder that with love from family, anything is possible. All of these individuals provide loved ones the ongoing lesson of what is really important in life, and they help us to prioritize our “stuff” in meaningful ways. Neural plasticity, the brain’s ability to be shaped by environment, is a miracle that gets nourished with proper environmental input regardless of health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) or disease. Understanding what that input is and applying it across the life span is the challenge and purpose of a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle.
Engage in something new and complex for you today, make a new friend, eat a delicious meal that includes salmon, stop to enjoy the moment or engage in prayer, and walk around your block. Simple tips like these offer a few of the easy changes we can make in our daily routine to begin the process of living a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. The chapters that follow provide more examples of brain-health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y behaviors for you to consider and to add to your new brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle.
The primary message of this book is that we should seek the types of environments that promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). It is from these environments, rich in the novel and complex, that our brains will thrive and build brain reserve to combat the potential presence of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia. This underscores the importance of my proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle to help the brain delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
I have been witness to so many who have lost access to their life stories and therefore have become disconnected from their loved ones. It is from these experiences that my work on the planet is now focused on helping everyone maintain as health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y a brain as possible. This is the rallying call and the personal message. This book is about you. I hope the message of this book motivates you to love your brain and to begin the process of caring for it from this day on.
You have no greater asset than your life story. It must be shared with your next great generation, the little ones in your life.
Sitting across the table from a person struggling to recall his name can be an unsettling experience. Perhaps even more difﬁcult is the realization on the faces of the family members that their father or grandfather is no longer capable of recognizing them and in some ways has forever been disconnected from them. Brain disease such as Alzheimer’s causes daunting experiences. It is at these moments that we can understand the sheer brilliance and, at the same time, the fragility of the human brain. It is your brain, after all, that contains and expresses your identity, enables your connection to others, creates and stores your memories, and most important, tells your life story. This book is written from the deep emotional reality that exists from sitting at that table hundreds of times in my life. It represents my attempt to provide a tangible guide for preserving access to our identity, to our loved ones, to our life story. And while the brain is fragile, it is also the most magniﬁcent system ever designed, capable of more than we can presently know and deserving of a lifetime’s dedication to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Watching a person who has been affected by a brain illness or condition is both difﬁcult and enlightening. It is not uncommon to see a person suffering from a devastating brain illness cope with amazing fortitude and courage. At the same time, the signs and symptoms of brain disease can indeed be life-changing for the patient and those family members and friends who surround the patient. In my work, I have helped patients who have lost the ability to speak, to walk, to behave appropriately, to see or hear, and to remember. These are not simply functions lost because of a particular disease or insult to the brain—they represent a loss of part of the person. In the case of memory loss, the literal identity of the person may be lost. It does not get more personal that that! It is also important for me to state that my patients have helped me to understand that all of us can appreciate life and that it is so important to stop our hurried lives and enjoy the moment, to express ourselves to those we love, and to realize that today may be our last.
The human brain is the most brilliant and magniﬁ cent system ever designed. Every now and then the brain will express its sheer brilliance, though we tend to view some manifestations of this brilliance as “abnormal” or as a psychiatric disorder. I often use the example of Rain Man, the wonderful movie that stars Dustin Hoffman as a man who suffers from autism with a savant ability to mentally calculate the probability of a certain card being drawn from six decks of cards.
When it comes to the mind, there is nothing that now exists and there will never be anything built that comes close to the complexity of the human brain, and that is based on the little we know about the brain today. We underestimate the power of the human brain on a consistent basis. Despite our tendency to sit in awe of the latest technology or gadget, the most impressive portable and wireless system is the human brain, which is capable of things we cannot even imagine yet.
It is from this context and appreciation of the human brain that a deeper discussion can occur about why and how we care for this part of our being. Your brain contains your identity, your very being, your potential for personal development, and perhaps the innovation or idea that will forever change the lives of millions. Your brain builds over the course of your lifetime your personal life story, the most precious gift you have and one that needs to be shared with others whom you love. There is perhaps no greater untapped resource in the universe than the human brain. Cultures from the beginning of humankind have neglected the brain’s importance and unique distinction. It is time to shift our viewpoint to awaken a wonderful interest in the human brain and a lifestyle that promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Sitting inside our heads is the greatest system in the universe— a real miracle. We need to move beyond a perception of the human brain as an academic or clinical entity to one that is deeply personal. Indeed, we need to embrace this part of our being, the core of who we are, and learn about it. From an understanding of the basics of our brain, we can begin the process of caring for it and promoting its health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is a two-step process: (1) education on the basics of your brain and
(2) making the process a deeply personal one that enables you to understand why you are spending time and energy following a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle.
Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) recognizes the brain as a dynamic and malleable system that is shaped by environment across the entire life span. It is a way of life that is dedicated to exposing the brain to enriched environments, to the complex and novel, and to building brain reserve over a lifetime. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) recognizes the importance of a proactive process, and it does not recognize artiﬁcial age thresholds, as your brain does not know or care how old you are, and it does not adhere to the notion of “critical periods of brain development” unless life itself is that period. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) champions a proactive and lifelong approach, a lifestyle that will not only help to develop a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain but will maximize your opportunity to delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is ultimately your commitment to maintaining access to your story with a deep desire to share that story with the next great generation.
I have spent the past decade studying the literature on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), keeping abreast of new developments in the area, and integrating this fragmented information into a practical application. The result, for me, has been a solid foundation for promotion of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) that includes an understanding of the neurophysiological aspects of neural plasticity and the cognitive construct of “brain reserve.”
There have been a relatively high number of research studies that correlate certain behaviors with reduced risk of dementia, what I refer to as “brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).” My work has been dedicated to organizing and integrating all of this information so that the ﬁeld of neuropsychology and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) can go from theory to real-world application. As you will see in the pages ahead, my intent is to provide you with a tangible and proactive lifestyle that promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) through building brain reserve.
I have championed a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle that is proactive, research based, and built from the lessons learned from animal brain research many years ago as well as current cutting-edge research on the human brain. My brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle consists of ﬁve critical components that I refer to as “the ﬁ ve slices of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) pie.” These include socialization, mental stimulation, physical activity, spirituality, and nutrition. Each is equally important, as they reﬂect the fact that we are integrated and complex organisms and that we do not function optimally in a fragmented manner. Within each of these ﬁve areas, I have outlined research-based activities that have been proven to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). By including some of these activities across the ﬁve slices of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) on a daily basis, you can begin the process of promoting the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of your brain and potentially delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease!
The purpose of this book is to educate you on the basics of your brain, to create an urgency to treat your brain as the most important part of your being, and to show you how to implement a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. I will give you the tools you need to encourage brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and combat progressive neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Think of this book as an important guide that provides you with a unique approach to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) that is comprehensive, integrated, and lifestyle oriented. It combines state-of-the-art neuroscience with principles of human behavior and offers practical tips to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). This book is built on the premise that lifestyle is critical to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)—that the human animal will not change behavior unless he or she personalizes the message and understands the why behind the what.
The book champions the promotion of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) across all sectors of society and illustrates its application to the education system, health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care system, corporate and business world, religion, home, and ultimately the individual. Indeed, the message of this book is deeply personal and a call to action from the individual to society at large. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) unites all of us as humans toward a grand outcome—the ability in our twilight years to share our life stories with the little ones in our lives.
After reading Save Your Brain, you will know more about the human brain than most. More important, you will know what behaviors are critical to promoting your own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and how environmental input can literally shape the structure and function of your brain. This knowledge will help you take the steps to change your current lifestyle and adopt the proactive lifestyle for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). This is not easy, and it is not a “quick ﬁx” but a lifelong process that will be challenging. If you commit to your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), it’s a lifestyle change that is doable. I have found personal satisfaction in my own behavioral change as I work to integrate brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) into my life. I must admit that I have setbacks and frustrations, but that is the price of positive and health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y behavioral change.
These days, larger corporations are becoming more and more aware of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and how it affects their employees. I have worked with a company that has been very creative in applying different aspects of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle with the workforce; it has been fun and informative—brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promotion should be fun. It is time for you to embrace your brain and take proactive steps outlined in this book to maximize its health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), but ﬁrst let us assess your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) by taking the following inventory.
As you will learn in the following chapters, your brain is a highly dynamic system that will react to the types of input you feed it. From this perspective, you can appreciate how much control you have regarding the potential health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of your brain. You may ﬁnally begin to focus on the greatest system ever designed in the history of the universe—your brain! The ﬁrst step for your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is to understand its ﬁve critical parts:
It is helpful to review these parts of your current lifestyle to better understand the positive and negative aspects for your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Take the following assessment and ﬁ nd out your baseline score. It is important to be honest and to understand this is simply a guide to give you an idea of where you are right now. Results are not scientiﬁc and are meant to help guide your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. Do not be alarmed if you give your current lifestyle a low grade. You have not been educated by society about the importance of your brain, and you have not been informed about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). That is about to change!
The following survey uses research-based information to help you measure your progress regarding implementation of your own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. The survey is to be completed prior to starting your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) program to obtain a baseline score and to be repeated every three months to document your progress. I have included step-by-step directions to calculate different scores for your assessment and what the scores mean to you. Each score is based on a total percentage of 100, with higher scores meaning a better brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle and lower scores suggesting work or change is needed in particular parts of your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. This is not scientiﬁc and is meant to provide you with an empirical measure of your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle.
Circle the response that best describes your behavior during the
past three months.
|1. I eat one meal with my family/friends every day.||5 points|
|I eat one meal with my family/friends weekly.||3 points|
|I do not eat meals with anyone.||0 points|
|2. I have joined two or more new groups this year.||5 points|
|I have joined one new group this year.||3 points|
|I have not joined any new group the past year.||0 points|
|3. I have started more than one hobby in the past year.||5 points|
|I have started one new hobby in the past year.||3 points|
|I have not started a new hobby in the past year.||0 points|
|4. I speak to family or friends every day.||5 points|
|I speak to family or friends three times a week.||3 points|
|I speak to family or friends less than once weekly.||0 points|
|5. I engage in personally meaningful activity daily.||5 points|
|I engage in personally meaningful activity one time|
|a week.||3 points|
|I do not engage in any personally meaningful activity.||0 points|
|Social Domain Total Points||25|
Circle the response that best describes your behavior over the past three months.
|1. I walk 10,000 steps daily.||5 points|
|I walk between 5,000 and 10,000 steps daily.||3 points|
|I do not walk.||0 points|
|2. I engage in aerobic exercise three hours a week.||5 points|
|I engage in aerobic exercise one hour a week.||3 points|
|I do not engage in aerobic exercise.||0 points|
|3. I garden more than one time a week during season.||5 points|
|I garden one time a week during season.||3 points|
|I do not garden.||0 points|
|4. I dance more than one time a week.||5 points|
|I dance one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not dance.||0 points|
|5. I knit more than one time a week.||5 points|
|I knit one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not knit.||0 points|
|Physical Domain Total Points||25|
Circle the response that best describes your behavior during the
past three months.
|1. I read more than the news on a daily basis.||5 points|
|I read one new book a month.||3 points|
|I do not read.||0 points|
|2. I am ﬂuent in more than one language.||5 points|
|I am learning a new language (including American|
|Sign Language).||3 points|
|I am not learning a new language.||0 points|
|3. I handwrite on a daily basis.||5 points|
|I handwrite once a week.||3 points|
|I do not handwrite.||0 points|
|4. I travel to new places one time a week.||5 points|
|I travel to new places one time a month.||3 points|
|I do not travel to new places.||0 points|
|5. I play a musical instrument.||5 points|
|I am learning to play a new musical instrument.||3 points|
|I do not play a musical instrument.||0 points|
|6. I listen to classical music on a daily basis.||5 points|
|I listen to classical music once a week.||3 points|
|I do not listen to classical music.||0 points|
|7. I play board games or other cognitive games daily.||5 points|
|I play board games or other cognitive games|
|once weekly.||3 points|
|I do not play board games or cognitive games.||0 points|
|Mental Stimulation Domain Total Points||35|
Circle the response that best describes your behavior during the past three months.
|1. I pray on a daily basis.||5 points|
|I pray one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not pray.||0 points|
|2. I meditate on a daily basis.||5 points|
|I meditate one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not meditate.||0 points|
|3. I engage in relaxation procedures daily.||5 points|
|I engage in relaxation procedures one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not engage in relaxation procedures.||0 points|
|4. I get enough sleep daily to feel rested and energetic.||5 points|
|I get enough sleep daily to feel somewhat rested|
|and energetic.||3 points|
|I do not sleep enough to feel rested or energetic.||0 points|
5. I attend a formalized place of worship weekly. 5 points I attend a formalized place of worship monthly. 3 points I do not attend a formalized place of worship. 0 points
Circle the response that best describes your behavior during the past three months.
|1. I eat several ounces of salmon two or more times|
|a week.||5 points|
|I eat salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, or tuna|
|one time a week.||3 points|
|I do not eat ﬁsh.||0 points|
grape juice weekly. 3 points I do not consume red wine or grape juice regularly. 0 points
|4. I eat two meals with utensils daily.||5 points|
|I eat one meal with utensils daily.||3 points|
|I do not use utensils on a daily basis.||0 points|
|5. I eat walnuts or almonds several times a week.||5 points|
|I eat walnuts once or twice a month.||3 points|
|I do not eat walnuts.||0 points|
|6. I consume 80 percent of the portions provided me|
|as a rule.||5 points|
|I consume 100 percent of the food on my plate.||3 points|
|I tend to overeat regardless of portion size.||0 points|
|Nutritional Domain Total Points||30|
You may use the following guide to interpret your scores:
100–90: Great job! Maintain your lifestyle approach. 89–80: Good job! Make a few changes to improve your lifestyle. 79–70: Average. Consider making changes in several domains. 69–60: Poor. Signiﬁcant change is needed in several domains.
59–50: Help! Reassess the importance of your life story and attempt to make one small change in your lifestyle at a time.
Do not be concerned if you score poorly at ﬁrst. This is probably the ﬁ rst time you have considered your own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)! You will notice improvement if you remain loyal to your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle!
For example, here’s how you would obtain an annual brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) score for the physical domain:
Total score for each quarter 100 100
4. To derive a grand total for overall brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) for the year: add the ﬁve annual brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) scores together, divide by 560, and multiply by 100:
Grand Total (five annual brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) scores) 560 100
Annual Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) Score
Save Your Brain
Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and indeed the human brain is now securely positioned on the radar screen of the American psyche.
The belief that a proactive approach can help to reduce the risk of brain disease is the core principle of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) movement. While the focus of this book and my career is brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), there remains a need to understand the consequences of brain disease. It is from this understanding of the devastation caused by brain disease that a strong energy to learn about and implement brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) emerges, not out of fear, but out of a motivation to build and preserve access to our own life story. When thinking about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), we often think about brain disease. This makes sense, as disease in general has traditionally been the focus of our medical training and approach to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care. “Brain disease” refers to an array of conditions that negatively affect the function of the brain. Examples range from progressive neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,
Parkinson’s, and Lewy body dementia, to mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, pervasive developmental disorders, and substance abuse, to trauma, such as closed head injury. Each of these conditions, and hundreds of others, impacts the structure and function of the brain, resulting in cognitive, emotional, and functional decline for the person. Such conditions and diseases also result in signiﬁ cant disruption of the family system and place a tremendous emotional and practical toll on the caregiver. Because the brain is so complex and we know so little about it, our interventions are symptom-based, not curative. When considering the brain, we tend to rely on the medical approach to the human brain that overly emphasizes disease, but we should strive to take on another perspective with an eye toward brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), development, and growth rather than relying on reactive, quick, and invasive procedures only. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is proactive and lifelong, with nothing quick about it. It’s a lifestyle.
For many years we have believed that the brain is a ﬁ xed and rigid entity that has a limited window of opportunity to develop, the “critical period of brain development.” Traditional thinking taught us that this critical period occurred early in life and new skill development could not happen beyond that time. Similarly, the ideas that brain disease is inevitable with advanced age and that once the brain is damaged it cannot be treated or healed were generally accepted. With our new understanding of the human brain, we have begun to challenge these ideas, and the new concept of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) maintains that a proactive approach can be implemented at the earliest period of life and followed across the entire life span. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) further maintains the belief that we can shape our brains for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) by exposing ourselves to a speciﬁc type of environment and by engaging in speciﬁc activities as often as possible.
Dementia is a clinical condition characterized by decline in overall intelligence relative to premorbid intellect, memory loss, personality change, and functional loss. There are nearly one hundred causes of dementia, and 95 percent of the causes of dementia are irreversible. Examples of the causes of dementia include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, substance abuse, tumor, head injury, multiple strokes, and Lewy body. Most, though not all, types of dementia manifest in later life beyond age sixty-ﬁ ve. Examples of reversible causes of dementia include thyroid disorder, vitamin deﬁciency such as B12 deﬁciency, and depression.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, the number one cause of dementia in the United States, accounting for 50 to 70 percent of all dementias, and is often used as the model of brain disease. The disease strikes speciﬁ c regions of the brain and manifests in a predictable pattern of forgetfulness, loss of appreciation of space, personality change, and other deﬁcits in thinking and function.
As a progressive disease, the course of Alzheimer’s lasts on average ten or more years and cannot be reversed. Unfortunately, this horriﬁc disease is the leading cause of dementia in the United States, presently affecting nearly ﬁve million persons, and is a major cause of dementia internationally. The number of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States will increase to a staggering ﬁfteen million or more by the middle of this century. Indeed, the United States presently spends over one hundred billion dollars annually on direct care of Alzheimer’s, and corporate America loses over thirty billion dollars annually, as the employees, who are also caregivers of parents or loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia, miss work and develop physical and mental illness themselves.
Alzheimer’s disease is a deeply personal catastrophe that robs a family of their personal connection. For me, the ultimate question is, what is the dollar amount for the fact that somebody’s father or grandmother has not been able to communicate with his or her grandchild during the past decade?
The essence of this question drives the motivation for my work in the area of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). There can be no greater loss than the inability to connect with one’s own identity and further connect with the loved ones in our lives. It is the precise reality of the husband who entered my ofﬁce so many years ago in a deep depression because he could no longer connect with his wife, who was suffering from dementia, and wanted her back with him.
Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases are a fact of life and an unfortunate reality for too many families. Brain disease, like brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), does not discriminate; it unites us in a common cause regardless of background. Our energy and resources are committed to ﬁnding cures for these diseases, but our incomplete understanding of the human brain most likely means a cure for dementia is not near. However, we can and should consider the behaviors and activities that relate to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) as a viable and necessary path to follow now to forestall or reduce the risk of brain disease.
Brain dysfunction and disease can be caused in many ways. We have discussed dementia as a description of predominantly progressive forms of brain dysfunction. However, there are many other etiologies for brain dysfunction that may not be irreversible. In human brain function, so many processes need to be in balance or atypical or abnormal thinking and behavior can result. As a clinician, I have seen cognitive or thinking problems result from high and low blood pressure, urinary tract infection, medication side effect, lack of sleep, too much coffee or other stimulant, anxiety, stress, hormonal imbalance, and sugar imbalance. These and other everyday occurrences can affect a person’s thinking and mood regardless of age.
It is quite common for a person in his or her ﬁfties to begin noticing problems with memory or an inability to ﬁ nd an appropriate word or name as easily as in the past. For some, this may be alarming and suggest onset of a disease such as Alzheimer’s. Indeed, I am often asked if I believe this represents Alzheimer’s. In most cases, such slips of the tongue, temporary forgetfulness, or misplacement of objects are not disease-based. Rather, these cognitive hiccups most likely reﬂect stress caused by trying to do too much all at once, hormonal changes that occur naturally around the ﬁfties, and perhaps mood ﬂuctuations related to changes in life circumstances. But to remove any question or doubt about the severity of the problem, I recommend doing a neuropsychological assessment at any respected academic medical center.
You can always have an annual neuropsychological examination beginning in the middle ﬁfties to monitor your memory and other cognitive functions, but dementia is quite rare at this age. The diagnosis that one does not have a degenerative dementia is good news, but it does not help with the fact that memory problems can still be frustrating. It is important to speak to your doctor about change-of-life issues, as hormonal imbalance is real, and it can cause both mood and memory problems. And it is not only those in their mid-forties and ﬁ f-ties who understand the power of hormonal changes. Teenage brains are notorious for distractibility, inattention, impulsivity, and downright “gooﬁness.” Hormonal changes are a fact of the teenage brain and underlie the behavioral and cognitive changes that also can be seen at this time of life.
You can also take a personal assessment of your stress level and be honest with the idea that you may be doing too much and going too fast. Stress increases hormonal activity that can be damaging to the structural and functional capacity of the brain, particularly if the stress is severe and sustained. Animal studies demonstrate that chronic stress and overstimulation cause brain dysfunction and structural changes in the hippocampus (see Chapter 2), the part of the brain critical to new learning. On a more moderate level, stress can cause depression and anxiety, both of which alter our neurochemistry and can interfere with information processing. You should also take note of how much sleep you are getting a night. Brain functions can be affected by your sleeping patterns. Without deep sleep and dream sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain will not process information efﬁ ciently. Increased stress and reduced rest can certainly result in cognitive mistakes, forgetfulness, mood disorder, and frustration.
Changes occur to all parts of our body as we get older, and the brain is certainly not excluded from this reality. The main message of this book is to know about your brain and to care for it for life. Hopefully, the care begins well before age ﬁ ftyﬁve, but no age is too late to start. Lifestyle modiﬁ cation can be very helpful to easing the mental lapses, dysnomia (inability to name things), and misplacement of objects. You will ﬁ nd that writing things down can be an effective strategy for your recall. By writing things down, we provide cues and prompts that help our brains to more easily locate the information to be retrieved. The reason is that with health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y aging, the hippocampus continues to encode information ﬁne. Our brains simply have more difﬁculty retrieving information, and we therefore can beneﬁt from cues that get us to the material our brain has already encoded. Writing things down turns a free recall task into a more simple recognition memory task.
This type of normal memory change is quite different from disease such as Alzheimer’s, which prevents the brain from encoding new information and in which cues will not provide any beneﬁt. That is because dementia caused by Alzheimer’s erodes the hippocampus, the encoding system for the brain, while changes typical of advanced age alone do not. Indeed studies have shown that health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y seventy- and eighty-year-old persons will perform as well as thirty-year-old persons on tests of recognition memory. One cannot recognize something unless it has been encoded, which requires a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y hippocampus.
The human brain has always been a mysterious, misunderstood, and neglected part of the human being. Study and interest in the brain has generally taken a traditional academic approach that does not permit personalization or consumption by the general public. This is a major problem for those of us who believe all humans need to understand the basics of their brain to achieve success with promoting brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). With the advent of new, more sensitive neuroimaging technology, our understanding of the human brain has increased and changed. We now know the human brain has “plasticity,” which means it is dynamic, constantly reorganizing, and malleable—capable of being shaped structurally and functionally by the environment. This deviates from our traditional view of the human brain as a rigid and ﬁxed system not capable of developing much beyond childhood.
It is this new thinking about the human brain that permits a new applied practice for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in both the personal and societal approach to the brain. A brain that can be shaped by environment can be shaped for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promotion across the life span. The key is to learn and apply those behaviors or activities that maximize brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) on a personal level. In addition, major sectors of society, including education, business, health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care, religion, and nutrition, have begun to integrate our new understanding of the human brain into their particular activity for the consumer.
In order to raise awareness for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), grocery stores could begin labeling their products with brain icons for foods that are known to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), and the same is true for our restaurants. Schools could plan curricula on the human brain at the earliest of ages, and Head Start and baby wellness programs should be enriched with brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) information. Corporations could include brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) as part of every employee orientation and wellness program, and our nation’s prevention and wellness programs need to include brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). It is from the personal and larger societal recognition of new brain research that a not-so-quiet revolution on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) has emerged in the United States and internationally.
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The human brain contains our very identity, catalog of memories, ability to communicate, and life story. A cruel reality is that brain disease can rob the brain of one’s life story and even disconnect one’s own identity and relationships with family members. It is from this personal devastation that a dedication to promotion of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) becomes paramount. Indeed, a lifelong and proactive pursuit of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is critical to each person, because everyone has a life story that needs to be shared. My work and this book are dedicated to educating each person on the basics of his or her brain and to promoting a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle that can help maximize access to one’s life story at any age.
We are indeed undergoing a not-so-quiet revolution about the human brain and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). The concept of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is now discussed in major sectors of society, including personal development, health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care, business, media, and even religion. It is quite common to see information on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in major news outlets, popular magazines, peer-reviewed medical journals, business periodicals, new business start-ups that apply product and educational information on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) to the general public, retail, and even television programming. This is good news because it indicates a cultural shift in which the United States and other nations are prepared and willing to begin the process of integrating brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) into our language and, more important, into our daily health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) regimen.
One of the great paradoxes of our time is the fact that the human brain is the single greatest, most magniﬁ cent system ever designed in the history of the universe! Simultaneously, most Americans do not know the basics of their own brain, and they cannot be expected to take care of their brain. The same is most likely true of nearly everyone around the world. A 2006 survey of Americans on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) sponsored by MetLife Foundation and the American Society on Aging (asaging .org) found only 3 percent identiﬁed brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) as a leading health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) topic. More promising, the same survey found a majority (88 percent) believe they can keep their brains ﬁt, and nearly 90 percent believe regular checkups for their brain are important. Americans also demonstrate a decent understanding of what activities are considered good for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). In order for our nation and nations around the globe to be enlightened about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), we need to do a better job educating all citizens about the human brain, and I believe this education should begin early in life. The story of your brain needs to be a personal one!
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Our culture has also adopted a great awareness and, in some sense, a fondness for the heart as a favorite organ in our body. Like the ancient Egyptians, we have a belief that our being revolves around the heart. Our language contains many statements that give the heart meaning it really does not deserve. For example, statements such as “I love you with all my heart,” “the Steelers played their hearts out,” and “you broke my heart” suggest our heart has the capacity for emotion or feelings. Indeed, the human heart is a pump that perfuses blood throughout the body. It has no capacity to feel emotions like love, have thoughts, or direct motor skills. All of the emotions and thoughts that we relate to the heart are really owned by the brain. In this regard, our brains have not been treated fairly, and I believe it is time we begin to show our brain a little love and the attention it deserves. Similar to the sense of urgency we feel about cardiac health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) because we lose so many of our loved ones prematurely due to heart disease, we must be vigilant to the fact that we are also losing many of our loved ones to Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, and other diseases of the brain.
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There will never be anything developed by mankind that approximates the power and efﬁciency of the human brain.
We know that the human brain is a wonderfully complex system that permits our every thought, emotion, and movement. It is very important for you to learn about the basics of your brain and how your brain actually works to grasp the importance of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. This chapter is dedicated to helping you understand how your own brain works and how you really have an important role in being able to shape your own brain for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Parts of the Brain
The study of the human brain can be a very intimidating undertaking, and this might actually keep some from even trying to
learn. I want you to realize that your brain is really about who you are. If you can personalize this brilliant system that sits within your skull, you can begin the process of learning about you. There are actually some easy methods to learn about the structures and functions of your brain: I teach the basics of the brain using some simple techniques that organize the brain into different sections. This typically makes the learning quite simple and interesting. Give it a try and learn something new about yourself.
The ﬁrst learning technique is to think of the brain divided into a “top-down” orientation, with cortex at the top and the subcortex at the bottom. While these two regions of the brain are distinct, each with speciﬁc responsibilities, they are also integrated, helping the brain to operate like a symphony.
Your brain weighs two to four pounds and is made up of gray matter and white matter. The gray matter tends to be contained in an area of your brain called the cortex, a word that translates to “bark of a tree.” Your cortex (see Figure 2.1) is a convoluted mass of cells with folds and ﬂaps that sits snug within your skull. The white matter is situated more deeply in the brain, beneath the cortex, and helps to bridge or connect different regions of the brain. White matter helps to propel information and to insulate cells and nerve tracts.
It developed from the back to the front, meaning the front part of your cortex is the most recent member or region of your brain to develop, evolutionally speaking. The cortex is primarily responsible for your most complex thinking abilities, including memory, language, planning, concept formation, problem solving, spatial representation, auditory and visual processing, mood, and personality. Processing in the cortex tends to be conscious and intentional. For example, the cortex is responsible for your reading this book at this very moment—your intent to educate yourself about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is driven by your cortex.
The cortex is generally organized by four primary regions, or lobes: the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital (see Figure 2.2). Each of these four lobes has speciﬁc behaviors and functions primary to its region. For example, the frontal lobes are also known as the executive system since they help execute behavior, organize behavior, plan, conceptualize, maintain cognitive ﬂexibility, and stabilize mood. Your personality is thought to reside in the frontal region of your brain. Your temporal lobes are the site of your auditory brain, memory and new learning, language, and perhaps religiosity. Your parietal lobes help you with orientation to space, memory, reading and writing, mathematics, and appreciation of left versus right. Finally, your occipital lobes help you to see, discriminate what you see, and perceive.
Sitting just under the cortex and on top of the ascending brain stem are a number of smaller and generally more primitive structures (relative to the cortex) known as the subcortex. Your subcortex primarily processes rote skills and procedures. Some, if not most, of the processing conducted in the subcortex is subconscious. Activities such as driving, dressing, typing, and most other routine tasks involve multiple rote procedures that are conducted at a subconscious level. Your subcortex and cortex are distinct regions of the brain, but they do not sit in isolation of one another. In fact, there are numerous connections between these two important brain regions. The brain operates as a symphony, with numerous and distinct regions harmonizing perfectly as one unit.
The second learning technique divides the brain “left to right,” appreciating that the brain is comprised of two distinct yet integrated hemispheres we call the dominant and non- dominant sides of the brain. We refer to these sides as hemispheres, and you have a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere (see Figure 2.3). Each hemisphere is connected by a bridge known as the corpus callosum. As you will learn in this section, each hemisphere has some distinct, yet not necessarily mutually exclusive, responsibilities.
Interestingly, your behaviors and functions are related primarily to one of these two hemispheres. For example, most of us—and nearly all right-handers—have language distributed primarily in the left hemisphere. We refer to the hemisphere in which language is based as the dominant hemisphere as a sign of our respect for the importance of language. Left-handers with a parent who is left-handed, a relatively rare phenomenon, have a higher probability than right-handers of having language functioning distributed primarily in the right hemisphere. They would be right-hemisphere dominant.
Your dominant hemisphere—left for most of us—also processes details, is task-oriented, logical, analytical, and sequences information. Most of Western civilization is built around the left hemisphere, as our classrooms are set up in rows and columns of chairs, and our cities tend to have tall buildings in rows and columns. We tend to focus more on the detail and less on the gestalt. Your non-dominant hemisphere helps you process non-language information, such as size, shapes, sounds, and space. Your ability to navigate in space, locate your car in a parking garage, or get home from a walk is an example of non-dominant function. Likewise, your ability to appreciate distinct sounds, such as a baby’s cry or a ﬁre alarm, tends to be a process of the non-dominant hemisphere.
Your two hemispheres are connected by a bridge of cells referred to as the corpus callosum. Information crosses from one side of your brain to the other over the corpus callosum, and this is a critical part of your brain’s ability to remain so functional despite its many complex operations on a daily basis. Interestingly, the female brain is thought to have a larger corpus callosum, which underscores the notion that female brains process information differently from male brains. Females tend to utilize both sides of their brains more to process than men, who tend to rely primarily on one side, the dominant hemisphere. It is probably not coincidental that audiences across the nation always respond with the same answer to my question, “In what area of a common behavior do men and women struggle with each other on a daily basis?” The answer is communication, which you’ll learn more about in the chapters ahead.
The operation and function of your brain is ultimately conducted by the millions of brain cells we refer to as neurons. A neuron (see Figure 2.4) contains a cell body sometimes referred to as a soma, a long arm extending out from the cell body referred to as an axon, and branchlike ﬁ gures called dendrites that extend out into the brain environment seeking new information to relay back to the cell body.
Indeed, information from the cell body travels down the axon into the surrounding brain, while information from the environment is gathered by the dendrites and brought back to the cell body. This ongoing exchange of information by the brain is why we refer to it as the central information processing system.
We are taught that our brains contain millions of brain cells and that each neuron can communicate with another ten thousand neurons. Interestingly, one neuron never touches another neuron, but two cells may communicate via chemicals, and this chemical marriage is called a synapse. The more synaptic connections you develop over your life span, the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)ier your brain may be, because it is building up brain reserve. Brain reserve, as you will learn, may have the ability to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The miracle is that your brain is dynamic and continues to be shaped and to develop. It has plasticity. As such, there is no ﬁnite capacity or limitation. In this way, your brain is very distinct and actually much superior to the fanciest of all computers because computers will always have built-in limitations and ﬁnite capacity. Your dynamic brain is shaped by environmental input across your life span, beginning in the womb. There really is no critical period of brain development, unless one considers life itself to be the measure. As you will learn in the next section, the type of environmental input your brain receives can make a difference regarding the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of your brain. You do have some control, and this is great news!
When I give lectures to the public, I always want my audience to personalize the message. This story is, after all, about you and your brain. It really does not get any more personal. Learning about oneself can be fun and challenging. There is one part of your brain that I emphasize because this structure, the hippocampus, is so critical to you and your life story. A hippocampus (see Figure 2.5) sits in the middle of each of your temporal lobes, which lie under your temples on each side of your head.
Your hippocampus, or hippocampi, for plural, as you have one in each hemisphere, takes new information in and maintains the information in a type of working buffer. If you believe the information is important and you need to store the information for an extended period of time, your hippocampus will transition the information to a speciﬁc area of your cortex. This process is not random, but rather very sophisticated, as the process of storage seems to be stimulus-based. That is, if you are learning information that is visual, your hippocampus will help store that information permanently in the visual cortex of the brain. The same process is thought to occur for the other four types of sensory input: sound, touch, taste, and smell.
Your hippocampi represent your vital learning and encoding structures, thereby helping you to build your life story and maintain your personal memories. Alzheimer’s disease, as mentioned in the previous chapter, is a leading cause of dementia, and the disease destroys very early the hippocampi of the brain. As a result, those afﬂicted with this terrible brain disease cannot learn new information, and they typically will repeat statements. As you will learn in the next section, your hippocampi are critical structures to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Recent research suggests your hippocampi have tremendous ability, including new brain cell development referred to as neurogenesis.
We now believe that the human brain is shaped by our environment. This means that our brain will respond to everything that we do and all that is going on around us. Something as simple as a television show or a hug, or as complicated as screaming at someone or experiencing loss and grief affects the structure and function of our brain. This wonderfully intricate marriage between environment and brain function deﬁnes neural plasticity and enables us to consider what environmental input might be best to promote our own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Your understanding of this simple fact and the power of neural plasticity permits you to engage in a proactive effort to shape your own brain across your life span.
Every day we have experiences that can teach us about the function of our brain and how environment and our brain have an important and ongoing relationship. I often say that the chemistry of our brains is altered all the time, but not with pills, syringes, or liquids. Instead, words may be the single greatest neurochemical activator, and messages provided to us by our parents have a particularly long-term effect. Other environmental stimuli, such as temperature, touch from another, pain, imagery on television or the movies, emotional events, news, victory and defeat, loss, and many others affect our mood and disposition, a result of neurochemical change. Such change then typically leads to behavioral change, and this is how we lead our lives. In short, environment shapes our neurophysiology and behavior every day.
It is important you learn about the power of your brain and how it can be shaped and nurtured over the course of your life. We refer to the dynamic, constantly reorganizing, and malleable nature of your brain as brain plasticity. Understand that your brain is not a rigid or static system with a limited capacity or ﬁnite critical period for development. The power of brain plasticity permits you to implement a lifelong and proactive program to grow and promote your own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
To better understand why brain plasticity is important to you, we can look to some basic ﬁndings of animal brain research. In the 1950s, research was conducted to investigate whether environment had any effect on the structure and function of the animal brain. Researchers designed a study with rodents raised in two distinct environments: an “enriched” environment versus an “unenriched” environment. Rodents were raised in one of these two environments, and then their brains were analyzed and compared at autopsy. Results yielded signiﬁ cant differences in the brains of these rodents. Speciﬁcally, rodents raised in an enriched environment had a larger cortex, more cellular connections, called synapses, that lead to brain reserve, and developed new brain cells, called neurogenesis, in the hippocampus, the structure critical to new learning and memory.
I became interested in this work, and I wanted to know how researchers deﬁned an enriched environment. My review of this work suggests three factors were critical to the enriched environment: socialization (animals had to have other animals of their own kind in the environment); physical activity (animals had a running wheel to exercise on); and mental stimulation (there were toys in the environment animals could play and interact with). Animals raised in unenriched environments were raised in isolation, had no running wheel, and had no toys to play with. While this research offered highly signiﬁ cant and important ﬁndings regarding the effects of the environment on brain structure in the animal, the critical issue of whether the same ﬁndings could be established for humans remained unknown.
When thinking about a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, I believe the three critical factors of the enriched environment found in the animal studies are equally important to humans. Plenty of research supports the role of socialization, physical activity, and mental stimulation in reducing the risk of dementia in humans. However, the human organism is more complex than rodents and is stimulated by environmental input that is also more complex in nature. As you will learn in later chapters, my brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle recognizes the complexity of the human brain by including two new factors, nutrition and spirituality, in addition to the three factors established from the animal literature.
It was not until the late nineties that a landmark study discovered that the human brain has the ability to generate new brain cells. This study was a threshold moment for our species, as it confronted traditional thought that the human brain was a rigid system with no ability to regenerate. We had always believed the brain was born with all of its brain cells, that the human brain lost brain cells on a daily basis, and that our brains did not replace the lost cells with new ones. The study also indicated that the new brain cells were generated in the human hippocampus, analogous in animals to an area neurogenesis was found in the animal brain. Today, research is ongoing to determine if neurogenesis occurs in other regions of the human brain or if it is speciﬁc to the hippocampus.
New brain cell development is one outcome of a brain with plasticity. Remember, plasticity refers to a brain that is dynamic, constantly reorganizing, and malleable. The human brain, therefore, is now thought to possess the same type of neural plasticity as the rodent brain. Interestingly, the animal studies were conducted on rodents across their life span with an equivalent human age of seventy or eighty. A human brain that generates new brain cells mandates a curiosity of how this wonderful adaptive ability occurs. We can return to the animal studies to derive some answers to this question. The enriched environment led to new brain cell development in the hippocampus of the animal. The three critical factors important to the enriched environment in this study included socialization, physical activity, and mental stimulation. Therefore, it makes sense to ask if the human brain is similarly affected by environment and if the enriched environment promotes positive brain changes in the human.
As you will read in the next chapter, there is good reason to believe that the human brain beneﬁts from a novel and complex environment. Similar to the enriched environment discussed in the animal research above, novelty and complexity infers stimulation that demands more of the human cerebral cortex and increases the potential for development of brain reserve. Stimuli that are novel and complex require the cortex to be engaged, as the brain has either not been exposed to the information before or it has not mastered the information. In contrast, passive, rote talents or overlearned information rely more on the subcortex and are not thought to be as brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promoting. It is also important to know that the ﬁrst potential enriched environment is the womb and that the type of environment you expose your brain to will have consequences your entire life. The miracle of brain plasticity does not end at a particular age. Indeed, the human brain probably does not know its chronological age and will demand and beneﬁt from enriched environments at every age. The major point of this section is that you are strongly encouraged and empowered to expose your brain to the novel and complex every day regardless of your age!
Brain reserve is a well-known concept that refers to a buildup of brain cell connections that serves to assist the brain in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases. To better understand brain reserve, consider the following simple analogy that I use in my lectures on the human brain. Imagine ﬂying in an airplane nearly a thousand feet above the ground. As you peer out your window down at the ground, you will see two very distinct scenes. The ﬁrst scene is a jungle where there are so many trees you cannot see the ground. The second scene is an island with one palm tree blowing slowly in the wind. You want your brain to be like the jungle, the lush foliage symbolizing a tremendous number of synaptic connections. This is referred to as synaptic density and is a direct measure of brain reserve. You do not want your brain to look like the island with one palm tree. The reason is also simple. Think of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia or brain disease as a weed-whacker: the disease will invade the brain and begin to cut down the neurons and synaptic connections. This occurs just like a weed-whacker cutting through the weeds around your house. If your brain looks like a jungle, ﬁlled with synaptic connections, it will take Alzheimer’s or another brain disease a long time to show its ugly clinical face. However, if your brain looks like the island with one palm tree, the clinical signs of Alzheimer’s will manifest quickly because there is no reserve to ﬁght it off.
Indeed, some research has shown that even though brains are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at autopsy due to the presence of neuropathological markers such as tangles and plaques, a signiﬁcant number of these persons never demonstrated the clinical aspects of the disease in life. This is explained one way using the brain reserve concept. Perhaps people who never manifested Alzheimer’s in life, even though they had the neuropathologic characteristics in their brain at autopsy, had built up brain reserve to ﬁght off or delay the onset of the disease.
The power of brain reserve to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s is further supported by ﬁndings that relate higher education and occupational levels to lower risk of Alzheimer’s. For those with high education or occupation levels who do manifest Alzheimer’s, their disease begins to emerge later on than for those without this kind of background, and once the disease manifests, they die soon after. The theoretical reason for this is that when the disease presents clinically, it is already advanced into the ﬁnal stage because the person’s brain reserve had been ﬁghting it off.
Educational settings and workplace settings are good examples of environments that can be enriched. You expose your brain to these environments frequently across over the course of your life. Each of these two environments provides the opportunity for you to engage in a novel and complex setting that promotes the development of brain reserve. To the extent that these environments or other settings become rote and passive, brain reserve will not be as developed, and the overall health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) beneﬁt for your brain is not enhanced.
It is your personal challenge to expose your brain to novel and complex experiences and enriched environments on a daily basis. Studies suggest the earlier in life you begin to expose yourself to enriched environments, the greater the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) beneﬁt to your brain—even well into your late life. This ﬁ nding is supported by research that demonstrates that having a higher IQ in childhood and young adulthood reveals a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and other brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) issues later in life. Language development in young adulthood also reveals a reduced risk of neuropathologic changes in the brain, while those who have passive lifestyles in their forties show an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders later on in life.
Passive lifestyle is deﬁned by a list of activities that do not require much in the way of cortical activation. One example on the list was television viewing, a behavior that tends to be rather mundane and nonengaging in most cases. Passivity can be thought of as using the subcortex primarily when we are engaged in routines, rote processes, and even subconscious behaviors. Active behaviors are more brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promoting because we are stimulating our cortex with conscious and complex thinking that helps to build brain reserve. Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promotion is about the activation of the cortex through completion of tasks that are “complex and novel.”
These ﬁndings on humans support the idea that diseases of the brain that manifest late in life may actually begin early in life. Further, these ﬁndings suggest we can become involved very early in life with a proactive lifestyle that promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and that helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias later in life. It is important to prioritize a proactive lifestyle for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) regardless of your age, to embrace the power of brain plasticity and development of brain reserve, and to have fun in the process of caring for your brain!
Reviewing the Brain Basics
You have now accomplished something you may not have thought possible: you have learned the basics of your brain. In
fact, you now know more about the human brain and yourself than the vast majority of other people. This new knowledge enables you to really appreciate the importance of a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle because you now can understand how what you do quite literally impacts the very structures and functions of your brain. Behavioral change is most likely to occur if one personalizes the message and is told why something will help him or her. You have personalized the message, and your new knowledge of brain basics enables you to move forward fully prepared for not only understanding the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle but being able to apply it with great understanding.
Now that you have basic knowledge of how the brain works, you probably feel empowered and excited to learn more!
health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y Brain
What you do will have a consequence on your brain, good, bad, or neutral!
Long before I earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, I was interested in human behavior. Humans are the most fascinating animals, with all of our emotions, behaviors, and complex lifestyles. Behavior can change for a variety of reasons, and the ability of our brains to manage our thoughts, emotions, and impulses is remarkable. It is truly amazing we get along as well as we do. It has been my keen interest in human behavior that led me to study psychology and, more important, think critically about why humans do what they do and why we choose not to change behavior even if that lifestyle change can increase the quality of our lives.
We prefer daily routines with predictable outcomes and develop schedules with predictable expectations and behavioral outcomes. Structure and organization is, admittedly, very important, as chaos can break down a person, family, and even a government. Anything that can disrupt this predictable ﬂ ow of behavior can be experienced as a threat and resisted. Indeed, we do not react well to change, particularly when it is unexpected. Change can cause our systems stress, leading to internal discord, interpersonal tension, and even development of physical symptoms that really represent the stress we are experiencing.
From a brain perspective, routine is interesting because it is easier for our brain to process. Habits, overlearned procedures, and talents rely on a speciﬁc region of our brain known as the subcortex, which is, as discussed in the previous chapter, a collection of small cellular structures that sit deep inside the brain just under the cortex and above the brain stem. The subcortex is sometimes referred to as the “older brain” or “more primitive brain” relative to the newer cortex. Those behaviors, rituals, skills, and procedures that tend to be processed at the subconscious level are the result of subcortical processing. Because these behaviors do not involve much conscious effort, there is a probability that this type of action is not as promoting of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) as action that does demand ongoing conscious effort. Indeed, brain reserve, the hallmark of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), is most likely the result of conscious processing related to the cortex.
For those interested in brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and leading a lifestyle that maximizes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), understanding the difference between active, conscious behavior and passive, subconscious behavior is critical. Promoting brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is a conscious cortical and effortful process. Rote, passive, and subconscious behaviors, most of which are a necessary part of our life, are not as promoting of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Understanding the difference between active and passive behaviors, between the conscious and subconscious, and between the complex and novel and rote processing is the ﬁrst step to behavioral change—and the ﬁ rst step to adopting a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain lifestyle!
I am often asked if particular behaviors are good or health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y for the brain. As an example, people will ask me if the New York Times crossword puzzle is good for the brain. This is a good question because it tells me the person is thinking about his or her lifestyle and its potential impact on the brain. You most likely will have noted that I use the terms “novel” and “complex” to help you understand what types of behaviors or activities promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Your brain wants to be stimulated at every age, and we have already learned that the conscious behaviors that are processed by the cortex lead to a greater development of brain reserve, that which really represents brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Novel means new and complex means hard. Ask yourself if a given behavior is complex and novel for you. If the answer is yes, then the behavior is most likely one that will be processed by the cortex and thus will help to develop brain reserve, promoting brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). If the answer is no, the behavior is most likely rote or passive, processed by the subcortex, and therefore most likely not brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promoting.
The reason a novel and complex behavior or activity promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is that the brain has not experienced the particular behavior. If a behavior or activity is actually new to the brain, there are very few neural circuits to facilitate the behavior. It is as if the region of the brain necessary to conduct the behavior is dormant and needs to be activated. An activity that is novel and complex is most likely one that is difﬁ cult for you, one that you do not want to do—at least at ﬁ rst—and one that will make you feel inferior initially. However, as the brain practices that which is considered novel and complex, it continues to develop brain cells (building of brain reserve) necessary to produce the given behavior, and over time, a talent emerges. A person will describe this transition as “I am more comfortable with this,” or “I am getting the hang of this,” to really describe what is happening in the brain at the cellular level. The reason the person is feeling more comfortable is that the brain is developing more neurons to facilitate his or her ability to produce the behavior. Practicing novel and complex activity results in a neurophysiological process that not only permits a smooth execution of the particular behavior (now a talent) but also leads to building brain reserve!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we can also choose activities that are rote and passive. Indeed, much of our time is spent on activities that are rote and passive. It is human nature to do that which we are good at and comfortable with, likely in part because the rote and passive is also easier for our brains, but unfortunately these activities do not use the cortex and do not result in development of brain reserve.
Adoption and implementation of a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle requires you to make a conscious decision to welcome more activities that are novel and complex, to resist the passive and rote, and to realize that this will be hard and that failure will be a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y reality. From failure will come success, and this can only occur with development of brain reserve. You’ve probably heard the phrase “No pain, no gain,” and the same is true for engaging in novel and complex activities to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Your understanding of how and why the novel and complex leads to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is a critical ﬁrst step to adopting a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. However, once you understand the mechanics of how brain reserve occurs through stimulation of the cortex, it is also necessary to introspect and review your current lifestyle.
It is normal for all of us to engage in a daily routine that is highly procedural, predictable, and without much that is new. It bears repeating that when we engage in such a daily routine, we are relying heavily on brain structures and functions that do not facilitate development of brain reserve. Because our daily routines are so entrenched, we are not even conscious of them for the most part; we simply act. Our ability to make our behaviors conscious and to actually try and change our daily routines is a practical but difﬁcult means to activate our cortex and to begin the process of building brain reserve. The ﬁrst step is to become conscious of what we do every day.
Think about your daily routine—it will help you identify how much rote and passive behavior you have in your life. For example, most of us probably get out of bed, make some coffee or tea, get cleaned and dressed for the day, travel to work, and engage in the daily tasks of our occupation. Most of these behaviors are done at the subconscious level because they are so habitual. To change this routine, you ﬁ rst must know what your routine is. You can then attempt to make some small changes, thereby creating a new set of behaviors during your day that will activate your cortex and promote development of brain reserve.
You might be surprised by what you discover, but remember, most humans are highly routinized animals by nature. The transition from the rote and passive to the novel and complex requires you to ask for each behavior, is this novel and complex for me?
Ask yourself the following questions: Can I sit at a different seat at my dinner table for the next seven days consecutively? Can I sleep on a different side of the bed for the next seven days consecutively? Can I survive moving the trash can in the kitchen? These questions are meant to have some fun, but they also raise the important point that change of routine is perhaps one of the most difﬁcult challenges humans incur. If we cannot sleep on a different side of the bed, how are we going to be able to adopt a new diet or begin an exercise routine? These are a few simple questions that I pose to my audiences across the country to help them realize how hard behavioral change actually is. It may be the most difﬁcult thing for us humans to accomplish, particularly if the change needs to be sustained over time. My contention is that behavioral change can occur, but we ﬁrst need to personalize the message of change, and we need to know why we are changing a particular behavior.
You eventually want to ﬁll your day with as many novel and complex activities as you can, though a good place to begin is to include one a day and build from there. This is the fundamental and personal process of building a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle. The goal is to build brain reserve across your life span because this process is health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promoting.
Humans resist the transition from rote and passive to the novel and complex because it is hard. It places them in an uncomfortable situation, it is unpredictable, and it does not nurture the ego as failure occurs. The good news is that persistence can result in the novel and complex becoming rote, the uncomfortable becoming comfortable, the unpredictable becoming predictable, and even the development of the ego. It’s a great feeling to know that you have worked hard to master a particular activity that was difﬁcult for you in the past. Remember, the lifelong process for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is to continue exposing your brain to the novel and complex.
The fact that humans resist change is directly related to an increase in obesity, diabetes, and hypertension and is indirectly related to conditions such as stroke and dementia. It is well documented that lifestyle is perhaps the single greatest factor that we can control to improve not only our health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) but our longevity. It is lifestyle and not any health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care system that contributes to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) versus disease and longevity versus premature death. We can cut premature death in half if we exercise, eat health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)ier, and do not smoke. How can something sound so simple and yet be so hard to achieve? The answer is that humans do not like to change. It is difﬁcult for us to change our eating habits, to engage in a consistent exercise routine, to slow down and reduce our stress, to create time for more socialization, and to engage in the novel and complex. Yet these are the ﬁ ve domains of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle (nutrition, socialization, physical activity, mental stimulation, spirituality) that need attention and change in order to increase your chance of maintaining access to your life story!
An unfortunate reality is that unhealth(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y lifestyles lead to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and brain-related health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) problems, all of which increase the risk of stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s as well. The good news is that these conditions can be managed and even prevented by a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y lifestyle. Lifestyle begins with an attitude that declares, “I am committed to a life of health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y choices.” You can become a champion of a proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle and actually serve as a role model to others, particularly your children and grandchildren.
We already know about several basic preventative measures to take every day for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, wearing a seatbelt when in the car, and being cautious with activities that have the potential to cause head injuries. But, in addition to these safety tips, research shows that brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is promoted by a lifestyle that includes stress reduction, consumption of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, physical exercise, socialization, and exposure to enriched environments with the novel and complex. A conscious choice to review your current lifestyle and begin implementing change within each of these ﬁve domains to the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is critical. Additionally, lifestyle is proactive, energized, and lifelong. A lifestyle that promotes health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) will be effective at any age, but the earlier you get started, the better the outcome. Your goal should be to make the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle a routine in your life.
Adoption of a brain-health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y lifestyle can occur on an individual basis and on a more macro or societal basis. The individual basis is probably most important and most efﬁ cient, as you have direct control over the change. However, every nation should consider prioritizing brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and implement policies that reinforce this priority. Now let’s take a closer look at the ﬁve critical areas for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and what you can do to keep your brain young, ﬁt, and sharp!
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The Five Critical
I have a wonderful opportunity to care for and to shape my brain for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Your brain is a highly dynamic and constantly reorganizing system capable of being shaped across your entire life span. Similar to animals, the human brain can generate new brain cells and respond to environmental input. Your goal is to expose your brain to enriched environments, to the novel and complex, and to grow your brain reserve! As we discussed in the previous chapter, stimuli that are considered rote and passive to your brain are most likely not as health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promoting. We learned from animal brain research that an enriched environment has three critical components: socialization, physical activity, and mental stimulation. It makes perfect sense to consider these same critical factors as important
to the human brain, especially in light of research on humans suggesting their role in staving off the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
In addition to these three factors, I have included two new ones that are critical to promotion of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). The ﬁ rst is spirituality, which reﬂects the importance of reducing stress in our lives, slowing down, and appreciating the moment. The second is nutrition, which respects the fact that what we eat literally changes the physical and functional aspects of our body and relates directly to our overall health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), including brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Each of these ﬁ ve factors of my brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is backed up by robust research to support its effectiveness. Most important, the lifestyle needs to be integrated, comprehensive, and proactive to be most effective for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). To recap, I have proposed a lifestyle that includes the following ﬁ ve areas critical to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com):
Each of these factors is necessary to your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, and together they form an integrated whole for you. The ﬁve factors need to be understood as one lifestyle and not separate entities. Remember, your goal is to adopt a proactive lifestyle for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) that increases your brain reserve through exposure to the complex and novel. As with any lifestyle program, the journey can be challenging, but your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is a lifelong journey toward wholeness and will require constant personal review and change. While adopting to any lifestyle change is not easy, the goal of a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)ier and more challenged brain is worthwhile.
My health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain program is research-based, easily understood, and practical, as anyone can consider making changes to incorporate these activities into their own daily life. The other positive aspect of my lifestyle is that anyone can assess each of the ﬁve different lifestyle domains and understand which is a strength and which is a weakness, thereby providing a guide as to where the biggest change in behavior may need to occur. My program rests on the cognitive construct of brain reserve and the belief that neural plasticity affords the brain a wonderful opportunity to achieve health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
While my brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is developed from a sound understanding of brain and behavior, cognitive science, and clinical research, I realize that a practical way to apply the lifestyle is in many ways most critical—you’ll ﬁnd all of the practical strategies to implement this lifestyle in the chapters ahead.
The brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) program that I offer you is unique in that it is lifestyle-based, comprehensive, and integrates many different research ﬁndings into one practical approach that is easy to adopt. My brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle was applied recently as part of a small pilot investigation with health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y independent older adults. This work was done together with Emeritus Assisted Living ( www.Emeritus.com) at a campus in the Boston region. I believe we were the ﬁrst to launch a prospective lifestyle study on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) (Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) Lifestyle) and the ﬁrst to propose a lifestyle that was comprehensive (including all of the ﬁve critical areas of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and not just one).
In 2008, we designed our ﬁrst prospective pilot study to measure the effects of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle on older independent-living residents of Farm Pond at Emeritus Assisted Living. Farm Pond was a wonderful setting to create a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) campus and to conduct the study. It is a self-contained campus with three components to the continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, and memory-impaired living. Our study focused on the independent-living residents. The other important positive quality about Farm Pond is that it had good leadership to make sure the study protocol was followed properly.
Our goal for conducting this study was to ﬁnd answers to the following questions:
Sixteen volunteers were randomly selected from the independent-living residents to participate in the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle for six weeks. This group represented our experimental sample, and they would follow a relatively strict protocol for the entire six weeks of the study. An additional and separate ten residents from independent living made up the control sample. These persons were not part of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle protocol, and they simply continued to live their lives as usual at Farm Pond during the six weeks of the study. The residents in the experiment group and the control sample were not signiﬁ cantly different on variables of age, education, marital status, or gender.
Each resident in both the control sample and experiment group underwent a baseline assessment that included measures of mental status, verbal recall with measures of immediate and delayed recall and recognition memory, mood, and basic knowledge of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Each resident then underwent a post-study assessment using the same measures. The same person conducted the two assessments to provide some control on the actual assessment process, and different forms of the memory tool were used to minimize practice effects. I developed a self-report and third-party report that gauged quality of life and was completed by residents in the experimental sample only at the post-study period.
As expected from prospective studies, four residents from the experimental group and one resident from the control sample dropped out of the study prior to its conclusion. An analysis of the data indicated that the four who dropped out had lower mental status scores relative to those who remained in the study, suggesting that cognition may have been a variable predicting ability to sustain the six-week-long lifestyle. All residents were determined to be free of dementia, depression or other neuropsychiatric illness, substance abuse, uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes, and any uncorrected sensory deﬁcit. The samples truly represented health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y, independent-living older adults.
Residents enrolled in the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle participated in one research-based activity within each of four domains of the lifestyle (physical activity, mental stimulation, spirituality, socialization), and they also consumed a special brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) diet. This occurred each day of the week for the entire six weeks. Examples of some of the activities within the physical activity domain included dance, walking, and aerobic exercise. Mental stimulation included sign language, Portuguese, discussion of the classics, and courses on the basics of the brain. Spirituality included prayer, meditation, and relaxation procedures. Socialization included ﬁeld trips, recreational events, and games.
People who enrolled in the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle program from the experimental group demonstrated no signiﬁ cant differences on measures of mental status, mood, or level of knowledge on the human brain at baseline relative to the control sample. However, changes in scores measured at post-study testing compared to baseline revealed trends to signiﬁcance on measures of mental status and memory. Most striking, when the data from the experimental group was analyzed as a within-group measure, signiﬁcant improvements were found on delayed recall and knowledge of the brain. That is, residents who participated in the six-week brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle were able to recall presented information after a twenty-minute delay period better than they could prior to the start of the study. This is an important ﬁnding and may be the ﬁrst to show a positive effect of a comprehensive lifestyle approach on enhanced memory.
Residents who participated in the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle demonstrated the expected signiﬁcant improvement in self-reported knowledge of the human brain and how to keep their brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y. Quality of life was measured using a special tool developed by my questions dealing with a variety of aspects of one’s life. Results indicate that the residents enrolled in the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle program reported positive sentiments about their life and mental and emotional functions after the study. They also expressed their belief that the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle was beneﬁcial to them. They further expressed the belief that the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle is something that could be beneﬁ cial to everyone. Of equal interest were the results from the third-party ratings of quality of life. A designated person was asked to rate the resident’s function, demeanor, social, and cognitive abilities at the conclusion of the lifestyle program. Similar to the self-report measures, the third-party ratings reﬂ ected improved overall function and quality of life for those who participated in the lifestyle program.
There was no change between samples or within the experimental sample on general mental status or mood. As no resident was found to be depressed upon entering the study, the ﬁnding of no improvement in depression is not unexpected. Regarding general mental status, the measure simply reﬂ ects basic information processing, and all residents who participated in this study performed near the ceiling at baseline and did not have room to improve by post-study.
Upon completion of the study, I met with the residents who participated in the six-week lifestyle. Results were discussed, and the residents provided important feedback about their experience. What we learned from the residents may have been more important than the positive data on memory and quality of life. Residents stated the lifestyle programming was “life changing” and reported, “It saved me, as I was not living since the death of my spouse,” and “It brought me to life again and helped me get out of my room.” These testimonials provide strong support for the power of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, and Farm Pond is now working to extend the program to all residents in independent living. Indeed, the original residents of the study agreed to be the ambassadors and lead the program on their campus.
This pilot is a small study of a few residents, and results need to be interpreted with caution. However, the ﬁ nding of improved delayed recall and positive ratings on quality of life at the conclusion of the study are signiﬁcant and deserving of attention. There is real reason to believe that a sustained and proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle that is comprehensive and integrated has potential to enhance cognitive functioning and quality of life in health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y older adults. There is also reason to believe that such a lifestyle should have similar effects in younger and middle-aged adults. With some modest alteration, the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle can also be followed by those who may require some assistance during the day, and even with those who have mild dementia. These are empirical questions that can be answered with more study and research. The pilot study is the ﬁrst, albeit modest, empirical measure of the beneﬁts one can obtain from following a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, an early glimpse into the program’s potential.
This study is a step that takes us beyond practical application of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle to being able to cite empirical measures for its value. The next step is to replicate these early positive results with a larger and perhaps more diverse population. Ultimately, the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle should be a part of any prevention or wellness program, as the brain is the most important part of our being! Let’s take a look at the ﬁ ve critical areas of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Five Critical Areas of Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com): An Overview
The following provides a blueprint for the development of a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) environment ﬁlled with the novel and complex.
The brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle incorporates ﬁve distinct but integrated components: socialization, physical activity, mental stimulation, spirituality, and nutrition. Each of these components, or “slices to the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) pie,” encompasses research-based activities that have been documented to reduce the risk of dementia or to foster brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Together, these activities deﬁne the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, which can be effectively applied in a culture committed to change.
The ﬁrst critical area to think about in order to promote a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain lifestyle is the area of socialization. Research in both animals and humans indicates socialization is important to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and for reducing the risk of dementia. It is important, therefore, to remain integrated in the community, to build a growing network of family and friends, and to always have a role and purpose for getting up each day. Retirement, as a national policy, does not make sense for a nation that prioritizes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) for its citizens. Retirement promotes isolation and passivity, which reduces the likelihood of building brain reserve and drives a brain toward disease. Socialization is so vital to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) that it will be the ﬁrst of the ﬁve areas of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) we will explore at length in the following chapters. However, I do not want to convey that one domain is more important than the other.
Physical activity relates to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) because 25 percent of the blood, oxygen, and glucose from each heartbeat goes directly to the human brain. While the human brain weighs only two to four pounds on average, it demands more from each heartbeat than any other part of the body! It truly is the “central” nervous system. Knowing this simple fact, you can better appreciate why physical activity promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). The human brain consumes such a high level of glucose, oxygen, and blood because it cannot function without this energy source. Cells thrive from such blood ﬂow and metabolize glucose for brain function, permitting rapid and efﬁcient information processing. Even a brief period of slowed or no blood ﬂow to a particular region of the brain can result in structural damage in the form of stroke, and this leads to loss of such functions as movement, language, and even personality change. You will learn much more about the crucial link between physical activity and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in Chapter 6.
We have learned that novel and complex environments help to activate the cortex and conscious information processing that promotes development of brain reserve. Our ability to engage our brain daily in the novel and complex fosters mental stimulation and promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). This includes new learning, which actually involves a neurophysiological event or series of events that change our neural systems, our neural chemistry, and our brain function. This process can also assist with new brain cell development, or neurogenesis.
Animal studies have demonstrated neurogenesis in rodents exposed to enriched environments that include novel and complex stimuli. Human neurogenesis was demonstrated in a publication in 1998, with the neuroanatomical structure critical to learning, the hippocampus, representing the site of neurogenesis in both animals and humans. This supports the idea that the hippocampus and the role of learning are fundamental to our neural health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and that our brains are agile and can adapt favorably in response to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y stimuli. Environments that provide novel and complex stimuli are those most likely to be deemed “enriched,” with the greatest likelihood of promoting brain reserve. Brain reserve refers to the development of increased cellular connections (synapses) that help to defend against or delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
A critical issue for everyone to remember is that the most sophisticated system for thinking, creating, problem solving, and basic academics is the human brain. It is critical for our society to turn inward for solving problems rather than relying only on gadgets or devices to do the work! Chapter 7 provides many speciﬁc ideas and suggestions for how you can enrich your own environment with the novel and complex.
We all lead very busy lifestyles, and surely, like many others, you feel the high stress of a fast-paced environment. It’s no wonder we’re doing so much damage to our own health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) because of it. This area, which I refer to as spirituality, addresses the need for all of us to slow down, to introspect, and to reduce stress in our lives. By engaging in a slower and more reﬂ ective life, we can impact our health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and brains in a positive way.
Research indicates that animals exposed to environments that are too stimulating experience slowed brain development. Our own pace in life tends to be rapid and probably unhealth(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y. While most of us realize that we are going too fast and that we are involved in too many activities simultaneously, we have a hard time knowing how to slow down.
The brain demands stimulation, but it also can function best when it has rhythm and symmetry. Our hectic pace raises the probability of mental chaos, stress, and reduced cognitive efﬁ ciency. It also can lead to emotional breakdown. A brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) environment supports time for oneself, time to slow down, and time to keep the brain energized. I refer to this generally as spirituality. Of interest is the fact that an entire new ﬁ eld of study called neurotheology has emerged to study the relationship between spirituality, religion, and the brain. You will read more about neurotheology in Chapter 8 and also learn techniques for relaxation and stress abatement.
Food has the ability to alter thought processes, mood, and behavior. There is an entire new ﬁeld of study called nutritional neurosciences that recognizes the impact of food on the function of the human brain. We also know that the human brain is 60 percent fat; indeed the brain is the fattest part of the body. It is believed that the lipid, or fatty, substance of the brain helps to insulate neural tracts, propelling information in a rapid and efﬁcient manner. A brain that loses fat evinces slowed information processing, a maladaptive reality.
In recognition of this fact and our better understanding of the role of “free radicals” that originate as cellular breakdown with oxygen serving as a major catalyst, we can propose speciﬁ c foods that supplement omega-3 fatty acids (good fat for the brain) and antioxidants that combat free radicals. In Chapter 9, a registered dietician discusses speciﬁc foods you can eat to get these health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y fats and other brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) foods.
Your brain reacts favorably to enriched environments that promote the novel and complex, and that life provides us teachings about our brain every day. This includes growth of new brain cells and an increase in your brain reserve. Now that you’ve taken the time to review your current lifestyle and have taken the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) inventory in the Introduction, you should be empowered by your newfound knowledge about yourself and your brain. Armed with an honest assessment of your current brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle, you are ready to learn speciﬁc activities to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) through the ﬁve critical areas of a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain lifestyle.
As you read the following chapters, it is important that you think about why such activities promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and whether you have these activities in your current lifestyle. Most important, think about what you will need to change in your current lifestyle to include these activities in your daily life. Now let’s move ahead and take a more detailed look at each of the ﬁve areas that are critical to maximizing your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
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Critical Area 1:
A social brain has a higher potential to be a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain.
Research teaches us that humans who isolate or segregate have a higher risk of dementia than those who remain integrated in society. A brain that does not receive social interaction becomes passive, and it is the complex and novel (and being with other people is likely to provide this) that is needed for development of brain reserve. When you engage in the novel and complex, you are stimulating your cortex, the conscious information-processing part of your brain, and you will promote the development of brain reserve. However, when you engage in behaviors that are passive and rote, you will use your subcortex, the part of the brain that helps you with procedures and subconscious action. This is not the pathway to development of brain reserve. This is a fascinating and robust ﬁ nding that supports the importance of remaining involved and integrated in society and engaging in social interaction with
others. It also underscores issues of personal meaning, role, and purpose and goes to the fundamental questions of why we are on the planet and what is our purpose.
Earlier on, I mentioned that dementia refers to loss of general intelligence, memory deﬁcit, loss of other thinking abilities, personality change, and functional decline. Socialization is key to ward off precipitant mental aging. There are nearly one hundred causes of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the leading cause in the United States. Socialization’s link to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) might be explained by the opportunity for communication, critical thought, creativity, and emotional expression, including intimacy, chemical connection, touch, expression of role and purpose, and recreation that arises when two or more humans interact. Personal meaning and identity might also be a result of interpersonal activity or the dedication to an entity or mission “larger than oneself.” When we interact with others on a consistent basis, we create opportunities to learn from them. Koﬁ Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, said that the elders in his village were considered “libraries,” and that when an older person died, the village lost a library. If we think of others as libraries ﬁlled with information, it makes sense to interact with as many people as we can to better ourselves. Additionally, if you maintain an active social network, your own personal development can be enhanced, and the ability to create your own identity and personal mission on Earth can be formed. This process can be enhanced by those in your social network providing you feedback, listening to you, and helping to shape the person you become.
health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y Brain Tip
Stay involved in your community at every age, do not retire, and have a personally meaningful reason for getting up each day!
I had the unique opportunity to provide a brief presentation on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in America at the National Press Club a couple of years ago (see asaging.org for the report of this expert panel on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in America). I voiced my opposition to our national policy of retirement, since it contradicts nearly everything I know about brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). A nation enlightened on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) encourages active involvement across the life span and does not reinforce or encourage removal of oneself from society to a passive and potentially isolated environment when an individual has reached a certain age. As I travel the nation teaching audiences about the brain, I always underscore the importance of remaining involved in meaningful ways—such as being engaged by your community and social surroundings. I discourage retirement, as some identify their worth and very being by their occupation! There is a type of psychological retirement that gets missed with so many who literally count the days and hours down to their “retirement.” More planning is needed to prepare for your time and purpose once the particular job is gone. Unfortunately, some of us will be confronted with unexpected loss prior to our declared retirement date, and we have not prepared psychologically for this. Surveys of baby boomers (76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964) indicate retirement is being redeﬁned and boomers will change their career many times and will likely continue to work later into life relative to their parents.
As retirement can propel one into a state of isolation and segregation where he or she is no longer a vital component of society, the brain will react by becoming passive. Even if you do not have formal employment, your brain will continue to need novel and complex stimulation, and a conscious effort to deﬁne and redeﬁne your personal mission in life will help you to have purpose and a reason for getting up and out into the world every day.
Depending on where you live, there may be mandatory retirement (based on an incredibly invalid construct of chronological age) for some occupations, but I believe the development of hobbies beginning in early to middle life (twenties to sixties) is important. A hobby provides challenges for the brain. Multiple hobbies reﬂect a robust brain with neural networks that have been nurtured. Development of hobbies is a highly important behavior and a challenge for the baby boomers. Hobby development creates an enriched environment and provides a vehicle for the brain to experience the novel and complex.
Hobbies also provide a wonderful vehicle for socialization, and indeed, it might be the social network you have developed that fosters your hobby. Hobbies, like talents, can be shared with others, and others can beneﬁt from your hobbies. What hobbies do you have, and do you have interests that you have been resisting or putting off for some time? Take one such interest and get started today. You are on your way to building brain reserve!
Every community has a variety of clubs, organizations, and formal groups that seek membership. These may be part of a local church, school, or neighborhood. While most of these memberships require volunteer time, they provide the value of socialization and contribution to an ongoing enterprise. What will it take for you to explore the opportunities in your community where you can provide input and value? What skills do you have to offer? We tend to be too busy to think about such questions or to explore such issues. These are interesting questions that require some deep thought and time. If you have discovered your true mission, the opportunity exists to align what it is you are called to do with what you actually do. Happiness and productivity are typically the outcome of such alignment.
By ﬁrst understanding your own inner talents and passions, you will be able to deﬁne what you are “called to do.” This, in turn, will lead to your sharing your passion with others to beneﬁ t the community around you. Social networks and socialization can be a wonderful outcome for one person identifying an inner talent and sharing it in a passionate way with others around him or her.
You have a wonderful list of talents that probably have not been tapped. Take a few moments and prepare a list of talents you think you possess. It does not matter if you have expressed them yet. These talents are most likely not related to your occupation or job description, and they probably represent those things that you would like to pursue “if I only had the time.” Once you have made your list of talents or skills, begin to relate them to the list of organizations or clubs in your community— this will allow you to engage with your community and a network of people who have similar interests and passions.
health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y Brain Tip
Develop hobbies, identify your own innate talents, and align them with ongoing involvement in groups or organizations in your community.
A difﬁcult reality for many people is the feeling of isolation. Whether this is something you experience now or experience when older, it’s important to combat in order to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Isolation represents a risk factor for dementia, and a recent study found that “loneliness” also relates to an increased risk of dementia. A lonely brain is a brain that is emotionally isolated and perhaps depressed.
Overcoming isolation is not only an important initiative for you but also for those around you. Perhaps you have an older parent who is functional but is not exposed to opportunities for socialization. It is important for families or the caregiver to rally and make assertive attempts to get their mother or father out of the house or room and to help her or him recapture a connection with ongoing life. This can require strong suggestions and recommendations to encourage parents to engage in social functions; this may even involve you literally taking them to events. While your parent may not like your motives initially, you can continue to explain the issue of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and risk of dementia to your parent. There is no greater motivator to behavior change than loss of independence, particularly for the older adult.
In order to maintain or maximize the chance for independence, we need to remain active, not passive, and we need to remain integrated in society. Socialization is critical. Do you notice any potential alignments where your talents can increase the value of a particular organization or club? You might even have the entrepreneurial spirit to begin your own club, group, or business using your talents to lead the way! The point of this exercise is to realize that socialization is important to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), that identifying opportunities for socialization in your community and combining that with your own innate talents can foster an enriched environment for your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Let’s take a look at a couple of ways to improve upon socialization in all areas of your life.
Families represent a natural social group, but sometimes family members get scattered, and it can be difﬁcult to have family time. It is important to prioritize family time so everyone can be together. There does not need to be a formal program or event. Families can simply sit and chat, watch a movie, take a walk, or play a game. Friends and relatives can join the family to maintain an active and growing social network. Remaining integrated and involved and not feeling lonely are health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)-promoting, especially for the brain. Consider these tips to improve socialization at home:
The home represents many things to each individual on a very personal level. One thing the home probably has not been considered is a setting for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). However, this can change, and with some small adjustments, the home can become an enriched environment health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y for the brain.
It may seem easy to promote socialization in a corporate setting because there are so many people. However, the corporate setting does not easily facilitate in-depth interaction, and most person-to-person contacts may be superﬁcial or task-based. A corporate setting interested in promoting brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) should encourage opportunities for group interaction, both business and recreational. Meeting and interacting with new people provide the novel and complex environment important to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). It’s important that you get out of your comfort zone and work to promote a more enriched social environment. You can learn much and offer much when you work in an unfamiliar part of the company with different people. Here are some ways that you can promote socialization at work:
By integrating the activities within the ﬁve critical domains of my brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle into the work site, you can begin the process of turning your ofﬁce setting into a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) center.
There are other ways you can promote socialization within your community. It is also probably fair to say that most of the social activities performed take place outside of work and home. It’s important to explore these other opportunities. Remember, research indicates socialization reduces the risk of dementia, particularly for older persons. It is important to recognize what opportunities exist in your community for socialization and what forums exist that offer a potential for providing a wonderful setting for group activities within your community or to participate in other activities. Such opportunities can also create new friendships and help offset potential loneliness and even mood disorders. Consider the following ideas for how you can engage your community and surroundings to increase socialization:
of websites that encourage socialization. Intergenerational activity is enhanced with the computer, as grandparents can communicate and interact with their grandchildren on a daily basis. There is a wonderful new social networking business called MyWayVillage (www.mywayvillage .com) that provides computers and training to older adults to remain connected to their families. This is another excellent example of using new technologies to keep older adults and all of us socially integrated.
Tips to Promote Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com): Quick Review
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Critical Area 2:
It is the physically active, not the passive, brain that will beneﬁt most.
It is an amazing fact that your brain demands 25 percent of the blood from each heartbeat! I often refer to this as “market share”—and real narcissism—on the part of your brain. There is a real reason we call the brain the central nervous system, as it really is the center of the universe. It’s easy to understand why physical activity is so important to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) when you recognize how much beneﬁt the brain derives from each heartbeat. We need to have a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y heart that pumps blood efﬁ ciently for health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y brain function, and physical activity such as exercise has been proven to be a robust correlate to heart health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Today we are able to say with conﬁdence that many different forms of physical activity are also good for your brain, so we need to get moving. When you are moving, you can feel good about the fact that you are making your brain very happy!
Animals that ran on a wheel generated new brain cells in studies conducted in the late 1950s. This research underscores the importance of physical activity to animal brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). The same relationship between physical activity and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) appears to be true for humans. It is important to understand why physical activity relates to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Every time your heart beats, 25 percent of the blood and nutrients from that one heartbeat goes directly to your brain. We have known for some time that physical exercise is critical to cardiac health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), but research is now beginning to support a similar value for physical exercise to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)!
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that as little as three hours a week of brisk walking, an excellent aerobic exercise, increases blood ﬂow to the brain and may trigger neurochemical changes that increase production of new brain cells. The regions of the brain most affected by the aerobic exercise included the frontal lobes, important for complex thinking, reasoning, and attention, and the corpus callosum, the bundle of white matter that bridges the two sides of the brain. This brain study is important for several reasons:
Many other studies have shown that physical activity and exercise such as walking promote the health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of the human brain. Research has demonstrated an increased relationship between development of the myelin sheath, the lipid substance that surrounds brain cells and nerve tracts propelling rapid information ﬂow, and exercise; increased learning and exercise; increased test scores in school and exercise; and even improvement in mood and physical exercise. Mobility and blood ﬂow are critical for human beings and necessary for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). This relationship likely exists at all ages and with health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y and diseased brains. Other research suggests that walking on a daily basis or at least several times a week can reduce the risk of dementia.
This ﬁnding again supports the relationship between physical activity and the reduced risk of brain disease.
Interestingly, there appears to be a dosing effect; the more you walk during the week, the more positive effect it has for the brain. People know they should be walking daily, and they can even specify the need to walk about ten thousand steps daily, but unfortunately, being educated about what’s good for you does not necessarily translate into action or behavior. I read recently that only about 35 percent of this country’s population is involved in a formal and consistent exercise program! I can tell you to walk on a daily basis and to try and take ten thousand steps daily. However, what are the chances of you actually doing it? It takes a little motivation and a few tools to get you started. I recommend that you purchase a pedometer at any local shopping mall or sports store. You will derive tremendous value for your purchase, as the pedometer will keep track of your daily steps, and it will also remind you to walk. I always recommend you buy one for a loved one in your family; it makes a great birthday present. Have some fun with it!
Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) Tip
Get physically active with at least three hours of aerobic exercise a week, and walk for distance three to ﬁve times per week. It is recommended that we all walk around ten thousand steps daily! Purchase a pedometer to keep count.
You now know that aerobic exercise, particularly walking, on a daily basis has a clear functional beneﬁt to your brain. Physical activity helps to increase brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), and you have been taught a practical tip, purchasing a pedometer, to help change your behavior. You will be interested to ﬁnd out that there are other physical activities you can enjoy that relate to reduced risk of dementia. The interesting thing about these brain-boosting activities is that you will need to use both sides of your body. I am often surprised by the fact that most of us not only have a dominant side, but that we have almost completely neglected our non-dominant side. It is important to understand that each side of your body is controlled by the opposite side of the brain. As such, most of us have essentially ignored one half of our brain, so begin to champion both sides of the brain.
Building an ambidextrous brain involves some basic and practical steps. First, it is important to understand that your arms and legs represent two of the major pathways into the brain. The left side of our body is controlled by the right hemisphere of our brain, while the right side of our body is controlled by our left hemisphere of our brain. Most of us have a dominant hand and leg. We tend to use these limbs much more often than our non-dominant limbs, and this is why our non-dominant limbs are weaker and less coordinated. Underlying the fact that these limbs are weaker and less coordinated than our dominant limbs is the fact that we do not have sufﬁcient neural circuitry in our brains to help these limbs function as well as our dominant limbs. There is only one way to change that, and it is to use our non-dominant limbs more often. Writing with your non-dominant hand on a daily basis, dribbling a basketball with your non-dominant hand, building puzzles and putting things together with your non-dominant hand, and even kicking and jumping with your non-dominant leg are examples of exercises you can do to build up the neural circuitry in different parts of your non-dominant hemisphere.
The reason an ambidextrous brain is so important to health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is that if we fall victim to a stroke or structural damage in one hemisphere, we will be better able to adjust to the loss if we have sufﬁcient development of other areas of the brain to compensate for and even pick up the functional responsibility of the damaged region.
Other physical activities known to promote brain heath include dance, particularly the tango and other pattern dances, as it has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia. I am not sure we have the ability to specify how much dance or how often we should dance yet, but this behavior appears to be health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y for the brain. Gardening and knitting are two activities that also relate to reduced risk of dementia. Notice that dance, gardening, and knitting demand use of both sides of the body. In thinking about how knitting and gardening might lead to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), it is useful to consider what the brain is asked to do with these activities. For example, with gardening your brain will be asked to plan into the future and engage in visuospatial function and visuomotor skill. This says nothing about the stress reduction gardening might offer. We need to learn that a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) effect can be derived by things other than pills, liquids, and shots!
Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) Tip
Specific physical activities that promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) include the following:
The great thing about the home setting for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is that each of the activities can be family-based. Children will most likely model what you, the parents, do, and getting the children’s brains involved in a brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle early can translate into a more positive beneﬁt. Here are some ways you can be more active to promote your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) at home:
We all need to be active and mobile. Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, aerobics, dancing, and even gardening and knitting are wonderful activities for brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) promotion. You can feel good about the fact that such physical activity will produce increased blood ﬂow to the brain and help the brain to function more efﬁciently, enhance mood, increase cognitive ability, and even boost energy levels. So get up and get moving!
It’s no wonder it’s hard to ﬁnd time to be physically active— since most of our time may be spent at work—but some workplaces offer another environment where you can be physically active.
One example is the growing number of businesses and companies that promote wellness programs, including providing space at the work site to exercise and engage in physical activity. Some companies even provide incentives to their employees to exercise in the hope of generating a more productive workforce, a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)ier workforce, and a lowered utilization of health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) care services. Here are some practical tips you can follow to increase your physical activity at work:
There is no doubt that movement, exercise, and daily physical activity are good for your general health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and indeed for your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). I have provided you some practical tips on how to engage in physical activity at home and in the work setting. It is important to note that we all have other environments in our lives where we can engage in physical activity. To understand the importance of daily physical activity, you are reminded that there are enough studies now that indicate the following relationship between physical activity and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com):
These studies provide sufﬁcient support to the idea and recommendation that daily physical activity is critical to your general and your brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). As discussed earlier, physical activity is directly related to cardiovascular function, and the human brain demands 25 percent of the blood from each heartbeat. This physiological fact is the underlying explanation as to why physical activity promotes brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in the form of cognitive and emotional well-being.
The question becomes, how do you incorporate physical activity into your daily life outside of work and even when away from home? Here are some other ideas:
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For those who may have physical limitations and are unable to exert themselves much, you can still get moving through slow, resistance exercise like stationary biking or even low-impact activities like those offered by virtual reality video-game systems like Nintendo’s Wii Sports and Wii Fit.
The important idea in this section is that physical activity is critical to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) and that we can apply different forms of physical activity to the settings we visit in our lives—our schools, libraries, and places of work—where we may spend many hours. It is important to think how you can apply the physical-activity part of the brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) lifestyle wherever you are and help to create brain-health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y environments by example. Remember, it does not matter where you are, your brain will always demand 25 percent of the blood from each heartbeat.
Physical activity will not only help to promote the blood ﬂ ow from the heart, but such vigorous movement will ultimately help your brain be as health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)y as possible.
Tips to Promote Brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com): Quick Review
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Critical Area 3:
How brilliant is a system that can create something that was not there a second before?
Perhaps the most obvious lifestyle factor affecting brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is mental stimulation. The human brain seeks stimulation regardless of age, and this stimulation likely begins in the womb. As we’ve learned, the brain gets stimuli from enriched environments, which helps to facilitate development of brain reserve, the term used to describe the brain’s development of dendrites and brain cell interaction. Brain reserve helps your brain to delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, so the more you have, the more likely your mind is to stay young and sharp. Ultimately, environmental input can shape the structure and function of your brain across your entire life span, which is why it’s important to
create environments for yourself that optimize the development of brain reserve.
Mental stimulation is critical to the development and health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) of the human brain. Cognitive stimulation of the brain begins in the womb and continues to have tremendous health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)-promoting value until you die. How does an enriched environment promote mental stimulation through novel and complex stimuli? Creativity and innovation are two critical thought processes to promote in any setting dedicated to brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Albert Einstein often asserted that a less structured environment best unleashes the imagination and creativity of the brain. Unfortunately, our traditional environments, such as school and work, tend to adhere to a highly structured and programmatic approach to life. We need to be able to think more creatively and approach the same problems of life with increased imagination.
The human brain can be stimulated using many different types of information and stimuli, though novelty and complexity remain necessary ingredients for any stimulus to be considered to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). Novelty and complexity are so important because such stimuli are processed by the cortex, where brain reserve is best generated. We do not want to engage in activities any more than is necessary that are rote and passive, that probably are most related to the subcortex, and that most likely do not contribute much to development of brain reserve. We all have to do rote activities like putting on clothes and brushing our teeth. True mental stimulation can only be gained through such activities as reading; writing; traveling; engaging in creative pursuits, such as art and music; game-playing; learning new languages, including sign language; developing hobbies; and participating in a critical exchange of thoughts, like debating.
Research on the human brain and brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is helping all of us understand more about our brains and how to apply speciﬁ c activities in our daily lives to promote our own brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
Research shows that language appears to be critical when it comes to brain development. The sophistication of the language system in young adulthood might actually be predictive of brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) in late life. Dr. D. A. Snowdon, an epidemiologist who has spent many years following a cohort of nuns with an interest in the relationship between their lifestyle and health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) (known as the “nun study”), including brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), has found that the number of ideas expressed in diaries written by twenty-one-year-old females predicted percentage of tangles in the brain, a marker of Alzheimer’s, nearly sixty years later.
Dr. Snowdon proposed that language sophistication in early life might mark a well-developed brain, resistant to neurodegenerative changes later in life. In contrast, a language system not well developed in early life may mark a vulnerable brain, at risk for neurodegenerative changes in later life. This suggests that we can all work to develop our writing and speaking abilities early in life as one means of building a health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com)ier brain and perhaps a resistance to neurodegenerative disease later in life. This is a good example of how mental stimulation early in life can have long-lasting positive effects on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).
There is also some interesting work done researching brain development by teaching infants sign language prior to their neurological ability to speak. Infants can learn about twenty signs prior to being able to speak words. When the infants exposed to sign language are followed, they have greater articulation abilities, and their IQ is higher by the second grade relative to controls (children not taught sign language). As we learned earlier, higher IQ early in life relates to reduced risk of dementia later in life. Once again, interventions early in life that enhance IQ and develop the language system appear to be examples of proactive brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com). These studies underscore the critical point that brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) is a lifelong pursuit and that risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s may actually begin in childhood, but it’s never too late to promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com) by learning a new language, even sign language!
Each of these studies supports the beneﬁcial effects that mental stimulation has on brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com), with that beneﬁ t lasting many years. They also help people understand what types of activities are not only mentally stimulating but what speciﬁ c activities promote brain health(Buy now from http://www.drugswell.com).