Tag Archives: Alzheimers disease

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

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6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

9 foods to help you concentrate

Wild blueberries help you focus and conentrateI just read an article that says cognitive decline – or our ability to reason and remember things – can start to affect our brains as early as age 45. As someone who is rapidly approaching my mid-40s, I have to say this concerns me.

I have been on a journey this past year to live a healthier lifestyle and find more balance in my life. There are always challenges to maintaining a healthy balance. I get stressed out by the demands of work and family. I fall back into unhealthy eating habits or neglect my exercise routine. I sacrifice sleep to get more done.

The last thing I need is to have a sluggish brain and poor concentration while I’m trying to achieve more and live a balanced life. After doing some research, I found that there are several foods that can help me focus and improve my ability to concentrate.

Add these 9 super foods to your diet to help maintain a healthy brain:

Coffee
Caffeine has been shown to slow the aging process and improve short-term memory. While coffee isn’t necessarily going to make you smarter, it can boost your performance and make you more alert. As a huge fan of the benefits of drinking coffee, I am happy to learn that it can also help me concentrate.

Chocolate
Dark chocolate also provides a caffeine boost and contains powerful antioxidants that can help enhance your focus. Plus, chocolate just makes you feel good.

Berries
Berries have been shown to protect the brain from free radicals and help reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and make a good snack. You can also add them to your cereal or oatmeal for a healthy breakfast.

Whole grains
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, cereal, quinoa and barley, contribute to your daily intake of fiber. Whole grains also contain B-vitamins that are used to break down carbohydrates to give your brain energy.

Fish
Fish are a great protein source and give your brain a boost. They are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power. Salmon and other fatty fish like tuna and mackerel contain an important fat for brain health called DHA. Salmon is a good source of protein, which can also help you stay focused. To reap the benefits, add fish to your diet two or three times a week.

Leafy greens
Leafy greens, including spinach, kale and arugula, contain nutrient compounds that help the brain stay young. They also provide the antioxidant lutein, which can prevent cognitive decline. Try to eat two servings of leafy greens a day.

Nuts and flaxseeds
Nuts, especially walnuts, give your body magnesium, which helps your body function more efficiently and fights off fatigue. Flax is the best source for alpha-linolenic acid – a healthy fat that improves the workings of your brain.

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba has been used for thousands of years for both concentration and memory. It is thought to boost blood flow and oxygen to the brain and improve function and memory. Ginkgo biloba can be added to your diet as a supplement.

Gum
While gum is not a food, it has been shown in studies to help people be more alert while performing tasks. So, if you want to improve your concentration, chew a piece of gum!

Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps you get the essential nutrients you need to focus. If you eat too much or too little, that can also interfere with your ability to concentrate. For the best brain benefits, eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber and protein.

7 tips to keep your mind sharp

Keep your brain sharpJust this morning, I jogged down the stairs to my basement on a mission. Then, I stood at the bottom of the landing wondering why the heck I had come downstairs.

Sound familiar? We all have momentary brain lapses from time to time. We have so many things going through our minds at once, it’s easy to become distracted.

You have probably heard these referred to as “senior moments” – even though we can have memory lapses at any age. In fact, memory loss is not typically caused by age alone. Cognitive decline is more likely to be due to organic disorders, brain injury or neurological illness.

As we discuss often in the this blog, living a balanced life can benefit your overall health and well-being in so many ways. Studies have shown that we can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia by living a healthy lifestyle. For instance, staying physically active, getting plenty of rest, being social, eating a balanced diet, and giving up bad habits, such as smoking and limiting alcohol to one drink a day, can all help improve your brain health.

In addition, you can actively exercise your brain muscles. Here are some strategies you can use to help protect and sharpen your mind:

Keep learning
Just as physical activity keeps your body in shape, mental activity can shape up your mind. And, exercising your brain doesn’t really require any special equipment. Simply read a book or the newspaper. Sign up for an online newsletter that interests you. Take a cooking class or take classes toward a degree. Sign up for martial arts or make pottery. Learn a new language. All of these activities help stimulate your mind and keep your brain flexible.

Play games
Games help you concentrate and use strategic planning. This mental stimulation increases your mental clarity. Play a round of golf or hit the tennis court. Play pool with some friends. Do a crossword, Sudoku puzzle or other brain teaser. Play chess, checkers or cards – even solitaire on the computer or a tablet. Or, grab the video controller from your kids or grandkids and play with them. Choose video games that involve strategy or problem solving. Believe it or not, games like tennis and bowling can give you a physical workout, too!

Be social
If you can play games with friends or family, that’s even better. Social interaction with friends can have many health benefits, including improving your mood and cutting down on stress. Both depression and stress can contribute to memory loss. So, go out to eat with a group of friends. Get together and play cards. Have a family game night. Socializing and staying connected is just another form of mental exercise.

Get moving
Speaking of exercise, get up and get moving! Physically active people tend to have better memory and cognition than those who are inactive. Exercising gets your blood flowing all over your body, including your brain. This increased blood flow may help keep your mind sharp. Weight training, toning exercises and improving balance can also help you stay fit and strengthen your brain. Here are some tips to help you get motivated to exercise.

Relieve stress
Exercise helps relieve tension and assists you in coping with the stresses of the day. Chronic stress can wear on your body and mind. Stress causes your body to produce cortisol – which can lead to impaired memory. Find ways to relax and recharge your body and your mind. You’ll feel better, and it’s good for your brain!

Take care of your body
In addition to regular exercise, you should keep your body tuned up. That means getting a physical every year and following your doctor’s recommendations. If you have any chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or depression, you need to treat them to prevent any serious problems in the future. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory will probably be.

Eat healthy
A healthy diet may be good for your brain health, too. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diet includes lots of fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans. Include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources like fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. And drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!

Find your purpose
Do something that you love. Do something you’re good at. Find that something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Having a mission in life can help you stay mentally sharp. You may have a job that you love. You may like to volunteer in your community or help out at the local school. You may have a hobby that you truly enjoy. Whatever it is, have fun with it!

Exercise your brain every time you get a chance. Do something new. Try something different. Just remember that when you flex your brain muscles, you are improving your cognitive skills and keeping your mind sharp!