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Blog posts of '2014' 'May'

The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise You

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The Key to a Healthy Mind and Memory? The Answer May Surprise YouWe all have memory glitches from one time to another. From forgetting a past event, to forgetting where we put our keys – again. Although some changes to the brain and memory are inevitable, there is much you can do to keep your brain conditioned and memory sharp. According to a new study, aerobic exercise is one such activity.

Physical Activity's Connection to the Brain and Memory

A study published in the online version of the British Journal of Sports Medicine attempted to find a connection between physical exercise and supporting cognitive health, especially for mature adults who may be facing cognitive concerns later in life. Their particular area of focus was the part of the brain called the hippocampus, an area of the brain closely associated to memory, logic, and verbal reasoning skills that has been said to be very sensitive to age-related changes. In the course of their study researchers tested different forms of exercise on 86 women between the ages of 70 and 80 who claimed to have mild memory concerns and who were also all living independently at home. Throughout a six-month period different groups of the 86 women were assigned a different workout routine; some were assigned strictly aerobic exercises while others were instructed to complete resistance training (lunges, squats, and light weights) or balance and/or muscle-toning exercises.

The Exercise Choice for Memory Support

At the end of six months researchers wanted to look at the effect, if any, a particular form of exercise had on maintaining the size of the hippocampus. Comparisons of MRI scans of the volunteers taken before and after the study showed that women who completed the full duration of aerobic training had hippocampuses that were significantly larger than those who completed the other forms of exercise, leading researchers to believe that aerobic exercise may be more beneficial to the mind and memory. While researchers commented that more research on a larger scale needs to be done, they also cited that this is not the first sign of evidence connecting the benefits of exercise to cognitive health. A large, meta-analytic study in which researchers looked at 18 different interventional studies from 1966–2001 concluded that fitness-induced benefits were said to have "robust but selective benefits" on cognitive health.

Brain Games and Memory

While the need for consistent physical activity is one of the keys to maintaining overall health throughout your lifetime, you can also promote good cognitive function through games and exercises that directly stimulate your brain to support your mind and keep your memory sharp. Association is one of the most helpful ways of remembering and connecting memories. By creating links between pictures, concepts, and words your memory can become sharper as familiar concepts will help you recall memories faster. Crossword puzzles, card games, and other brain-stimulating games such as Sudoku can also aid your memory by forcing your mind to dig deep into its problem-solving skills. Even board games and reading books and articles on subjects you wouldn't normally be interested in can keep your mind active because they force your brain to move out of its comfort zone.

Flex Your Muscles and Your Brain Power

Research continues to show that it is possible to maintain good health at any age—and this includes the health of your brain. Aerobic exercise benefits your memory just as much as the rest of your body. Games and other mental challenges also help spur your cognitive functions to help you stay sharp. As evidence linking the benefits of physical activity to cognitive health gains more traction, hopefully this will inspire you to make exercise a vital—and regular—part of your healthy lifestyle.

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National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – Learning the Important Factors

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National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – Learning the Important FactorsIt's May which means it's the start of National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Blood pressure is something you should endeavor to support every day—not just when you think something might be amiss—because your heart works hard for you daily. That's why you should work to stomp out bad habits and take on healthy tips to take care of your heart function and other connected areas of health.

Blood pressure is the force of your blood as your heart pumps it through your arteries and throughout your body. The two readings that indicate the pressure of your blood flow are systolic (the top number), which measures your blood pressure when your heart beats, and diastolic (the bottom number), which measures your blood pressure when the heart is at rest. The target range for healthy blood pressure is anything at, or lower than, 120/80.

Family History

There are many factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, that you need to be aware of when focusing on maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and in turn, a healthy heart. Some factors that are beyond your control can include race, family history, and age. For example, studies have shown that African Americans tend to be more susceptible to blood pressure concerns when compared to other races due to genetic factors. However, even if you have a family history of blood pressure concerns, there are still a number of ways you can positively influence healthy levels.

Knowing the Basic Do's and Don'ts

Some factors that are within your control include cutting back on certain foods. For example, a number of studies have proven that cutting back on sodium can have a profound positive influence on blood pressure and can help lower the risk of cardiovascular challenges by 25%–30%. The American Heart Association (AHA) currently recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This can easily be accomplished by eating less processed foods, canned foods, and lunch meats, which are the main culprits behind high dietary sodium. Additionally, alcohol consumption can affect blood pressure. But it's also something within your power to control. The AHA says to limit your drink intake to no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink per day for women (1 drink serving is defined as one 12-ounce beer or 4-ounce glass of wine). Besides watching what you eat and drink, you can cut back on stress and maintain a healthy weight. Although there is no evidence to suggest that stress directly causes high blood pressure, blood pressure levels can still spike during periods of tension. Try reducing stress by going for walk, doing an activity that relaxes you, or sharing a laugh with friends. Additionally, added body mass puts extra strain on your heart, forcing it to work harder. Even losing an excess 10 lbs can make a significant difference to your blood pressure health.

Nutritional Factors of Note

When dialing back on things such as sodium and alcohol, you should also remember to increase your intake of nutritious foods. To positively influence your blood pressure it is recommended that you eat at least 8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. In particular, foods high in potassium have been shown in studies to support healthy blood pressure. Leafy green vegetables—such as kale, collards, swiss chard, and spinach—and whole grains are also rich in B vitamins that support cardio health. Choose healthier cooking options such as baking, roasting, and steaming as opposed to frying; and cut out foods containing trans fats and saturated fat. Throughout the centuries, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have catalogued hundreds of beneficial herbs and their various uses. Several of these herbs can be used to support healthy blood pressure. Chrysanthemum, for example, helps expand blood vessels to ease circulation. Senna also contains compounds that help reduce arterial plaque buildup, while Apocynum venetum has alkaloids that help promote healthy blood flow. Since you wouldn't normally find these herbs on your supermarket shelf, nutritional supplements may be the best source. Your heart works hard for you everyday, so it makes sense to kick those bad habits and positively influence your blood pressure levels. Simple tasks, such as cutting back on sodium and alcohol; reducing stress; and increasing your intake of nutritious foods and herbal supplements; are things everyone can do — starting in National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Find your healthy motivation today!


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