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Blog posts tagged with 'brain function'

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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From Body to Brain to Bones, Just How Important Is Vitamin D?

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From Body to Brain to Bones, Just How Important Is Vitamin D?Vitamin D is a vital component to many areas of your health including bone density, muscle strength, immune health, brain function, and more. However, as recently as 2009 it was reported that nearly three-quarters of all teens and adults in US are vitamin D deficient. This is a critical area to address as the consequences can have far-ranging effects on your overall health.

Sun to Skin

Your body’s skin cells are able to produce vitamin D every time you step out into the sun, so it stands to reason that vitamin D should be easy to obtain. But those with darker skin and people who spend a lot on time indoors or in darker regions, may have a harder time absorbing enough sunlight to produce a proper amount of vitamin D. It is recommended to spend 15 to 30 minutes a few days a week outside in direct sunlight. However, UV rays can be harmful so health experts don’t often advise getting Vitamin D from sun exposure.

Just How Important Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important right down to the core of your health. It influences everything from aiding calcium absorption for strong bones to supporting muscles and teeth. Vitamin D can also influence heart health. It has been studied for its ability to support healthy blood pressure levels, and promote healthy arteries and circulation. Recent studies have shown that it can also influence your auto-immune system’s health, aiding your body’s natural defenses. If supporting almost every aspect of your body wasn’t enough, vitamin D has also shown its merit in supporting the brain. Several studies have shown that sufficient levels of vitamin D can support brain function and cognitive health. It seems there is nothing this multipurpose vitamin can’t do, but are you getting enough?

Where Do I Get Vitamin D and How Much Do I Need?

Eating a healthy and balanced diet containing cereals and low-fat milk fortified with vitamin D can be a great way to start off your day. Many brands of orange juice also contain added vitamin D; just be wary of additives and sugar content. For dinner, if you’re looking to boost your vitamin D intake, certain fish, especially mackerel, salmon, tuna, and sardines can all provide healthy amounts of vitamin D. In addition, foods like eggs (especially the yolks), cheese, and yogurt can all help fortify your diet with the recommended amounts of vitamin D. How much you need depends on you as an individual. Age, nationality, and where you live can all factor into your recommended daily amount. While there is still some debate on how much vitamin D you should take, allowances ranging up to 4,000 IU’s a day are generally considered safe. For those who may have trouble getting enough vitamin D through their diet there are also many vitamin D supplements that can satisfy your daily needs. So be sure to stay up to date on how much you need, and continue to make the choices that give you all the nutrition you need to remain healthy each day!


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Technology-Savvy Seniors a Step Ahead in Understanding Health

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Technology-Savvy Seniors a Step Ahead in Understanding HealthOver the past 20 years, we have seen so many leaps in technology that it would be a common misconception to think that technology is only popular among youth. But according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project nearly 87% of older people are using e-mail and search engines and the number is increasing. Studies show that more and more older Americans are quickly adopting the Internet as an efficient way to engage, inform, and communicate. But did you also know that being tech-smart, as you are right now, also has health benefits?

The Techno-Health Connection

A recent study revealed that older men and women who used the Internet were more likely to be physically active, eat a healthy diet, smoke less, and partake in screenings for preventing major illnesses. Researchers also found that the more time older adults spent using technology, the more likely they were to engage in these healthy behaviors. The study included 6,000 men and women ages 50 and older who completed surveys over the course of nine years. The surveys took into account their Internet usage along with their demographics, physical activity, diet, and health screenings they underwent. Researchers found that both men and women who used the Internet regularly were 50% more likely to exercise and 24% more likely to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Study author Christian von Wagner, a lecturer at University College London, also found that there was a dose-response relationship between Internet usage and health patterns—meaning that the more time people spent online, the more likely they were to practice good health habits in real life.

A Tool for Health and Knowledge

The Internet can be a wondrous tool when it comes to health. Users can use online resources to seek information about managing health conditions; learn about nutrition, healthier eating habits, and exercise; and discover new supplements that may be beneficial to them. Exposure to this type of knowledge and connecting with others can be a great motivator in the quest for a healthier lifestyle. The knowledge is out there—all you have to do is seek it out and put it to practical use!


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Folate for a Healthy Thought? How This B Vitamin Can Support Your Mood

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Folate for a Healthy Thought? How This B Vitamin Can Support Your MoodBalanced nutrition is important no matter what your age or health focus. The proper vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are not only pertinent to physical health, but your mental state and mood, too. Low moods can have an equally negative impact on your health as high cholesterol and joint discomfort. But out of the long list of recommended daily nutrients, which ones benefit your mind the most? Thanks to a recent investigation on how diets influence moods, the answer to that question may be folate.

The Case for Folate

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland analyzed the diet and health of 2,000 middle-aged or older men. Using food records and food frequency questionnaires to gauge diets, and after studying information about low moods from the National Hospital Discharge Register, the researchers followed up with participants for an average of 13–20 years.

The results of the analyzed studies and information revealed that healthy amounts of folate (or vitamin B9) were associated with a decreased risk in low moods and symptoms that are associated with lower emotional well-being. According to the university release, "A healthy diet characterized by vegetables, fruits, berries, whole-grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat cheese was associated with a lower prevalence of lower-mood symptoms and a smaller risk of low moods during the follow-up period." It also remarked that a diet high in sugars, processed meats, sugary drinks, and manufactured foods was associated with having a higher risk in lower-mood symptoms and issues.

You Can't Escape Your Greens

The health advantages of folate aren't exactly groundbreaking discoveries. Expecting mothers are advised to add more folate to their diets because healthful diets with adequate amounts of folate may reduce the risk of neural tube defects in unborn children. Folate is available in many of today's healthy foods like arugula, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds, asparagus, garbanzo and pinto beans, peanuts, and sprouts. It's easy to see how lacking a balanced diet can deprive you of this crucial vitamin, but other factors such as BPA contamination may also affect your ability to get the required amounts of folate you need. BPA, or bisphenol-A, is an organic compound found in clear plastic water bottles and microwavable containers that can seep into your food or drinks. Initial studies have shown that BPA may affect the brain and nervous system, which can have repercussions on your mood, memory, and concentration.

Sometimes Food Isn't Enough

Because sometimes it's just as hard to get all of your nutritious needs from meals, there are many supplements complete with the proper vitamins and minerals, including folate, which can help fill out your daily intake with what you need to live healthy and feel happy. In fact, in order for the body to utilize folate properly, it first needs to convert it into the active form known as 5-MTHF, so taking a 5-MTHF supplement may be even more beneficial. Positive moods can give you greater motivation to exercise, socialize, and revolutionize your way of life. If your mood is in a funk, start by improving the quality of your diet to improve your quality of life.


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Stay Cool All Year Round by Staying Hydrated

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Stay Cool All Year Round by Staying HydratedOne of the easiest ways of regulating your body temperature, boosting athletic performance, and detoxing your body doesn't involve special exercises or supplements—all you have to do is drink more water. Most people tend to pay more attention to hydration during the hot summer months, but dehydration doesn't only happen in the heat waves of summer; it can happen anytime of the year to anyone at any age. Staying hydrated supports your alertness and helps control your appetite. Water is also important for healthy skin, hair, and nails; controlling your heart rate and blood pressure; and supporting healthy kidney function, which is why it's important to monitor your fluid intake throughout your lifetime.

Creative Ways to Get Your Fluids

Given that the human body is about 60% water, it's little wonder why hydration is so vital to everyday health. As a general rule, most physicians and nutritionists recommend drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses (or 1.9 liters) of water daily. The Institute of Medicine has stated that a more accurate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) while women should drink 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Athletes and people who spend a lot of time outdoors require more fluids because of water loss through sweating. There are plenty of ways to stay hydrated without relying solely on water. Juices and sports drinks can help you maintain your fluid levels whilst providing added nutrients and electrolytes. Fruits such as watermelons, oranges, grapefruit, and honeydew also have high water content. However, sports drinks and fruit juices also contain sugar, so take them in moderation. If there's ever any doubt about the sugar or caloric content of a beverage, nothing beats water as your purest method of hydration.

A Drink for All Occasions

While humidity and summer heat make it vital for staying hydrated, replenishing your body's fluids is important all year round. Whether you're sitting at a desk in the middle of winter or exercising in the fall, your daily hydration is vital to remaining healthy. Similar to how dieters keep food logs to track their calories, you can keep a water log by storing a marked container of water in the refrigerator to keep track of how much water you've consumed each day. Keeping hydrated, while seemingly the simplest of tasks, can be easily forgotten and the signs of dehydration are not often obvious. Whether you're young, elderly, moderately active, or a professional sportsperson, keeping your body properly hydrated is an important task in supporting daily health.

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