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Blog posts tagged with 'cognitive function'

Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting Techniques

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Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting TechniquesSeeing the brighter side of life doesn't always come easy to everyone. But what if you could trick your brain into thinking positive thoughts? According to a recent study there are several ways of accomplishing this to help support a positive mind and mood that can influence an overall healthier lifestyle.

Neutral, Duchenne and Chopsticks

Because of the close connection that the mind and body share, researchers wanted to investigate what extent physical signals from the body could influence the mind. Their study centered on smiling. It's already known that feeling good can make you react with a smile, but can forcing a smile, in-turn, make you feel good? To test this hypothesis, researcher Tara Kraft from the University of Kansas gathered 169 participants and trained the volunteers to maintain three separate facial expressions: a neutral expression, a standard smile, and a more empathetic smile called the Duchenne smile, achieved by holding chopsticks in their mouths. While only half the participants were told to smile, researchers explained that having chopsticks in their mouths forced the volunteers to smile without being aware that they were doing so. All of the subjects then participated in stress-inducing tasks such as submerging their hands in ice-cold water and tracing a star with their non-dominant hand while looking at a reflection of the shape in a mirror.

A Smile for Science

Results showed that those who were instructed to smile, (in particular, those who had the Duchenne smiles) had lower heart rates when performing the tasks than those who had neutral expressions. Even those who were unknowingly forced into smiling with the chopsticks in their mouths had a slightly lower heart rate than those who wore neutral expressions. The results, soon to be published in the journal, Psychological Science, give validity to the theory that even a forced smile positively influences the mind into a better mood and can improve other important areas such as stress and heart health. Kraft's research partner, Sarah Pressman, even suggested an everyday application to this theory. "The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," she said.

A Pose for Positive Moods

While a smile may be the easiest way to spontaneously support a good mood there are other poses that have been shown to help support a positive frame of mind. For instance, one study showed that opening up one's body to occupy more space in what's called a "high-power pose" can have positive mental effects and alter hormone levels, too. Those who held high-power poses were more willing to gamble or take risks, pointing to a higher level of confidence and more positive frame of mind. While meditation has long been linked to promoting a sound mind and mood, a 2008 study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, sought to investigate the benefits that yoga poses have on mental well-being. The study showed that breathing mechanisms and relaxed body posture can also help clear the mind and support lower stress levels.

Taking Control of Your Moods

Maintaining a healthy mood shouldn't be thought of as some insurmountable challenge. Everyone has their ups and downs, and understanding the little things you can do throughout your day can help to provide an instant mood boost. Now that you know how powerful your smile can be, use it wisely and often!

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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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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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Being Mindful of Your Brain’s Nutrition

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Being Mindful of Your Brain’s NutritionWe are a health-aware generation who has been enlightened by scientists with the knowledge good nutrition supports a healthy body. Recently, the scientific community has been interested in shedding light on how better nutrition can benefit and support brain health, too. The human brain is one of the most complex organs in your body and scientists have only just begun to scratch the surface of the best nutritional ways to support brain and cognitive function.

Taking Nutritional Support Straight to the Brain

The years of research have been anything but fruitless. Many studies point to evidence that supplementation can also support brain health and cognitive function. Dr. Perry Renshaw, professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine and Director of the Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the Brain Institute at the University of Utah, explains, "accumulating evidence suggests that not only better overall nutrition, but also supplementation with several key nutrients may help stave off the reduced efficiency of brain cells that occurs with aging." To help you get started, we've listed some of these foods and nutrients below.

The B Vitamins

The B vitamins are an excellent source of nutrients to support brain health and overall health. Thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 have all shown promise in supporting brain health. In fact, particular levels of these vitamins are paramount for the efficient metabolism of glucose, the brain's primary fuel, which is why you require daily supplementation of these vitamins.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are another key source to help maintain brain vitality and cognitive function. They help protect the body from free radicals that attack healthy cells and are said to help reduce levels of oxidative stress. Vitamins E and C, and compounds such as alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, Ginkgo biloba, and fruit polyphenols have also been studied for their potential benefits to brain health.

"Good" Fats

At first glance this seems like a contradictive statement. Nevertheless, many studies have shown that healthy fatty acids not only promote heart health, but brain health as well. Healthy fatty acids can come from vegetable sources such as corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and peanuts, as well as from certain fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and herring. Olive oil and many different types of tree nuts are also sources of "good" fats. If these foods sound familiar it is because they are staples of the popular "Mediterranean diet" which is said to be one of the most effective diets to support cognitive health. As knowledge of the human mind and its functions expands, hopefully so will the importance that people place on supporting their brains as well as their bodies. Understanding the necessity of good nutrition for overall health is paramount. A healthy diet, regular physical and mental activity, and supplementation of key nutrients will help keep you on the path of healthy aging so you can focus your mind on living and enjoying life.

References:

  • Rutberg S. Supps better than sudoku for aging brain? Newhope360. https://newhope360.com/breaking-news/supps-better-sudoku-aging-brain?cid=nl_npi_daily
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academy Press, Washington, DC; 1998.
  • Behl C. Oxidative stress in Alzheimer's disease: implications for prevention and therapy. Subcell Biochem. 2005;38:65-78
  • Panza F et al. Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline. Public Health Nutr. 2004;7(7):959-63.

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Fish Oil and its Links to Cognitive Function and Weight Loss

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Fish Oil and its Links to Cognitive Function and Weight LossThe benefits of fish have been well documented. Known for its potential heart and brain health support, fish oil has become an integral part of supporting an everyday healthy diet. Recently, researchers from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease explored research to see if omega-3s had a role to play in aiding weight loss. Data gathered from 185 research papers revealed that fish oil likely plays a significant role in hindering refined sugars and saturated fats' ability to inhibit the brain's control on the body's intake of food.

A Study in Junk Food Reversal

Dr. Luck Pickavance, part of the research team explains the research and significance of the findings, “Body weight is influenced by many factors, and some of the most important of these are the nutrients we consume. Excessive intake of certain macronutrients, the refined sugars and saturated fats found in junk food, can lead to weight gain, disrupt metabolism and even affect mental processing.” Research, however, has suggested that omega-3 fish oils can be a positive force in supporting consistent healthy weight management, as well as protecting cognitive health. Researchers proposed to investigate the literature on this topic to determine whether there is evidence to suggest that omega-3s might aid weight loss by stimulating particular brain processes."

Fish Oil to the Healthy Rescue

Researchers have found that triglyceride fats can block hormones usually released to protect neurons and stimulate growth, but this new study has been revealed that omega-3’s in fish oil can help to restore the normal function of the released hormones by helping to keep triglyceride levels in check. In a sense, fish oil cannot directly make you lose weight, but it has shown the ability slow the effects of some of the processes triggered in the brain by unhealthy high-fat diets, essentially mimicking the effects of calorie-restrictive diets. While these insights show the increasing benefits of fish oil it’s important to balance nutritional supplements and nutrients with a healthy diet as well as getting plenty of exercise. Your body’s health and nutrition is a delicate balance, take the right steps to supplement and support your health today.

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