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Entries in alzheimer's (10)

Thursday
Dec122013

Protect Your Brain As You Age--Fight Alzheimer's

Americans’ average life expectancy is 78, meaning there are plenty of people living well into their 90s. And as advances in healthcare and technology increase, the 65+ population is growing quickly. The Administration on Aging predicts that the U.S. will have 55 million seniors in 2020.

But living longer also means more people will suffer from what is perhaps our greatest threat to older Americans today: Alzheimer’s. The brain disease causes a decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills, which in turn makes caregiving difficult for loved ones – mentally, emotionally, physically and sometimes financially.

The good news is, scientists around the globe are working hard to find a cure for the disease, and there are ways you can fight back against Alzheimer’s. Here are 10 ideas to help you fight against Alzheimer's. 

  1. Raise funds for Alzheimer’s research. There are countless ways to help raise funds that don’t involve cold calling! You can search the Alzheimer’s Association’s website (http://www.alz.org) for a local fundraising “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” or sign up for a credit card that allows you to donate a portion of your purchases to the charity of your choice (http://www.nerdwallet.com). Using search engines like Good Search (http://www.goodsearch.com/ or making purchases through socially responsible shopping sites like iGive (http://www.igive.com) or GiftBack (http://www.giftback.com).
  2. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Although more evidence is needed, research indicates that high intake of omega-3s may reduce the risk of dementia or cognitive decline. That’s because DHA is found in the fatty membranes of the brain’s nerve cells, especially where the cells connect.
  3. Create a baseline. Because early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease is an inherited genetic disorder, it’s important to create a cognitive baseline against which you can compare changes down the road. No one test can confirm Alzheimer’s disease, getting a diagnosis – especially for early onset – may require a medical exam, cognitive tests, a neurological exam and/or brain imaging. A cognitive skills training specialist can measure your brain skills to help you create a baseline.
  4. Exercise regularly. Studies show that even moderate exercise may decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and/or change its course once the disease begins to develop.
  5. Talk to your doctor about medications. Currently there are two types of medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s. These are cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Some doctors prescribe both together. While these drugs aren’t cures for the disease, they can help lessen symptoms like memory loss and confusion.
  6. Sign up for a clinical trial. Participation in clinical trials is one way you can contribute to the fight against Alzheimer’s – and it’s not just people with the disease who are needed! Researchers need help from healthy volunteers and caregivers as well to help detect, treat and prevent Alzheimer’s. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website (http://www.alz.org) to check out TrialMatch, a free service that connects volunteers with current studies across the country.
  7. Enroll in personal brain training. We now know that the brain is "plastic" – capable of change at any age – and customized brain training programs have proved to be incredibly effective in strengthening weak brain skills in seniors. Allan Wren, director of a LearningRx (www.LearningRx.com) brain training center in Texarkana, put his own father through cognitive skills training after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. "He attended two three-month 'Think' programs with a small break in between," says Wren. "He achieved a 20 percent gain in short-term memory in his first and second efforts." Those kinds of gains can make a significant impact on quality of life for both the person with Alzheimer's and their family members, as short-term memory is one of the first brain skills to be impacted by the disease.
  8. Ask about vitamin E. Because vitamin E is an antioxidant, it may protect brain cells and other tissues when used under doctor supervision. But high doses can increase your risk of death – especially if you have coronary artery disease. In addition, vitamin E can interact with medications, like blood thinners and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
  9. Manage your diabetes. Research seems to indicate that people with diabetes – especially type 2 – have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The best things you can do is manage your diabetes by eating healthy, exercising, taking prescribed medications on schedule and monitoring your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  10. Sign up to be an advocate. Join the Alzheimer’s Association in speaking up for the needs and rights of those affected by the disease. As a volunteer advocate, you can contact elected officials through letters and phone calls to help persuade them to address pressing needs through legislative action. To find out more, visit www.alz.org.
Tuesday
Nov192013

5 Medical Articles to Read Now!

1. Obesity from high-sugar and high-fat foods impairs memory and learning.  Essentially, when these foods impair the brain (specifically the hippocampus) they fuel overeating creating a vicious cycle.  This helps confirm previous links between middle-age obesity and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias later.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/251031.php

2. Brain training has been shown to help breast cancer-related memory loss and mental slowness. A study from Indiana University found that brain training helped processing speed and memory performance for breast cancer survivors who had undergone chemo.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/251127.php

3. A new study out of Weill Cornell Medical College has shown that when a threat hits a teen's brain, they can't make the fear disappear like adults can. This ability is called fear extinction learning, and researchers believe that teens' lack of fear extinction learning may be what causes much of the anxiety and stress so often present during the teen years. In fact, one of the researchers said that anxiety disorders tend to spike during or just before adolescence.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250789.php

4.  According to Alex Schelgel, a brain researcher and author of a new paper in the Aug. 2012 issue of Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the adult brain can learn new things just like younger brains. Schelgel studied the brains of 27 Dartmouth students while they took a Chinese language course. He found actual changes in the structure of their brains.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/250671.php

5.  You memory distorts an event every time you recall it. A new study shows that your brain changes in ways that can distort the next attempt at recall. In fact, your recall can get progressively less accurate to the point that your memory is untrue!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/250487.php

 

Sunday
Jan062013

Cognitive Reserve: The IRA of Your Brain

We are all familiar with IRA's and other retirement accounts and their purpose: to keep our financial livelihood stable as we age. Financial planners always recommend for us to save a little for our future and always have a emergency reserve account, just in case something catastrophic were to happen. 

Well building up a financial savings aren't the only type of reserves you should care about. Cognitive reserves are the cognitive skills accumulated over a lifetime and protect your brain from disease and the typical aging process. Cognitive reserves keep your mind stable as you age.

Building this resilience is necessary to protect your mind from harmful diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's. Two recent articles on these debilitating diseases have caught my attention:

Early Cognitive Problems Documented Among Those Who Eventually Get Alzheimer's from Science Daily discusses new studies showing that even those suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) show difficulty processing basic knowledge questions like "Which is bigger, a key or an ant?" 

Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis from the Dana Foundation discusses the cognitive decline in MS patients. It is a lengthy article with a great deal of important information. The need for a building a cognitive reserve is also discussed:

Intelligence and education history contribute to the formation of cognitive reserve, which affects the brain’s resilience in the presence of injury. Previous studies in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have shown that individuals with higher cognitive reserve are less likely to develop dementia. As with AD, MS patients with high levels of cognitive reserve are less likely to experience cognitive impairment. A study following patients with MS over a five-year period showed that those with a high cognitive reserve at baseline experienced no loss of cognitive function, while those who started with a low cognitive reserve suffered a significant cognitive decline.

Brain training is a great way to build this cognitive reserve. It builds your neurological functioning and keeps you mind fit as you age. Because what good is that IRA if you don't have the brain power to spend it?

Friday
Sep282012

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's

To conclude September's focus on healthy aging I wanted to post a few great resources I found on the Alzheimer's Association website about possible warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's and should be checked further by a doctor. 

WARNING SIGNS from www.alz.org

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood or personality.

Here is one nice chart showing the difference between what would be a sign of Alzheimer's vs a typical change in cognitive skills brought on by aging.

Signs of Alzheimer's

Typical age-related changes

Poor judgment and decision making

Making a bad decision once in a while

Inability to manage a budget

Missing a monthly payment

Losing track of the date or the season

Forgetting which day it is and remembering later

Difficulty having a conversation

Sometimes forgetting which word to use

Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them

Losing things from time to time

If you or a loved one is showing signs of cognitive skill loss definitely check out our LearningRx Resources for aging adults. And if the warning signs are more severe than typical aging please call your family physician for more Alzheimer's information.

Tuesday
Sep252012

National Healthy Aging Month

Throughout the month of September, designated as National Healthy Aging Month, we are hoping to raise awareness about the advantages of brain training at all ages.
As we age our cognitive skills can become weaker and have an impact on our quality of life. These cognitive skills include tools like processing speed, attention, logic and reasoning, visual and auditory processing and both working/short term memory and long term memory. A cognitive skill assessment will give results that can help seniors decide what steps to take in strengthening certain cognitive skills. 

Not ready to call it an epidemic? Consider this: the Alzheimer’s Association cites that about 14 million (approximately 18 percent) of the 79 million American baby boomers will develop the disease (or some form of dementia) in their lifetime. And if no cure is found, the U.S. will be faced with nearly a million new cases a year by the middle of the century.

In the meantime, there is help. A just-released study of LearningRx adult clients shows that brain training can improve brain function and raise IQ, even for people well into their 70s.

"The right type of brain training can help anyone get smarter," says Dr. Ken Gibson, founder and president of LearningRx. "This shows that adults and seniors don’t have to ’settle’ for their current mental capacity. At any age, they can use brain training to boost their IQ to get an advantage in a competitive job market, or to slow and reduce some of the mental effects of aging."

The study of adults aged 20 to 80 who underwent LearningRx brain training in 2009 showed significant increases in every cognitive skill trained and in every age bracket. On average:
  • Executive processing speed increased an average of 46%
  • Long-term memory jumped 66%
  • Short-term memory jumped 39%
  • IQ jumped 11.4 points
"An 11-point jump in IQ is substantial," says Dr. Gibson. "It’s thrilling proof that even seniors can see huge benefits from the mental exercise of brain training, just as they can from physical exercise."

Want to know more about how your brain is responding to aging? Call me to book a cognitive skill assessment no matter what your age is. The great thing about this assessment is it gives important information about your brain whether you are 21, 35, 60 or 99!