Take Care Of Your Brain!

african american nerdy guy with tape on his glasses(BlackDoctor.org) — Brain health is all the rage these days, and for good reason. The evolving research demonstrates quite clearly that our brains are more elastic than previously thought, and we can continue to build new neural connections and pathways throughout our lifetime.

Based on the newer science and research, brain fitness has indeed become an important aspect of health, and there are now myriad ways to take advantage of the plethora of information now available to consumers when it comes to caring for and nurturing this most crucial of organs.

Exercising the brain and keeping it in shape is now seen as important as exercising the muscles of the body. There are many ways to put your brain through its paces, and most of us probably are already engaged in activities that promote brain health without being conscious of that fact.

Brain Basics
The brain is an organ that grows through its interaction with the environment either through its powers of perception or through actions undertaken by the body. Novel stimuli and experiences cause the brain to forge new neural pathways, and it is the underlying mind-body connection that powers the growth and elasticity of brain tissue.

Trillions of connections in your brain can fire hundreds or thousands of times each second, and these nerve fibers and networks within your three-pound brain are the essential stuff behind most every action and process occurring within your body. Neurotransmitters and other important chemicals are the messengers within your neural networks. The brain is fed its energy by glucose from your dietary intake and oxygen taken in through the lungs.

While most of your brain’s basic architecture is fully formed by the time you are four or five years old, brain development doesn’t stop in childhood. In fact, full brain maturity is said by some scientists to occur somewhere between the ages of 20 and 25. Therefore, many brain specialists have grave concerns about the heavy use of alcohol and illegal drugs during adolescence, a crucial time of cerebral development.

Although your brain is most elastic and ready for new information during adolescence, it is still possible to learn a new instrument, language or other skill later in life. In fact, the forging of new neural connections and brain elasticity depend upon the engagement of your brain in activities that stimulate growth and development at any age.

Physical Exercise
Research shows that moderate physical exercise can improve cognitive function and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Walking brings increased oxygen and glucose to the cerebral cortex. Walking is only moderately strenuous, therefore your legs do not demand the increased blood flow that more vigorous exercise requires, thus more blood and nutrients flow to your brain while walking than during other forms of exercise. Still, even vigorous activity benefits the brain by increasing blood flow and lung capacity, so don’t be afraid to go for it if you’re in good enough condition for vigorous exercise!

Sleep
Good quality sleep allows the brain time to repair itself, consolidate information, and promote optimal learning. Sleep is an opportunity for the brain to perform many maintenance functions, and good sleep hygiene and high quality sleep are essential to overall brain health.

Nutrition
A healthy and well-balanced diet is key to brain health. Protein, high quality foods, vitamins, minerals, low cholesterol intake, amino acids and other essential nutrients all promote brain health and good cognitive function. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in many types of fish and nuts) also boost brain health and improve cognitive function. Herbal teas like Tulsi, gingko, green tea and ginseng are also said to reduce the levels of some stress hormones, increase alertness without caffeine, and boost memory.

Challenge Your Brain
Games, puzzles, reading, writing, learning a new language, and other challenging activities all promote the growth of new neural connections and general brain fitness. Try things you have never tried before, practice new skills and otherwise make your brain work hard.

Other suggestions include: avoiding using a calculator, playing games instead of watching TV, traveling, video games like Wii, learning a musical instrument, and playing games or doing activities that test or challenge your memory.
Many scientists say that trying skills opposite of your natural strengths also benefits the brain. So if you like puzzles, try playing an instrument, or if you like to write, try drawing or painting!

Decrease Stress
Some scientific evidence has revealed that chronic stress can adversely impact brain health. The release of stress hormones like cortisol can also potentially have a negative effect on the health of your brain, so managing stress, depression and anxiety can positively impact brain health. Drinking water, laughing, exercising and even smiling can all help to decrease levels of stress hormones circulating in the bloodstream.

Conclusion
Brain health is a crucial aspect of overall health, and with the knowledge that the decline of cognitive function and brain fitness begin at age 40, we all need to remember that taking care of our brains can add years of optimal health and function to our lives. Remember that your brain is key to every function of your body, and maintaining a healthy brain can add both quality and quantity to your life. Take care of your brain, and it will also take care of you.

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Alzheimer's: The 10 Most Dangerous Signs

Alzheimers

Alzheimer’s

(BlackDoctor.org) – It may be hard to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Because African-Americans are more likely to have vascular disease (disorders affecting the circulatory system), they may also be at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

To help, here is a list of warning signs for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs, please see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.

1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. What’s typical? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.What’s typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What’s typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4. Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. What’s typical? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror. What’s typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”). What’s typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time. What’s typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

8. Decreased or poor judgment

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. What’s typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. What’s typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. What’s typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
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