Music as medicine: Docs use tunes as treatment

Listen carefully and you’ll hear the same refrain at a rising number of hospitals. From Massachusetts General to the Mayo Clinic, patients are hearing the first strains of a harmonious movement — the infusion and inclusion of music in the treatment of ailments, from brain disorders to cancer. This goes beyond the psychological smile favorite songs can induce.

Doctors are increasingly studying — and employing — the physiological dance music does with the body’s neurons and blood-carrying cells.

Researchers explore how melodies can help regulate heart, boost hormones

Implications of Poverty on the Brain

Most advanced nations spend a significant amount of time, money, and energy dealing with poverty and the short and long term consequences for those who live in poverty. Policy statements are drafted and then implemented with varying degrees of success. One thing is certain, no policy has removed poverty suggesting that we either have not implemented the correct policy or poverty is a reality of life.

One aspect of poverty that probably does not receive enough attention is the negative health outcomes that result from such an environment. Studies many years ago demonstrated the negative effects of an un-enriched environment on rats. Interestingly, the brain was significantly affected both structurally and functionally. For humans, poverty really represents an unenriched environment in which poor nutrition, lack of love and attention, crime, drugs, insecurity, and lack of proper mental stimulation exist.

A nation enlightened to development of our youth and to creation of a policy that understands the impact of poverty will confront this reality. Research has demonstrated a correlation between poverty in childhood and increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life. While there are short term consequences of poverty, there are also long term effects particularly when one understands that poverty limits proper development of the human brain.

Perhaps a first step in creating a policy on poverty is to educate the public on the importance of environmental input early in life upon later development of the human brain. Most families will work to follow such educational guidelines if they understand what to do with regard to promoting brain health for their own children. For those who are vulnerable and without resources or adults to provide the enriched environment policies can address what is needed and appropriate resources to help developing children thrive.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a clinical term that describes a loss of general intelligence from a previous level. There also needs to be a memory deficit and other cognitive problems such as language or visuospatial prolems. Personality is changed and there is functional decline.

It is important to note that there are approximately 100 different causes of dementia with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) being the number one cause. AD accounts for nearly 50-70% of all dementias and 95% of all dementias are irreversible. Examples of reversible dementias include B12 deficiency, thyroid disorder and depression.

It is important to seek a comprehensive dementia workup if there is any question that a loved one may be demonstrating signs of a dementia.

To Learn more about Brain Plasticity & Cognitive Reserve

Diabetes and Dementia

A recent study in Journal of the American Medical Association provides further support for a relationship between the risk factors of type II diabetes and dementia. This particular study focused on episodes of hypoglycemia and its influence on risk for dementia.

With diabetes there exist a number of health related factors such as obesity, imbalance of glucose, high blood pressure, stroke, abnormal cerebrovascular flow, and heart and other major system dysfunction. Either these factors combined or with a focus on glucose stabilization which can adversely affect the function of neurons, there appears to be a critical risk enhancement to development of dementia in later life.

The important point here is that diabetes with all of its risk factors are cumulative and have a proactive and lifelong effect. This underscores the need for a proactive and lifelong healthy lifestyle, including that for the brain. Nutrition and physical activity are two primary lifestyle behaviors critical for combating type II diabetes.

Eating brain healthy foods and remaining physically active to enhance blood flow to the brain are both necessary and fundamental to a healthy lifestyle and to combating the risk for type II diabetes.

I Cannot Sleep!

For nearly 30 million Americans and many more around the globe sleep disorder is an unfortunate reality. Everyone needs to get enough sleep to feel rested and energetic throughout the day. For most this means at least six hours a night and at least 8 or more for teenagers and children.

Sleep is a very important behavior that is supersensitive to many things that can disrupt it. Pain, rumination, anxiety, mood disorder, new surrounding, uncomfortable temperature, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and medication side effects can all disrupt a normal night sleep. Sleep disorders can also lead to depression, cognitive processing deficits and even more serious problems such as narcolepsy (sudden sleep) that can result in motor vehicle accidents.

Sleep disorders can be confronted and treated with the following approach:

1. Identify that you have a sleep disorder, particularly if you notice your sleep pattern has changed, you are exhausted throughout the day, or you are dozing off at inappropriate times during the day.

2. Get a sleep assessment done to rule out physiological causes the potential disorder.

3. If pain is the cause of the sleep disorder, consult with your M.D. to obtain a more effective means of coping with the pain.

4. For those who are anxious or ruminate while in the bed consider the following steps:

  • Set a strict time to go to bed and a strict time to arise.
  • Do not nap during the day and exercise daily.
  • No caffeine after lunch.
  • Refrain from T.V., reading, or other cognitive activity in bed.
  • Set the temperature in the room to cool.
  • Try to fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down.

If you do not fall asleep, get out of the bed and sit in a designated “worry chair” where you permit your brain to ruminate.

Once you believe you have ruminated enough try to return to the bed and fall asleep within 20 minutes. Repeat the same process if you do not fall asleep.

It is also a good idea to write down what you are thinking so you can view your anxiety rather than simply feeling it.

5. Drink a warm glass of milk prior to going to sleep.

6. Use white noise if it helps.

7. Eat healthier and lose some weight within reason.

8. Consult with your M.D. to assess the need for medication as a last resort.

Good Night.