Tag Archives: exercise your brain

Activity and Breast Cancer Survival

pinkribbon.jpgWhile it might seem odd to write about breast cancer on a site dedicated to brain health, there are two compelling reasons to do so: First, many of us have a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and second, activity is one of the major components of the brain health lifestyle.
A recent study conducted at the Yale School of Medicine indicates women who stay active after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a better chance of surviving the disease. This includes those who take up exercise for the first time after diagnosis and even if the women just do a little exercise. This study reinforces many other studies that link exercise to reduction in risk of breast cancer.
Women who got the equivalent of two to three hours of brisk walking each week in the year before they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 31 percent less likely to die of the disease than women who were sedentary before the diagnosis. Further, two years after diagnosis, women who did any recreational activities at all had nearly 65% lower risk of dying then women who were inactive at that point. Women who got at least two hours of brisk walking in weekly reduced their risk of death by 67%. Perhaps most glaring is the study’s finding that women who decreased their physical activity after diagnosis were actually four times more likely to die of breast cancer than those who remained sedentary.

In all, exercise is an important lifestyle behavior for women undergoing breast cancer treatment.

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Brain Health Tips for Going Back to School

school.jpg Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle involves five major components: these include (1) physical activity, (2) mental stimulation (brain fitness, brain games), (3) spirituality, (4) nutrition, and (5) socialization. By integrating the research-based activities from each of these components, we can generate some good ideas for the young student going back to school this year.

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is critical to any student interested in getting good grades. Sleep is an important brain health behavior that falls into the spirituality slice of the brain health pie because it helps the brain to slow down. Interestingly, sleep is a very busy time for the brain because information gets consolidated (encoded more deeply) during specific parts of the sleep cycle. As such, the developing brain of a young child will learn more efficiently and deeply on a good night’s sleep.

2. Eat a Good Breakfast

This is more easily said then done. Our schools typically begin the day very early so it is hard for students to get up early enough to eat. However, breakfast is such an important meal for the brain because it helps to nourish the brain which can promote enhanced attention, learning and memory. Breakfast cereals have plenty of vitamins. Fruit is a great food to consume at any time during the day because it provides energy and is an antioxidant which is healthy.

3. Develop a Routine for Studying

A brain appreciates a routine and studying is one behavior that can be organized and placed on a regular schedule. Homework can be considered a child’s work and prioritized ahead of playtime with the neighborhood children, television, or video games. Working out a reasonable agreement with your child for one hour of study time after school when complete attention will be devoted to the brain focused on homework is needed. During this study time do not be afraid to play some soft classical music in the background as some research suggests enhanced learning can occur.

4. Remain Physically Active

Children that remain physically active tend to score well on tests. This is most likely due to the benefit of exercise and the fact that 25% of the blood and nutrients from each heartbeat go directly to the brain. Providing your child some time to exercise, run, and play is important so long as it gets prioritized and scheduled around homework.

5. Reinforce Good Grades

We all like to get praise and we will repeat behavior that gets praised. You cannot celebrate good grades or a good test score enough. One idea for a positive reward is to permit your child to socialize with friends in a special gathering. Socialization and being around others is healthy for the brain and fun all at once.

Best of brain health this school year!

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Brain Health in the Corporate World

boardroom1.jpgBrain health has matured to the point of being ready for introduction and implementation in the work setting and across the corporate world. Enough research exists to demonstrate the human brain is a dynamic system capable of being shaped for health across the lifespan. Dr. Nussbaum’s five factor brain health lifestyle is an approach that is easily applied to any corporate setting. CEOs and companies interested in the wellbeing of their employees should consider adding health of the brain to their wellness program!

Here are some quick tips to begin the process of implementing brain health into their corporate culture.

1. Educate the entire workforce including the leadership team on the basics of the human brain and what research tells us about how to keep your brain healthy. Consider the costs of dementia related care on your workforce and the fact that a high percentage of your workforce is concerned about their own brain health and this becomes a “no brainer” for inclusion in the company wellness program. Brain health should also be part of the orientation program for new employees.

Dr. Nussbaum is available to come to your company and speak to the leadership and workforce about brain health. It is critical to explain the why behind the what regarding brain health and a brain health lifestyle.

2. Integrate the five slices (e.g. brain fitness) of Dr. Nussbaum’s brain health lifestyle into your work culture. This can occur one step at a time with incentives for the employees to engage in the behaviors thought to promote brain health.

A. Work with the dietary staff in the cafeteria to promote brain healthy foods. This includes increases in fruits, vegetables, fish products, nuts, and juices. Reduce the trans fatty acids and fatty foods found in the vending machines

B. Encourage the employees to begin a regular exercise routine that is focused on walking and aerobic exercise. Teach the employees that each time the heart beats 25% of the blood goes directly to the brain! Every employee should be given a company pedometer to wear at work for the purpose of counting steps. We need approximately 10,000 steps daily. Begin interdepartmental competitions on number of steps taken per week or month.

C. Educate and encourage your workforce to learn how to use relaxation exercises and meditation to reduce stress. An overly stressed brain does not learn or process well and this will reduce productivity. Teach the workforce the importance of prioritizing oneself during the day and to identify what his or her major stressors are.

D. Encourage team and company socials to recreate and have fun. Socialization is an important lifestyle for brain health as it promotes mental stimulation while reducing brain passivity through isolation. Helping identify which employees are prone to loneliness and depression can also help to maximize brain function for the work setting. Socialization and opportunities for laughter and dance can help.

E. Encourage and incentivize creativity and mental stimulation (brain fitness, brain games) during the work day. Include computer stations with Fit Brains for staff to engage in daily brain exercise. Promote board game competitions, book clubs, and creative writing or story telling in the work setting.

3. Develop critical measures of outcome and after three months determine if implementation of brain health into the work setting has helped employees (1) feel better about themselves, (2) increase cognitive function, (3) promote emotional satisfaction, (4) increase physical activity, (5) reduced time off, (6) improve quality of life, (7) lower weight, reduce total cholesterol and reduce glucose, etc.

4. Begin the process of including family members in the brain health program as another benefit of working for your company.

5. Identify a core brain health team that keeps the brain health culture alive with semiannual or annual brain health events for the company and families.

This is a start for making your implementing brain health into your work culture.

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Brain Tips for the Summer Months

summer.jpgThe summer months provide a great opportunity to review the health of your brain and to get started following some of the simple steps articulated in Dr. Nussbaum’s Brain Health Lifestyle. You will soon be on your way to building brain reserve, promoting your own brain health, and enhancing your brain’s ability to delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease.

1. Get Moving!

Research indicates that daily walking, aerobic exercise several times a week, dance, gardening, and knitting all have a positive effect on the brain. It is important to note that 25% of the blood and nutrients from each heartbeat goes directly to your brain. In contrast, passivity in midlife increases the risk of dementia later in life. Get your pedometer and start moving, shaking, and planting!

2. Improve Those Eating Habits

Summer finds us on the go between events and the many activities of our children. We develop routines of eating more and more fast food and less time sitting down to eat with the family. It is important to try and promote the following:

A. Consume more water on a daily basis
B. Push the fruit and veggies
C. Minimize the fast food and processed foods
D. Try to consume more fish
E. Eat with utensils and not your fingers and you will eat less and healthier
F. Try to eat seated meal with the family per day

3. Develop a New Hobby or Two

Mental stimulation (e.g. brain fitness, brain games) remains important in the summer months. Get started on that project or activity/hobby you have been resisting. Challenge your brain to develop a new talent or skill this summer. Your brain will thank you!

4. Take Time to Slow Down

Summer can be a time of too much activity. This is not good for the brain as stress can be health demoting. Give yourself 30 minutes every day to do nothing. Learn to turn inward through meditation, prayer, being in nature, or simply taking a walk. Having time to just exist can be very rewarding and a great opportunity for creativity.

5. Have Fun with Others

Socialization is a great thing for the brain as it provides interpersonal chemistry, sharing of ideas, laughter, and learning. Recreation and family functions or adult play can be important to reduce stress and promote happiness.

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Exercise May Slow Brain Disease

hiking.jpgAnother study has been published that supports a relationship between physical fitness and brain volume. This study explored the rate of brain shrinkage or cell loss in persons with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Subjects had their peak oxygen demand measured while running on a treadmill and this was related to their brain shrinkage as estimated by MRI scan.

Results indicate that those persons suffering AD who were more physically fit had less brain shrinkage than less-fit participants. Curiously, these same persons did not do significantly better on tests for mental performance. The authors suggested that there were not enough participants to see the difference in cognitive performance and that the study used only one measurement point which prohibited demonstration of a conclusion.

However, this study together with other research further underscores an important relationship between blood flow, cardiac health, and brain health (e.g. brain fitness).

Get your tennis shoes on and get moving!

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Sunshine on the Brain

beach1.jpgThe summer months bring warm weather, blue sky, and plenty of sunshine. For some, if not most, we may notice our mood becomes a bit happier. Is there a relationship between the sunshine and our mood? Probably, but why?

Some studies have reported a relationship between Vitamin D that is derived from sunshine and different physiological measures in the human body. Sunlight has also been related to mood with a disorder known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” in which those not exposed to enough sunlight can become depressed. Indeed, special lights have been prescribed for those with seasonal affective disorder to help their brains gain more ultraviolet exposure to lift their mood.

Sunshine also tends to come with blue sky, relates to an increased ability to get outside and move about in nature, and to recreate more. Each of these factors is important and is related indirectly to mood enhancement.

It is important to pay attention to your own mood and determine what environmental factors may help you feel happier. If sunshine and blue sky lift your spirits try to prescribe yourself increased time outside. You may feel more energy, higher sense of self and increased productivity.

Take the suntan lotion with you!

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How about Golf and Brain Health

golfing.jpgBefore all of you jump up and down celebrating another reason to miss work and play 18, let me remind you that this particular blog is speculative with some educated guess mixed in. Having said that, I am happy to for any grant funding to study the effects of playing golf on brain health!

I began to think about the health benefits of golf some time ago, but I grew more interested during a few rounds of the game with my son. As you know, I have proposed and studied five major domains to my brain health lifestyle: these include socialization, mental stimulation (brain fitness, brain games), physical activity, spirituality, and nutrition. Golf certainly includes four of the five components and may include all five.

Golf is a game that is social. In fact, one typically plays the game with another partner and sometimes three other partners. An even more brain healthy opportunity arises when one plays the game alone and is matched with strangers to play the round. This forces a “complex and novel” environment on you that promotes brain health.

Golf is a game that certainly involves physical activity, particularly if you walk and do not ride in a cart. As 25% of the blood from each heartbeat goes to the brain there can be tremendous blood perfusion to the brain during a game of golf. This simply considers the walking and not the swinging and body motion mechanics of the golf swing.

Golf involves mental stimulation in the forms of conversation and story telling with your partners, arithmetic calculations while keeping score which can involve three digits, keeping track of your shots which demands memory, and probably trying to keep track of your partner’s shots so there is no funny business going on. There is also planning, strategy and decision making, judgment, and estimation of distance and space skills involved.

Golf can be a spiritual experience to reduce stress, have fun, slow down, and enjoy nature. Golf courses tend to provide nice scenery and a pleasant surrounding. Golf provides you an opportunity to reflect and to set priorities.

Finally, Golf can include good nutrition if the proper foods and beverages are selected before, during, and after the game. Fruits, vegetables, and fish are always great items in a brain health diet.

I believe golf is a natural activity that provides many aspects of the brain health lifestyle I have discussed and written about. So long as one does not let a poor shot or poor score raise his or her stress level too much!

Hit the links, it might just be good for your brain!

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