Exercise & Brain Health

shutterstock_492750550.jpgExercise is an important component of health aging especially when it comes to brain health. While there are no guarantees a healthy lifestyle will prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s, exercise will absolutely improve blood flow to the brain. Because as we age, the brain shrinks! It happens to everyone. As we age, our blood supply to the brain is reduced, which causes the volume of the brain to shrink. If you exercise, the blood supply to your brain will improve blood flow and increase your brain volume, which can slow the brain aging process.

Studies show that exercise, meaning exercising with purpose, increases the level of Brain -Derived Neuro-Tropic factor (BDNF), which is critical for neuroplasticity. (The ability for the brain to adapt) Exercise is also associated with the growth and creation of new brain cells which helps increase the volume of your brain.

Sustained aerobic exercise is not to be taken lightly or put off for another day, as brain function and cognition are essential in maintaining an independent and healthy life.

So what exercises are the best?
Studies indicate that thirty minutes of sustained aerobic exercise such as running every day will increase brain health, neural plasticity, brain function and cognition. That’s the BDNF factor I was referring to earlier.   For most of us, seven days a week is a big commitment and may not be practical or achievable. However, one can set a reasonable weekly goal. The objective here is to circulate more blood to the brain that will, in turn, increase the volume of the brain to prevent early dementia.
What about weight training or interval training? Both are good for you and other parts of your body such as your muscles, but there is no indication that it positively affects your brain the way aerobic exercise does.

 Proof that Exercise is good for the brain
Take a look at the  diagram below. The brain on the right lights up after activity.

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Lots of women say to me, “ Yes, I know Dr. Brown exercise is really important but I just don’t have the time. “ What they are really saying to me is ‘exercise is not my priority’. I understand that. Exercise may not be your priority as you run from the carpool to take care of elderly parents and to finish your work. But if exercise is never your priority, if you are always last on your list and you will pay a huge price.

So my advice is that you allow yourself to be your priority at least part of the time.Let’s remember, when the flight attendance explains that when the oxygen comes down, put the mask on yourself first and then on the child beside you. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be here to take care of the others you care about!!

 

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

 

The Sleep Revolution

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I just reviewed Arianna Huffington’s important book on Sleep, The Sleep Revolution. Transforming your life, One Night at a Time. Let’s take a look at what she has to say. According to Ms. Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, we are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis. She says that sleep deprivation is having profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships, and our happiness. What is needed, she boldly asserts, is nothing short of a sleep revolution.  Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives. (1)

A report by The World Sleep Association bears this out. The report claims sleep deprivation is a worldwide epidemic. This is also true in Canada, where the majority of Canadians –60% of us only get an average of 6.9 hours of sleep per night. — The experts recommend an average of 8 hours.

WHY IS SLEEP IMPORTANT
Sleep is necessary for our nervous systems to work properly. Too little sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impaired memory and physical performance. Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted in energy or so polluted with byproducts of normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity. (2)
Why then, when it has been conclusively shown that sleep is an absolute necessity in keeping ups healthy and happy do we continue to discount sleep as a priority?
Ms. Huffington’s extensive research concludes that as a culture “we tend to dismiss sleep as time wasted—and a badge of honor—even though it compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives — and even our sex lives.”
Her book explores all the latest science on what exactly is going on while we sleep and dream.  She takes on the dangerous sleeping pill industry, and all the ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. She also offers a range of recommendations and tips from leading scientists on how we can get better and more restorative sleep, and harness its incredible power.

Here are Ms. Huffington’s twelve tips for getting a good night’s sleep. Doctors refer to this as sleep hygiene.

  1. Create a bedroom environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool (between 60 and 67 degrees).
  2. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  3. Don’t charge your phone next to your bed. Even better: Gently escort all devices completely out of your room.
  4. Stop drinking caffeine after 2 p.m.
  5. Use your bed for sleep and sex only—no work!
  6. Keep pets off the bed (sorry, Mr. Snuffles).
  7. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts in the evening to help calm your mind and body.
  8. Wear pajamas, nightgowns or even a special T-shirt—it’ll send a sleep-friendly message to your body. If you wore it to the gym, don’t wear it to bed.
  9. Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help your body and your mind transition to sleep.
  10. Choose a real book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light, if you like to read in bed. And make sure it’s not work-related: novels, poetry, philosophy—anything but work.
  11. Sip chamomile or lavender tea to ease yourself into sleep mode.
  12. Write down a list of what you’re grateful for before bed. It’s a great way to make sure your blessings get the closing scene of the night.

I try to keep to a regular sleep schedule- going to bed at the same time every night or close to it and waking up in the morning, generally at the same time. It helps my body and mind ready itself for sleep the same time every night. As with anything else establishing a new health pattern takes time, so don’t be discouraged.

Sources

  1. The Sleep Revolution. Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington. Harmony Books, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Random House LLC, New York.
  2. Source- Mental Health Canada

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

Healthy Aging: Why genes from our mothers are not enough

shutterstock_593434751.jpgFor Mother’s Day

It’s that time of year when we think of our mothers and reflect upon the gift of life we’ve been given. Indeed, it is the very reason we are on this earth. What makes us unique and one of a kind is in our genes or genetic make up.

It is why family members look alike. It is also why some diseases such as diabetes, cancer or heart disease run in certain families.  These genes are the ones we are born with and cannot change. As a physician, when we assess an individual’s risk for chronic diseases, we take that genetic makeup, that family history into account.

Our genetic make up is a gift from our mothers (and dad’s too), it is not modifiable. There is a no return policy! However, it is often the modifiable risks, the ones we can change, that will make the biggest difference in our lives. For we all want not only to live longer, but also, to live those years in an active and healthy lifestyle, independent and with all our cognitive abilities.

While you may feel those years are some time down the road, it is never too late or too early to start thinking about healthy aging and what that means. It is time to make adjustments in your lifestyle so that you can live a longer and healthier life and act as a role model to your family.

Here are a few healthy aging strategies I counsel my patients to practice

  1. Eat a healthy diet of calcium rich foods such as leafy greens and dairy products or soy-based products if you are averse to dairy. Calcium from food products is ideal and we aim for 1200 mg per day from all sources. If you are eating well, you may be getting enough calcium in your diet and supplements are not needed.  Generally speaking, we all need Vitamin D supplements as we get little direct sunlight in North America and that is the common source of Vitamin D. Take Vitamin D daily–400-1000 IU’s for adults under 50 and 800-2000 IU for adults over 50.  That is a must!
  2. Eat Healthy. Follow the Mediterranean Diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits legumes and lean meats.   Women who eat more vegetables experience less risk of cognitive decline than their peers who eat fewer vegetables. The rate of cognitive declines the lowest in women who eat the most cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens. And there is a positive correlation between BMI (body mass index) and the rate of cognitive decline
  3. Exercise.  Use weight-bearing exercises that use your body weight such as walking, running, weight lifting to help to strengthen both bones and muscles, as well as improving your balance. Exercise with purpose. Running up and down the stairs doing laundry is not the same. You need to exercise to raise your heart rate a minimum of three to five times a week for at least thirty minutes to get the most benefit.
  4. Stay Socially Connected. It is important to stay socially active and connected with your friends and family. Doing Sudoku at home alone might be a good brain exercise, but it is not the same as being with people. Research shows that individuals who are socially connected live longer have stimulation to protect brain aging and overall have a better quality of life.
  5. Reduce Stress—Practice Mindful Meditation. While some stress can be a good thing and helps the brain cope with life- threatening situations, too much stress is harmful. If the stress is long term, it can raise the levels of cortisol, leading to weight gain. Chronic unrelenting stress, ages our telomeres, those caps that protect our cells. Mindful meditation and other activities that reduce stress has shown benefits such as an increase in the flow of oxygen rich blood to your brain. It is not only helpful to reduce stress for your emotional well being, it actually has a measurable physical impact.

So on this Mother’s Day and throughout the year, make a promise to yourself and your loved ones to stay healthy and follow the strategies I’ve outlined above. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, it is selfless as you will be there to take care of the ones you love…..and that’s the best gift of all.

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

 

Women’s Brains – Our Grey Matter, Matters!! An Update on the Women’s Brain Health Initiative

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What a year 2015 has been for the The Women’s Brain Health Initiative –(WBHI)  a leader in the fight against women’s brain aging disorders and I am proud member of the board of directors.

There have been many exciting developments at Women’s Brain Health Initiative this year. We are creating a global discussion on women’s brain health by increasing awareness in Canada and the United States. In March, we launched WBHI in New York City, which made a huge impact on awareness and support. The event was held at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen location, supported by co-hosts Martha Stewart, Trudie Style, Wendi Murdoch, Ivanka Trump, Arianna Huffington, Tamara Mellon and Barbara Walters. Yes, it was a wonderful night and an impressive group of women who came together to raise awareness about how as women we need to rethink our habits and make better long-term choices for our families and ourselves.

The exposure led to an opportunity to work with Maria Shriver, a tireless spokesperson for women’s brain health and brain aging disease prevention. And this fall, we held a similar wonderful night in Los Angeles supported by Anne Heche, Molly Sims and Camilla Belle among others. So the word is spreading, and by leveraging our amazing relationships and extending our reach to into the US, the momentum is growing everyday.

The exposure led to an opportunity to work with Maria Shriver, a tireless spokesperson for women’s brain health and brain aging disease prevention. And this fall, we held a similar wonderful night in Los Angeles supported by Anne Heche, Molly Sims and Camilla Belle among others. So the word is spreading, and by leveraging our amazing relationships and extending our reach to into the US, the momentum is growing everyday.

At the heart of this is not only to create awareness but to combat brain aging diseases that affect women by focusing on research and the role gender plays in brain health and scientific outcomes.   For the first time in Canada, for instance, sex and gender will now be taken into account in all aspects of research from the cell to lab studies.

And we are most excited about the opportunity to collaborate as The Women’s Brain Health Initiative Canada, WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s USA, Alzheimer’s Research UK and 21st Century BrainTrust® join to form the Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health to raise awareness of women’s brain health challenges and significantly expand funding for sex-based brain health research, that benefits both men and women.

The latest research confirms dementia develops faster in women than in men, women are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, and not just because we live longer. What is not clear, though, is why. If scientists can figure out the mechanism that causes more Alzheimer’s disease in women, they might be able to develop treatments that halt the process. This is the type of research the Global Alliance will fund, for a healthier outcome for both men and women.

The Global Alliance on Women’s Brain Health will define a scientific agenda, drive new funding for research, and convince scientific leaders to assure the most rapid and effective scientific strategies in women’s brain health. It will also raise awareness at the public and private levels of the health, economic and social tsunami that will result without gender-sensitive focus and investment.

Medisys Health Group, Inc. is an active supporter, involved with the Women’s Brain Health Initiative organization by sponsoring speaker’s events, participating in ongoing efforts for awareness and education, as well as placing a special focus on women’s health issues.

www.womensbrainhealth.org or to join the conversation @womensbrains

#women
Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts are made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

 

Six Top Tips For Healthy Aging

shutterstock_84108826.jpgA healthy older woman is active and independent. By active, I mean being able to do the things you want like meeting your friends, going out, and working out. You don’t have any limitations based on physical issues. Being independent is a more cognitive aspect o f health. It means you are able to do thins such as your own banking, your own housekeeping and travel without needing someone to go with you. You can live on your own, you’re not in any kind of institution.

What are the signs of healthy aging in older women?
There are several markers that are considered predictors for how well you are going to age in the next ten years. Those include:

  • Self-Assessment of quality of life
  • Body Mass Index
  • Ability to walk/run
  • Ability to squat down to the floor
  • Having a strong grip

What steps can you take?

The ability to grip and squat really speak to muscle strength and balance and overall physical fitness. The ability to squat is interesting become some women go walking or to exercise classes but may not be able to maintain their ability to squat. Being able to squat to the floor indicates strong posture and balance and decreases the risk of falling. Because if you fall, you are likely to break something and fractured hips lead to a 25% death rate.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure that reflects the relationship between your weight and height. Healthy women have a BMI of between 20 and 25. Women in this range tend to do better life long, no matter what you’re looking at.
Eat Healthy More of the Time. Have lots of fruits and vegetables and reasonable amounts of protein. My daughter who is a dietitian advises an 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, each a healthy diet based on Canada’s food guide. 20 per cent you can relax a little bit.
When it comes to exercise, you need to do two things; strength training to keep your bones strong and your upper body strong. And some form of aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate for 30 minutes. Meaning you need to exercise with purpose-this is not walking the dog or have a hectic day, hectic is not aerobic.
Stay or become socially connected. A Canadian government study showed that social connectedness  is really important for healthy aging. And you will feel better than if you were isolated by staying at home.
Finally, medicine is a team sport. You and your doctor work in partnership to make good health decisions for you along with other practitioners; pharmacists, dietitians, physiotherapist and other healthcare providers.

* Excerpts taken from an interview with Dr. Brown in an article published in Mind Over Matter, Women’s Brain Health Initiative Magazine, 2014

#active #healthy #activeliving

Disclaimer
The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.

 

MIND Diet May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by as Much as 53%!

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MIND diet study shows growing evidence that what you eat may affect your brain health
A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows a diet plan they developed — appropriately called the MIND diet — may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent. Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.

New findings add to a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests your overall dietary pattern matters more than single nutrients when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention.
Eating a combination of healthful foods that deliver a wide range of protective nutrients while, at the same time, minimizing your intake of foods that may harm brain cells is what counts. While nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study acknowledges, that genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education also play a role, she says the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors.

MIND diet recommendations
The MIND diet breaks its recommendations down into 10 “brain healthy food groups” a person should eat and five “unhealthy food groups” to avoid.It combines many elements of two other popular nutrition plans which have been proven to benefit heart health: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
MIND diet differs from Mediterranean and DASH & proved more effective at reducing Alzheimer’s risk.
The MIND diet also differs from those plans in a few significant ways and proved more effective than either of them at reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. The diet recommends frequent servings of green leafy vegetables. Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. At least two servings a week can help, and researchers found six or more servings a week provide the greatest brain benefits. The Mediterranean and DASH diets do not specifically recommend these types of vegetables, but the MIND diet study found that including greens in addition to other veggies made a difference in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. All three diets, when closely followed, offered significant protection against Alzheimer’s. The Mediterranean diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by 54 per cent, the MIND diet by 53 per cent and the DASH diet by 39 per cent. But only the MIND diet, however, was shown to guard against Alzheimer’s when not followed strictly. Participants who followed the plan moderately well were 35-per-cent less likely to develop the disease compared with those with the lowest adherence scores.

The MIND diet for Optimal brain health.
While we wait for other studies to confirm the protective link between the MIND diet and Alzheimer’s risk, Leslie Beck a registered dietician based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto says there’s no reason to delay adopting this brain-friendly eating pattern. Follow the food guide below to earn the highest MIND diet score.
Leafy green vegetables: At least 6 servings/week One serving: ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw (e.g., salad greens) Eating plenty of vegetables has been linked to a slower rate of cognitive decline in older adults, but leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, collards, rapini, broccoli, arugula, Romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce) seem to offer the greatest protection. Leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene and lutein, nutrients thought to help preserve brain functioning. (You’ll get more beta-carotene and lutein if you eat your greens cooked rather than raw.)
Other vegetables: At least 1 serving/day One serving: ½ cup cooked or raw vegetables In addition to salad greens and green leafy vegetables, include other green vegetables (e.g., asparagus, green beans, green peppers), orange (e.g., carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash), yellow (e.g., yellow peppers), red (e.g., red peppers, tomato, beets), purple (e.g. eggplant, purple cabbage) and white/tan (e.g., onions, garlic, cauliflower, mushrooms) to consume a wide range of protective phytochemicals.
Berries: At least 2 servings/week One serving: ½ cup Berries are rich in polyphenols, phytochemicals that protect brain cells by fighting free-radical damage, reducing inflammation and removing toxic proteins that accumulate with age. Blueberries and strawberries appear to be most potent in terms of brain health.
Nuts: At least 5 servings/week One serving: 1 ounce, about ¼ cup Nuts (all types) help lower elevated blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and guard against Type 2 diabetes, factors that contribute to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Nuts are a good source of vitamin E; higher vitamin E levels are linked to less cognitive decline as we age. Walnuts may be the king of nuts when it comes to brain health. Research suggests eating more walnuts can help improve memory, concentration and the speed at which your brain processes information. Walnuts deliver polyphenols (like berries) and an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid.
Legumes: At least 4 servings/week One serving: ½ cup cooked Lentils and beans (e.g., kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas), packed with low glycemic carbohydrates, provide a steady stream of fuel (glucose) to the brain. Plus, adding beans to your diet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Whole grains: At least 3 servings/day One serving: 1 slice 100-per-cent whole-grain bread, ½ cup cooked brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, oatmeal, 1 cup 100-per-cent whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal Foods that promote a healthy cardiovascular system, such as whole grains, are also good for your brain. That’s because your heart and blood vessels supply nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the brain. If your brain doesn’t get the blood flow it needs, it can impair your memory and thinking abilities.
Fish: At least 1 serving/week One serving: 3 ounces cooked Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and herring are plentiful in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain function. A higher intake of DHA is thought to slow brain aging and improve memory and thinking skills. It may also help prevent the build-up of an Alzheimer’s-related protein called beta amyloid.
Poultry: At least 2 servings/week One serving: 3 ounces cooked As part of a healthy eating pattern, eating more poultry – and less red meat – is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Olive oil: Use as your primary cooking oil
Olive oil is a rich source of monounsaturated fat, the type that helps reduce inflammation and prevents blood-vessel dysfunction. Extra-virgin olive oil also contains oleocanthal, a phytochemical that may boost production of two key enzymes believed to be critical in removing beta-amyloid from the brain.
Wine: One serving/day One serving: 5 ounces Studies suggest that one glass of wine per day helps preserve memory and reduces Alzheimer’s risk. Low levels of alcohol are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Too much alcohol, however, can damage the brain.
Limit ‘brain-unfriendly foods’ To get a top MIND diet score you must also limit butter/margarine to less than 1 tablespoon/day, fast or fried food less than once/week, red meat fewer than four times/week, cheese less than once/week and pastries and sweets less than five times/week.

#diet #weightloss #fitness #healthy #fit #woman #yummy

Disclaimer

The material contained in this blog is for informational and educational purposes. Great efforts have been made to maintain the quality of the content.  However, it is strongly recommended that the treatment/management of any medical conditions mentioned here, should not be used by an individual/visitor of this blog, on their own, without consulting competent persons such as your doctor, or health care provider.   As always we encourage your comments on this blog or any others and hope you will join discussions.