Archive for the ‘age-related brain fitness’ Category

Facts About Alzheimer’s

February 16, 2015

AlzRise2The number of Alzheimer’s cases continues to increase every year as our population grows older. Following are some basic facts about this devastating disease as reported in a recent AARP Bulletin:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia, a collective term for a number of conditions marked by a loss of mental abilities.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease in 2014.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Alzheimer’s sufferers are women. While young people can develop Alzheimer’s, the disease is most common among people over 65.
  • Alzheimer’s currently costs the U.S. some $214 billion annually. One study estimates that 42 percent of families that include someone with Alzheimer’s spend more than $20,000 a year for care.
  • Recent studies show that the cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias has surpassed the cost of treatment for cancer patients or victims of heart disease. One reason is that the disease can linger for years, meaning extremely high long-term costs for both government insurance programs and families.
  • The number of Alzheimer’s cases continues to increase every year as the population grows older.
  • Alzheimer’s lags behind other diseases when it comes to federal funding for research on prevention and treatment.

Optiminds offers adults and seniors customized brain training programs designed to stimulate targeted areas of the brain. Our programs include mental/emotional exercises, visualization techniques and computerized drills along with recommendations on diet and physical exercise tailored to older adults.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Drugs That Can Affect Your Memory

November 16, 2014

memorydrugs1Most of us jokingly accept our increasing memory loss as we get on in years. But scientists now know that memory loss as you get older is by no means inevitable. In fact, research increasingly shows that the brain can grow new brain cells and reshape connections throughout life.

There are other factors that might be impairing your memory. Some you may already be familiar with range from alcohol and drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, head injuries and stroke to sleep deprivation, severe stress, vitamin B12 deficiency, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

But what many people don’t realize is that some of today’s most commonly prescribed drugs also can interfere with memory.

Here are 10 of the top categories of offenders and examples of each:

  • Antianxiety drugs (Benzodiazephines) such as Xanax, Librium and Klonopin
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (Statins) such as Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol
  • Antiseizure drugs such as Neurontin, Lyrica and Topamax
  • Antidepressant drugs (Tricyclic antidepressants) such as Elavil, Norpramin and Vivactil
  • Narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin, Dilaudid, OxyContin and Percocet
  • Parkinson’s drugs such as Apokyn, Mirapex and Requip
  • Hypertension drugs such as Coreg, Lopressor and Toprol
  • Sleeping aids such as Lunesta, Sonata and Ambien
  • Incontinence drugs such as Detro and Oxytrol
  • Antihistamines such as Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton

If you take any of these medications and are concerned about memory loss, talk with your doctor or other health care professional about treating your condition with other types of drugs or nondrug treatments. Do not stop or reduce the dosage of your medication without consulting your doctor.

You may also want to sign up for an Optiminds cognitive training program to help boost your memory. Our programs for senior brain fitness are comprised of mental exercises, individually customized to your needs and designed to stimulate targeted areas of your brain.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math, cognitive skills and memory of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Working Longer May Improve Cognitive Health

September 16, 2014

boomerworking1While some baby boomers may be finding it necessary to continue working beyond age 65, they may be benefiting their cognitive health as well as their financial health.

Researchers are finding that continuing to engage in intellectual activities and new experiences keeps the brain running efficiently. They have developed the theory of “scaffolding” which holds that in such situations the aging brain develops new circuits that help people respond to cognitive challenges.

The scaffolding theory suggests that the aging brain, when confronted with the joint challenge of declining neural resources and a cognitively demanding task, develops “scaffolds”—new circuitry that helps maintain task performance. Evidence for neural scaffolding emerges from functional imaging studies showing that older adults typically engage more brain tissue than young adults when performing a demanding cognitive task, and that this additional activity is in a region in the opposite hemisphere from an area active in young adults as well or in an area larger than that seen in the young adults. It is believed that this additional scaffolding is compensating for areas of the brain that are functioning somewhat less efficiently than in younger adults.

We have a long way to go in learning about the aging mind and how to preserve its vitality. New imaging tools are allowing us to take giant steps as we examine these questions further. One of the premier challenges of the 21st century lies in determining what behaviors will protect neural health and then developing public health initiatives to encourage these behaviors in our communities. Sound social policies that encourage older people to keep working could have direct benefits to our economic system. It could even result in later onset of dementing illnesses, an outcome that offers gains for society thanks to reduced caregiving and health care costs, as well as extended time with beloved family members.

Optiminds offers customized tutoring programs for students, including students who are home schooled. We have earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Care and Feeding of the Aging Brain

June 14, 2014

brainfoods1We are learning more about the human brain every day, but there is still much about it that remains a mystery. One thing we do know is that our brains can deteriorate if we don’t take care of them.

So here are some things you can try to keep your “gray matter” healthy:

Eat brain-healthy foods—Choose foods that are lower in fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of dark fruits and vegetables, fish and lean proteins. Instead of candy, snack on almonds and blueberries. Healthy snacks can lower blood sugar and improve cognition. Also, the Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death.

Read for half an hour a day— The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise—Walking your dog or yourself for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar and increase blood flow to the brain so you can think more clearly. Don’t forget about dancing. Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections.

Be a social animal—According to the Yale Medical Center, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer.

Become a student again—Challenge your mind by taking courses at your local college, university, community college or adult education center. Many institutions offer discounts for senior students.

Learn a musical instrument—Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement.

Improve your powers of observation—Stare straight ahead and see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Walk down the street and scan to the left and right. These actions activate rarely used areas of the brain that can atrophy if not used enough.

Get out of your comfort zone—Try tasks that are opposite your natural skills. If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

Write it down—Research shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write stories or keep a daily journal for starters.

Sleep—Seven or eight hours of good sleep a night helps prevent memory loss and gives the brain to relax and process things you learned during the day.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Monitoring Your Child’s Use of Media

February 23, 2014

KidsTech1Children today are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.

Studies have shown that the excessive use of media can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some recommendations that parents might find helpful in overseeing their children’s use of media and helping them make wise media choices:

  • Use established ratings systems for shows, movies and games to avoid inappropriate content, such as violence, explicit sexual content or glorified tobacco and alcohol use
  • Limit screen time and make educational media and non-electronic formats (books, newspapers and board games) readily available
  • Watch television with your children and put things you watch into context
  • Establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms
  • Turn off the TV during dinner
  • Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content
  • See that your kids spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play
  • Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

 

Einstein’s Brain

December 23, 2013

Einstein3An analysis of recently unearthed photos of Albert Einstein’s brain indicate that the father of the theory of relativity had a colossal corpus callosum. That’s the brawny bundle of white matter that carries electrical signals between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, making brain regions with different functions work together.

Scientists believe this fact is part of what made Einstein’s brain so creative. When the corpus callosum works well, the human brain is a marvel of social, spatial and verbal reasoning.

While Einstein’s corpus callosum at the time of his death at age 76 was much better connected than those of similarly aged men, it was not as strikingly more connected than those of healthy young men in a control group.

So what the findings suggest is that Einstein’s extraordinary cognition was related not only to his large corpus callosum but also to enhanced communication routes between some parts of his two brain hemispheres. This might reflect the fact that Einstein continued to exercise his brain strenuously—more like a young person—forestalling much of the atrophy that comes with age.

Check out Optiminds’ programs for adults and seniors, designed to increase mental capacity, process information better and faster, and get your memory up to its peak performance.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Give the Gift of an Optiminds Program

December 9, 2013

Optimindsnotag3With the holidays just around the corner, most of us are wracking our brains to come up with gift ideas for our loved ones. Speaking of brains, you might want to consider gifting your child, spouse or parent with some brain training sessions at Optiminds.

Optiminds is a professional brain training and tutoring service headed by Jane Stewart, PhD. A brain development expert, Dr. Stewart has spent over 40 years helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and learning skills as a means to achieving their goals and success in life.

Optiminds offers something for everyone on your list—adolescents and teens, college students, adults and senior citizens. We will customize a course for sharpening specific cognitive skills, from memory and math and reading improvement to ACT and SAT test preparation. You’ll find brain fitness classes for baby boomers, programs geared to helping students qualify for college scholarships, and even a Cognitive Summer Camp. We also offer  life strategy programs, programs to facilitate home schooling and parent coaching, not to mention ADHD assessment and tutoring and working with Alzheimer’s patients.

Optiminds classes are held at our facility at 29688 Telegraph Rd. in Southfield. For more information on how we can customize a program for that special someone on your gift list, call us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Research Shows Exercise Is Good for Your Brain

October 9, 2013

Neuroscientists, psychologists and physicians all agree—Exercise is the best thing you can do for your brain. Laura Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, concurs: “If we had a pill that could do what exercise does, its sales would put Viagra’s to shame.”

Research continues to show that cognitive decline is not inevitable. Brain volume may shrink as we age, but the brain continues to make new neurons and fine-tune neural connections as long as we live.

Aerobic exercise, for example, reduces the level of brain loss and keeps cognitive abilities sharp. It slashes the lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half and the risk of general dementia by 60 percent.

Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, spurring the release of a chemical that stimulates the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area involved in memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions. This same chemical also repairs cell damage and strengthens synapses, which connect brain cells.

exercisebrain3It’s never too late for your brain to benefit from exercise either. A now-classic study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people 60 to 79 years of age who completed a six-month program of walking briskly on a regular basis showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus—the first time scientists have been able to demonstrate this.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

90 May Be the new 80

August 5, 2013

A small but growing body of evidence suggests that improved nutrition, vaccinations, health care and intellectual stimulation are leading to a better quality of life for the elderly.

New80Researchers in Denmark reported study results recently showing that people born in 1915 were almost a third more likely to reach 95 than those born a decade earlier, and on average they performed better on mental tests and in daily living tasks.

While the two groups were about the same in terms of physical strength, those in the 1915 group had a better “daily living score”, which was based on being able to walk around the house, get upstairs or live alone. Authors suggest the group was also aided by technology such as walking aids, threshold ramps and swivel seats.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the cognitive skills of people of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Link Between Healthy Lifestyle and Fewer Memory Complaints

July 25, 2013

While research has shown that healthy behaviors are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, less is known about the potential link between positive lifestyle choices and milder memory complaints—especially those that occur earlier in life and could be the first indicators of later problems.

In a recent study, researchers examined the impact of lifestyle choices on memory throughout adult life, surveying participants about both their memory and their health behaviors, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was.

As researchers expected, healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few surprises.

Older adults (age 60-99) were more likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors than middle-aged (40-59) and younger adults (18-39). (For example, only 12 percent of older adults smoked, compared with 25 percent of young adults and 24 percent of middle-aged adults.) So this finding actually runs counter to the stereotype that aging is a time of dependence and decline.

In addition, while 26 percent of older adults and 22 percent of middle-aged respondents reported memory issues, it was surprising to find that a higher-than-expected 14 percent of the younger group complained about their memory too.

multitask1It’s possible that older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. At the same time, memory issues in younger people could be due to stress and the increase in multitasking that comes with the use of technology.

These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health—including memory by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.


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