Archive for the ‘brain fitness for seniors’ Category

That Challenging Job May Be Helping Your Brain

June 16, 2015

lovejobDid you know that a job or work that is mentally demanding can actually help protect your memory and thinking skills later in life?

According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, challenges at work can be positive if they build up mental reserve over the long term. In fact, the type of career you have may be even more important than your education level for protecting brain health.

In the study, a thousand people over age 75 were given memory and thinking tests every 18 months for eight years. Researchers rated participants’ work history based on how often participants had to schedule activities, resolve conflict, develop strategies and perform other complicated tasks.

They found that those who had the highest levels of tasks that stimulated verbal intelligence and executive functions during their career had half the rate of mental decline compared to those with low levels of mentally demanding tasks.

One of the first signs of age-related cognitive decline is a decrease in executive function—the ability to organize thoughts. But just as lifting weights builds muscle, handling challenging mental tasks every day may strengthen neural processes that then build up mental reserve in old age.

So take your job and love it—it may be the ticket to enjoying a great retirement!

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping students of all ages improve study, reading, math and cognitive skills. Our customized brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power and concentration. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Physical Workouts Aid Brain Health

May 16, 2015

ballroom4The best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy.

According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, exercising for just 20 minutes not only helps your keep in shape physically, it also facilitates the brain’s information processing and memory functions.

When you exercise, your heart rate increases and this pumps more oxygen to your brain while releasing numerous hormones that provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain.

Tips for choosing the right physical exercise:

  • Exercise in the morning—It not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also helps you retain new information and react better to complex situations
  • Aerobic exercise improves brain function and acts as a “first aid kit” for damaged brain cells
  • Activities that incorporate coordination along with cardiovascular exercise—such as ballroom dancing—have a higher impact on cognitive functioning than mental tasks alone
  • At the gym, opt for circuit workouts, which both quickly spike your heart rate and constantly redirect your attention
  • If you’re mentally exhausted, reboot with a few jumping jacks for your brain improvement exercises

Optiminds offers brain fitness programs designed specifically for adults and seniors. These individualized, customized sessions help you take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive strength and concentration.

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

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.

About Memory

January 16, 2015

hippocampus1The hippocampus is the horseshoe-shaped region of the brain that is heavily associated with memory. It plays an important role in consolidating information from short-term memory into long-term memory.

The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, a system associated with emotions and long-term memories. It is involved in such complex processes as forming, organizing, and storing memories.

Functioning of the hippocampus can decline with age. By the time people reach their 80s, some of them may have lost as much as 20 percent of the nerve connections in the hippocampus.

Experts believe that we can hold approximately seven items in our short-term memory for about 20 to 30 seconds. Grouping related information into smaller “chunks can help us stretch this capacity somewhat.

In a famous paper published in 1956, psychologist George Miller suggested that the capacity of short-term memory for storing a list of items was somewhere between five and nine. Today, many memory experts believe that the true capacity of short-term memory is probably closer to the number four.

Some of the major reasons we forget things include:

  • failure to retrieve the information, which often occurs when memories are rarely accessed, causing them to decay over time
  • interference, which occurs when some memories compete with other memories
  • failing to store the information in memory in the first place
  • intentionally trying to forget things associated with a troubling or traumatic event

Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs help to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Our programs for baby boomers are designed to stimulate targeted areas of the brain to help improve skills such as memory, attention and organizational abilities.

Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Blood Tests for Alzheimer’s On the Horizon

December 16, 2014

AlzBloodStill in early stages of development at the National Institute on Aging, a new blood test for Alzheimer’s appears to detect the disease as many as 10 years before clinical diagnosis is possible, much sooner than other tests in development.

The test could soon be used to identify and treat patients with Alzheimer’s earlier in their disease progression. Those people could participate in clinical trials to help find new treatments. Already, the test distinguishes between patients and healthy elderly with 100 percent accuracy.

In separate research at Georgetown University, a blood test has been developed that can predict with 90 percent certainty whether a senior will suffer from dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease within the next few years. The test would be an improvement over expensive MRIs and PET scans currently used to diagnose Alzheimers, but which are limited in their diagnostic ability.

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects thinking, memory, behavior and autonomy. It is estimated that by 2050 135 million people globally will have dementia.

Optiminds offers customized brain fitness programs to help seniors take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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.

Signs of Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease

July 9, 2014

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. While it has been known to develop between ages 30 and 40, it is more common to see someone in his or her 50s who has the disease. Of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, about 5 percent, or approximately 200,000 people, are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s have no known cause, but most cases are inherited, a type known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD).

Getting an accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary.

Sometimes symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different health care professionals. It could start to show up as problems at work or home, or as lost relationships or jobs.

For most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, the early symptoms will closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information or important dates
  • Asking for the same information again and again
  • Difficulty solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
  • Losing track of the date or time of year
  • Losing track of where you are and how you got there
  • Difficulty with depth perception or other vision problems
  • Difficulty joining conversations or finding the right word for something
  • Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
  • Increasingly poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work and social situations
  • Changes in mood and personality

Because there is no one test that confirms Alzheimer’s disease, a diagnosis is only made after a comprehensive medical evaluation.

To keep your brain in tip top shape, our Optiminds fitness programs can help you take your brain’s performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power.

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.

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.

Alzheimer’s Update

May 16, 2014

seniorcomputer1Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease.

Alzheimer’s is especially hard on women. Of the 5 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.8 million are men. A woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man. Not only are women more likely to have Alzheimer’s, they are also more likely to be caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these staggering figures, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 2050.

A lifestyle that focuses on physical activity and a healthy diet may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. You may also want to take advantage of Optiminds’ customized brain training programs for seniors. A mix of mental/emotional exercises, visualization techniques and computerized drills, these programs are designed to increase mental capacity and help you process information better and more quickly.

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 us at (248) 496-0150 or email Dr. Stewart at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And visit our website at optiminds.com to learn more about us.


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