Posts Tagged ‘Brain Fitness for Dementia’

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.

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Get Moving to Delay Dementia

May 15, 2013

Reducing Alzheimer’s risk factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and low physical activity by just 25 percent could prevent up to half a million cases of the disease in the United States.

Experts believe that if you do only one thing to keep your brain young, it would be to exercise. Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40 percent compared with low activity levels. Physically active people tend to maintain better cognition and memory than inactive people, and also have substantially lower rates of different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Working outweighttraining1 helps the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory formation. The hippocampus shrinks as we age, leading to memory loss. Research suggests that exercise can reverse the shrinking process.

Experts recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, but even as little as 15 minutes of regular exercise three times a week can be beneficial to the brain.

One study found that older women who participated in a weight training program did 13 percent better in terms of cognitive function than women who did balance and toning exercises. Researchers believe that resistance training may increase the levels of growth factors in the brain.

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.

Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain—Part I

April 25, 2013

There is a lot of focus these days on how much food we consume. We should also be aware of what kind of foods we are consuming, especially when it comes to our brain health. While the modern American diet is increasing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it is also wreaking havoc on our brains.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. There is mounting evidence that feeding the brain healthy foods can help us maintain a healthy brain well into our old age.

Adding some “superfoods” to your daily diet can help increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life. Here are some suggestions:

blueberries1Blueberries—Fresh or frozen, adding blueberries to your diet can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.

Wild salmon—A “clean” fish in plentiful supply, salmon is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3s are sardines and herring.

Nuts and seeds—Just an ounce a day of nuts and seeds can boost vitamin E levels to lessen cognitive decline as you get older. The choice is wide: walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter, and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn’t matter; choose unsalted if you need to restrict sodium.

Avocados—While the avocado is a fatty fruit, it has monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow, which contributes to a healthy brain. Avocados also help with hypertension, a risk factor for the decline of cognitive abilities.

See our May 5, 2003 post for Part II.

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.

Cognitive Training May Make Seniors More Open to New Experiences

October 22, 2012

In addition to declines in cognitive abilities, including working memory and inductive reasoning, aging is often accompanied by changes in personality, such as shifts in openness or willingness to seek out new and cognitively challenging experiences. While a number of interventions have been designed to enrich cognitive functioning in older adults, little has been done to develop openness.

A study conducted on older adults involving 16 weeks of training in inductive reasoning demonstrated that participants were more willing to try new activities than a control group. The intervention consisted of a classroom-based inductive reasoning training program that focused on novel pattern recognition. Participants also did home-based Sudoku and crossword puzzles. Puzzle sets were matched to each person’s skill level based on his performance during the previous week, and increased in difficulty when appropriate.

Participants underwent personality trait and inductive reasoning tests before, during, and after the study. The authors reported that post-test openness scores were higher for the training group than for the control group.

The “use it or lose it” tag is often attributed to these types of studies and the results of the study suggest that “using it” also can lead people to view themselves as more open; openness to experience is linked to better health and decreased mortality risk.

The brain is a muscle and responds to strengthening and conditioning just like any other muscle in the body. If it doesn’t get exercise, it gets out of shape. At Optiminds, our focus is on helping you maintain your mental capacity as you grow older. Our brain fitness programs for seniors take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive and concentration power. This helps you to get your life back so you can start living again.

Ask us about our Senior Brain Fitness Classes, every Tuesday at 1:00 at our Southfield location.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.

Aerobics for Your Brain?

September 15, 2012

If researchers and neurologists are correct, doing certain types of mental exercises just might buy you a bit more time with a healthy brain.

Simple things, such as playing memory games on your mobile device or jotting down letters backwards, may help our gray matter maintain concentration, memory and visual and spatial skills over the years. Even tweaking every day routines can help—for example, brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand; or crossing your arms the opposite way you’re used to.  You might even try flipping pictures of your house upside down. The exercise forces your brain out of its familiar grooves because every time you look at the upside down image, your brain has to rotate it. This gets your brain out of its ruts and shakes things up.

The idea of mental workouts marks a dramatic shift in how we understand the brain these days. We used to think that we were stuck with what we were born with, but now we understand that the brain is a lot more plastic and flexible than we thought. Challenging the brain stimulates neural pathways and boosts the brain’s chemistry and connectivity, refueling the entire engine.

Research shows that people who engaged in mentally challenging games do, in fact, show improvement in cognitive functioning. They get faster at speed games and stronger in memory games, for example. What’s less clear is whether this improvement transfers to everyday tasks, like remembering where you parked the car or the name of your child’s teacher.

Like diet and exercise, mental maneuvers may boost brain health in ways science still doesn’t understand. Hopefully a mix of these factors just mix might stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases.

Dr. Jane Stewart specializes in helping people of all ages improve their study, reading and cognitive skills at two locations: The Brain Development Center in Novi and Optiminds in Southfield. Contact Dr. Jane Stewart at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com.

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: http://novipsych.com/brain_development and Optiminds at: www.optimindsct.com.

Detroit Institute of Arts offers Program for People with Early Stage Dementia

April 20, 2012

“People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are often isolated and have few opportunities to interact socially or remain involved in the community,” according to Jennifer Czajkowski, executive director of the Learning and Interpretation department at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). That’s why the DIA is now offering “Meet Me at the DIA: A Program for People with Early Stage Dementia and Their Caregivers.”

The program provides a safe, inspiring environment for social engagement and intellectual stimulation, where participants will feel welcome and comfortable. People with early stage dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers are invited to participate in gallery discussions about art led by DIA staff and volunteers with expertise in this area.

All participants, including caregivers, are encouraged to contribute to the discussions, which are based on the observations and connections made by the group. Each person will receive a small print of a DIA artwork so conversations can be continued after leaving the museum.

The goal of the program is to enhance Alzheimer’s patients’ quality of life through mental stimulation, communication, personal growth and social engagement. Similar programs have been shown to increase the mood and self-esteem of dementia patients and their caregivers immediately following their visit and for days afterward. For more information, call 313-833-4005 or click http://bit.ly/meetmeatthedia.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and memory skills. Find out more about Optiminds programs by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

Alzheimer’s Update

April 15, 2012

In the United States, some 5.4 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Of the ten deadliest diseases in the U.S., Alzheimer’s is the only one “without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

At the same time, there have been great advances in understanding the disease and national policy has begun to move forward as well. In 2011, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act mandated a national plan to coordinate research efforts to fight the disease which is predicted to impact 16 million by mid-century.

Also in 2011, new guidelines were issued for diagnosing the disease for the first time since 1984. Highlights include the following points:

  • Alzheimer’s must be viewed in three stages, with the first stage beginning long before the initial symptoms are recognized.
  • Diagnosis ultimately will include cognitive testing and general neurological assessments, along with medical tests that show changes in the brain—as opposed to relying largely  on a doctor’s judgment and reports from the patient and loved ones.

Cognitive skills are the underlying brain skills that make it possible for us to think, remember and learn. They allow us to process the huge influx of information we receive each and every day at work, at school and in life. Cognitive skills include a wide variety of abilities that are necessary for analyzing sounds and images, recalling information, making associations between different pieces of information, and maintaining focus on a given task.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

About the “Mature” Brain

February 8, 2012

While some of our capabilities naturally decrease as we age, research seems to support the notion that our ability to learn doesn’t necessarily decrease as we get older. Some people are much better than their peers at delaying age-related declines in areas such as memory and calculating speed. And researchers continue to look for answers to why this is so.

In 1995, an enormous national study of Americans was initiated to determine the role behavioral, psychological, and social factors play when it comes to how people age. The study is called “Midlife in the United States” or Midus. When it began, more than 7,000 people 25 to 74 years old were drafted to participate so that middle-agers could be compared with those younger and older. Midus is still going on today. Through Midus and other studies, researchers continue to uncover new information about our brains as we age.

For example, one of the brain’s most powerful tools is its ability to quickly scan a vast storehouse of templates for relevant information and past experience to come up with a novel solution to a problem. The older we are, the more information we have stored, which is probably why we associate wisdom with age—and why mental capabilities that depend most heavily on accumulated knowledge and experience—such as settling disputes and enlarging one’s vocabulary, get better over time.

Richard E. Nisbett, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan, has long argued that when it comes to intelligence, experience can outrun biology. According to Nisbett: “Older people make more use of higher-order reasoning schemes that emphasize the need for multiple perspectives, allow for compromise, and recognize the limits of knowledge.” Most important, they discovered that despite a decline in fluid intelligence, complicated reasoning that relates to people, moral issues or political institutions improved with age.

Another finding, according to Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University and one of the principal investigators for Midus: “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life.” For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade.

All other things being equal, the more years of school a subject had, the better he or she performed on every mental test. Up to age 75, the studies showed, “people with college degrees performed on complex tasks like less-educated individuals who were 10 years younger.” Education was also associated with a longer life and decreased risk of dementia. “The effects of education are dramatic and long term,” Dr. Lachman says.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

Holiday Tips for Alzheimer’s Families

December 13, 2011

For families living with Alzheimer’s, a little planning and some adjusted expectations can help make the holidays more enjoyable–for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers alike. Following are some suggestions that might prove helpful this holiday season:

Suggestions for families and caregivers:

  • Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage
  • Choose holiday activities and traditions that are most important to you
  • Host a small family dinner instead of a throwing a big holiday party
  • Consider serving a catered or takeout holiday meal. Many grocery stores and restaurants offer meals to go.
  • Start a new tradition. Have a potluck dinner where family or friends each bring a dish

Activities you can do with the person with Alzheimer’s:

  • Wrap gifts
  • Bake favorite holiday recipes together. The person can stir batter or decorate cookies.
  • Set the table. Avoid centerpieces with candles and artificial fruits and berries that could be mistaken for edible snacks.
  • Talk about events to include in a holiday letter
  • Prepare simple foods such as appetizers
  • Read cards you receive together
  • Look through photo albums or scrapbooks. Reminisce about people in the pictures and past events.
  • Watch a favorite holiday movie
  • Sing favorite carols or read biblical passages

When the person lives in a care facility:

  • Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities
  • Bring a favorite holiday food to share
  • Sing holiday songs. Ask if other residents can join in.
  • Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and memory skills. Find out more about Optiminds programs by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

The Rationale Behind Cognitive Training

October 13, 2011

For some time now, Optiminds has been offering programs and techniques designed to help prevent cognitive loss and strengthen cognitive abilities in mid and later life.

Research shows that the normal aging process is strongly associated with brain changes that lead to a weakening of some select cognitive domains in healthy people. As more baby boomers become seniors, it’s no surprise that there is a growing interest in finding methods to “keep our brains sharp” by maintaining or enhancing cognitive performance.

As we discover more about the human brain, ongoing scientific advances support the potential for neural connectivity in the brain to be malleable throughout the lifespan, and the capacity in late life for neurogenesis—the development of nerve tissues.

Observational evidence suggests that throughout adult life, there may be opportunities to protect and even enhance brain and cognitive function through prudent attention to modifying factors such as lifestyle, work and recreational choices, exercise, diet, health management and even by other means such as cognitive training..

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping people of all ages improve their cognitive and memory skills. Find out more about Optiminds programs by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.


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