Posts Tagged ‘Dementia exercises’

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: And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at:

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:

You can learn more about the Brain Development Center at: and Optiminds at:

Misdiagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

June 16, 2012

Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose, even by well-meaning doctors. There is no blood test, no telltale brain scan. Even the brain anomalies common in Alzheimer’s patients are shared by those who have no symptoms at all. It is no surprise that researchers are finding as many as one-third of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are incorrect.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is about ruling out other problems, such as an undetected stroke or brain tumor, and relying on changes observed over time. Health issues such as a common urinary tract infection, a sudden change in blood pressure or depression can quickly short circuit the brain. Additional possible culprits include overmedication, reaction to medications or vitamin deficiencies. The result is acute confusion or delirium that could mistakenly be perceived as Alzheimer’s.

Some things to look for:

Delirium—This is a temporary but acute mental confusion. It involves sudden onset of symptoms such as anxiety, disorientation, tremors, hallucinations and incoherence.

Dementia—Dementia is a more permanent medical condition that disrupts brain function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It proceeds in stages over months or years and gradually destroys memory, reason, judgment, language and the ability to carry out simple tasks.

There is no single test that can show whether a person has Alzheimer’s. While physicians can almost always determine if a person has dementia, it may be difficult to determine the exact cause. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s requires careful medical evaluation, including:

  • A thorough medical history
  • Mental status testing
  • Tests (such as blood tests and brain imaging) to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms
  • An expert evaluation by an interdisciplinary team that includes a geriatrician and neurologist

If you are concerned about your cognitive skills as you get older, check out Optiminds’ brain fitness programs, designed to take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, and improving cognitive and concentration power.

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: And be sure to visit our website at

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

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: And be sure to visit our website at

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: And be sure to visit our website at

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: And be sure to visit our website at

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: And be sure to visit our website at

Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

October 6, 2011

Most of us joke or tease about memory loss as we get older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging. It may be one of the signs of Alzheimer’s, a fatal brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.

Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees; and one symptom alone does not necessarily indicate that a person has Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you are concerned about symptoms you or a loved one are having, following is a list of some of the more common symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Money trouble
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Wandering
  • Repetitive speech or actions
  • Seemingly purposeless activity
  • Loss of initiative and motivation
  • Don’t recognize family and friends
  • Loss of motor skills and sense of touch
  • Difficulty dressing
  • Disregard for grooming and hygiene
  • Forgetting meals
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Verbal and physical aggression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Clingy or childlike behavior

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: And be sure to visit our website at

What is “Cognitive Reserve”?

July 1, 2011

Recent discoveries offer new hope and guidance to people who want to maintain peak brain performance. We learn more each year about combating the small losses in brainpower that often come after 50.

For example, did you know that up to 20 percent of people autopsied who had no major memory problems are discovered to have had Alzheimer’s?

Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City discovered that in some people the brain can continue to function—sometimes quite efficiently—despite changes that should cause severe disability.

Scientists attribute this to what is known as “cognitive reserve”—the combination of a person’s innate abilities and the additional brainpower that comes from challenging the mind.

Studies show that diverse, mentally stimulating tasks result in more brain cells, more robust connections among those cells, and a greater ability to bypass age- or disease-related trouble spots in the brain. The more you work your mind, the greater your cognitive reserve. And the greater your reserve, the greater your ability to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging.

Discover how a customized Optiminds “brain fitness” program can help you build your cognitive reserve and slow the aging process. Call us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: And be sure to visit our website at to learn more about us.

Keep Dementia At Bay And Improve Cognitive Skills With Brain Fitness

June 24, 2010

Dementia as we know can be quite a traumatic experience both for the sufferer and the family members. The reason for this disease is still not clear and there is no positive and clear treatment method.

Onset of dementia is characterized by confusion, depression, inability to perform day to day tasks, forgetting words in the middle of a sentence, inability to communicate, taking improper decisions against one’s nature, etc.

Apart from dementia, there are a lot of other mental illnesses affecting people. Almost everyone today, irrespective of age suffer from anxiety and depression. Stress is a by product of the fast paced and frantic lifestyle of today.

The reason for mental diseases is the inability of the brain to cope with the day to day stress. Over a period of time, the nerve cells weaken and are damaged beyond repair leading to depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s dementia.

“Just as we strengthen our muscles and bones with exercise in order to remain fit and healthy for as long as possible, it is possible to strengthen our nerve cells in the brain and make them fit and healthy to cope with any stressful situation through brain exercises and fitness regimes,” says Dr. Jane Stewart, founder of Optiminds

Brain fitness is all about exercising the brain to improve and strengthen the cognitive abilities and boost brain performance in various fields of life.

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