11 Things to Know About Keeping Your Brain Healthy

No matter what our age, we all want our brains to function their best. However, this is of particular importance as we age. We all know people who are of an advanced age who are as sharp as a tack, and others who are that same age who don’t think clearly or quickly. We wonder what we need to do to end up like the first person.

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Recently the Institute of Medicine, which is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released a report that identifies what helps and hurts brain function as we age. The results were published in this month’s AARP bulletin.

Let’s start with the bad news first so as to end on a positive note.

THINGS THAT CAN HARM THE AGING BRAIN

1. Depression: People who suffer from depression have an astounding double the risk for brain dysfunction, including dementia. One possible explanation is that depression causes changes in the brain’s hippocampus.

2. Difficulty Seeing and Hearing: Being able to see and hear well are directly associated with healthy cognitive function, including memory. People who can’t see or hear often avoid social interaction, which is a key factor in brain health. Also, according to a Johns Hopkins study, adults with hearing problems appear to have a greater rate of brain shrinkage as they age.

3. Medications: Antihistimines, sleep aids, and antidepressants have been shown to increase the risk of dementia. So if you are depressed, which is also a risk factor, try to deal with it naturally, such as with adequate sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and prayer.

4. Stress: Daily stress can cause memory problems, but stress that lasts for months and even years is associated with a faster decline of brain health. Many of us can’t eliminate the stress in our live, such as traffic jams and difficult relationships, but we can deal with stress effectively, in the same ways we deal with depressions: adequate sleep, exercise, healthy diet, and prayer.

5. Air Pollution: Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked with brain shrinkage, brain damage, and impaired brain function, according to one new study.

6. High Blood Pressure and Diabetes: These are also risk factors for heart disease. Doctors have been linking brain health and heart health for years now. Exercising, eating right and maintaining a healthy weight can lower blood pressure and reverse diabetes.

THINGS THAT HELP THE AGING BRAIN

7. Exercise: The best is exercise that causes you to breathe heavily for at least 30 minutes straight….combined with weight lifting. People whose brains benefitted the most from exercise were people over the age of 65.

8. Intellectual Stimulation: When it comes to the brain, “use it or lose it.” Having a natural curiosity and continuing to learn are excellent for brain function. Some of the best ways to help your mind stay fit are learning a new language, reading, and writing.

9. Social Stimulation: Connecting in a positive way with other people has been proven time and again to keep our minds young. Spending time with friends and loved ones, such as at church activities, volunteering, and playing games all help preserve brain function.

10. Healthy Diet: Stay away from processed foods containing hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and sugar. Research shows a link between packaged food and brain shrinkage. On the other hand, scientists have discovered healthy fats are good for the brain. These include fish oils and other Omega-3 fats as well as the fats in nuts, avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil.

11. Good Sleep: This means getting plenty of deep, restful sleep. Some people suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that usually affects people who are overweight. It is a condition whereby the throat closes during sleep and causes the person to stop breathing temporarily and wake up momentarily, then go back to sleep…a cycle that repeats itself all night long. As a result of the constant waking-up, people with sleep apnea never enter into the deep, restorative sleep necessary to repair our brains. People with sleep apnea are at increased risk for memory problems and dementia. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor as there is a non-pharmaceutical treatment called a CPAP that works great.


How to build a healthy brain?

Here we will look at how to grow healthy brains vital for a smart and happy kid.

Follow these Four Golden Rules.

Kids -head -fill

BALANCED BLOOD SUGAR

Why is balance so important?

Sugar is your brain’s super fuel. But you have to make sure your child is getting the RIGHT TYPES and RIGHT AMOUNT at the RIGHT TIME.

Too much ‘fast’ sugar means a blood sugar high and hyperactivity. The excess sugar in the blood gets dumped into storage as abdominal fat. Eating little and often helps keep your child’s energy and concentration even.

Too much sugar and your child may be hyperactive and find it hard to concentrate.

Too little and they may feel tired, irritable and find it hard to concentrate.

Swing

How to balance blood sugar?

Go for foods with slow releasing sugars

Oats Brown rice Rye bread
Whole wheat pasta Brown bread
Vegetables (Excluding potatoes and parsnips)

Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day

This will help to maintain your blood sugar levels, and prevent highs and lows.

Combine protein with carbohydrate

Protein slows down the absorption of sugars found in carbohydrates.

Cereal with seeds/yoghurt/milk Fruit with yoghurt/seeds
Toast with egg Toast with fish e.g. mackerel

ENSURE ESSENTIAL FATS

Why is a fat head a smart head?

 60greenbrain60% of a dried brain weight is fat, it is no wonder deficiencies in specific kinds of fats can have huge repercussions on intelligence and behaviour.

If your child is having 3 portions of oily fish and a daily portion of seeds they should be getting a good level to help their brains develop and boost IQ.

How do I give my child all the essential fats they need?

Eat plenty of seeds and nuts

You can grind and sprinkle them on cereal, soups and salads.

Source of essential fats:

Mackerel Flaxseeds Sunflower seeds
Herring Pumpkin seeds Sesame seeds
Sardines Chia seeds Walnuts
Anchovies Omega 3 rich eggs
Tuna steak
Salmon

Eat cold-water carnivorous fish 2 or 3 times a week

This includes sardines, mackerel, herring, kipper or wild/organic salmon.

Choose fish oil and starflower or evening primrose oil to supplement fats

Avoid deep fried, browned and processed foods

VITAMINS AND MINERALS


Why does your child need vitamins and minerals?Vitamins and minerals are the intelligent nutrients that keep the brain in tune. They are key to building and rebuilding the brain. They mainly come from fruit, vegetables and wholefoods and can be supplemented for optimum brain performance. Studies giving children supplements show improved IQ.

How do I ensure that my child is having enough?

Make sure that they eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
Choose wholefoods, not refined foods
Give them a chewable multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. Click here to find out why.

AVOID ANTI-NUTRIENTS & ELIMINATE FOOD ALLERGENS


Which foods rob your child’s brain of nutrients?

Anti-nutrients are substances that knock out essential brain-friendly nutrients. Some children develop an allergy or intolerance against particular foods.

How do I avoid anti-nutrients?

Avoid or minimise:

  • Refined sugar: These are essentially carbohydrates robbed of essential nutrients.
  • Damaged fats: These come from fried foods and hydrogenated fats.
  • Chemical food additives: Especially colourings.

Food intolerances can be detected by a pin prick blood test (see www.yorktest.com) or speak to your GP.

Alternatively you could try eliminating a food group you think your child is allergic to, and re assessing they’re mood and behaviour weekly. Click here to understand more about food allergies.


Maintaining Good Oral Health

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Brush and floss every day, including after meals. Brushing and flossing every day and after meals can maintain the health of your teeth, restorations, and gums. A clean environment may help you avoid further enamel erosion as well as unsightly stains.

  • Make sure to brush and floss after meals if you can. If you have food stuck in your teeth, it promotes an environment that is rife for further damage to your enamel. If you don’t have a toothbrush, chewing a piece of gum can help

Control your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages. Sugary and acidic foods and beverages may contribute to enamel erosion, and controlling your intake of them can lead to better oral health. Brushing your teeth after consuming these foods may help prevent enamel erosion.

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and legumes can help with your overall well-being, including oral health.
  • Even some healthy foods are acidic, including citrus fruits. Continue eating these, but limit how much you consume and consider brushing your teeth when you’re done.
  • Examples of sugary and acidic foods and beverages to avoid are soft drinks, sweets, candies, and wine.

Avoid mouthwashes and toothpastes that contain alcohol. Mouthwashes and toothpastes that contain alcohol can decrease the durability of enamel or even stain it. Use non-alcohol colored toothpaste or mouthwashes to avoid these problems.

  • You can find toothpastes and mouthwashes without alcohol at most grocery and drug stores or online retailers.

Don’t grind your teeth. If you have a bad habit of clenching and grinding your teeth, you may damage your enamel and teeth. If you’re a tooth-grinder, ask your dentist about using a mouth guard.

  • Grinding wears restorations and can cause sensitivity and damage including small chips and cracks.
  • Nail biting, opening bottles or holding objects with your teeth are also bad habits. Try and avoid these habits so that you don’t damage your teeth or fillings.

Get regular checkups and teeth cleaning at your dentist’s office. Regular checkups and cleanings are an integral part of maintaining oral health. See your dentist at least twice a year, or more often if you’re having any issues with your teeth or enamel decay.

Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing gum increases saliva production, which can help prevent tooth decay. Xylitol has been show to reduce bacterial activity and tooth decay, so consider a gum with Xylitol in it.


Preparing to Apply for Insurance or Medicaid

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Know your household size. In order to qualify for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid, you must know your household size. Household size is important because different income limits apply to different household sizes: a larger household may be able to qualify for Medicaid or reduced cost-insurance under the Affordable Care Act with more income than a smaller household.

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  • A household typically includes the person who files taxes, that person’s spouse, and any dependents.
  • For insurance purposes, “dependent” includes anyone that you would list as a “dependent” on your tax records. Typically, minor children will qualify and in some cases, you will be able to list your parents as dependents.
  1. Calculate your income. In addition to your household size, your income determine whether you are eligible for Medicaid or discounted health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  Include the following income sources in your calculation of annual income:

    • Any unemployment compensation that you receive.
    • Any income earned by members of your household, including your spouse or any dependents.
    • Any alimony payments, interest income, income from capital gains.
    • Withdrawals from a 401k account or a Roth IRA.

     

    Prepare to fill out an application for insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance applications are available on the “healthcare.gov” website. Usually, you can only enroll in health insurance during an “open enrollment period,” which is a specified enrollment time.  However, because you have lost your job, you are eligible to fill out an appl ication and get health insurance through “special enrollment,” even if the open enrollment period has ended.  Before you are ready to fill out an application, you will need the following information:

    • Information about your income and your household size (as discussed above).
    • Home and mailing addresses for anyone applying for coverage.
    • Basic information about everyone who needs coverage, such as the relationships of those people to you. For example, if you want to apply for coverage for both you and your spouse, you will need to enter basic information about him or her.
    • The social security numbers of everyone who needs healthcare.
    • Information about any professionals who will help you complete the application. While you can fill out the application completely on your own, some people choose to have an attorney or accountant help. If this applies to you, the professional will be required to submit information about themselves with your application.
    • Immigration information for anyone applying, if there is anyone who is not a citizen of the United States.
    • Information on how you file your taxes. This includes whether you file jointly with a spouse, or if you are single with no dependents.
    • Any insurance policy numbers, if anyone in your household currently has a health insurance policy.
    • Information on employers. You need information on the employers of anyone living in your household, even if the employer does not provide health insurance.

 


How to kick start healthy habits

Making sustainable lifestyle changes is the key to a longer, healthier life.

How to kick start healthy habits

Too often eating well and exercising is something we do for a few days or a couple of weeks before reverting back to old, and generally, poor health habits. Taking a different look at your own nutrition, weight and physical activity habits is the ultimate secret to getting healthy and keeping your weight under control for good. To kick-start this positive-health mind shift, try viewing healthy eating and moving your body as non-negotiable daily habits.

Think of it as looking after your car: you regularly give it good-quality petrol, water and oil to make sure it runs well, and the same needs to be happening with your body. Rather than waiting until you need to lose weight, or until you are so tired and stressed that you are forced to re-evaluate your lifestyle, here are the top daily health and nutrition habits that will help you to be your best every day, not just tomorrow.

1. Prioritise your food and activity

We are the victims of our food environments: eating what is available, when we are hungry. Healthy people, on the other hand, plan their food intake religiously and make sure they have the foods they need on hand that will fill them up, but not contribute to long-term weight gain. The same can be said for exercise. You simply have to make the time and prioritise it. There will always be an excuse, another job you should be doing or a reason why you need to stop at the service station to pick up a snack, but if you are seriously committed to getting healthy, you have to prioritise your food and exercise needs.

2. Eat more vegetables

You may manage to eat half a plate of vegetables a few nights a week, but the truth is that you need this amount every day. Establish some regular vegetable-related habits, such as drinking a vegetable juice every day, or adding carrots, celery and chopped capsicum to your lunch, so that even if you miss out some nights, you have managed to include some during the day.

3. Eat nuts each day

Nuts are powerful little numbers, and walnuts in particular contain a high content of long-chain plant fats that are extremely good for the heart. Buy large packs and repackage them into individual portions for a tasty snack or to take the edge off your hunger on the way home from work. Remember, though: 10 nuts is one serve.

4. Only eat food you love

“Life is too short to eat bad food.” It’s a simple quote, but one that makes sense. If you know that processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and fried foods are packed full of bad fat, preservatives, additives and artificial garbage, why do you put them into your body? Once in a while is okay, but eating crap every day for no other reason than you can’t be bothered to eat better-quality food is a poor excuse. Look after your body and in turn it will work and look better every day.

5. Monitor your weight

Long-term weight-loss data which tracks those who have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off has repeatedly shown that regularly monitoring your weight to ensure it does not creep up is crucial for long-term weight control. Try to hop on the scales at least once a month so you can make changes before your weight starts to increase.

6. Promote health and fitness to the family

If you want to have healthy kids, you have to be healthy yourself. Children, particularly primary school-aged ones, are constantly modelling themselves on the behaviour of their parents. If you want them to be active and eat well, you are going to have to set a good example. If you know you need to make health-related changes at home, have a family meeting and plan ways you can eat better and move more on a daily basis.

7. Eat meals at the table

Research has shown that family meals not only help teenagers perform better socially and emotionally, but that sitting down to eat dinner as a family, without distractions such as the TV, promotes weight control. Even if you can only manage dinner together once a week, prioritising this meal is a good starting point.

8. Drink green tea

Green tea is packed full of powerful antioxidants that help protect the body’s cells against damage. It is a great substitute for the large number of cups of regular tea, instant coffee and diet soft drinks office workers drink each day. There is some evidence to show that green tea can also help with fat burning. Aim for three cups a day, after meals.

9. Get some sunlight

While not directly related to nutrition, getting enough vitamin D is crucial for strong bones and optimal mood. Get out of the office at least once each day to take a walk, buy some healthy food and get some vitamin D; 10 minutes a day is all you need.

10. Take fish oil

While fresh, oily fish is packed full of powerful omega-3 fats, to get an optimal amount each day, you would need to eat 200 grams of salmon every day. Instead, try taking a couple of fish oil capsules each day for the numerous health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, reduced inflammation and improved skin-cell health.


How to make a fresh start

Leave the past where it belongs and take these steps to move forward and start over.

How to make a fresh start

Whether the love of your life has left you, or you’ve lost your job, here’s what to do to move on and be happy.

Learn your lessons

Try to see the experience not as a tragic end, but as a new beginning. The mistakes we make in life can make us stronger and ultimately shape our future.

Take stock

There’s nothing wrong with lying low for a while: it’s an opportunity to regroup and rethink. If you’re newly single, perhaps plan a trip you’ve always wanted to take. If you’ve been retrenched, it could mean starting your own business.

Lose gracefully

When you’re hurt, it can be tempting to lash out. But the best strategy is to maintain composure and avoid burning bridges. Instead of telling your ex-boss or lover to take a hike, wish them well and move on.

Allow yourself time to wallow

Eat chocolate, watch a sad movie, call your friends. Write a letter and burn it. Get it all out. But put a time limit on how long you’ll do this for because this behaviour gets pretty counterproductive after a while.

Leave the past behind

It’s only natural to put emphasis on your negative experiences, but reliving the past is only torturing yourself because it’s not where you’re going. That energy is better spent investing in your future.

Forgive yourself and others

Holding a grudge or beating yourself up will ultimately only weigh you down. Forgiveness isn’t about being weak or allowing anyone to “get away” with anything, it’s about setting yourself free.

Focus on being happy

Regardless of what’s happened, there are plenty of ways to find a little joy. Go for a walk, call your mum, sit in the sunshine or share a meal with a friend. And above all, take life one day at a time.