Category: The Socially Connected Mind

4 Steps to Better Brain Health

The brain is much like a newborn baby. It is fragile and needs all of the proper care and nutrition to help it grow into a strong organ to carry us throughout our lifespan. We are sharing four important steps to better brain health that you can start today.

No. 1: Volunteer with today’s youth – A science-based initiative through Johns Hopkins University and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), called Experience Corps, found that older adults who volunteer in urban schools improved the educational experience of children AND the older volunteers also experienced meaningful improvements in their own mental and physical health. Why? Because they were increasing their daily socialization and they had a reason to get moving early in the day – all things the brain loves.

No. 2: Eat the catch of the day – Well, only if the catch of the day is a fatty fish high in DHA omega-3. This specific omega-3 makes up about 30 percent of the structural fats in the grey matter of the brain. What’s more, it is responsible for 97 percent of the total omega-3s in the brain. If salmon, tuna, mackerel or herring do not grace your table at least twice a week, you should talk with your doctor about taking a DHA omega-3 supplement. It will help to fill in the gaps when fatty fish is not the catch of the day.

No. 3: Drink to better brain health – In this case, we are not talking about raising a glass of bubbly or toasting with your favorite ale. We are talking about hydration in the form of good old-fashioned H2O. Your body needs to stay hydrated to function properly and this includes your brain.

Memory and fitness expert, Nelson Dellis, shares his tips for staying hydrated throughout the day.

No. 4: Put one foot in front of the other – That’s right, get moving for better brain health. According to research published in the Journal of Aging Research, regular aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart pumping and sweat oozing from your glands) may increase the size of the hippocampus in the brain. The researchers found that resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.

Four Lifestyle Factors that Affect Brain Health

Senior Couple Jogging In Park

What’s the most important thing we can do to maintain brain health as we age? According to a new study, it’s not one thing but a combination of several things that may help slow cognitive decline in older adults.

A recent study was done over three years with nearly 1,700 older adults who had mildmemory complaints, slow walking speed, and other daily living limitations. The study participants were randomized into four groups, each with a different regimen to follow. The group who were assigned nutritional counselling, exercise, social and cognitive stimulation along with DHA supplements showed positive results. Even the participants in this group who had a low baseline DHA showed significant results.

The study results reinforce what we already know. The Four Dimensions of Brain Health – a healthy diet, mental engagement, physical activity and social engagement are essential to maintaining our brain health. “The MAPT study shows us that we have some influence in helping to maintain brain health,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author. “Lifestyle changes, like making sure you’re eating the right foods and being active for thirty minutes daily, can have a big impact on brain health.”

DHA is an essential nutrient for brain health  but most of us don’t get nearly enough through diet, says Somer. “97% of the omega-3s in the brain are DHA, so it’s no wonder the study found that DHA supplementation can support a healthy brain,” she says. “Aim for a supplement that has at least 200mg DHA.”

How do you take care of your brain health?

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How to Plan a Family Reunion

Sure, family reunions can be crazy and hectic, but is there anything better than having family – some close, some far-flung, together in one place? The warm and fuzzy feelings brought on by reconnecting with loved ones have an added bonus: it’s great for your brain health. So, bring on the long-lost cousins and beloved grandchildren! To make planning a reunion stress-free, follow these tips:

  • Choose a date that works for most: Finding the one perfect day that works for everyone just won’t happen (it’s those busy social calendars), so accept that going in. Find a day that works for as many people as possible and most importantly works for you!
  • Delegate: The family that plans together enjoys the reunion together. You don’t have to do it all and, in fact, your loved ones will feel honored when you delegate some tasks, showing your trust in them. Have someone find a location, someone else can take on the music playlist, etc.
  • Capture the memories: Reunions are full of special moments and having someone on hand, whether it be a hired photographer or a snap-happy relative, to take photos will ensure that everyone will be able to literally look back on the day in the months and years to come.
  • Tell your stories: one of the most valuable things we can pass on to younger generations is our history – after all, it’s their history too. Take time to share stories from your life that your nieces, nephews and great-grandchildren might not have heard. They will be grateful for the insight into their heritage.
  • Take it all in stride: At any special event, there are bound to be a few hiccups. Don’t let it get you down. When the day is over and everyone is packed up and on their way home, they won’t remember what went wrong. They’ll remember being together.

Do you have any tips for planning a family reunion?

Large group of children running in the dandelion spring field

Challenge yourself: 5 ways to bring more art into your life

There are benefits to doing art for people of all ages. For those of us in the second half of life, art can be a compelling option for engaging your mind, one of the four dimensions of brain health (http://www.beautiful-minds.com/four-dimensions-of-brain-health/the-mentally-engaged-mind) Whether you are a dedicated knitter, an experienced painter or a total newbie who has no idea where to start, there are some many ways to bring more art into your life.

2014 Beautiful Minds finalist Carol Siegel
2014 Beautiful Minds finalist Carol Siegel

Here are a few ideas to get your started or to expand your repertoire:

  • Make a memory book: A book, or a box, filled with memories can be an incredibly satisfying project to take on. The look, layout and what memories you choose to preserve are entirely up to you. An added bonus will be the great feelings evoked by looking back on important times in your life.
  • Give the gift of art: Receiving handmade gifts is such a thrill, why not return the favor for a loved one? Think of useful, pretty, or fun items – like jewelry, candles or puppets (grandkids would love this one!). Seek out an online tutorial or classes held in your community.
  • Collage your feelings: A popular art therapy technique, making a collage is a great way to articulate your feelings. Maybe you have a goal you want to achieve this year, are celebrating a family milestone or grappling with a stressful situation – grab the scissors and start cutting and gluing images that fit your feelings. Finally, something to do with your stack of old magazines.
  • Get messy: art doesn’t always have to be sophisticated or refined, or even particularly skilled. You may not be able to paint a photo-realistic seascape, but you can definitely bring (finger) paint to paper. Why leave the fun, messy stuff to the pre-school set? Put down a tablecloth, throw on some old clothes and have fun!

We want to hear from you: how do you bring art into your life?

 

 

 

Throw Out Your Resolutions

UntitledWe are more than a month into the new year, so how are you doing with those resolutions?

If you’re struggling to keep up with your 2015 goal, you’re not alone. “So many of us look to the start of a new year to make big changes,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of ‘Eat Your Way To Happiness’. “Our intentions are great – we want to lose weight, be healthier, start a gym routine – but our goals are lofty and we get discouraged when we don’t reach them quickly enough.”

This year, why not drop the resolutions and adopt a year-round feel-good approach? By focusing on the good and making gradual changes in areas where you are unsatisfied you’re more likely to feel that sense of accomplishment. Here are a few ways to feel good in 2015:

  • Take stock: Instead of looking at what you need to be happier, appreciate all the good things you already have in your life. Give yourself a pat on the back for all of your accomplishments, big and small, from having a great relationship with your kids to cooking an excellent signature dish. For times when you need a nudge to remember your successes, try writing it down in a journal.
  • Eat Breakfast: A simple goal, but a worthy one. The benefits of breakfast are myriad  – starting your day with a healthy meal can give your energy, improve your ability to concentrate and even help you maintain a healthy weight. No time to sit down for scrambled eggs? Try something you can take on the go, like a smoothie. Even leftovers from last night’s dinner can work (don’t be afraid of veggies for breakfast!).
  • Supplement: While we’re on the topic of nutrition, an important goal is to get enough of the essential vitamins and nutrients that you need. Eating the right foods is important, but studies show that many of us aren’t hitting the nutritional mark with diet alone. Learn more about essential nutrients here: vitaminsinmotion.com and talk to your medical professional to determine what supplements are best for you.
  • Try something new: Anything that you haven’t done before counts for this one. Pilates, a language class, a new recipe, organizing a community event. Challenge yourself and you might find something you love doing.
  • Reach out: It can be too easy to stay in and hibernate during the long winter, but social connection is a key element for overall health. Make a point to spend time with loved ones, reconnect with long-lost friends or meet new people in your community. Bonus – making plans with other people will actually force you to get out and be active.

What would you tell your younger self?

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With age comes wisdom. With the knowledge gained by years of life experience, what would you tell your younger self?

Submit one photo of your younger self, one photo of your current self and your one-sentence piece of advice to your younger self by email to Beautiful.Minds@dsm.com. We will be creating beautiful images from the advice we receive and will share selected entries on our Facebook page.

We look forward to receiving your words of wisdom!

DETAILS

Submissions:

Email two (2) photos, one recent and one of your younger self and one sentence of advice (10 words maximum) to Beautiful.Minds@dsm.com.

Selected entries will be posted to the Beautiful Minds facebook page as a shareable image (see example below).

By submitting your photos and advice, you agree to grant Beautiful Minds permission to share your image on Facebook and the Beautiful Minds website (www.beautiful-minds.com). By submitting your photos, you warrant that the photos belong to you and you have the right to share it.

Emailed submissions will be accepted until October 10, 2014.

Disclaimer: Beautiful Minds, a program owned by DSM, is not responsible for lost, incomplete or missing submissions. Beautiful Minds reserves the right to reject submissions based on inappropriate images, language and other criteria at the company’s discretion.

Privacy Policy: DSM’s privacy policy can be found here: http://www.dsm.com/corporate/generic/privacy-policy.html

New Children’s Study

A study published online in PLOS-One Journal found that supplementation with 600 mg algal DHA for 16 weeks improves reading and behavior in healthy school-aged children with low reading scores. The Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) Oxford Learning and Behavior (DOLAB) trial is the first large, randomized and placebo-controlled study demonstrating the benefits of DHA in reading and behavior among healthy school children.

In an analysis of 224 children with baseline reading scores below the 20th percentile, algal DHA supplementation significantly improved reading. Reading was also significantly improved in the subgroup of 105 children with baseline reading scores below the 10th percentile. Reading performance was evaluated using a standardized word reading test, The British Ability Scales (BAS II).

When comparing reading ages, results from the DOLAB Study also found that supplementation with algal DHA led to an additional gain in reading age; supplementation with 600 mg algal DHA for 16 weeks led to an additional 0.8 month gain in reading age in children with baseline readings scores below the 20th percentile.  In addition, for children with baseline readings scores below the 10th percentile, algal DHA supplementation led to an additional 1.9 month gain in reading age.

Interestingly, the results come at a time when many school-aged children lack sufficient reading skills. According to the most recent report card by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), students in the United States continue to struggle with reading, the most fundamental educational skill.

Four Dimensions of Brain Health

Though studies confirm that people of all ages benefit from incorporating DHA into their diet, most people eating a Western diet do not consume enough DHA. It’s critically important— especially for children—to consume an adequate amount of DHA to develop brain function.

According to David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, along with increasing DHA consumption, it’s important for kids to have proper nourishment, enough social connectedness, plenty of physical activity and activities for mental engagement. These factors are known as the four dimensions of brain health and research has shown that incorporating these lifestyle factors may influence brain health and function.

  1. The Nourished Mind: Start a healthy diet young. Incorporate healthy foods into family routines that are low in saturated fat and added sugar. Try adding antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and brain-healthy foods such as good fats like DHA, including algal DHA fortified foods and beverages and algal DHA supplements.
  2. The Mentally Engaged Mind: School is a great time to challenge a child’s brain, but it’s important to continually stimulate mental activity. Suggest and take part in activities such as reading, playing board games, creative pursuits like dancing or painting, or learning a new language or skill.
  3. The Socially Connected Mind: Make time for everyone in the family to step away from the computer and video games. Encourage children to make human connections and engage in social activities, such as play dates, clubs and volunteering.
  4. The Physically Active Mind: Everyone in the family can get physically active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Encourage children to play a sport or play with friends outside, and help them make smart decisions, such as getting enough sleep every night.

Click here to learn more about the DOLAB trial.