What Can Sleeping Do For You?
Dec22

What Can Sleeping Do For You?

It can be easy to underestimate the importance of sleeping in your life. Consider all of the tasks you have to accomplish each day. Some may use the excuse of not having enough time to get sleep a full night’s sleep. In reality, though, much of the way you conduct your daily routine relies on the amount and quality of sleep you got the night before. Basic reflexes and the immune system can be strongly affected by sleep. So why is getting enough good quality sleep so important? What exactly can a solid night’s sleep do for your body? Increases Physical Health Think of everything you do during the day – whether it’s mainly mental or physical labor, or a little bit of both. Your body uses the time that it’s asleep to recharge, reset and repair itself from all that it’s done during the day. Not only is this time critical for repairs, but sleep deficiency is also linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, among other things. Without enough sleep, your immune system can become weakened, making you more susceptible to common infections. Proper sleep also aids in balancing out hormones. Promotes Healthy Brain Function You probably think a lot during the day. While sleeping, your brain gets a mini break. Preparing for the next day, your brain will be able to more easily retain information or remember things from the past. Your creativity also flows much more freely after a good night’s sleep. Betters Emotional Well-Being Sleep deficiency can make it much more difficult to control emotions or behaviors. It’s not uncommon for someone to be cranky after not having had enough sleep the night before. Improves Performance Throughout the Day It probably goes without saying that your functionality during daily tasks seems much more daunting when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Better sleep means quicker reflexes, the ability to think more clearly and hone in on tasks with focus and concentration. Things like the ability to problem solve and have strong attention to detail can be lost without enough sleep. This can negatively affect your productivity at work or increase your risk of making mistakes in the workplace or elsewhere. What Can You Do? There are a number of ways to not only help you fall asleep in the first place, but also to help you in getting great quality sleep after you do doze off. Try taking a warm bath, putting lavender on your pillow or avoiding electronics before bed....

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5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Happy and Healthy
Nov17

5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Happy and Healthy

As we get older, the realization that our brains are getting older too can really start to kick in. We might begin to wonder what we can do, if anything, to keep our brains happy and healthy. Can keeping our brains strong and healthy help slow the aging process? Research does show that there are several things you can do to slow down the cognitive aging process. Check out these 5! Stay Active With aerobic exercise comes an increase in oxygen intake. Providing your brain with the oxygen it needs can help slow down the aging process of your brain. Consider spending about 30 minutes a day – if not more – being engaging in a physical activity. Also stay up-to-date with your blood pressure. High blood pressure can have negative effects on the brain, so make sure you’re keeping it in check. Stick with Healthy Eating Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Consuming less meat and increasing your intake of nuts, beans and fish can help protect against cognitive aging. A low solid fat diet is the way to go. Get Enough Sleep It’s certainly important to get the right amount of sleep, but it’s also important that the sleep you do get is of good quality. Taking warm baths at night can help wind your body down physically. You might also try using lavender on your pillow or lighting a lavender candle (and making sure it’s out) before hitting the hay. Try not to look at your phone or television too close to bed – it’s important not to engage your mind so actively before trying to fall asleep. Keep Yourself Engaged Challenge your brain. Whether it’s discovering a new hobby that requires a different thought process than what you’re used to, or working on a puzzle, keeping your brain engaged can actually increase it’s functioning life. Spend a little more time reading or writing to keep your brain lively. Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption Some medications or drugs can definitely have a negative impact on the functionality of the brain – especially if overused. Alcohol can actually go hand-in-hand with other drugs in this situation. High consumption of alcohol can lead to a quickening in cognitive decline. If you do choose to drink, it’s important to do so in moderation. While the results in the brain from heavy drug and alcohol consumption might not be present immediately, it’s still something that could be seen years down the line. A positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle are great ways to increase the longevity of cognitive...

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Summer Heat and Your Brain
Jun30

Summer Heat and Your Brain

During a perfect Sunday summer afternoon, you probably don’t think twice when you feel relaxed, unmotivated, and without a care in the world. However, have you ever wondered what puts the “lazy” in those lazy days of summer? The heat’s effect on your brain may have a lot to do with your productivity, or lack thereof, when the temperatures rise. What’s Happening in Your Brain?   When you’re sitting outside, getting a much needed dose of natural Vitamin D, the sun feels good for awhile, but the more time you spend outside (particularly as the temperatures start to rise), you may start to feel sleepy and lose all ambition for the day. So, how come some people start to feel tired, weak, or have a hard time focusing when they get too hot? Your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that is responsible for controlling your body temperature (among other things), stops working efficiently the more the temperatures rise.   As your body heats up, your sweat glands work hard and draw water from the bloodstream to make the sweat that carries heat through pores, onto the skin surface, and heat is released. However, when more blood goes toward your body surface for cooling off, less blood is available to your brain and other muscles and organs. The more you sweat, the the more water your body loses and unless you stay adequately hydrated you may feel symptoms of heat illness such as poor concentration, fatigue, confusion, and even unconsciousness. Change in Behavior and Mood   Even if the heat makes you feel sleepy, it’s likely that you won’t be able to get that much needed sleep for your brain if you’re unable to cool down. Not only can the warm temperatures put you at risk for a dangerous heat-related illness and a poor night of rest, but the heat can change your mood and behavior. Ever wonder why people seem a little more irritable or why the incidences of conflict seems higher in the summertime? It’s a safe bet that the heat plays some part in the way that we act and feel, especially when the heat forces our adrenaline to rise, resulting in the classic “flight or fight” response. How Hot is Too Hot to Stay Motivated this Summer?   While it may sound like an excuse, the temperatures can be responsible for how much you’re able to accomplish throughout the day. Chances are, the hotter you are, the less you’ll get done. Take work, for example. How many times have you struggled through the morning, only to realize that you’re overheated and the temperature in the...

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Lead Exposure and Brain Health
Apr11

Lead Exposure and Brain Health

If your home was built prior to 1978, there’s a high possibility that lead could be present throughout your home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust and can be found in the air, the soil, the water, and even in our homes. While lead has been beneficial and used in paint, plumbing materials, and other household items, it can be toxic to humans and animals. The dangerous effects of lead have been known for centuries, reportedly dating back to Roman times.   Although lead has been widely used for centuries, the dangers associated with lead exposure has gained more attention since unsafe levels of lead has been found in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan. Lead Exposure: Who’s at Greatest Risk?   While exposure to lead can lead to a variety of health problems in humans and animals, but lead can have the most detrimental effects to children or pregnant women. The EPA suggests that children are more likely to be exposed to lead because they are prone to putting objects (that may contain lead) in their mouth. An adult’s exposure to lead is more likely if he or she breathes in lead dust when renovating or repair homes containing lead or when participating in a hobby where lead may be used such as stained glass or pottery. Both humans and animals can be exposed to lead through drinking water (as seen in the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan) and food. Symptoms of Lead Poisoning   When an individual has been exposed to lead, it may be months or even years before he or she shows symptoms of lead poisoning. According to the Mayo Health Clinic, many lead poisoning symptoms are not present until the level accumulated lead is high. While an individual, who has been exposed to lead, may exhibit a variety of symptoms, here are some common signs and symptoms to look for:   Infants and Children: Unborn babies, newborns, and children may have developmental delays, slowed growth, and damage to the developing brain.   Children: If exposed to lead, may have weight loss, fatigue, irritability, vomiting, constipation, or hearing loss.   Adults: While infants and children are more susceptible to the negative effects of lead exposure, adults may suffer from neurological issues, high blood pressure, mood disorders, and abnormal or reduced sperm count.   Extremely high levels of lead may even lead to death for infants, children, and adults. Reducing Exposure   Whether you’ve been diagnosed with lead levels in your system or want to limit your exposure, it’s...

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Mind Diet : Brain Health
Feb29

Mind Diet : Brain Health

At the start of every new year, we are bombarded with “new” diets that are designed to be life changing. Want to lose weight, look younger, feel younger, or manage your health issues? You are sure to find at least one diet specifically created to eliminate whatever ails you. One diet that has been receiving big accolades is the MIND diet, which promotes brain health and decreases an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. What is the MIND Diet?   The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets; MIND is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. According to Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53% for participants who followed the diet rigorously, although participants who only followed the diet moderately lowered their risk by about 35%.   As individual diets, the Mediterranean and DASH have been successful in reducing the risk of cardiovascular conditions like heart attack and stroke. Knowing the success of these two diets alone, it would make sense that they would be mind healthy diets as well, especially since there is a connection between heart and brain health. For example, memory loss can be an early warning sign of heart failure.   The MIND diet is composed of 10 “brain-healthy food groups”:   Leafy Green Vegetables, such as Spinach Other Vegetables, such as Carrots, Broccoli, Peppers Nuts, such as Walnuts Berries, particularly Blueberries Beans, such as Black beans or Chickpeas Whole Grains (Switch white rice for brown) Fish, such as Salmon Poultry (Not Fried) Olive Oil Red Wine, in moderation   The foods that pose a “threat” to your brain health include red meats, butter or margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried/fast food. While these foods should be avoided whenever possible, some experts say that less than one serving (of any 3 “threat” foods) per week may be safe for your brain and keep you on track with the MIND diet.   Not only does this diet allow brain healthy “dieters” to enjoy some of their favorite indulgences, like red wine, but it is also praised for being one of the easiest diets to follow and stick to, but doesn’t make people feel like they are sacrificing too much. Do More Than Eat Well   Although making a commitment to healthy eating can make a significant difference in your overall health, it’s important to find a fitness regimen that works well for you, whether it’s yoga or running. Additionally, adequate sleep and stress management are also key to maintaining...

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