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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Concussion-More than a Movie
Dec20

Concussion-More than a Movie

The medical world is a bizarre field full of questions and mysteries. This holds true because certain conditions and diseases are only discovered through unusual and unexpected circumstances. Similarly, the story of Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who first brought scholarly attention to the condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a great example of this scenario. This true story will be depicted on the big screen in the controversial upcoming movie Concussion.   Concussion: Based on the True Story   Concussion, as aptly as it was named, tells the story of Omalu, who fought against all odds to expose a type of brain injury in football players that caused disturbing and deadly symptoms. He discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, but had to battle against the NFL to make his findings known. Although his name was disparaged as an attempt to make him lose his credibility, his findings have now shed light on just how dangerous football can be. This case is considered bizarre particularly because this disease cannot be detected while the patient is alive; symptoms and major signs would only show after death. Common among American football players, this story involves another real-life persona Mike Webster, whose body gave the empirical evidence for this disease. The NFL may not be thrilled about these findings, but science is unbiased.   Conditions of the disease   CTE is a condition that only shows up after one’s death, though there are early signs as well as symptoms, albeit a little indiscernible. The patient can display intellectual impairment, mood disorders, and even dementia. Aggression has been reported as well as impaired judgement and impulsiveness. More seriously, those affected with CTE are likely to have drug abuse and dependency issues, and have been known to attempt suicide. Many end up destitute and without shelter, money, or proper care. It is usually followed by a sudden and unexpected death. Through the movie ‘Concussion,’ much more information will be dispersed on the dangers that NFL football players face.     NFL’s Attempt at a Cover Up   For far too long, the NFL has tried to cover up the dangerous injuries associated with this sport. They have also been less than approving of any research findings of brain injury in athletes. Concussions are serious injuries that can even impact personality. There have been football players, who after suffering from a concussion, were never really the same person in regards to personality. Due to the head trauma that is experienced in this sport, athletes are at high risk for this condition. Although this is ruffling a few feathers, it is essential that this becomes widespread knowledge so...

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Habits for a Healthier Brain
May22

Habits for a Healthier Brain

As we age, it is human nature to wonder whether or not there is anything we can do to slow down the aging process. Many baby boomers are applying this question to enhance not only their physical appearance, but their cognitive function and brain health as well. We’ve all experienced moments of forgetfulness. Misplacing an important item, forgetting a name or getting our calendar date mixed up can lead us to wonder: is this part of getting old? Countless jokes are made at the expense of the old timer’s slow cognitive function and ability to remember yesterday. Are we doomed to live out the harsh truth at the center of these jokes or is there something that can be done about the aging brain? In a recent study carried out by Neurology Magazine, a group of researchers in China randomly selected 9 communities. Out of these communities 5,000 people that were over 55 years or older were interviewed concerning age, sex, occupation, medical conditions, medications, smoking, drinking, education and leisure activities. The group was tracked for 5 years and given the same tests each year. In the final analysis 11% had a drop in their cognitive abilities. Those 11% were far more likely to be women, have lower education, smoke and drink daily and have a medical condition. The study also demonstrated that playing board games and reading was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline while watching television was associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. This is in keeping with a recent AARP Bulletin, which expounds on a recent study carried out by some of the leading neuroscientists and brain health experts in the country. It states that in addition to the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and Cognitive aging are separate ailments, there are many things you can do to slow down cognitive aging such as: Exercise: Aerobic exercise provides your brain with much needed oxygen and helps slow the aging process. Intellectual and social activity: Such as reading, writing and social activity are all linked with preserving brain function Eating Healthy: Consuming less meat and alcohol and increasing your intake of vegetables, Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish), and nuts and beans can help protect an aging brain. Getting Enough Rest: Poor sleep is linked to memory problems, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Avoid Alcohol, Chemicals and Drugs: Some medications have been linked with cognitive decline including benzodiazepines and anticholinergic drugs. It is important to point out that alcohol was associated with cognitive decline in both studies and should be kept to a minimum or avoided totally if possible. Overlooked sources of chemicals include fast...

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The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
Mar30

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a profoundly negative impact on job performance and day-to-day functions. Sustained sleep deprivation is also linked to health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, but many people say they are simply too busy to get that much sleep regularly. They claim they may be sluggish, but their performance and health aren’t dramatically impacted. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. A lack of sleep, especially if it is ongoing, can have a disastrous impact on a person’s performance and health. Performance What do the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger explosion all have in common? Each of those tragic events occurred, in part, because the people in charge of making critical decisions were suffering from sleep deprivation. While most people will never be placed in such positions of authority, sleep deprivation causes fatigue, a decrease in the ability to focus and reason, and it leads to lower general mental performance. Those factors can all have a negative impact on job performance. In addition to job performance, a lack of sleep also impacts many aspects of everyday life. One of the most common tasks that sleep deprivation can negatively affect is driving, something that is relatable to most adults. Every year, there are approximately 1,550 deaths attributed to drowsy driving accidents, and another 71,000 people are injured. Considering that sleep deprivation impacts between 50 and 70 million Americans, it’s surprising those figures aren’t higher. Those most at risk include commercial drivers, those who work nontraditional schedules, and people who are intoxicated or have taken certain types of medications. Health A lack of sleep can also impact physical, mental and emotional health. Even a single night of sleep deprivation can cause irritability and irrational judgment. Long term sleep deprivation, however, has a negative impact on physical health. In fact, Harvard reports that studies indicate people are much more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) when they regularly get less than six hours of sleep. Obesity and diabetes are linked to sustained sleep deprivation, in part, because hormones that impact metabolism, appetite control, and the processing of glucose are secreted while we sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, that process is interrupted. Even one night of too little sleep can lead to increased blood pressure for the duration of the next day in people with hypertension. It is thought that could be one of the reasons for the link between heart disease...

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