Tag Archive: brain health

  1. What is Brain Fog?

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    Your mind may feel like the fog has just rolled in, and you wonder if it will ever roll out again.  Do you ever feel like a word is on the tip of your tongue?   Or perhaps you walk into rooms and can’t recall what you were there for.   Imagine if these symptoms persisted over weeks or even months.  Brain fog refers to feelings of mental confusion or a lack of mental sharpness.

    Symptoms of Brain Fog

    *  Forgetfulness
    *  Feeling detached or depressed
    *  Mild difficulty with word finding
    *  Processing information more slowly

    Brain fog is not considered a formal diagnosis because testing is not clearly defined.  Women may complain of these symptoms during menopause, particularly during the peri-menopausal period.   Periodic changes in cognitive skills for women are believed to be related to hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy, shortly after childbirth and during menopause.

    There are also other causes for brain fog, or the mild cognitive decline, that frustrate so many people during periods of their adulthood.  Brain fog may lower self-esteem and can sometimes lead to depression if not properly addressed.

    10 Causes of Brain Fog      

    *   Exposure to toxic metals
    *   A copper imbalance in the blood – birth control pills can make this condition worse
    *   Dehydration
    *   Food Allergies or Poor Nutrition
    *   Hypoglycemia
    *   Thyroid imbalance
    *   Poor diet
    *   Stress
    *   Artificial sweeteners
    *   Fibromyalgia

    If symptoms of brain fog persist, be sure to consult with your physician to rule out potentially treatable causes of brain fog.   Talk with a friend or family member about your symptoms and frustrations – this can put your mind at ease and allow you an outlet to vent.   Finally, challenge your brain in new ways each day.  Simple activities like crosswords, brain games, physical exercise and music can help energize your mind and ease your symptoms.

  2. Fixing Your Sugary Brain

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    If you’ve ever ordered dessert when you’re already full, or reached for a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is attempting to use food to boost your mood or feel better.

    And using food occasionally as a pick me up, a reward, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, when eating is your main emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to rip open a bag of Oreos whenever you’re upset, or stressed, or bored—you get stuck in an awful pattern that’s bad for both your brain and your body.

    Not sure if you are an emotional eater? Answer these questions to discover if you may have a problem.

    Emotional Eater Checklist

    *Do you always eat more when you’re feeling stressed?

    *Do you reward yourself with food?

    *Does food feel like a friend?

    *Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

    Taking Steps to Break the Cycle

    Identify Your Triggers. The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for sugary comfort foods? Keep an emotional eating diary. Make note of events or feelings that are happening when you reach for a sugar fix.

    Feed Your Emotions in Other Ways. If you’re feeling down, call someone who lifts your spirits. If you’re anxious, take a walk to burn some of that nervous energy. If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of coffee or tea. If you’re bored, change tasks or read something inspiring.

    Choose a Healthy Lifestyle. Invest in yourself. When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.

  3. 10 Tips to Improve Your Memory

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    Walk into a room and forget why you came?  Can’t recall the name of the new neighbor you just met yesterday?  You are not alone. We all forget things from time to time. Yet, memory loss can be a more serious condition.  While there is not an iron-clad solution to prevent memory loss or dementia, there are a number of brain fitness tips to reduce our risk and improve our memory function.  Try these ten simple tips to boost your memory.   Talk with your doctor when you feel you need help.

    No. 1: Exercise your body

    Physical exercise is still the number one thing you can do for your brain.  When we exercise, oxygen and blood flow to the brain increase which helps to support improvements in short-term memory function and retrieval of information.  Aim to break a sweat every day.

    No. 2: Exercise your mind

    Cross-training is the best way to improve memory function. On Monday, dive into a new book.  On Tuesday, play 15 minutes of brain games.  Try Making Curfew on BrainSpade.com to challenge your visual memory skills.  Continue to tackle new challenges for the remainder of the week – card games, board games, or even trying a new recipe are all part of keeping your memory fit.

    No. 3: Keep it Social

    Maintaining social relationships helps to reduce stress levels and depression, both of which are major contributors to memory decline. Make plans to spend time with friends and family.

    No. 4: De-Clutter

    Forgetting things can be more of a problem if your home is in disarray. Organize papers and throw away things that aren’t needed.  Get in the habit of putting your keys and other important items in the same place each day.

    No. 5: Stop Multi-Tasking

    Resist the urge of tackling multiple tasks at once.  Multi-tasking elevates stress which can hinder memory function. Divide your day into chunks and concentrate for periods of time before stopping to do other things.

    No. 6: Turn Up the Music

    Studies show that listening to music can improve our ability to recall information.  Choose music that lifts your spirits and add that into the mix when you are exercising, cleaning, or working on something familiar.

    No. 7: Eat Your Veggies

    A diet rich in dark-green leafy vegetables is essential for keeping your memory strong.  Find creative ways to add more greens to your diet.  Look for green smoothie recipes as a start.  Dr. Oz has an excellent spinach smoothie which is actually quite tasty: Dr. Oz’s Green Drink.

    No. 8: Spice Things Up

    Countries like India that incorporate a variety of spices into their daily diet, show a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementia related illnesses.  Look for new recipes and menu options that incorporate spices like cumin, cinnamon and ginger into your diet.

    No. 9: Drink Up

    Are you staying fully hydrated?  Our brain is made up of 75% water.  By the time you feel thirsty, you are already a bit dehydrated.   If you don’t enjoy drinking water consider dropping in fresh lemon, basil or cucumber.  Herbal tea is a great option too.

    No. 10: BrainSpade.com

    We would be remiss if we didn’t share that our team of clinicians are hard at work developing new brain exercises and brain teasers to keep your mind sharp, challenge your memory, and boost your spirit. Remember to make Brain Games part of your daily routine.

  4. Top 7 Brain Benefits of Drinking Water

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    The human brain is made up of approximately 75% water, so it is no surprise that dehydration has a dramatic effect on brain health.

    Dehydration

    Dehydration takes place when there is a deficit of water and salts that are essential for regular bodily functions.   Mineral imbalances hinder normal brain operation.  Mental fatigue, memory problems, and mental confusion can result when the brain isn’t properly hydrated.  Grey matter in the brain actually shrinks, and chronic long term dehydration can cause the brain to age prematurely.

    How Dehydration Impacts Your Brain

    *   Mental fatigue
    *   Problems with information processing
    *   Mood changes
    *   Premature aging of the brain

    Drinking filtered spring water is the best way to stay hydrated.  If you take your body weight and divide it by two, you will have calculated the ounces of water you need to consume per day.  Soda, coffee, and black tea are acidic beverages, so they don’t count toward your daily hydration goal.

    7 Brain Benefits of Staying Hydrated

    Discover why drinking to your brain health really can make a difference in your life:

    1.  Supports healthy brain cells
    2.  Improves concentration
    3.  Helps to balance mood and emotions
    4.  Improves quality of your sleep
    5.  Maintain memory function
    6.  Eliminates toxins and free radicals from your blood
    7.  Improves blood flow and oxygen to the brain

  5. 12 Steps to Better Sleep

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    Falling asleep might seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 2 a.m., but deep sleep may be within your reach. Following these healthy sleep habits can put you on the right track. Researchers have identified a variety of “sleep hygiene” techniques that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose suffer from insomnia.

    1.  Avoid exercising in the evening.

    2.  Eat a lighter evening meal and avoid snacking before bed.

    3.  Turn off all electronics a full hour before sleep.

    4.  Take a warm shower or bath.

    5.  Turn the temperature in your bedroom. Cooler temperatures are help to improve your breathing and encourage deeper sleep.

    6.  Invest in the perfect pillow.

    7.  Make your room very dark.

    8.  Ban the blue lights in the bedroom. Insomnia feeds on the soft blue glow from a cell phone, PDA, or digital clock resting on your bedside table.

    9.  Jot down any worries or concerns you have and save them for the next day.

    10.  Block the clock. Don’t watch the time in the middle of the night.

    11.  When you wake in the morning, let the natural light into your room.

    12.  Aim for getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day.

    Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and a number of serious health problems including heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.

  6. 8 Habits That Reveal Your Secrets

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    Whether you’re picking your nails or simply fidgeting, it all tells a story. Learn what you’re revealing to others and how to read the signs you see.

    1. Brushing Hair Off Your Face: This can indicate either nerves or an unintentional flirtation. Avoid touching your hair and face at work.

    2. Nose Scratching: Lying is associated with an adrenaline rush. This chemical release causes the capillaries to expand and makes the nose itch.

    3. Nodding: If you tend to nod in clusters of three, the speaker will perceive that you are interested in what they are saying and lengthen their response. Nod only once when trying to be polite but also end the conversation.

    4. Lowering Your Gaze: This humble gesture is often an unconscious bid to gain the support of others.

    5. Pursing Your Lips: Pursing, by narrowing the margins of your lips, is a strong indicator of anger, according to Paul Ekman, former University of California at San Francisco professor.

    6. Tilting Your Head: Cocking your head to one side indicates that you are friendly and approachable. Researchers believe that by showing the other person your jugular vein, you are indicating that you are not a threat and wish to build trust.

    7. Smiling: Skip the Botox, because, according to Professor Barbee of the University of Kentucky, the only sincere smile is one that also engages the eye muscles. People who grin only with their lips are likely faking it.

    8. Biting Your Lips: Nibbling or licking your lips suggests that you find a situation to be uncomfortable. When you don’t have to talk, try keeping your teeth together to avoid this habit.

  7. 9 Tips for Training Your Brain Today

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    While nothing has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there is abundant research showing we can delay the onset of mental decline by building a brain-healthy lifestyle.  Here are some tips to training your brain today.

    1.  Sleep. Sleep defragments your brain and organizes information you’ve learned during the day.

    2.  Focus. Quit the multi-tasking. It not only lowers your productivity but it may increase your risk for dementia when you are older.

    3.  Exercise in small bursts. Take the stairs. Walk the block. Try a tango class. Exercise is still the number one thing you can do for your brain.

    4.  Play games. Games are good for your brain and variety is key. When you tackle new problems, you form new neural pathways.

    5.  Meditate. No tie-dye T-shirt required. Clear your mind and focus on positive things.

    6.  Make time for fun. Laughter enhances creativity and lowers stress. Your brain thrives on fun.

    7.  Drink more fluids. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated.

    8.  Target your working memory. Make a point to push yourself to store details quickly. Work on names and faces to start.

    9.  Be aware that your brain makes mistakes. When solving a problem, ask yourself what the big picture really looks like. Are you afraid of change? Experiment more.

  8. Games for the Brain – 10 Good Reasons to Play

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    Games for the brain sound like a good idea. But are they really or are they just a waste of time?  In the news, we hear a lot about the negative impacts of children playing too many video games, so why would games for the brain be good for adults.  Everything in moderation of course, but read on to discover 10 reasons to incorporate brain games into your daily workout routine:

    1)    Mental exercise – Brain games challenge our language, math and problem-solving skills in ways that we may not otherwise find in our daily routine.

    2)    Change is good for the brain – Exposing your brain to a variety of cognitive tasks including online games for the brain can help support neuron growth in the brain.  Novel exercises are key, so change up your crossword puzzle and opt for a math game like Double Digits a couple days a week.

    3)    Hand eye coordination – Studies show that surgeons who played games for the brain a few hours a week had improved accuracy and efficiency during surgery.

    4)    Stress Relief – Taking a short break to tackle a fun challenge can help you relax and provide a brief distraction from your current frustrations.

    5)    Pure Fun – Breaking away from your daily work to have fun is both good for your brain and offers you something to look forward to.  Use game time as a reward for completing your current task.

    6)    Verbal Skills – Language based brain games help keep your vocabulary strong.  Games for the brain that encourage word finding are particularly beneficial.  Try Picking Apples to exercise your language skills.

    7)    Creativity – Some brain games help stimulate right-brain thinking.  Look for games for the brain that include open-ended problem solving activities.  Think outside the box to solve problem.   At BrainSpade.com, one of our favorites is Me and the Key – give it a try.

    8)    Socialization – Not all games for the brain need to be played on the computer.  Find a friend and get out a deck of cards or the Scrabble board.  Enjoy socializing while you play.

    9)    Memory Skills – Research shows that short-term memory skills can be improved by playing games for the brain.  Short-term memory skills can fade without stimulation as we age.  Practice holding new information in your mind and recalling it back.  Play games like Lights Out to give your memory a workout.

    10)  Free Fun – There are many good free brain games available online or with a simple deck of cards.  Building a brain-healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to cost money.  Work to make small changes each day and enjoy some free fun with Brain Spade.

  9. Are Games Good for Your Brain?

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    Video games can be fun, even addictive – but are they good for you?

    Gaming involves both motor and cognitive skills.  A recent study of surgeons showed that video games improved fine motor skills.  In fact studies show that your game-playing surgeon may do a better job sewing up your torn ACL than a non-gaming surgeon. Just three hours of gaming a week was associated with faster, more accurate surgery skills.  Military data shows that game training improved reaction time. Gaming requires concentration & dexterity, so these results should not be surprising.

    What about mental skills? A study of 65 year-old gamers showed working (immediate) memory and attention increased after 5 weeks of training. In another study with experienced gamers, multi-tasking and attention improved.  Why do we enjoy gaming so much? Gaming tickles our brain’s reward center, causing release of the highly stimulating neurotransmitter dopamine.

    So is gaming good for you? It is clear gaming has benefits. We don’t know how much gaming skills transfer to real life situations, but we’ll know more soon. Gaming is a hot research area.  Gaming may not be for everyone, but it can be an excellent addition to a balanced, brain-healthy lifestyle.

    Article by Rick Brucato, M.S. Neuroscience

  10. Sleep Spindles – Just One More Reason to Sleep

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    If 8 hours seems like an impossible dream, read on to discover the brain benefits of sleep.

    Besides increasing alertness, sleep–particularly rapid eye movement (REM) sleep–is a great way for the brain to store new information in long-term memory.  The brain accomplishes this through a phenomenon that scientists have recently come to understand: sleep spindles.

    Sleep spindles are short bursts of brain waves that occur during REM sleep. The REM phase usually takes place toward the end of the night, between hours 6-8,  when people are most likely to dream.

    Imagine that you are taking golf lessons and have worked with a coach to improve your swing.  If you sleep 6-8 hours the night after you take the lesson you are much more likely to retain the fine details you learned during your training.

    Bottom Line: If you want to improve your golf game (or retain information in general), sleep longer.