October 2011 – Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
FACT: Combining aerobic exercise with a healthy diet improves brain function. In Hypertension, researchers at Duke and Emory Universities reported that exercise and healthy eating made a measurable difference in brain function in overweight individuals with high blood pressure. Those people following the health diet (DASH diet) showed some improvement, but those who exercised and ate better showed the most improvement in memory, learning, and psychomotor speed.
HOPE: The good news is that you don’t have to be in perfect health to keep your brain functioning at top-notch. Start with small steps to improve your diet (less meat and saturated fat, more fruits and vegetables) and get more regular exercise. You’ll think clearer, make better decisions, and improve your memory. And you’ll probably benefit from improved blood pressure, heart health, and weight loss, too.
FACT: Exercise and relaxation may offer drug-free migraine prevention. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, randomly assigned migraine suffers to one of three trails for three months: 1) aerobic exercise on a stationary bike for 40 minutes 3x/week; 2) relaxation therapy; 3) or daily topiramate, a medication prescribed for migraines. All three treatments reduced the frequency of migraine attacks, with little differences between treatments.
HOPE: The World Health Organization suggests that 18 percent of women and 7 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from migraines. If you are one of them, but do not want daily medication, incorporate more exercise and rest in your routine. Engage in physical activity that makes you breathe a little harder, working up to 40 minutes 3x/week. Take five minute breaks throughout the day to breathe deeply, relax your mind, and pray. These therapies have no side effects and a lot of additional positive benefits!
FACT: Smoking, diabetes, and obesity may shrink your brain. As if there weren't already enough good reasons to avoid smoking and keep your weight, blood sugar levels and blood pressure all under control, a new study from the University of California published in the journal Neurology found that these risk factors in middle age were linked to potentially dangerous vascular changes in your brain, leading to faster drop in brain volume and declines in tests of executive function up to a decade later.
HOPE: This study adds to the evidence that good living preserves mental abilities—and that there are things we can do in middle age that can have effects 10, 20 and 30 years down the road to improve cognitive health. What’s one thing you can do this week to improve the health of your body and mind?
FACT: Routine chores might help keep dementia at bay. Ever wish you didn’t have to fold laundry, mow the lawn, or take out the trash? A study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that seniors who expended the most energy on daily duties were less likely to have mental declines as they aged. Participants in the most active group were 91 percent less likely to experience declines in memory, concentration and language abilities after five years than those in the least active group.
HOPE: While a regular exercise program is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, don’t overlook physical activity throughout the day. The seniors in the most active group burned most of their calories in activities of daily living, reporting doing more walking, climbing more stairs, engaging in more caregiving and volunteering, and just moving more overall. Although not typically thought of as exercise, these activities get our heart rate up and improve circulation—and benefit the brain.