Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Keeping the brain healthy and sharp

9 Tips to Keep the Mind Sharp

As we grow older, we may see changes in the ways our mind and memory continue to function. Certain cognitive processes may slow down, making it more challenging to learn new things or eliminate distractions that hinder our memory.1
Maybe you forgot the name of an acquaintance at dinner last week—or you just can’t remember where you put your keys. Situations like this can certainly be frustrating, but fortunately, there are a number of habits and exercises you can practice to help maintain your brain function. 
Here are nine tips to help keep the mind sharp:
  1. Engage multiple senses.
Research reveals that the more senses you engage, the more active your brain.1 One study had adults examine a series of neutral images, each one paired with a smell.2 Later these adults were asked to look at different images (without the scent-associated pairing), and then indicate—out of all the images—which ones they’d seen before. Researchers found that participants had a better recall for the pictures that featured smells and that the brain was more active when they looked at those pictures. 
So to stimulate your mind, make a point of engaging multiple senses at the same time. Sign up for a pottery class, cook aromatic foods, or take a warm bath with essential oils. 
  1. Aim to get enough sleep.
If you don’t get much rest, you’ll find that even simple tasks like running errands or cooking a meal take more effort than they should. Not getting enough sleep is also linked to focus issues and short-term memory problems.3
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.3 
  1. Make exercise a top priority.
Working the skeletal muscles can also help to work the mind.4 Exercise not only helps stimulate and strengthen the connections between the synapses, or brain cells, but it also promotes the development of new nerve cells. This makes the brain more efficient and adaptive.4
And research has shown that the benefits of exercise are linked to more than just the brain. Physical activity reduces blood pressure, stabilizes cholesterol levels, and lessens mental stress.5 Both resistance training and cardio offer a number of benefits.
  1. Consume a healthy diet.
Surely, you’ve heard the term “brain food.” Good nutrition promotes both a healthy body and a strong mind. For instance, research indicates that people who consume a Mediterranean diet of fish, unsaturated oils, produce, nuts, and other plant-based proteins are less likely to experience cognitive issues or develop dementia.4
  1. Enjoy a meaningful social life.
Cultivating friendships and simply getting to know new people can enhance the brain’s executive function, which includes our short-term memory and our ability to screen distractions.3 Even short conversations can help to sharpen the mind.3
And that’s not all: A fulfilling social network is also linked to lower blood pressure and a longer life expectancy.4 It all boils down to developing and preserving both our neurological and our social connections.
  1. Reset with yoga or meditation.
In addition to relaxation, yoga and meditation are known to improve cognitive performance.6 By paying close attention to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations you experience, you can leverage multiple sensations at once, manage stimuli, and ultimately work your brain. 
  1. Quit smoking—and steer clear of secondhand smoke.
Did you know that smoking is linked to a thinner cerebral cortex and mental decline?7 A number of chemicals in cigarettes have negative effects on the brain, and secondhand smoke has similar drawbacks.7
If you don’t smoke but spend a significant amount of time around friends or family who do, gently explain the risks and encourage them to quit. 
  1. Get organized.
Rather than wasting precious mental energy trying to remember things you can simply add to your calendar or grocery list, take advantage of a planner or any other organizational tool you’ve been meaning to use. This could help to increase your focus.1
Similarly, think about removing clutter from your home and office to reduce distractions. Keeping key items like keys, glasses, and your gym bag in the same place can help to reduce the need to remember where you left these things.
  1. Manage stress.
People who are depressed, stressed, or anxious generally score lower on cognitive tests.4 While this doesn’t necessarily point to cognitive decline, stress management tools like a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep—tools we’ve discussed at length in this post—can keep your stress in check. 
  1. Harvard Medical School Staff. 7 ways to keep your memory sharp at any age. Harvard Health Publishing, HEALTHbeat. Accessed January 22, 2019.
  2. Keller A. Odor memories: the first sniff counts. Current Biology. 2009;19:21. 
  3. WebMD staff. Keep Your Mind Young and Sharp. WebMD. 2017. Accessed January 22, 2019.
  4. Harvard Medical School Staff. 12 ways to keep your brain young. 2006, updated 2018. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed January 22, 2019.
  5. American Heart Association Staff. Stress and Heart Health. 2014. American Heart Association. Accessed January 22, 2019.
  6. Gothe NP et al. Differences in Brain Structure and Function Among Yoga Practitioners and Controls. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience. 2018;12:26. 
  7. Preidt R. Smoking Linked to Damage in the Brain. WebMD, HealthDay. 2015. Accessed January 22, 2019.

High-Fat Diet Adversely Affects Gut Microbiota

High-Fat Diet Adversely Affects Gut Microbiota

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Higher-fat diets have unfavorable effects on gut microbiota, fecal metabolites and plasma proinflammatory factors, researchers from China report.
"The higher-fat diet was associated with significant and potentially detrimental changes in long-chain fatty acid metabolism, resulting in higher levels of chemicals that are thought to trigger inflammation," Dr. Duo Li from Qingdao University told Reuters Health by email. "These effects may sow the seeds for the development of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, over the longer term."
In China, the recent transition from the traditional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet to one higher in fat and lower in carbohydrate has been associated with a dramatic increase in the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Previous research has linked high-fat diets with reductions in human gut microbiota diversity and richness, changes that have been postulated as a major trigger of metabolic impairments associated with obesity.
Dr. Li's team compared gut microbiota and fecal metabolomic profiles as well as markers of inflammation in 217 healthy adults who had been randomized to one of three diets for six months: a lower-fat diet (20% fat, 66% carbohydrate), a moderate-fat diet (30% fat, 56% carbohydrate), or a higher-fat diet (40% fat, 46% carbohydrate).
All three groups lost weight during the intervention, and the weight reduction was significantly greater in the lower-fat group than in the higher-fat group, as were reductions in waist circumference, total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and non-HDL-cholesterol.
The lower-fat diet was associated with significantly increased microbial community diversity relative to the higher-fat diet. The higher-fat diet decreased the abundance of Faecalibacterium and increased the abundance of Alistipes and Bacteroides, whereas the lower-fat diet increased the abundance of Faecalibacterium and Blautia.
The higher-fat diet was associated with significant decreases in the concentration of short-chain fatty acids, compared with the other diets, while the lower-fat diet was associated with decreases in two cometabolites (p-cresol and indole) that have been linked to host metabolic disorders.
Plasma concentrations of several inflammatory markers were increased during the higher-fat diet and decreased during the lower-fat diet, the team reports in Gut, online February 19, 2019.
"These findings provide confirmatory evidence that nutritional guidelines in countries in a state of nutrition transition should advise against increasing intakes of dietary fat," the researchers conclude. "The results might also have relevance in developed countries in which fat intake is already high."
"We suggest that fat intake for the general healthy population should not be more than 30% of total energy," Dr. Li said. "We also suggest that the general healthy population should use polyunsaturated or monounsaturated plant fat, such as soybean oil, rape seed oil, peanut oil, olive oil, etc. for cooking."
Dr. Stefano Menini from Sapienza University of Rome, who recently sought to differentiate metabolically healthy from metabolically unhealthy obesity, told Reuters Health by email, "These findings indicate that increasing the dietary content of fat induces microbiome changes similar to that observed in human obesity and type 2 diabetes, even without increasing calorie intake and body weight. A Western-style diet, that is typically enriched in fats and deprived of fibers, may alter the gut microbiota structure and activity regardless of its obesogenic action, with ensuing adverse effects on intestinal permeability, systemic inflammation, and metabolism dysregulation."
"These findings might even be undervalued relative to real-world conditions," explained Dr. Menini, who was not involved in the work. "In this study, soybean oil was added to reach the desired amount of dietary fat. Whether saturated fats of animal origin led to the same changes in gut microbiota and fecal metabolites needs to be studied further. It could be that the type of fat, in addition to the quantity, can influence the composition and activity of the gut microbiota, and that a Western-style diet, which is particularly rich in saturated fats, can induce even more unfavorable alterations than those induced by a diet reach in soybean oil."
Dr. Debby P. Y. Koonen of University Medical Center Groningen, in the Netherlands, who studies various aspects of the gut microbiota and was not involved in the new work, told Reuters Health by email, "Of particular interest are the results on the short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the study. They are in line with the increasing number of publications that highlight a protective role of SCFAs in numerous diseases."
Gut 2019.

Living in-Spirit rather than in-ego

Wayne Dyer had many, many wonderful words of wisdom to share with us during his lifetime. I am inspired by this message that he delivers so eloquently.....(thanks to HayHouse for still spreading his words of wisdom)

"Thanks to the world we live in, we’ve developed many habits that are the direct result of living almost exclusively “in-ego” rather than in-Spirit. This will stress how to gain awareness of these ego habits, how to immediately protect ourselves from these onslaughts, and how to develop alternate strategies to ensure that we remain connected to Spirit—even in the face of a blitzkrieg that’s designed to take us away from living an inspired life.

I’m not suggesting that there’s a conspiracy to keep us from living in-Spirit. My contention is simply that when a majority of society members are raised and persuaded to believe in the illusion of ego, then that society will develop and evolve firmly committed to that false self. It would then be natural for such a society to put forth messages designed to promote the idea of the importance of ego and all of its inherent ideas—and we’re fully immersed in just such a society.

I once heard Swami Satchidananda lecture about this subject of the collective ego and its unceasing impact on all of us. He looked at the two words heart and head, the symbols for Spirit and ego, respectively, and confirmed that we’re in-Spirit when we act from our heart. Swami also observed that the word heart contains two words, he and art, and that leads to the thought that he and his art make up the heart
The word head, on the other hand, also contains two words—he and ad—which leads to the thought that he and his ad make up the head. Swami reminded us that the head is an advertisement—that is, it’s the ego looking for recognition. He then asked a question I’ve never forgotten: “Why is it that lovers call each other sweetheart and not sweethead?” And he reminded us not to despise the head or symbolically cut it off, but rather to let our heart (that is, our feelings) lead, and the head will then follow, rather than the other way around. To that end, this chapter provides three steps to help us transcend the ego’s uninspiring energy. They are: becoming aware, cultivating a defense, and developing our own alternatives. 

Some Suggestions for Transcending Commonplace, Uninspiring Energy
  • When you find yourself being exposed to media onslaughts that are decidedly uninspiring, listen to your very first impulse and switch off! Turn off the television or radio, leave the movie theater, put the magazine down, and affirm: I no longer wish to be in the energy field of anything that isn’t a vibrational match with Spirit.

  • Be aware of brazen attempts by pharmaceutical companies to profit off of your presumed maladies, with advertising telling you to consult your doctor for some new medication. Let the ad be a reminder that you’re an instrument of health; by doing so, your body will react to the messages being sent by your mind. Remember that your body/mind is the greatest pharmacy ever created. It has an unlimited potential for creating well-being, since that’s where it originated from in the first place!

  • Say it out loud! By this, I mean, that you shouldn’t be afraid to make unusual or provocative affirmations. For example, you might avow: I won’t attract any further illness to my life. I’ll never allow myself to feel old, feeble, or frail; and I refuse to allow Alzheimer’s, cancer, or any other infirmity into my life. I don’t vibrate to frequencies that are designed to keep me from being in-Spirit.

  • Always remember that you’re a being who was created out of love. Write this out, place in a conspicuous place, and repeat it to yourself: I live in a Divinely Inspired Universe. I have nothing to fear. I trust in myself, and when I do so, I trust in the very Wisdom that created me. Convince yourself (as I have) that when you live on purpose and “take care that [you do] not cheat your neighbor,” then you’re watched over by a “Senior Partner” Who knows that you’re both living and vibrating to the same spiritual frequency. 

  • Work at developing your faith each and every day by taking time to be quietly in conscious contact with the Creative Source of your being. When you take time to meditate and commune with Spirit, not only will you feel revitalized, but you’ll adopt a defense system that can’t be penetrated by efforts to uninspire you, no matter how frequently others may attempt to do so. Ultimately, you’ll find that you won’t even bother to invite uninspired energy into your life via the media—or any other source, for that matter."