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Mind Games: The Fun Way to Keep Your Brain Healthy

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month

Lost your keys? Walked into a room and forgot why you were there? Forgot all about an important appointment or deadline? It happens. And the older you get, the more likely you are to experience age-related memory loss.

Some memory loss is a normal part of the aging process. But what if you could do something to keep your brain healthy longer, remember more, and ward off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month

Mark it on your calendar and celebrate by having a little fun.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that playing word and number games keep your brain sharp as you age.

Researchers looked at the brain health about 19,000 people over age 50 and compared it with the amount of time they play word games or solve puzzles.

They found that people who play word games like crossword puzzles and Scrabble have brains 10 years younger and healthier than those who don’t. And if you like games of reasoning and strategy, your brain may be eight years younger.

Play games to keep your brain healthy

Playing chessWant to keep your brain healthy as you age? Or at least be able to find your keys the next time you lose them? Make it fun:

  • Play chess.
  • Solve a crossword.
  • Complete a Sudoku puzzle.
  • Or play another game of strategy or game with words.

When you keep your mind active by solving problems and puzzles, you’re also keeping connections in your brain healthy to support problem solving, reasoning and memory.

Exercise Rx: Take a Dose of This to Boost Happiness

Regular exercise improves mood, mental health

You’re in a funk. You’re feeling blue. You’re down and depressed. Everybody’s experienced those feelings at some point in time. But what happens if you’re always feeling that way?

About 35 million (1 in 6) adults who feel this way, take antidepressant medications to improve mood, feel happier, and boost productivity. But it’s no secret that medications have side effects.

Just listen to a TV commercial for prescription medicine or read the fine print for a magazine ad.

Is there an alternative to medication to treat depression and mental health problems? New research suggests there is. And it’s free. The prescription…Exercise.

In the study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine, researchers helped about 100 patients diagnosed with depression and other mood disorders learn to exercise.

Participants followed a fitness instructor for 60 minutes and learned to exercise. The results: 95 percent of the participants reported lower levels of anger, anxiety and depression. They also reported higher self-esteem and overall mood.

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day

ExcerciseWant to improve your mood and your health? Be more active. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity for most adults. It’s easy:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Ride a bike.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Hit the gym.
  • Pick an exercise activity you enjoy and make time for it.

For decades, doctors have prescribed medication to treat depression and mental health problems. But that may change, says lead researcher Dr. David Tomasi.

“The general attitude of medicine is that you treat the primary problem first, and exercise was never considered to be a life or death treatment option,” says Tomasi. “Now that we know it’s so effective, it can become as fundamental as pharmacological intervention.”

Feeling down? Lace up your walking shoes and head out the door. Exercise is medicine.

Adopt the No-Diet Habit to Lose Weight

Keep a food journal to lose weight, make healthier food choices

Looking for the next fad diet to shed a few pounds? Captivated by a late-night infomercial that promises crazy weight-loss results in record time? Or thinking about taking diet pills to tip the scale in the right direction? If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably considered all of the above.

After all, about 70 percent of all adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems.

But fad dieting isn’t the answer. In fact, research shows that up to two-thirds of people who follow a fad diet lose weight, then gain it all back, plus a little extra.

Why? Most fad diets recommend eating habits and diet restrictions that just aren’t sustainable for the long term.

So what should  you do? Don’t diet. Do this instead…

Keep a food journal to lose weight

Food habitsIn a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers followed 1,700 overweight people for about 2.5 years. Everyone in the study received information about healthy eating habits, and was encouraged to keep a detailed food journal. Here’s what happened:

Researchers found that people who kept a daily food journal for the entire study lost twice as much weight, and kept it off, as those who didn’t.

Why does it work? Keeping a food journal helps you be more mindful of your food choices. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. For example:

  • Keep a notebook with you and write down what you eat
  • Use a food tracking app on your smart phone like MyFitnessPal
  • Write down what you eat on a Post-It note and stick it up where you’ll see it
  • Send yourself an email about what you ate for the day
  • Text yourself a message or picture of your food

Want to lose weight? Keep track of what you eat. Over time, you’ll train your brain to eat healthier, make better food choices, and be more active. That’s how you lose weight and keep it off for good.

The Simple Way to Cut Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

About  143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year

It’s the third most common cancer for both men and women. About 143,000 cases are diagnosed each year. And an estimated 9 percent of all cancer deaths (598,038 annually), are caused by this type of cancer. When detected and treated early, most people survive colorectal cancer, but it’s largely preventable.

Are you at risk for colon or rectal cancer? If your diet looks anything like the typical American diet (burgers, fries, soda, fried foods, pizza, processed meals, candy and desserts), you are.

In a recent study published in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum, researchers found that nearly 40 percent of all colorectal cancer cases are linked to poor eating habits.

Improve your diet to prevent colorectal cancer

If you want to lower your risk for colorectal cancer, here’s what your diet should look like and what you should avoid:

Eating habits

Eat this

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish, lean meats, or poultry
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Legumes
  • Plenty of water

Not that

  • Processed meats such as canned meats, deli cold-cuts, hot dogs, etc.
  • Red meats
  • Sugary snacks
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to cut your risk for colorectal cancer. But it’s not the only way. You’ll also lower your risk for this type of cancer if you avoid or limit alcohol, don’t smoke or quit if you do, exercise at least 30 minutes a day, and maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to.Get Your Zzzs to Protect Your Health
1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep

Have you ever laid in bed counting sheep hoping to drift off to sleep? Maybe you’ve made a habit of staying up late to hang out with friends, or watch TV, movies or play video games.

Then when your morning alarm clock sounds, you’re still tired, or your lack of sleep hits you later in the middle of the workday. Sound familiar?

If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not alone. An estimated 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s a problem if you want to live a long and healthy life.

How much sleep do you need?

About 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is best.

The trouble with lack of sleep

Lack of sleepYou might think getting by on 4 to 6 hours of sleep is fine. Maybe you drink an extra cup of coffee or gulp down an energy drink to stay away. That might keep you away for a few extra hours. But it won’t protect you from chronic diseases and other health problems. You need your Zzzs.

Research shows that lack of sleep raises the risk for:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Memory and learning problems
  • Work-related accidents
  • Driving-related accidents

Create a bedtime routine to sleep better

If you want to sleep better, feel better, and improve your health, create a bedtime routine and stick with it. Here are some things you can do:

Make an appointment. Go to bed at the same time every night. Put it on your schedule just like going to work, school, or an important appointment. Go to bed at the same time, even on weekends.

Control your environment. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed, including smart phones. Your room should be dark and cool. And you should have a comfortable bed, mattress, sheets and blankets.

Get to sleep…step by step. When you’re ready for bed, go through your routine step by step. For example: Change into your pajamas, brush your teeth, get into bed, and read for 15 minutes. Do the same thing every night. You’ll train your brain to recognize those steps mean it’s time to go to sleep.

Rethink your drink. Avoid or limit caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. And avoid or limit alcohol before bed. It can make you feel drowsy at first, but you’re more likely to wake up later and have a hard time going back to sleep.

If you’re still having trouble getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, take a short nap during the day. Other factors that can impact sleep include eating big meals late at night, being overweight or obese, medications, and stress. If poor sleep is a chronic problem, see your doctor.

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