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Brain Health Superfoods

Brain Health Superfoods

A diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, nuts and healthy fats is important for cognitive health and high quality of life. Although all of these are important for a healthy mind, some foods are ‘superfoods’ and are especially nutritious for your brain. In honor of World Alzheimer’s Day, let’s focus on these brain boosters, which include:

Blueberries -The antioxidants in blueberries are helpful in a number of ways: they reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain and body, improves communication between neurons, and increases brain plasticity. This translates to evidence that blueberries may help improve or delay short term memory loss, protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals (thanks to a high amount of powerful antioxidants!), which in turn may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Oily Fish- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring is a rich source of omega-3s, a major building block of the brain. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body, which means they must be obtained through our diet. About 60% of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind. Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memoryOmega-3s play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against decline.

Dark Chocolate (!) – Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are strong antioxidants that can improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases. The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory and researchers say these compounds may enhance memory. In addition, dark chocolate is a proven mood-booster! Make sure the chocolate is at least 72% cocoa to enjoy its health benefits.

Turmeric – This golden colored spice has generated a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there. Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant and is one of the strongest naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents ever identified. Other benefits include that it helps improve the brain’s oxygen intake, increases memory and cognitive function, and also benefits the immune system. In research settings, it has reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Broccoli – Broccoli is very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the recommended daily amount in a 1-cup serving. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells. Broccoli also contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage.

Coffee – Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. It improves alertness, mood, and concentration. Studies have linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of cognitive decline, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Preventing Alzheimer’s and Dementia with a Healthy Lifestyle

A central mission at Private Home Care is providing education about how to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s through a healthy lifestyle, the pillars of which are a nutritious diet and exercise. Our company President, Mary Demakes R.N., is an expert in both nutrition and brain health. Research has proven time and again that eating a Mediterranean style diet has incredible brain health benefits and helps reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Eating certain foods (and avoiding others) has been shown to slow brain aging by 3-7.5 years, and reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, olive oil and fish. Processed foods, fried and fast foods, snack foods, red meat, poultry and whole-fat dairy foods are infrequently eaten on the Mediterranean diet. Recently, nutrition and brain health experts have developed the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). This is a combination of two diets that have well-known health benefits — Mediterranean and DASH. It’s designed to prevent or slow brain decline. Early studies show that it lowers risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% in those who follow it closely and by 35% in those who follow more loosely.

The MIND diet is a version of the Mediterranean diet that includes 15 types of foods. Ten are considered “brain-healthy:” green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Five are considered unhealthy: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried/fast foods.

Many experts suggest the diet can prevent diseases ranging from heart attack to stroke. Eating this way has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, protect against various kinds of cell damage, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels. Not only does the MIND diet benefit the brain, but it benefits the entire body.

What is good for the body is good for the brain, and vice versa. Exercise has proven to be fundamental for brain health as well. When you exercise, you are using different parts of your brain together, as well as are stimulating your entire body. Exercising also releases feel-good chemicals, and good mood is linked to healthy aging and brain maintenance. Studies have shown that even just a 20 minute walk three times a week can be a sufficient amount of exercise for heart and brain health. When regular exercise and proper nutrition are combined, they are powerful preventative tools in preventing and delaying the onset and progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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How Diet Impacts Alzheimer’s and Dementia

In honor of World Alzheimer’s Day, let’s explore the brain mechanisms behind cognitive impairment and decline. Once we understand what is occurring in the brain, then we know how to prevent and combat Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A healthy diet and lifestyle is key for maintaining brain health. Decades of research confirm that what we eat and our eating habits directly influences brain function. But how is it that a healthy diet can help prevent brain and memory illnesses? It starts on a cellular level. Everything that we consume impacts our bodies as it breaks down to fuel our systems. Food intake influences brain chemistry and neural function. The human brain is more complex than the most advanced computer, and it requires nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, and caloric energy. When the brain does not receive those important forms of nourishment, it will not function at its best. If this goes on for a long period of time, then the brain is susceptible to developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. This occurs when neuron brain cells do not transmit ‘messages’ (electric currents) properly, or sometimes they stop altogether. What happens is that the ends of neurons become tangled, which inhibit communication between the cells and causes the brain to shrink. Other factors that contribute to cognitive decline are lack of blood to the brain and oxidative stress to the cells.

So when the proper nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and calories are provided, the brain cells can do their job best. When we eat a healthy diet, all of the systems in our bodies work better, including the vascular system, which helps pump blood to and within the brain.

Eating foods that are high in antioxidants helps reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is essentially the aging process. Your body constantly reacts with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. As a consequence of this activity, highly reactive molecules (free radicals) are produced. Free radicals are toxins that damage our cell membranes, and lead to inflammation. Inflammation in the brain means that plaque material builds up and makes it difficult for neurons to communicate.

What should you avoid? Inflammatory diet patterns that are high in sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats and processed foods can contribute to impaired memory and learning, as well as increase your risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Foods to avoid include sugary drinks like soda, processed cheese like American cheese or cheez whiz, aspartame, processed meats including deli meats and bacon, microwave popcorn, and fast food.

Alcohol can cause massive damage to the brain when consumed in large quantities. (But, if alcohol is drunk in moderation – like a glass of red wine a few times a week, it can be beneficial for health) Also, mercury found in seafood can be neurotoxic and permanently damage developing brains.

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World Alzheimer’s Day

Today, September 21st, is World Alzheimer’s Day. World Alzheimer’s Day is an international campaign to raise awareness and highlight issues faced by people affected by dementia. It is an opportunity for people and organizations to demonstrate how we can overcome these issues and help people live well with dementia.

Private Home Care is passionate about combatting Alzheimer’s and dementia. We are committed to providing the best caregiving for those with the disease, cultivating awareness about the condition and prevention efforts, supporting loved ones affected, and helping to work towards finding a cure.

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Dance for Your Health!

Dancing is wonderful, and age does not have to slow anyone down – people can enjoy dancing their whole lives! In fact, dancing is very beneficial for seniors! Here are some reasons why we love dancing at Private Home Care:

Improving Strength, Mobility, and Balance

Many older adults have balance and mobility issues, which can lead to feelings of instability and increased risk of injury for falls. As we know, falls can be very dangerous for seniors, but luckily dancing can help reduce the risk or even help avoid falls! This can also have the bigger effect of compromising independent living. Several types of dance can help improve mobility, flexibility, and balance, while strengthening the muscles. By helping support and strengthen the way the body moves and functions, people are able to age in place safely and live a high quality life.

Good for Heart and Cardiovascular Health

All doctors recommend regular cardiovascular exercise as an essential practice for maintaining good heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease. Even though you may not realize it because you are having so much fun, you can get the same cardiovascular benefits from dance as they would through traditional cardio exercises like walking or cycling! Another great thing about dancing as exercise is that it can be done basically anywhere, with no special equipment or particular location needed. Dancing is available to those who may be physically limited – chair dancing is just as fun! All you need is some music, knowledge of the steps, and the will to practice. (And sometimes you don’t need knowledge of the steps, you can just ‘wing it’ and move however makes you feel good!) Regularly practicing dance can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain a healthy body weight, and protect the heart from cardiovascular problems.

Reduces Muscle Pain and Joint Stiffness

A high percentage of seniors suffer from chronic inflammation that often results in joint and muscle stiffness. In addition, knee and hip issues are highly prevalent. Promising research into relieving chronic joint and muscle pain showed that low impact dancing routines can actually offer comfort as well as improved mobility! One study showed that after 12-weeks of a low intensity dance program, the participants with an average age of 80, reported being able to reduce the amount of pain medication they were taking for their stiff joints and muscles. They were also able to move around more freely and easily, helping to maintain an independent lifestyle. This goes to show the power of dance and how it can improve lives: dancing can help older adults stay living in their home for longer as well as reduce the amount of pain medication needed. Instead of pills, put on your dancing shoes!

Socialization

Dancing is a fun and social activity! Whatever style dance you choose – swing, latin, square dancing, or zoomba, it is tremendous fun to dance with others and meet new friends! Loneliness and isolation are a major issue for seniors, and can lead to health issues as well as a lower quality of life. However, when you socialize and connect with others, it is beneficial for your mental, emotional and even physical health! It has been proven that those who are most socially active and maintain meaningful relationships throughout their lives and in old age do end up living longer! Age does not have to be a factor for dancing as long as you practice and are doing it from the heart. (If truth must be told – some of our younger caregivers and staff have had seniors dance circles around them in dance classes!)

Minimizes Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

All exercise helps Dancing has been found to have a positive effect on mood! A study in Australia showed that older adults battling anxiety and depression, improved their mood levels and experienced a reduction in stress through dancing. Just a two-week program involving tango lessons showed significant improvements, due to the social and physical benefits of the activity. When you practice and improve at dancing, it can also give you more confidence!

The potential health benefits of routine dancing for seniors are tremendous. The physical, social, and mental aspects make dance one of the best overall health practices for seniors to boost independence, mobility, balance, mood, and overall wellness.

Defends Against Dementia

When compared to other leisure activities like playing golf, doing crosswords, reading and cycling, dancing appears to offer the best chance of helping stave off dementia. According to a 21-year study led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, aging adults who danced regularly had a 76 percent reduced risk for developing dementia. Experts theorize that dancing is beneficial for our brains because it combines cardiovascular exercise with split-second decision making that taxes our neural network, forcing it to create new pathways.

What is special about dancing is that it is a universal form of exercise and recreation as well. Every culture or country has their own type of dance, and engaging in that is a way of celebrating that! Seniors with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, asthma and heart disease can all participate. Research into using dance as a therapy for each of these ailments has unearthed a host of advantages and very few risks. However, it’s always important to clear any exercises with a doctor before beginning a new regime, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.

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National Dance Day

Get your dancing shoes ready – National Dance Day is tomorrow, Saturday September 19th!

Established in 2010 by American Dance Movement co-founder, Nigel Lythgoe, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, National Dance Day is an annual celebration dedicated to dance, and encourages Americans of all ages to incorporate dance into their lives. By creating a focused day of celebration to show support for dance as a valuable form of exercise and of artistic expression, American Dance Movement aims to educate the public about dance and its many benefits, as well as make dance accessible and inclusive to everyone.

American Dance Movement (ADM) believes that participation in dance connects the mind and body, promotes health and wellbeing, connects us with others and enables us to find joy through dance and movement. National Dance Day (NDD) is a day of celebrating dance, in all its forms, and takes place annually on the third Saturday in September.

At 77 years old, Madame Poole is a long standing professional ballerina. She has been dancing through life for over seven decades and aging gracefully. She is still dancing and teaching, and performs at senior centers. Not only is it entertaining, but it is inspirational for those her own age to see someone continuing to pursue their passion and push their body physically.

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September is National Intergeneration Month!

September is National Intergeneration Month! The goal of this event is to connect generations and to prompt people from varying age groups to befriend and learn from each other. Research from the Intergenerational Foundation identified the need to set aside a time each year to focus on intentionally connecting generations to better communicate age-related gratitude and needs.

At Private Home Care we are proud every day to engage in building and fostering strong intergenerational relations with our clients, their loved ones, our expert caregivers, and the community at large.

Why is this important? Different kinds of friendships and relationships enrich our lives, and this is especially so for intergenerational ones. Connecting with someone of a different generation helps remove preconceived notions about a certain age group, and see them as individuals. You can have conversations that you would never be able to have with those from the same age group, like a senior WWII veteran sharing his stories with a high schooler, who is in turn showing him how to use Facebook and Instagram.

Although people are digitally connected to each other more than ever before, apart from family, those connections are typically between people in the same generation. Both young and older people can feel disconnected and isolated, but we can find a sense of meaning by connecting with one another. Sometimes a younger person needs the wisdom of a senior to help guide them in life, and often when an older adult has a good connection with a younger person, it can make them feel relevant and young again. Often what we learn from each other is completely unexpected! Those relationships can help improve your life, and society as a whole.

Traditionally, great places to meet someone from a different generation are public areas, like a park, library, or museum. You might get lucky and meet someone from a different generation in your favorite crime mystery aisle at the library who can lead you to more favorite authors. At the park, you could make a new chess playing partner or friend who is also a dog enthusiast. Whatever your preference is, make room in your schedule, life, and heart for intergenerational relationships because they are truly some of the most fulfilling in life.

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Balance Awareness Week with Private Home Care

At Private Home Care, we are passionate about helping people maintain their balance and providing education about this matter. Why? Falls account for a large percentage of hospitalizations and deaths for the elderly. After the age of 60, your body’s vestibular and balance system starts declining, sometimes without us even realizing it. Often we don’t think about our balance until we lose it. It can be hard for older adults to realize that the activities they have been doing their whole lives (walking up or down stairs, carrying a heavy box), may increase their risk of a fall. However, there are actions you can take to prevent this from happening. Practicing regular exercise as well as exercises and movements specifically designed to bolster balance can make a big difference for maintaining balance. Regular doctors checkups are also beneficial to detect any possible balance issues because they may be able to catch any signs of imbalance before it starts to really affect day to day living. Check out this video to see the best balance exercises for seniors!

Private Home Care are experts in fall prevention. We provide fall prevention home safety assessments of your loved one’s living space to ensure that your loved one can age safely and happily at home. They say that balance in life is key, and we agree!

During Balance Awareness Month, Private Home Care challenges you to test you balance and see how you can improve it!

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Balance Awareness Week 2020

This week is Balance Awareness Week, September 13-19th. 

The Vestibular Disorders Association began Balance Awareness Week to highlight just how much of an impact inner ear and brain disorders can have on an individual’s daily life. Patients who suffer from balance issues associated with vestibular disorders often experience chronic physical, mental, and emotional pain. Examples include intense dizziness, ringing of the ear, vertigo, and even depression. During the week of September 13-19 make it a point to familiarize yourself with the many issues that Balance Awareness Week tackles. Watch this video to learn how the body’s balance system works. Keep reading for our next post about just how important balance is for older adults and seniors!

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National Get Ready Day

National Get Ready Day

Today is National Get Ready Day!

Prepare yourself — because September 15 is Get Ready Day. Established in 2006 by the American Public Health Association (APHA), the goal of Get Ready Day is to arm individuals, families, and communities with knowledge that will help them cope with crises such as natural disasters, infectious diseases and other emergency situations. To stay prepared, inform and educate yourself and your loved ones about how best to prepare for an unforeseen emergency situation. The three elements of emergency preparedness are: having an emergency kit, making a plan in case of emergency in your area, and staying updated through your phone or radio. Get yourself — and your loved ones — ready to survive any event that may come your way. You could save a life, maybe even your own!

Luckily, getting ready for an emergency situation is relatively simple, and once you have supplies and a plan in place, you do not have to worry for a long time. When you ‘Get Ready’, you can feel at ease that you and your family are prepared for whatever may happen. Hopefully the emergency preparedness kit will never have to be used, but if it is needed, you will sure be glad you have it!

Here are a few essentials that everyone should have in their emergency kit:

-Water → a gallon of water per person per day. Let’s say there are two people in your household, so you would want to have 6 gallons of water as backup for an emergency lasting 3 days. 

-Non-perishable food, like canned goods (Private Home Care wholeheartedly suggests having a supply of emergency dark chocolate as well!)

-Medications and medical supplies for up to 7 days

-Flashlight

-Extra Batteries

-Crank radio

-First aid kit

-Battery operated outlet and charger for cell phone 

-Can opener

-Emergency heat blanket

-List of emergency contacts 

-Swiss army knife

-Extra cash

-Matches

-Long lasting candles 

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