Rising Temperatures and Brain Health:
10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat

Hardly a day passes without a worrying story on the news about wildfires, droughts, or mercury-busting temperatures affecting people across the globe on an unprecedented scale. 

While most of us are aware of the summer risks of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and skin cancer, brain health often goes unnoticed as a negative side effect of our warming planet. Heat exposure can devastate the human brain and have potentially damaging long-term effects.

It is crucial to understand the effects of hot weather on the body and know how to protect oneself during the peak summer months. This article will explore some practical tips to help you stay safe in the heat.

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Effects of Heat Waves    

In a heat wave, the brain changes because of the higher temperatures. Recent studies have shown that our globally rising temperatures can lead to cognitive impairments such as difficulties in decision-making and memory.

Hyperthermia, or heat sickness, can cause a range of symptoms including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, migraines, seizures, stroke, and even certain forms of dementia. And as temperatures continue to rise, so does the incidence of hyperthermia. Older adults may be particularly susceptible to its detrimental effects.

Dehydration and heat-related conditions can disrupt the blood flow that supplies essential nutrition and oxygen to our brains.

Furthermore, the inflammation caused by heat stress can contribute to cognitive decline, increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and worsen mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

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Extreme Heat Exposure   

With global temperatures increasing in recent years, avoiding extreme heat exposure and keeping cool during summer is more vital than ever. Taking the correct precautions, especially during unusually hot periods or heat waves, will reduce the risk of heat-related conditions including migraines, seizures, stroke, and some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Following some essential but simple tips can protect brain health during hot spells and heat waves:  

10 Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat

  1. Stay Hydrated – As temperatures soar, keeping your body hydrated is crucial. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Opt for water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables to replenish electrolytes and prevent dehydration.
  2. Dress Right – Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials to stay cool in hot weather. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  3. Find the Shade – When the heat becomes intense, find shade to take a break from direct sunlight. Whether outdoors or indoors, staying in the shade helps lower your body temperature and reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses. Even carrying an umbrella on a sunny day can help beat the heat.
  4. Take it Easy Outdoors – During peak heat hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to avoid strenuous outdoor activities. If you need to exercise or work outside, do so during the cooler morning or evening hours when the sun is less harsh than mid-day.
  5. Cool Down Effectively – Use cooling methods like cool showers, damp towels, or fans to lower your body temperature. If you can’t cool down in an air-conditioned area, at least ensure you have a well-ventilated space to prevent overheating.
  6. Eat Healthy – Boost your brain’s function by eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, like the foods found in the MIND diet.
    Foods rich in nutrients support brain health and may even prevent age-related cognitive decline.cognitive-decline-aging
  7. Brain Exercise – Stimulate your brain regularly with puzzles, games, or activities that require critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s important to keep your mind active to maintain cognitive function, especially during extreme heat.
  8. Be Prepared – Prepare for upcoming heat waves by keeping an eye on weather forecasts and heat advisories. You should take precautions and protect your brain health in extreme temperatures by planning ahead.
  9. Screen Time – Too much exposure to electronic devices like smartphones and computers isn’t good during extreme heat. Mental fatigue from excessive screen time may be exacerbated by heat and the effects of excessive screen time on your body.
  10. Sleep Well Healthy brains require restful sleep. Create a cool and comfortable sleeping environment to ensure you get enough quality sleep during hot nights (and during the days if you are a napper).

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Rising Temperatures and Brain Health

While everyone is aware of the potential consequences of rising temperatures on our ecosystem, many of us don’t recognize the impact extreme heat can have on our brain health. Understanding the risks associated with extreme heat and climate change is not only vital for preserving our planet but also for safeguarding our own overall health, including our brain health.

Aviv’s unique medical program combines hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) with cognitive training, fitness training, and nutrition coaching to help improve the quality of life for people interested in healthy aging and those wanting to keep their brains sharp for as long as possible. 

Contact Aviv Clinic to learn more about the Aviv Medical Program and how it can help improve your cognitive and physical performance.

The Early Stages of Dementia: Recognizing the Signs and Reducing the Risk

We all experience bouts of forgetfulness occasionally, even at a young age. You might blank on an old acquaintance’s name or walk into the kitchen thinking, “What did I come in here for?”

Neither necessarily indicates dementia is in its early stages. Maybe you didn’t have your morning coffee or slept poorly the night before. 

However, considering the growing rate of dementia in the U.S. and worldwide, it’s essential to recognize the early stages of dementia in yourself or your loved one. Education is the first step in taking control of your health. We’re here to help you get started.

What Is Dementia? 

Dementia is the progressive loss of cognitive functioning (i.e., thinking, remembering, and reasoning) that impacts a person’s quality of life. It ranges from mild to severe. 

More than 55 million people” in the world live with dementia. In the U.S., “experts report more than 7 million people ages 65 or older had dementia in 2020.”

Remember, dementia isn’t a single disease. Instead, it’s a general term covering a range of specific medical conditions (more on this soon). 

What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory lapses: Someone might be unable to recall events or keep losing items around the home.
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing: Struggling to make complex decisions, plan events, or solve problems are a few common ways this can manifest.
  • Confusion surrounding typical daily routines: Activities like paying bills or navigating a drive home from the grocery store might be more challenging than usual.
  • Mood changes: Depression, anger, or irritability can become more frequent. An individual can feel more withdrawn and lose interest in hobbies and people who used to bring them joy.
  • Language/communication roadblocks: A person might have trouble grasping the right word or phrase or have wandering thoughts during conversation.
  • Instances of disorientation: An individual can no longer recognize where they are or how they got there.

Read about the signs and symptoms of cognitive decline>>

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Diagnosis of Early Onset Dementia

As every individual is different and no specific test confirms dementia, a comprehensive evaluation is required. The assessment might involve various medical exams like cognitive tests and brain imaging

Early detection is critical to getting the help you need to thoroughly prepare following your diagnosis

Different Types of Dementia

Multiple diagnoses fall under the dementia umbrella and can produce unique symptoms in the early stages. 

Alzheimer’s Disease

While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, researchers note that the “build-up of proteins in and around brain cells” is a possibility. 

Initially, Alzheimer’s impacts the nerve cells controlling memory, language, and conscious thought. Damage then progresses to parts of the brain that manage reasoning and social behavior. 

These changes are not always apparent, especially not in the earliest stages. Alzheimer’s can develop for 1520 years before symptoms start to appear. Currently, it’s estimated that “6.2 million Americanslive with the disease.

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Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) results from damage to neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes—areas of the brain that oversee memory and auditory functioning. You may have heard of FTD when the press announced actor Bruce Willis’ diagnosis in 2022.

Symptoms include the following:

  • Unusual behaviors
  • Emotional problems
  • Trouble communicating
  • Difficulty with work
  • Challenges with walking

Example: Phineas Gage. A classic example involves a railroad construction worker from the 1800s named Phineas Gage, who is now considered the first patient in the history of neuroscience. Although not an example of dementia, Gage’s case offers insight into the importance of the frontal lobe and the functions it controls.  While working on the railroad, Gage suffered an accident in which a large iron rod penetrated his skull and frontal lobe, causing brain damage. 

Gage survived the incident, but his demeanor and personality changed completely. Previously known as a pleasant, hard-working “gentle giant,” he became, according to Dr. John Martyn Harlow, “…fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity, manifesting but little deference for his fellows.”

Unlike Gage’s sudden change due to injury, the impacts of frontotemporal dementia develop gradually. The condition tends to strike individuals at a younger age than other forms of dementia. Roughly 60% of people with FTD are 45 to 64 years old.

Lewy Body Dementia

Many learned about Lewy body dementia (LBD) when it was revealed actor/comedian Robin Williams had suffered from the disease. LBD arises from abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. 

These deposits, named “Lewy bodies,” affect brain chemicals, leading to problems with thinking, movement, behavior, and mood. Williams’ struggle with depression was likely a direct result of the chemical changes instigated by LBD.

LBD worsens over time but impacts certain individuals more severely than others. One challenge in diagnosing LBD is that it mimics indications of other brain diseases or psychiatric disorders.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia results from conditions affecting the blood vessels in the brain

When blood and oxygen flow to the brain is interrupted, it can cause changes in memory, thinking, and behavior. The size, location, and number of vascular changes dictate how severe vascular dementia is on a person’s cognitive function.

For example, someone who has suffered a major stroke may experience damage—but so might someone who has had multiple small strokes over time. 

Growing research investigates the connection between cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke) and cerebrovascular disease (blood flow/vessel conditions)—and its impact on cognitive impairment and dementia. 

That said, not everyone who experiences a heart attack or stroke will develop dementia. The aging process can also contribute to the development of vascular dementia. The body simply loses its ability to deliver blood as efficiently as it once could.

Mixed Dementia & Related Diseases

If someone has characteristics of two or more types of dementia, they may receive a diagnosis of “mixed dementia.” Other neurological conditions can lead to symptoms of dementia, such as:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD): This rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder causes problems with muscle coordination, personality changes (including progressive and impaired thinking and judgment), and vision problems that may lead to blindness and involuntary muscle jerks. Individuals with CJD lose their ability to speak and move, eventually slipping into a coma.
  • HIV-Associated Dementia: While less of a problem now that the medical community has curbed the AIDS epidemic, HIV-associated dementia can cause behavioral changes and a gradual decline in cognitive function.
  • Huntington’s Disease: This inherited disease eventually leads to brain cell death and resulting complications. HD may cause changes in behavior, emotion, judgment, and cognitive function.

What Else Might Cause Early Signs of Dementia?

If you or a loved one experiences dementia-like symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean a dementia diagnosis is forthcoming. 

Other factors may lead to dementia-like symptoms. For example: 

  • Even a minor medical issue, like a urinary tract infection (UTI), can lead to confusion or delirium in older adults.
  • If someone doesn’t adhere to their blood sugar medication and their glucose levels drop, they may experience similar symptoms. 
  • Medication interactions (or medication/supplement interactions) may mimic symptoms of dementia. 

That’s why it’s essential for anyone taking medications or supplements to inform their doctor and pharmacist.

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The Importance of Early Detection and Reducing Risk

Unfortunately, there’s currently no cure for dementia. Medications have been employed to slow the progression of dementia but with little success. 

While there’s no standard early dementia onset treatment, there are steps you can take to optimize your health and reduce dementia risk:

  • Engage in cognitive stimulation activities: Just like any other muscle in the body, your brain needs regular exercise to function at optimal levels. Learn something new or dive into brain games like crossword puzzles or sudoku.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy weight: This includes sticking to a balanced diet like the MIND diet, engaging in physical activity you enjoy, and abstaining from smoking, drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption. Healthy habits can also help manage diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other chronic conditions.
  • Social engagement: Social activities may “reduce the risk of dementia due to mental and intellectual stimulation.” Take time to see loved ones and engage in leisurely activities with them.
  • Art and music therapy: Art and music therapy can elicit emotions, memories, and a sense of calm—all of which may “reduce cognitive decline” and enhance the quality of life.
  • Pet therapy: The link between individuals and animals holds powerful benefits like increased self-esteem and can “[improve] cognitive performance such as memory or concentration, motor skills and quality of life.”
  • Reminiscence therapy: By using all senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound), reminiscence therapy encourages people to remember specific events, individuals, and places. This therapy can help people gain confidence in their cognitive abilities and allows them to reflect upon what holds meaning for them.

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The Bottom Line

If dementia is at the root of your or a loved one’s symptoms, the best step you can take is to act quickly. 

Groundbreaking research is bringing scientists one step closer to minimizing age-related cognitive decline, especially related to the early stages of dementia. In a test group, patients in this landmark study experienced improved cognitive functions, including memory recall, concentration, and response times.

A health plan based on this unique protocol is now available at Aviv Clinics Florida.

Contact us to learn more about this study and the Aviv Medical Program’s approach to cognitive decline.

How the Link Between Exercise and Brain Health Can Boost Cognitive Function

The science is pretty clear: exercising and maintaining good health are some of the best things you can do to keep the body at peak performance. But there are more than a few options out there when it comes to exercising. 

Exercise and brain health are closely linked. Researchers have found that regular physical activity can “delay the effects of both physiological aging and pathological neurodegeneration on brain health.” 

To take advantage of the interplay between brain health and exercise, it’s important to understand how exercise is good for the brain—and why. Are some forms of exercise better than others when it comes to the brain? Are there rightor wrongways to exercise when maximizing brain power? And how does exercise affect the aging brain? 

The answers to these questions can help unlock the power of exercise for brain health.

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How Cognitive Abilities Change with Age

As we age, a slight level of cognitive decline is inevitable due to the normal aging process. Issues with memory and slower thinking are to be expected. But older adults are also increasingly at risk for mild cognitive impairment, including “conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed,” as well as dementia, which includes conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. 

While some of the risk factors for these conditions are out of your control, such as age, genetics, and family history, your overall health plays a role, too. In the event of an unexpected incident, such as a stroke, your general health and wellness become focal points for your recovery.

The more proactive you are with your health, no matter your risk factors or circumstances, the greater your investment in your long-term health potential. Basically, staying healthy and active can help protect your brain.

How Is Exercise Good for the Brain as We Age?

Healthy habits, including a nourishing diet and regular physical activity, are critical players in the healthy aging process. Emerging research discovered that exercise is linked to “improved cognitive performance in older adults with and without cognitive impairment.”

These results are promising for anyone concerned about maintaining cognitive and brain health as they age, especially considering the aforementioned risk factors beyond their control. This occurs primarily because exercise impacts the brain on both a short- and long-term basis—with measurable benefits occurring in both instances. 

How Are Exercise and Brain Health Linked?

Anytime you exercise, you’re pumping more blood to your brain tissues. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and other nutrients vital for the brain’s functioning. 

In response, the brain also cranks out some helpful molecules, many of which “improve cognitive processes and memory.”

Here are just a few benefits of exercise for the brain:

  • Neurotransmitters (NTs) like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released, improving mood, motivation, focus, attention, and learning.
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) helps your brain repair and rebuild, creating new neurons and connections.
  • Hormones work with BDNF and can boost your mood and mental clarity.
  • Endorphins and other molecules are released, helping relieve pain.
  • Increased blood flow delivers nutrients and carries away waste products.
  • The hippocampus increases in volume.

Two areas of the brain are particularly important when it comes to cognitive decline: the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC). These areas are the most susceptible to cognitive degeneration or impairment.

1. Hippocampus

The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, is affected by exercise in a few ways. Studies show that with aerobic exercise, brain matter shows “an increase in volume of the left and right hippocampus,” an area that often declines in volume as we age. The hippocampal decline also occurs significantly with Alzheimer’s disease, which can be reduced by 25%for those with the condition. The hippocampus is also where much neurogenesis (creating new brain cells) occurs—at least if you exercise enough!

2. Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)

The other area benefiting directly from exercise is the prefrontal cortex or PFC—the brain’s “CEO,” responsible for most of our executive functions, including decision-making, attention, problem-solving, and goal-setting. Studies show that older adults, in particular, can benefit from exercise due to increased “executive functions mediated by the PFC.”

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A Holistic Approach to Exercise and Brain Health

Exercise benefits brain health significantly because it involves so many bodily processes simultaneously.

Exercise, for both your body and mind, is a powerful practice that can help build confidence, aid in recovery, and even help to stimulate processes “related to cell survival and neuroplasticity” (the brain’s ability to change and adapt). 

Aviv Clinics clients receiving the innovative Aviv Medical Program optimize their brain health. Their personalized treatment plan can combine cognitive exercises and physical training, nutritional coaching, and Aviv’s unique research-backed  hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol. As part of the program, clients perform dual-task exercises on the cutting-edge h/p/cosmos medical treadmill at the clinic. The combination of physical and cognitive effort maximizes the benefits of the treatment protocol which include: improved memory, attention, focus, information processing and mental clarity.

 

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Lifestyle Matters

Our brains haven’t changed much in the last 50,000 years or so, but our lifestyle certainly has.

In the days of our nomadic, hunter-gatherer ancestors, life was a little more physically demandingour bodies are designed to move and be active. Sitting, it seems, could be making us sick.

According to LifeSpan Fitness, the average American these days sits for “11 hours a day,” and an estimated 20% of all deaths over age 35 can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise, poor diet, and use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs are often a starting point. Falling into this sedentary lifestyle can quickly lead to a downward spiral.

What’s the Best Kind of Exercise?

Rest assured, as long as you’re moving your body regularly, you’ll likely see benefits. While all types of exercise have advantages, most studies favor those that elevate your heart rate and maintain it for a time. 

Getting oxygen-rich blood pumping to the brain seems to be the best way to reap the benefits of exercise. Therefore, aerobic exercise (or cardio) and weight training are excellent starting places. 

Moderate Intensity

The “prescription” for most older adults is to aim to exercise at a moderate intensity for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times per week. An easy way to keep track of your progress is with a fitness tracker. Find out if a fitness tracker is right for you.

You can measure moderate intensity by keeping your heart going at the optimal rate, in this case, 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. To determine your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 70-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate would be 150. That means that to exercise at the right intensity, she should maintain a heart rate between 105-120.

You should warm up and cool down for aerobic exercise but don’t count that as part of your total. The 30-45 minutes (as prescribed) should all be while your heart rate is at the target rate.

Strength Training

Strength training can also be incredibly beneficial. Sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass as you get older, and osteoporosis, a reduction in bone mass over time, are increasingly common in older adults. Muscle-building exercises can help you retain this muscle mass and build strength in both areas of the body. 

To get started, stick to a simple program that activates as many muscle groups as possible throughout the week. With strength training, it’s important to choose activities that are not too easy nor too complex and to give yourself at least one day of rest between sessions. 

Avoid injuries by focusing on excellent form, whether lifting weights or performing body weight exercises. Always give yourself time to warm up your muscles with five to ten minutes of heart-pumping cardio or warm up sets before diving into any challenging reps or sets.

6 Tips for Getting Started

If you’re like many (if not most) adults, you might be leaning more toward the sedentary end of the activity scale as you grow older. The exercise prescription above is an ideal goal, and it’s used primarily because that’s what they did in studies showing the best outcomes for cognitive health. 

However, other studies showed that lower-intensity activities like walking “roughly 6-9 miles per week” and yoga could be beneficial, too.

Even if you’re aiming for that peak exercise intensity, there are many ways to make exercising for brain health fun, easier, and less stressful.

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1. Find Movement That You Love

Exercise is about movement, so find a way to move your body that you enjoy. If that’s running laps, great. If you love to dance, then dance! And there are always sports and leisure activities—gardening, golfing, and bowling are excellent ways to move. Even window shopping or hula hooping can count as exercise. Need more ideas? Try any of these non-boring exercises!

Finding enjoyable movement can also help change your perspective and shift away from goals like weight loss that may feel like a chore. Focus on how exercise makes you feel and the enjoyment you get from moving.

2. Slowly Build Stamina

If you’re already pretty active, or you’ve exercised a lot in the past, it will probably be easier for you to start. If you’re not as active as you could be, that’s okay, too. It’s never too late to begin a new exercise practice. Start small and build from there.

You’re more likely to stick with it if you’re realistic about your goals and abilities.

3. Examine Barriers to Habit

Building any habit takes time and planning. Give yourself the best chance at success by looking at exercise through a positive lens. For example:

  • If it’s challenging to find time in your schedule, start with shorter movement durations whenever you can. 
  • If you dislike the gym, identify ways to stay active by doing things you enjoy, whether being outside, working out with friends, participating in low-impact activities, or exercising right at home.

The best plan accounts for daily routine hiccups that could potentially throw your goals off course. By remaining connected to the positive benefits you get right after you engage in physical activity, such as an improved mood, a sense of accomplishment, or a boost of energy, it’s easier to stay on track even when life gets chaotic. 

Remember that every day is a new day, and you can always switch things up or make adjustments as you go without throwing in the towel altogether. Slow and steady progress is more sustainable. 

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4. Work with Your Schedule

Depending on your exercise goals and your current level of physical activity, it’s a good idea to examine how you can build exercise into your routine naturally. From there, you can make goals to build around the momentum you’ve gained with every small step. 

When you start to make goals, the SMART goal-setting method can make it easy to visualize where you’d like to go with your exercise routine.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific: Break down precisely what you want to achieve. Rather than make a goal to simply walk more, aim for a specific number of steps or a weekly distance threshold you wish to reach.
  • Measurable: Find a way to track your goal with metrics. You might use a pedometer to count your steps or a designated app to count the miles you’ve walked.
  • Attainable: It’s enticing to think big. Still, you’re more likely to stick to a movement goal if it feels like an achievable first step. Your plan should push your limits just enough to be effective but not too challenging that you feel discouraged. 
  • Relevant: Consider the benefits you’d like to gain from your goal. If building muscle is your intention, physical activity focusing on endurance training rather than strength training may make progress slower than if you focus on muscle-building exercises. 
  • Time-bound: Without putting unreasonable pressure on your results, choose a time frame within which you would like to achieve your goal. This can be a particular date or a certain duration. Scheduling can help you take actionable steps every day. 

5. Add It Up

Ultimately, it’s about moving more and being more active. There are many ways to sneak in more exercise and break up the sedentary periods. For example, if you sit a lot, you can try setting a timer to get up and walk around every hour. Or start counting your steps and aim to increase them daily.

Many traditional ways to get more activity are still great, like taking the stairs, parking farther away, playing with kids, or doing housework and cleaning. Make it a goal to find a new way to squeeze in some daily activity.

6. Results Take Time—Be Patient

So how long does it take before exercising starts to pay off? While you may feel many exercise benefits immediately afterward, like improvements in mood and energy, lasting results will take longer. Plan on giving it at least six months to assess your brain’s progress.

Regarding cognitive abilities, measuring and assessing can be challenging. You may not notice a substantial increase in cognitive ability. As some cognitive decline will occur due to normal aging, it’s often about slowing it down rather than a full reversal. It’s also common for family and friends to notice a change before you do.

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The Bottom Line on Exercise and Brain Health

Find movement that you enjoy, and you’ll have a much easier time making time to exercise. No matter what shape you’re in or what activities you enjoy, you can find a way to optimize both your physical and cognitive health.

Aviv Clinics delivers a highly effective, science-based treatment program to enhance brain performance and improve the cognitive and physical symptoms of conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, fibromyalgia, Lyme, and dementia. Our intensive protocol uses Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, physical training, and nutrition management for better brain health. The medical program closely tracks clients’ progress before, during, and after the treatment protocol, using customized tablets and other technology. Based on over a decade of research and development, the Aviv Medical Program is holistic and customized to your needs.

 

Cognitive Function Tests: What They Can Unveil About Our Cognitive Health

The brain is a powerful and complex organ. While it produces our every thought, memory, feeling, and experience, it can also work in unpredictable ways. 

After all, the brain comprises a staggering one hundred billion nerve cells making up nearly 60 trillion neural connections. This complexity can sometimes make it challenging to pinpoint why we feel or act as we do; however, there are cognitive function tests that can help gain insights.

Also referred to as cognitive screening tests or cognitive assessments, cognitive function tests can help paint a clearer picture of where your brain health currently stands and, more importantly, where to go from there. 

We encourage you to learn about these tests to gain more insight about yourself and guide your health journey.

What Are Cognitive Function Tests

A cognitive function test is a screening tool that explores your cognitive abilities. It aims to learn how your brain works and helps assess which areas of cognitive functioning are strong and which may need support. 

As you age, these assessments can diagnose the main symptoms presenting in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other specific conditions. But for a conclusive diagnosis, other measures, such as imaging and medical tests, are needed as well. 

Why Take a Cognitive Function Test

A cognitive function test may be performed if there are signs and symptoms of mental decline or impairment. Someone may also want to gain more information about their cognitive health. 

Maybe you’ve noticed changes in yourself or your loved one; perhaps you have a family history of cognitive decline diagnoses and want insight into your own brain health. These are valid reasons to seek a test. 

Think of these test results as insightful data. Cognitive function tests may help unveil areas you may want to improve. We want to emphasize that results from these assessments shouldn’t make you feel incapable or point out your shortcomings; they’re to help you learn more about your brain capabilities and encourage a discussion with your medical team. 

The Functions that Cognitive Tests Can Assess

Remember, there is no one cognitive function testRather, there are various types of tests, each one designed to measure one or several specific cognitive functions. These could include the following: 

  • Attention: Your level of alertness and ability to attend to targets and disregard noise
  • Information processing speed: How quickly you process information 
  • Memory: The level at which you encode and recall information
  • Executive functions: Your ability to apply information, compare, and make sound judgments
  • Spatial skills: How you lean on visual cues and senses to make decisions

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Examples of Cognitive Function Tests

Here are some examples of cognitive function tests that may be performed in a clinical setting: 

  • Verbal Memory: How well can you recognize, remember, and retrieve words?
    • Recall appointment times
    • Remember to take medications
  • Psychomotor Speed: Can you precisely use tools and perform mental and physical coordination?
    • Drive a car
    • Play a musical instrument
  • Processing Speed: How well do you process information?
    • React to possible risks
    • Respond to issues accurately  
  • Simple Visual Attention: How is your ability to track something quickly and accurately?
    • Self-regulation
    • Simple attention control
  • Motor Speed: Are you able to move how you intend to move?
    • Manual dexterity actions

Such tests could be included in the following test batteries:

  • Neurotrax – A computerized test for cognitive assessment used in research and clinical settings.
  • CNS Vital Signs – A computerized batter for cognitive assessment used broadly in clinical settings.
  • CANTAB – Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery, administered on a tablet.

Other short screening tests of cognitive functions include:

  • MOCA – Montreal Cognitive Assessment. A short paper and pencil test available so on Tablet.
  • MMSE – Mini Mental State Examination. A short paper and pencil test.
  • Mini-Cog: A short computerized cognitive screening test.

 

 

What Cognitive Function Tests Show

As noted earlier, cognitive function tests look for cognitive strengths and potential areas of decline You can use cognitive test results to initiate a conversation with your doctor, who can help you plan the next steps. The goal is to paint an overall picture of the patient’s health to understand factors that may drive cognitive decline.

Since each person is different, taking a deeper dive with a professional is essential. Just like you can’t Google your symptoms to diagnose yourself, you can’t take a cognitive test to diagnose any conditions. You can read more about what do neuropsychologists look for when assessing a patient’s cognition.

Your health specialist may order additional tests or look into your medical history to clarify your situation and determine any support you may need. 

What Cognitive Function Tests Do Not Show

Cognitive function tests do not show: 

  • Why you might have cognitive impairment 
  • What areas of the brain carry the impairment 
  • What condition may be causing cognitive impairment
  • Whether the impairment is hereditary or acquired

Only a physician or neuropsychologist can address these areas.
To learn more contact the clinic.

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How to Prepare for Your Upcoming Cognitive Function Test

You don’t need to prepare for a cognitive test; studying isn’t necessary.

You can rest assured because cognitive function tests consist of simple questions and exercises. The assessment is designed to learn more about you and offers a meaningful workout to your brain. So, relax and go in as yourself. 

What to Expect During the Cognitive Test

The test will entail a series of questions and exercises. Cognitive function tests typically cover the following: 

  • Recall and memory: Being asked to recall objects, places, or people you were shown and/or being asked to describe an event
  • Analytical  thinking: Solving puzzles via rules and noting relationships between objects or figures
  • Attention: Using visual and auditory speed to concentrate and finish tasks

How Long Do the Tests Typically Take? 

It depends on the type of test you take, but a cognitive function test typically takes between 25 minutes to 1.5 hours to complete. 

Can Cognitive Impairment be Reversed

With the right protocols and medical team by your side, you can reverse some forms of cognitive impairment. Research illustrates that a variety of therapies, which may include hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), can help: 

  • Drive the body’s regenerative mechanisms.
  • “Improve and restore cognitive brain functions.” 

One study specifically discovered the main improvements involve “attention, information processing speed, and executive functions, which normally decline with aging.”

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Your Cognitive Health Matters: Stay Proactive with Aviv Clinics

Every decision we make each day impacts our cognitive well-being, and staying proactive is one of those decisions.

If you want to be proactive, you can restore cognitive function with the Aviv Medical Program, which is founded on decades of research that enhances performance and brings relief to our clients

With our unique protocol and cognitive training, the Aviv Medical Program targets the main cognitive domains known to decline during aging, including:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Speed of information processing
  • Multitasking
  • Executive skills 

We assess your cognition at the beginning of the program and again at the end to accurately measure your improvements.

Start today with Aviv Clinics.

 

Age-Related Cognitive Decline: The Science That Slows It Down

Cognitive health — the ability to think clearly, learn, and remember — is essential in helping us live happy and fulfilling lives.

Maintaining our cognitive health can become a challenge as we get older. Like the physical changes that occur in our bodies (e.g., stiff joints, wrinkles, etc.), our brain’s cognition also changes slowly and subtly over time. 

You may notice you’re struggling to pay attention, for example, or find you’re having trouble recalling conversations or people’s names. These experiences are a natural part of aging and manifest as a condition coined age-related cognitive decline. 

Cognitive Decline, the Earliest Symptom of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cognitive decline is a self-reported experience of “worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss.” It’s considered one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. 

There are different forms of cognitive decline. One type of cognitive decline is mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—the early stage of memory or cognitive ability loss. It’s the phase between natural cognitive decline (due to aging) and the more serious decline. 

While experiences may be different person-to-person and can vary daily in scope and severity, common age-related cognitive decline symptoms include the following areas: 

  • Memory: Forgetting names, dates, and places becomes more frequent. You may place items in odd locations (e.g., car keys in the refrigerator).
  • Language: Forming words, phrases, or sentences becomes increasingly more challenging.
  • Thinking or judgment: You may lose track of time or your train of thought. Making decisions also becomes more difficult or overwhelming. 
  • Apathy: An oft-overlooked symptom, suddenly losing interest in your favorite activities and people or giving up when something feels difficult can signal a mental withdrawal during the decline process. 
  • Incessant rumination: People experiencing cognitive decline can feel chronic stress or get stuck in a fight-or-flight response.
  • Other Conditions: Many illnesses and chronic conditions are associated with cognitive decline. They include influenza, gastroenteritis, sleep disorders, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take the opportunity to have a conversation with an Aviv Clinics physician to assess their severity and what you can do to improve your cognitive health.

 

 

Why Age-Related Cognitive Decline Occurs

There are four main reasons age-related cognitive decline may occur: 

  1. Hormonal imbalance: As we age, it’s natural for hormonal imbalances to happen. Research indicates these changes are a key factor in the decline of cognitive function. 
  2. Stroke and head injuries: Head injuries and stroke can damage blood vessels in the brain, which may incite cognitive impairment and even vascular dementia. Even a minor head injury sustained many years in the past increases your chances of developing dementia.
  3. Psychiatric disorders: Disorders like depression and anxiety have been connected to cognitive and functional decline. They are commonly experienced by MCI patients and can either be a contributing factor or a symptom.  
  4. Heart conditions: Research shows that those in their 40s to early 60s with high blood pressure have a higher risk of experiencing cognitive decline later in life. Lowering blood pressure decreases the risk for MCI.

dementia

Disorders Related to Age-Related Cognitive Decline

Approximately 12% to 18% of individuals over age 60 live with mild cognitive impairment. If left untreated, MCI can bring on various disorders related to more significant age-related cognitive decline. 

Approximately 10% to 15% of people with MCI develop dementia every year. Dementia is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of neurological conditions. These conditions negatively affect the brain—nerve cells stop functioning normally and eventually die, causing cognitive decline.  

There are different types of dementia, such as: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease: Those with MCI are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease—the most common dementia diagnosis. In addition to cognitive decline, those with Alzheimer’s may experience shifts in behavior and personality. Read about the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): FTD can occur when there is damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Someone with FTD can show unusual behaviors, emotional problems, and difficulty communicating. 
  • Lewy body dementia (LBD): LBD happens when protein builds up in the brain. Common symptoms of LBD include movement issues (e.g., slowed movements, stiffness, tremors), cognitive issues, and mood shifts.
  • Vascular dementia: Vascular dementia occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. People typically experience issues with reasoning, planning, judgment, and memory.

How Science Slows Down Cognitive Decline

Your brain is a superpower, but energy (in the form of oxygen and proper nutrition) is needed to make it so.

If you give your brain energy, especially as you age, you can effectively slow down the aging process. 

Aviv has developed a way to harness the power of oxygen using Nobel Prize-winning research. The Aviv Medical Program includes a variety of therapies, including Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). What is HBOT? It involves sending 100% pure, pressurized (10-15 times higher than normal) oxygen to your deprived brain cells and body tissues, turbocharging your body’s own regenerative mechanisms. The result is faster healing of damaged tissues and higher regeneration of stem cells. 

If you’re concerned about your (or a loved one’s) age-related cognitive decline, be sure to contact Aviv soon.

Role of Genetics in Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is currently the most widely diagnosed form of dementia in the United States.

It is a progressive disease that worsens over time, often to the point of interfering with daily activities.

While doctors have begun to understand more about what causes Alzheimer’s, we are still discovering exactly what sets off the disease process.

Are some people predisposed to the Alzheimer’s disease? Is there any action we can do to delay, or even prevent it?

Read on to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and the role genetics and lifestyle play in it.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia most commonly affecting people over the age of 65, though younger people can be impacted as well.

It is a progressive disease— symptoms are usually mild at onset and get worse over time, eventually becoming severe enough to interfere with daily living.

In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s tend to experience minor memory loss—for example, forgetting a person’s name or details of a recent event. As the disease progresses, cognitive functioning declines, causing more significant memory loss and other symptoms including:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Confusion and disorientation in places that were once familiar
  • Speech and language challenges
  • Personality changes
  • Problems performing self-care tasks
  • Ambulatory issues
  • Hallucinations
  • Low mood
  • Anxiety

People with Alzheimer’s won’t necessarily exhibit all of these symptoms every day, and some days may be better than others.

 

 

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

Scientists have researched the disease process of Alzheimer’s for years. While we are still identifying what can cause a person to develop Alzheimer’s, we have made some discoveries about how the brain works in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Today we know that there are two different protein structures in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease: Neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. It’s not currently known whether the presence of these structures causes Alzheimer’s disease, or if they are simply byproducts of it. We do know that both can impair cognitive function and can worsen as the disease progresses.

Neurofibrillary tangles are accumulations of a harmful protein called tau in the brain’s neurons. These tangles can inhibit the neuron’s ability to communicate, causing cognitive decline. Some studies reveal that a lack of oxygen in the brain is associated with neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid plaques are hard, insoluble clumps of beta-amyloid proteins that build up between neurons. Like neurofibrillary tangles, these plaques are toxic to brain cells and disrupt cell-to-cell communication. They can eventually result in cellular death, inhibiting cognitive abilities even further.

Brain scans can reveal the presence of both protein structures, which can alert your doctor to the presence of Alzheimer’s disease or indicate that you’re at risk for it.

This information can be used to help you adopt lifestyle changes and seek treatment to help maintain your health and prolong your cognitive function.

Who Gets Alzheimer’s Disease?

Older woman sitting on the blue sofa, holding a cup of coffee

Alzheimer’s is most common among people over the age of 65. In fact, an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have Alzheimer’s.

While age is the biggest risk factor for the disease, Alzheimer’s can also happen to people who are younger. This is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Women also make up a disproportionate number of Alzheimer’s cases, possibly because women tend to live longer than men. It also may be linked to the reduction of the hormone estrogen that women experience when they go through menopause.

Lifestyle, as well as other diseases, like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, are also thought to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Working to live a healthy life and control the onset of other chronic illnesses can help reduce your risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s as you age.

One major risk factor that we can’t control is genetics. Understanding how heredity influences the disease process and what we can do to mitigate it are important for making sense of the disease, as well as exploring timely options for prevention and treatment.

Alzheimer’s and Your Genes

We all know that genetic factors can impact our health in a variety of ways. Brain health and dementia are not immune to this connection. The link between Alzheimer’s disease, specifically early-onset Alzheimer’s, and genetics is apparent.

Scientists have found that genetics are often a contributing factor among those who develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, meaning they are likely to have an immediate family member who also developed the disease before age 65.

For those who develop the disease later in life, the impact of genetics is less defined, though family history still seems to be an important risk factor.

Another potential genetic indicator comes in the form of certain mutations of the APOE gene. Mutation in this gene is associated with higher levels of amyloid plaques and is often found in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Your doctor can conduct tests to determine if you have this gene mutation and are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s because of it.

However, people who are genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s disease may never develop it. But knowing your genetic composition can be powerful, especially if the information helps motivate you to make lifestyle choices that can help postpone or prevent your development of the disease.

What You Can Do to Help Prevent or Delay Alzheimer’s Disease?

Couple embracing on the beach, while looking at the waves.

There’s not much you can do about your genes—you didn’t select them or your parents. However, you can choose to live in a way that minimizes the impact your genes have on you and your health.

It’s important to focus on what you can control.

  • Take care of your mental health,
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Challenge your brain
  • Maintain strong social connections and relationships
  • Get quality sleep
  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Exercise to help prevent the development of other chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease
  • Avoid smoking and drinking to excess
  • Be careful not to expose your brain to harmful substances or to the risks of sustaining traumatic brain injuries

These behaviors can impact your cognitive function and may act as controlling factors for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Recent research has also shown that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), like the specialized protocol used at Aviv Clinics, can be effective for preventing and addressing cognitive decline, especially as it relates to the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A unique protocol of HBOT can work to increase blood flow to the brain and reverse amyloid plaques and even prevent them from forming in the first place. It may be a viable option to help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease in the near future.

Remember, it’s not just about how long you live, but also how well. Making an effort to care for yourself now will help you enjoy a longer, more full and active life while minimizing chronic health issues and cognitive decline.

Bottom Line

Genetics is just one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s. While it’s not something you can control, it is something you can impact through your behaviors.

People often underestimate the power that lifestyle choices can have on their future health, but they are an integral part of the overall equation. The way you care for your body today, or fail to, can have a major impact on not only your lifespan but your healthspan as well.

The Effect of Coffee on Brain Health

Pour-over, solo, drip, French-pressed – however you enjoy your coffee, it may be doing more for you than just getting you going in the morning. Drinking coffee may also protect you from a variety of health conditions, so long as it is consumed in moderation.

For decades, coffee had a poor reputation because of early studies that deemed it a carcinogen and linked it to an increased risk for heart disease. Recent research now suggests that drinking coffee, including decaffeinated coffee, may actually provide a variety of health benefits when consumed in moderation.

The benefits of coffee on brain health

Some of coffee’s health benefits are commonly known, including that it boosts metabolism and increases energy levels. Lesser known, but perhaps more important benefits of coffee are that it also:

Beyond brain health, moderate consumption of coffee also helps reduce the risk of some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Coffee’s key ingredients

According to the National Coffee Association, seven in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, with 62 percent drinking it daily. The average American coffee drinker consumes approximately three cups per day.

Caffeine is just one of about 1,000 chemicals found in coffee beans, but is the best known. A stimulant, caffeine delivers a boost of energy and helps provide focus. It locks into the adenosine receptors in the brain, which cause drowsiness, and counteracts the sleepiness response by blocking the function of the receptors. Instead of feeling drowsy, caffeine stimulates the brain’s production of norepinephrine and dopamine, which is what leads to increased focus and alertness.

In addition to caffeine, coffee also contains beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants, which fight inflammation and protect against some diseases.

Polyphenols are organic compounds found in the coffee plant. They contain anti-inflammatory properties that have the potential to prevent or reduce the risk of certain cancers and other chronic health conditions. Some polyphenols may also protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Consuming polyphenols also may help regulate metabolism, weight, and cell production.

Other beneficial components in coffee include vitamin B2 (riboflavin); vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid); vitamin B1 (thiamine); vitamin B3 (niacin); folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium; and phosphorus.

Coffee beans also are enriched so that when they are ground, blended, and consumed, provide some pre- and probiotic properties for good gut health.

Effect of Coffee on Brain

 

The cons of drinking coffee

While coffee has many health benefits, it can also have some negative effects. For example, it can:

  • disrupt sleep
  • cause anxiety and jitteriness
  • lead to an addiction to caffeine
  • cause withdrawal symptoms (headache, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability) when abstaining
  • increase feelings of anxiety and agitation in those with anxiety disorders

Moderating consumption is key to enjoying its benefits.

How much should you drink?

As with most foods, coffee is a healthy beverage when consumed in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than five cups a day or on average 400 mg of caffeine. Another reason for moderate consumption is because too much, especially after mid-day, could interfere with getting a good night’s sleep and may create feelings of anxiety.

Optimizing the benefits of coffee

While coffee has many health benefits, adding refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and/or creamers add calories and create an unhealthy beverage.

“The extra calories, sugar, and saturated fat in a coffee house beverage loaded with whipped cream and flavored syrup might offset any health benefits found in a basic black coffee.” – Harvard School of Public Health

Effect of Coffee on the Brain - brewing coffee

How you brew your coffee also affects the health benefits it imparts. For example, using a paper filter or checking coffee pods for built-in filters helps prevent the passage of unhealthy chemicals present in coffee as it filters. Some of these chemicals can raise levels of LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol.

The bottom line

Coffee has many health benefits, when drunk in moderation. Using high quality beans, brewing it with a paper filter, and limiting additions such as refined sugars and creamers, can optimize the impact of coffee on your brain health.

Aviv Clinics delivers a highly effective, science-based treatment protocol to enhance overall brain performance, extend healthspan, and improve the cognitive and physical symptoms of conditions such as mild cognitive decline, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease. The Aviv Medical Program’s intensive treatment protocol uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy and includes nutrition management and dietitian support to optimize your diet for better brain health. Based on over a decade of research and development, the Aviv Medical Program is comprehensive and customized to your needs.

Contact us to learn more.

 

Music and Memory Loss

Music has a special way of unlocking the memory bank. For a person with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive impairment, hearing a familiar song can trigger a memory, evoke an emotion, and enhance brain performance.

Studies have shown music can have a profound effect on people with memory loss conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. That growing body of evidence has led some long-term care facilities and caregivers to use music therapy to entertain, soothe, and help socialize residents with dementia and other memory loss issues.

Music is a part of almost everyone’s life. As early as infancy, music may be used to soothe a colicky baby. For many, music often serves as a soothing distraction, to elevate mood, as a motivator while exercising, or as a relaxation technique at bedtime. For others, music may be played as background noise as they go about their daily lives. Music may be such an ever-present fixture in everyday life that it becomes woven into the fabric of the brain. While listening to music, emotions are stirred and memories are stored, creating a link that ultimately becomes associated with a time, a person, or a place.

Why does music unlock memories? It activates those areas of the brain that are associated with memory and emotions: the hippocampus and the frontal cortex. When these areas of the brain are stimulated, they trigger the release of stored memories at the sound of a song. 

music-memory

Music’s effects on the mind

Music can have a powerful effect on the psyche. For a person with dementia or in late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, music reduces agitation, soothes the spirit, and improves behavior and focus, research shows. Here’s how music affects the brain:

  • Music stimulates the brain by evoking an emotion that triggers a memory. For someone with memory loss, hearing a familiar song has the potential to transport them back to a time in life that was pleasurable.
  • It provides comfort. A person with cognitive decline can become easily agitated. Music has a way of reducing agitation and instilling a sense of calm. When someone is calm, they tend to focus better.
  • Music elevates mood and reduces stress. Playing music activates a part of the brain that can improve mood and reduce anxiety, especially if it is music that’s familiar and well-liked. Studies have shown different types of music also play a part in whether it works to uplift or is counterproductive. Soothing music at less than 100 beats per minute, such as classical music, has been found to have a positive effect on memory and cognition. 
  • It creates a connection without verbal communication. For someone in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, communicating may be difficult if not impossible when words finally elude them. Expose them to a song from childhood or their teenage years and a person with memory loss may break out singing or dancing. It’s not uncommon for an Alzheimer’s patient, unable to speak, to sit down at a piano and proceed to play and sing.

Famed musicians, like Tony Bennett who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, are still able to perform and remember the lyrics despite memory impairment. However, learning new songs and remembering them is unlikely because of the disease’s progression. 

Music has also been used as a therapeutic method to help stroke patients with aphasia to re-learn speech. They may not be able to converse, but they can sing a familiar tune. Using music can stimulate different parts of the brain to relearn and improve speech.

Are you a caregiver? Music can make a difference

To use music to trigger pleasant memories, boost mood, and soothe a loved one with memory-loss issues, try these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Choose music your loved one is familiar with and once enjoyed. If they’re able, encourage them to offer suggestions for their customized playlist.
  • Play music that’s commercial-free otherwise the interruptions can be disruptive and confusing for them.
  • Base your choice of music on the emotion you’re trying to invoke. A tranquil piece can induce a calm and serene feeling while a faster-paced song from their childhood might help elevate mood and evoke happy memories.
  • Enhance their experience by encouraging them to tap to the beat, clap, or dance.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum. Avoid other background sounds like TV or traffic noise. And keep the music volume at a comfortable level. If it’s too loud, it could lead to aggression or agitation.

The bottom line

The link between music and memory is significant. Studies show hearing musical pieces from the past can trigger strong emotions, and mainly positive ones because of their nostalgic connection. And not only does music trigger strong emotions and memories, but it can also boost mood, calm anxiety, and quell confusion in someone with cognitive decline.

Life After a Diagnosis of Cognitive Decline: What Now?

Whether you have received a diagnosis of mild cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, exploring the possible causes is the first step in moving forward.

Symptoms like forgetting where you have placed your glasses, frequently asking the same question, or failing to recognize familiar people may have led you to seek medical attention. Perhaps your family noticed changes in your mood or personality and urged you to see a doctor. Being evaluated and having a diagnosis may be initially disconcerting and stressful, but how you proceed from here will determine your best outcome.

Often, what may be causing the cognitive issues is something controllable and treatable such as high blood pressure, high blood sugars, stress, anxiety, medications, or drug and alcohol use. No matter what is behind the decline, the key is addressing those things that can be controlled and treated, and then choosing a healthier lifestyle going forward.

What is cognitive decline?

Cognitive impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life. It can range from mild to severe, escalating to the point where the person loses the ability to comprehend, write, or speak. At that stage, a person can no longer live independently.

Age is the greatest risk factor for cognitive impairment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment. An estimated 5.1 million Americans aged 65 and older currently have Alzheimer’s disease, the most well-known form of cognitive impairment; this number may rise to 13.2 million by 2050, the CDC reports.

Next steps

Stress and anxiety will most certainly follow on the heels of a diagnosis. Learning to cope in healthy ways will be crucial because stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms of cognitive decline. You may be tempted to isolate because you fear being embarrassed by your condition or want to hide your frustration when you are challenged to remember. However, do not shy away from being challenged. Do just the opposite.

Interact even more and engage in things that bring you joy. How you proceed after diagnosis could slow the progression or alter the trajectory of the disease.

Here are six things to do immediately no matter the diagnosis:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, good proteins and healthy fats, and limit those foods that contain saturated fats like butter and cheese. Some examples of brain-beneficial foods include coffee, blueberries, nuts, dark chocolate, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which the brain uses to build brain and nerve cells, and are essential for learning new things and storing memories.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Whenever you exercise, you are pumping more blood to your brain tissues, and with that comes a lot of oxygen and other nutrients vital for the brain’s functioning. Walking or swimming are great ways to get oxygen-rich blood pumping to the brain.
  • Challenge your brain daily with activities that keep it stimulated like doing puzzles, taking quizzes, and reading content you enjoy. They help exercise the brain, enhance creativity, improve problem solving, and may slow memory decline.
  • Get adequate sleep. Stay away from things that may overstimulate your body like tea or coffee before bedtime. Put down your phone or computer a couple of hours before bedtime so you can decompress naturally and slowly. Sleep allows your body to cleanse the brain of toxins and waste. Getting enough is essential.
  • Find a good support system. It will be critical to build a good support system now that you have received a diagnosis. Whether it is a spouse, a friend, a family member, or a support group, having a connection with someone who cares about you and knows what you’re going through can keep you from feeling alone.
  • Manage stress. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol will only worsen the symptoms of cognitive decline. Instead, try journaling, prayer, meditation, exercise, or whatever works to calm your inner spirit and reduce your stress load.

The prognosis

In some people, mild cognitive impairment can be reversed or remain stable, especially if it is linked to a medication. For others with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the outlook can be harder to swallow since both are progressive conditions, and symptoms will eventually worsen. However, making lifestyle changes like healthy eating and exercising may slow the rate of progression.

The bottom line

Maintaining healthy lifestyle choices, including proper nutrition, exercise, social and cognitive activities, and adequate sleep, may help prevent or delay cognitive decline. For those who receive a diagnosis, the best approach moving forward is to cherish every moment of clarity, enjoy every day you are gifted, and maintain as many healthy choices as possible to slow down the disease.

As leaders in brain performance, the experts at Aviv Clinics understand the impact that a diagnosis of cognitive decline can have. The scientifically proven protocols of the Aviv Medical Program are designed to maintain your cognitive health and even improve the early biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Contact us to schedule a free phone consultation with a client ambassador and learn more about how the Aviv Medical Program can help optimize your brain health and performance.

Preserve Your Cognitive Health by Understanding the Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease

We all experience lapses in memory now and then, especially as we age. For most of us, these minor cognitive issues are usually just annoyances. But if your cognitive issues interfere with your daily life, they could be the beginning of something much more serious. 

Read on to learn more about the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and how you can preserve your cognitive health.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that impacts a person’s ability to think, reason, and remember. As it progresses, Alzheimer’s can severely affect quality of life, eventually becoming completely debilitating. 

The most common type of Alzheimer’s disease is the late-onset form, when symptoms usually “become apparent in [a person’s] mid-60s or later.”

The 10 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease:

working-memory

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, ten early warning signs of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease include:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

If you experience a cognitive problem that impacts your daily life, don’t ignore it. Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can take action against cognitive decline.

Get in touch with our care team>>

What Are Some Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease?

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how Alzheimer’s disease develops or why some people are at greater risk of developing it than others. It’s an active area of study, and researchers are discovering new things every day. 

The consensus among scientists is that a combination of age, sex, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s: 

  • Old age does not directly cause Alzheimer’s disease, though the risk of developing Alzheimer’s “doubles about every 5 years” after age 65.
  • “There are more women with Alzheimer’s disease than men,” though this might be because women live longer than men. 
  • Suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can “increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia years after the injury takes place.” 
  • Acute and chronic inflammation is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease.” Eating a diet full of inflammatory foods like processed sugar might exacerbate the risk of developing inflammation in the brain.
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Researchers note “half of individual differences in Alzheimer’s disease risk may be environmental.”
  • Studies discovered a “significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease with current smoking.” This risk factor offers another compelling reason to quit.
  • People with Down syndrome also carry a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s disease affects about 30% of people with Down syndrome in their 50s. By their 60s, this number comes closer to 50%.”

2 Protein Structures in the Brain Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists typically focus on two different protein structures in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease: Neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. 

It’s not currently known whether the presence of these structures causes Alzheimer’s disease or if they’re simply byproducts of it. But both can impair cognitive function and can worsen as the disease progresses.

Neurofibrillary Tangles 

Neurofibrillary tangles are accumulations of a harmful protein called tau in the brain’s neurons. These tangles can inhibit the neurons ability to communicate, causing cognitive decline. Some studies reveal a lack of brain oxygen is associated with neurofibrillary tangles.

Amyloid Plaques

Amyloid plaques are hard, insoluble clumps of beta-amyloid proteins that build up between neurons. Like neurofibrillary tangles, these plaques are toxic to brain cells and disrupt cell-to-cell communication. They can eventually result in cellular death, harming cognitive abilities even further.

Brain scans can reveal the presence of both protein structures, so your doctor can alert you to the presence of Alzheimer’s disease or if you’re at risk for developing it.

Is Alzheimer’s Genetic?

Both early-onset and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease have a genetic component, meaning if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, you carry a greater risk factor for developing the disease compared to someone who doesn’t have that history.

The risk factor is greater if an immediate family member suffers from the disease, such as a parent or sibling. 

Genetics are almost always the primary contributing factor of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which can “affect people in their 30s or 40s.” 

Gene Mutations

Researchers have yet to identify any specific genes responsible for the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s. However, certain mutations of the APOE gene, which are found in chromosome 19, “[]remain] the strongest, genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

For example, the specific gene mutation APOE ε4 is linked to higher levels of amyloid plaques and is often found in people with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Your doctor may order genetic testing if you have a family history of cognitive problems or early-onset dementia. 

Remember, this doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop Alzheimer’s if a parent or sibling has had it. Some people who possess the APOE ε4 gene never develop Alzheimer’s disease, and some people with Alzheimer’s don’t have any gene mutations at all. 

Genetics is just one of many Alzheimer’s risk factorswe still need more research to get the complete picture of what the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is.

How Can I Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

anti-aging

A specific hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol shows promise as a potential preventative measure for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease. HBOT is a therapy that involves breathing 100% oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure.

  • Recent research illustrates a unique HBOT protocol can shrink existing amyloid plaques in the brain and even prevent new ones from forming altogether: Repeated sessions of HBOT showed “reduced hypoxia and neuroinflammation, reduction in beta-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and phosphorylated tau, and improvement in behavioral tasks.”
  • Another study revealed HBOT improved memory recall in people who exhibited mild cognitive impairment:  “HBOT should be considered as a therapeutic approach to slow the progression or even improve the pathophysiology responsible for [Alzheimer’s] disease.”

These studies offer hope that HBOT may become a viable drug-free method for preventing cognitive decline.

A treatment based on this protocol is now available only at Aviv Clinics Florida>>

Lifestyle Habits to Safeguard Cognitive Health

While none of us can change our genetic makeup, we can change our lifestyle. Healthy habits can help lower your risk factor for nearly any disease, not just cognitive-related conditions. Lowering inflammation levels in your body can also help lower inflammation in the brain. Some of the things you can do to preserve your cognitive health include:

  • Eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining healthy blood pressure
  • Keeping your mind active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Avoiding excess alcohol
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Getting plenty of restful sleep
  • Taking care of your mental health

hyperbaric-oxygen-for-athletes

The Aviv Medical Program’s Fight Against Cognitive Decline

The Aviv Medical Program was founded on the unique HBOT protocol discussed in earlier research studies. This protocol involves fluctuating oxygen levels during the HBOT sessions. Oxygen level variations trigger the body’s self-healing process. 

Cognitive Performance and Aging Program

The Aviv Medical Program offers a comprehensive cognitive performance and aging program. Our treatments are rooted in research and lean on a holistic and personalized approach. 

Depending on your symptoms, needs, and goals, the program can include the following: 

  • In-depth medical history review
  • Comprehensive physical and neurological exam
  • Physical therapy evaluation
  • Highly advanced brain imaging scans
  • Neurocognitive tests

During the treatment, the program can include a combination of the following:

  • Cognitive training
  • Physical training
  • Dietary coaching
  • Unique HBOT process

 

Carl & Vickie Eckert Praise Their Improved Cognitive Performance as “Remarkable”

Married couple Carl and Vickie both had parents with dementia and cognitive decline. They soon realized they were experiencing the same cognitive issues that manifested in their parents. 

The couple’s quality of life was not where it should have been, so they took action with the Aviv Medical Program. They call their experience with Aviv Clinics and improved cognitive performance “remarkable.” 

“This is a very viable option…knowing that I was going to have such a complete assessment only for me and my issues was just remarkable.

I’m dancing, I’m hiking, I’m running again. It’s just remarkable. I don’t know how else to say it.”  –Vickie Eckert, former Aviv patient

Lower Your Risk with Aviv Clinics

While we still have a lot to learn about the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, anyone can lower their likelihood by taking charge of their lifestyle. 

Preserving your cognitive health starts with the choices you make every day. Partnering with Aviv Clinics is just one of them. Contact our medical team to learn how we can help you.