Posts tagged: mental health

9 Things You Can Do To Reduce Dementia Risk

9 Things You Can Do To Reduce Dementia Risk
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Source image © shutterstock.com (under license)

Aging is humanity’s greatest fear. Take my word for it; in recent years, we have seen various medical advancements made in order to prolong human life, from high-end drugs to innovative surgical procedures. A more aesthetic approach to fighting ageing can be seen in the thousands of beauty products sold every day, marketed to age groups as early as people in their twenties in order to help fight off wrinkles, saggy skin, and age spots. However, at the end of the day these are just skin deep and we now need to focus on the one hallmark sign of ageing: declining mental health.

In July 2018, the World Health Organization raised a very important concern: with over 50 million people worldwide affected by dementia, it still isn’t considered a public health priority. Only a few countries all over the world put dementia as one of their top health priorities and have actual plans to help address this growing concern. In response to this, the World Health Organization has released “Towards a dementia plan: a WHO guide”, which aims for the following by 2025: [1]

1. Dementia as a public health priority: 75 percent of countries would have developed national policies and the like for dementia
2. Dementia awareness and friendliness: 100 percent of countries would have functioning public awareness campaigns on dementia and 50 percent of countries would have at least one dementia-focused initiative
3. Dementia risk reduction: Risk reduction targets from the 2013 to 2020 global action plan for prevention and control are achieved
4. Dementia diagnosis, treatment, and care: 50 percent of people with dementia are correctly and timely diagnosed, in at least 50 percent of countries
5. Support for dementia carers: 75 percent of countries provide support and training for people and families caring for people with dementia
6. Information systems of dementia: 50 percent of countries routinely collect data on the various indicators of dementia
7. Dementia research and innovation: Double global research output on dementia between 2017 and 2025

Dementia: Are you bound to get it?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not a disease, per se, but a decline in mental health. It is characterized various signs and symptoms that can become severe enough to affect a person’s activities of daily living. Problems with memory, reasoning, focus, and visual perception are just a few symptoms that people with dementia experience. So, here’s the answer to your question “Am I bound to get dementia?”: No. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing and not everyone who hits 60 years old and above are affected by it. [2]

Dementia is caused primarily by damage to your brain cells and how they communicate information with each other. You brain cells can become damaged because of a decrease in blood flow through stroke, trauma, or even the gradual damage of blood vessels because of diabetes and hypertension. This type of dementia is called vascular dementia. [3]

9 Things You Can Do To Decrease Your Risk For Developing Dementia

1) Drink Green Tea: The next time you crave a hot cup of coffee, try to reach for green tea instead! A study conducted in Japan in 2014 focused specifically on cognitive decline in the elderly population, aged older than 60 years. The researchers focused on three common drinks: green tea, coffee, and black tea; they found that green alone was able to significantly reduce an elderly’s person’s risk for cognitive decline, even after adjusting for confounding factors. [4]

2) Add Avocados To Your Diet: Social media has boosted the “avocado toast” craze among millennials and yuppies but there might be more truth to their health claims than you think. Aside from your typical leafy green vegetables, avocados are also rich in lutein, a nutrient that is essential to the human diet because it can’t be produced by the human body. According to research, lutein can also be found brain tissue, and decreased amounts of lutein can cause a decline in mental health and abilities. [5]

3) Get Into Mediterranean Food: The nutritional benefits from Mediterranean diets include better bone health, better cardiovascular health, and a reduced risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.New research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International conference found that healthy older adults who ate a Mediterranean diet decreased their dementia risk by a third—approximately 30 to 35 percent. The study’s lead researcher, Claire McEvoy, associated the vegetable content in a Mediterranean diet with “lower risk of cognitive impairment”.

4) Quit Weekend Drinking: In fact, it may be better to quit drinking alcoholic beverages. While other studies suggest that moderate drinking could possibly beneficial to your health, a new study begs to differ. Published recently in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that heavier alcoholic drinkers experienced faster cognitive impairment, manifesting as a decline in language skills and poor white matter integrity. White matter is a part of the brain which helps thought processing. Furthermore, heavier drinkers also experienced brain tissue atrophy, which contributes to the cognitive decline. This particular study followed a group of British Civil Servants, tracking their disease and social behaviors over 30 years. [6]

5) Have A Healthy Sex Life: Regular sexual activity has been linked to better cognitive health, according to a research published from the University of Oxford and Coventry University. The researchers from Oxford compared data from adults aged between 50 and 83 years old, comparing their sexual activity with general brainpower, mainly attention, memory, fluency, language, and visuospatial ability. The researchers found a significant correlation between the two, wherein people who engaged in weekly sexual activity fared better on the mental health assessment exam, specifically in verbal fluency and overall cognition. Similarly, researchers from Coventry University published their research back in 2016 and found that older men who engaged in more sexual activity scored higher in tests involving word-recall and number sequencing. [7]

6) Get A Better Night’s Sleep: Recent research has found that poor sleep quality is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, because of an increase in amount of proteins in brain tissue that is associated with said disease. According to the study, interrupting deep sleep can cause plaques to form in the brain, which can lead to cognitive impairment. On the other hand, good sleep quality (not just a long period of sleep) which involves entering the REM or rapid eye movement stage is associated with less protein release and therefore risk reduction in plaque formation in the brain, hence better brain health. [8]

Adjusting your diet to prevent dementia means including the following nutrients:

7) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: They aren’t just good for your heart! A review of various studies published over the years concluded that adequate intake of omega-3 rich food can reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, and can even improve the symptoms present in adults affected by mild cases of Alzheimer’s disease. You can easily find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds. [9]

8) Flavonoids: Flavonoids are antioxidants that can be found in different berries like blueberries, and even red wine. A few studies have suggested that flavonoids play a role in cognitive health and that their intake can prevent or reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This kind of antioxidant counteracts that damage done by proteins in the brain that cause plaque creation through its significant anti-inflammatory properties. [10]

9) Folate: Folate (B9) is a typical supplement taken by pregnant women to improve their baby’s brain health. However, folate can also improve brain health in adults and prevent neurodegenerative atrophy of brain tissue. You can find folate in beets, lentils, spinach, and chickpeas. While the effects of this particular supplement on brain health is still being researched, it can be a stepping point for more research to be conducted, especially if folate is already seen as beneficial to humans growing in the womb.

References:

[1] World Health Organization (2018). Towards a dementia plan: a WHO guide. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272642/9789241514132-eng.pdf?ua=1

[2] Alzheimer’s Association. What Is Dementia? https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

[3] Mayo Clinic. Vascular dementia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793

[4] Noguchi-Shinohara, M., et. al. (2014). Consumption of green tea, but not black tea or coffee, is associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24828424

[5] Walk, A., et. al. (2017). The Role of Retinal Carotenoids and Age on Neuroelectric Indices of Attentional Control among Early to Middle-Aged Adults. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170725122004.htm

[6] Topiwala, A., et. al. (2017). Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. https://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2353

[7] Wring, H., Jenks, R., & Demeyere, N. (2017). Frequent Sexual Activity Predicts Specific Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults. https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/advance-article/doi/10.1093/geronb/gbx065/3869292

[8] Ju, Yo-El (2017). Slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-B levels. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170710/sleep-disturbances-linked-to-alzheimers-risk

[9] Canhada, S., et. al. (2018). Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28466678

[10] Baptista, F., et. al. (2014). Flavonoids as Therapeutic Compounds Targeting Key Proteins Involved in Alzheimer’s Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930994/

Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain

Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain
Scientists Show How Gratitude Alters The Human Heart & Structure Of The Brain. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © Shutterstock 223186420 (under license)

Do you often say “thank you,” appreciate people in your life and count your blessings? Well, it turns out the implications are more than just politeness: A study from the University of California recently showed that gratitude has a significant positive impact on mental health.

Scientific Study Into Health Effects Of Gratitude

The study recruited almost 300 adults who had mental health issues such as depression. Participants were randomly divided up into three groups. All the groups undertook counseling services, but the first one had additional instructions to write a gratitude letter to another person every week for a period of three weeks. [2]

The second group was instructed to pen down their intimate feelings and thoughts about negative experiences while the third group had no writing activity. The study found that participants who wrote gratitude letters disclosed better mental health up to 3 months after, compared to those who only received counseling or wrote about negative experiences.

Gratitude writing can be of help for both healthy people as well as those who are struggling with mental health issues. This is because practicing gratitude is a reminder of the truly significant things in life. Often people get held back by the daily stresses they face, and this causes them to take important things for granted. Gratitude practice, however, influences individuals to focus on essential things and in so doing enhances happiness and wellbeing which nourishes the mind, spirit, and body. A happy person can live a longer healthier life and research has confirmed that happy older adults live up to 30 % longer [2] than the unhappy ones.

Benefits Of Gratitude Practice

• Individuals who practice and experience gratitude from others enjoy a greater sense of well-being. gratitude focuses on positive elements of life, and this means that it can counter anxiety and depressive thoughts. This is because anxiety and depression thrive on negativity or unnecessary worrying over occurrences which have adverse effects on mental health. While it might be challenging for people to train their thoughts to be positive, it is worth it.

• Acknowledging positive things has been found to be good for one’s heart. Research carried out on heart failure patients indicated healthier heart rhythms in participants who made conscious efforts in keeping gratitude journals. [3] The participants also reported having better sleep and improved overall wellbeing. This indicates a strong connection to healthy heart conditions.

• Gratitude practice also helps people learn how to cope with stress effectively. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are highly likely to cope with stress in a helpful way. They seek help from others, identify positivity in negative happenings and engage in effective planning. [4] Those who are not appreciative are more inclined to blame themselves, disengage from it, or fall in denial.

• Gratitude helps people to have better sleep, which affects how they act and behave during the day. Focusing on good things allows individuals to have a peaceful and long sleep. People who have high rates of gratitude fall asleep much faster and have a greater duration and quality of sleep. They also show more alertness during the day. [5] Gratitude is a skill that people can cultivate in themselves to fetch its healing benefits.

References:

[1] Mills, Paul J., et al. The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spirituality in clinical practice 2.1 (2015): 5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26203459/

[2] Steptoe, Andrew, and Jane Wardle. Positive affect measured using ecological momentary assessment and survival in older men and women. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108.45 (2011): 18244-18248. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215003/

[3] Wong, Y. Joel, et al. Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Psychotherapy Research 28.2 (2018): 192-202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27139595/

[4] Wood, Alex M., Stephen Joseph, and P. Alex Linley. Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 26.9 (2007): 1076-1093. https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/12157?mode=full

[5] Wood, Alex M., et al. Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of psychosomatic research 66.1 (2009): 43-48. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19073292/

Feeling Depressed? An AVOCADO May Be Just What You Need

Feeling Depressed? An AVOCADO May Be Just What You Need
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com

Food plays a big part in mental health, studies have shown that omega-3, vitamin-B, vitamin-D, amino acids, and different minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and iron play a key role in good mental health. [1]

Avocado is a great food source for vitamins and minerals, as it contains almost 20 minerals and vitamins like B6, C, E, K, and folate. [2] Avocados also contain tryptophan and the highly valuable omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps regulate the neurotransmitters and avoid inflammation in the brain, whereas tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin which is our ‘feel-good’ hormone. Serotonin stabilizes the mood, feeling of happiness, and well-being.

Avocados are rich in other fatty acids that help in maintaining a healthy nervous system and cognitive processes [3]. Fatty acid also helps in balancing the level of the hormone in the body resulting in a healthy and depression-free brain.

Avocados are also rich in folic acid that is part of the vitamin B family. Folic acid prevents excessive accumulation of homocysteine in the body which is naturally produced in the body. Homocysteine affects the production of serotonin and dopamine which regulate the mood.

Now you can see the scientific reasoning behind the suggestion that avocados may be natural mood boosters.

There’s more: Avocados have a high amount of choline that boosts levels of serotonin in the body. They also contain vitamin E that gives the skin freshness and shine. By adding avocados to your daily diet, you may be able to improve the quality of your sleep and have a better mood when you wake up.

Learn more about the amazing health benefits of Avocados and how to use them:
https://herbshealthhappiness.com/amazing-health-benefits-of-avocado/

References:

[1] Sarris, J., et al., Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2015. 2(3): p. 271-274.

[2] Majid, D., et al., Avocado, in Antioxidants in Fruits: Properties and Health Benefits. 2020, Springer. p. 103-123.

[3] Ameer, K., Avocado as a major dietary source of antioxidants and its preventive role in neurodegenerative diseases, in The benefits of natural products for neurodegenerative diseases. 2016, Springer. p. 337-354.