Maura Tierney 02.03.1965

Feeling Jealous, Stressed or Moody? Get over it! Or You Might be at Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent study from Sweden published in the scientific journal, Neurology, provides evidence of a link between certain personality traits and risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists followed 800 middle-aged women for about 40 years and measured their self-reported personality traits and stress levels. They found that a perfect storm of anxiety, jealous tendencies, moodiness and prolonged stress appears to be associated with doubling the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

What’s the connection? Remember how anxiety and stress affect our thinking? The researchers in this study suggest that our personality, thoughts and behaviors dictate our lifestyle choices and how we manage stress. Anxiety and stress affect the hippocampus, that important little structure in our brains that’s responsible for memory, and also happens to be an early target of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

How do you change your personality or  stress level?   You can work with a psychologist to help you better understand your personality, how it affects your health, and to develop stronger coping strategies. You can also check out these stress management tips!

Anxiety

Stress Reduction

Stress Reduction Tip #1

 

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease:

USC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Video: What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

 

Brain Games: Can they fix my memory?

I hear it almost every day: my patients LOVE Sudoku and Luminosity. They just beam with pride while sharing how much they’ve improved their brain game, well, game. They see the increases as proof that they are “training” their brains, “using it rather than losing it,” and “getting smarter” but I’m not so sure.

 

They’re getting better at the games but are they truly improving their day-to-day attention and memory skills?

 

According to a recent article in the New York Times – the research is unclear, “while players do get better, the increase in skill hasn’t been shown to transfer to other tasks…it doesn’t make you better at math or help you remember names or where you left your car keys.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is encouraging research in the area so we should have some answers soon.

 

Meanwhile , the good news is that we DO know that aerobic exercise is good for the brain – it actually creates new brain cells!

 

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Juegos del cerebro: ¿Pueden arreglar mi memoria?


La oigo casi todos los días: mis pacientes encanta jugar Sudoku y Luminosity. Me dicen con tanto orgullo lo mucho que han mejorado sus puntajes. Ellos ven estos aumentos como prueba de que están “entrenando” sus cerebros y “volviéndose más inteligentes”, pero no estoy tan seguro.

 

Están mejorando en los juegos, pero son realmente mejorando sus habilidades de atención y de memoria?

 

Según un artículo reciente en el New York Times – los resultados de las investigaciones no son claras “, mientras que los jugadores mejoran, el aumento de la habilidad no se ha demostrado que transferir al otras tareas … que no te hace mejor en matemáticas o ayuda a recordar los nombres o dónde dejó las llaves del auto “. Los Institutos Nacionales de Salud (NIH) está alentando investigaciones en el área, así que deberíamos tener algunas respuestas pronto.

 

Mientras tanto, la buena noticia es que estamos seguros de que el ejercicio aeróbico es bueno para el cerebro – que en realidad crea nuevas células cerebrales!

 

Green Movement: Take Your Mushy Mind Outside

shutterstock_girl-in-nature When I’m faced with a mental roadblock or just feeling a bit fuzzy upstairs, I take a walk.  Afterwards, I usually feel more relaxed and clear headed. Little did I know that my cognitive functioning was also improving! A recent study in Psychological Science reported that cognitive functioning improves after people interact with nature.  They had their participants do a complex mental task involving memorizing a list of things and mentally changing the order of the items around. Then half of the participants went on a walk through a park while the other half walked through an urban setting (downtown Ann Arbor). When they came back, they repeated the tests. Lo and behold, scores of those who walked through the park significantly improved while those of the city walkers didn’t. Oh, it gets better. Those of you without easy access to nature need not despair, because it turns out that they got the same effect using pictures of nature versus pictures of urban settings!

 

As you may have already noticed, menopause doesn’t just wreak havoc on your body, but your mind, too. So the next time you find yourself in a mental fog, take a hike!

 

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Movimiento Verde: Lleve su Mente Afuera


Cuando me enfrento a una barricada mental o me siento un poco borrosa en la cabeza, salgo a caminar. Después, usualmente me siento más relajado y lúcido. Yo no sabía que mi funcionamiento cognitivo también está mejorando! Un reciente estudio en Psychological Science reportó que el funcionamiento cognitivo mejora después de contacto con la naturaleza. Los participantes hicieron una tarea mental complejo que incluye la memorización de una lista de palabras y cambiando mentalmente el orden de las palabras. Luego la mitad de los participantes fueron en un paseo por un parque, mientras que la otra mitad de paricipantes caminaban por un ambiente urbano (centro de Ann Arbor). Cuando regresaron, todos repetieron las pruebas. Sorprendentemente, los resultados de los participantes que caminaron por el parque mejoraron significativamente mientras que las resultados de los otros que caminaron en la ciudad no mejoraron. Si usted no tiene fácil acceso a la naturaleza, no se preocupe. Los investigadores consiguieron el mismo efecto usando imágenes de naturaleza contra las imágenes de los entornos urbanos!


Como usted pudo haber notado, la menopausia no sólo provoca cambios problemáticas con su cuerpo, sino también con su mente. Así que la próxima vez que te encuentres en una niebla mental, vaya a caminar al aire libre!

Stress Reduction Tip #2: Breathing

Who knew that something so simple could reduce stress?!

 

Yes, we are talking about breathing. Let’s face it, many of us Menopaused Minds are so frazzled because we’re often carrying a lot of stress around with us. Not only is stress unpleasant, but it can really take a toll on our bodies and minds. In fact, recent research has found that high levels of stress in middle age can increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease. From the ordinary daily stressors (managing your hectic schedule, refereeing kid’s fights, work demands, etc.) to life’s whoppers (aging parents, divorce, unemployment, etc.), being stressed has become the new normal for so many of us. The great news is that we are doing something every day, every minute, without even thinking, that can help moderate your body’s response to life’s challenges.

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Breathing has been scientifically proven to be an effective stress reducer. But not just any breathing, we’re talking about deep breathing. Why is that? Our bodies’ stress responses are hardwired physiological reactions that served to protect us back in the early days of humans. Stress is what told us that we were in danger–usually in danger of not having enough food or the danger in becoming something else’s food. The body has two opposing systems that regulate our basic bodily functions (like breathing, organ function, etc.): sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When we’re in danger, the sympathetic nervous systems kicks in and we go into fight/flight/freeze mode to survive. Our hearts race, certain “non-essential” organ systems shut down  and blood rushes to our muscles in preparation to run away. Once the danger is no longer a threat, our parasympathetic system starts up and basically calms the body down, slows our heart rate, cues the shutdown systems to go back online, etc.

 

The fight/flight/freeze mode was okay when it was short lived – when we needed it because we were being chased by a lion. The problem is that now our stress tends to be more chronic. So, we end up being stuck with our sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. Our body gets tired and glitchy. We get sick more, our energy drops, we’re more irritable, and we even have a harder time losing weight, either from eating more to cope with stress or due to the body holding onto fat b/c of the perceived threat to survival!

 

So, how is breathing going to help? When we engage in deep, slow breathing, we actually cue our parasympathetic system that we’re not in life threatening danger and we can chill out.  Your breathing is strongly tied to our heart rate. Ever notice how when you get worked up about something, either fear or anger, your heart rate picks up, and your breathing becomes faster. So, deep breathing helps slow down the heart, muscle tension eases, pain can even decrease, blood pressure goes down, and mental alertness increases, and even the pH of our blood changes. The amazing thing about all of this is that you can get results even with doing as little as 3 or 5 minutes of deep breathing!

 

Want to try it?

Here’s a very basic example of a 3 minute breathing practice :

(adapted from Breathing, Stretching, Relaxing Program, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System–yes, veterans are doing this and they love it!)

 

Sit upright and gently maintain a natural spine alignment with your hands resting comfortably on your lap.

 

Either close your eyes or gaze at something on the wall or floor.

 

Breathe normally and just notice your breath. Notice how the air feels sweeping into and out of your nose. Notice how your body moves with each breath. Notice the pace of your breath, the length of each inhale and exhale. Your mind might wander. If it does, just bring your attention back to your breath.

 

Start to breath more deeply, from deep down in your abdomen. Count your inhale and exhale length and try to get them to match. Once they’re in sync, try breathing this way three times.

 

The key to stimulating that parasympathic response is to spend some time breathing out longer than you breath in. For example, you can practice by counting your breath rate, say 1, 2, 3, 4 in, and 1, 2, 3, 4 out, a few times. Then do 1, 2, 3, 4, in, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 out, a few times. You can work your way up to a count of 8 out and then back down to 4.

 

Here are more resources on breathing exercises and guided practices:

UCLA Mindfulness Research Center
Dr. Weil Guided Breathing Exercises
6 Breathing Exercises to Relax  in 10 min or Less (TIME)

 

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Share em’ if you’ve got’em!: Seeking MenoPaused Moments

Please share those Menopaused Moments with us!

 

You’ll be helping to make this world feel a little less crazy for your fellow Menopause Minds…

A Natural Remedy for Hot Flashes?? If you live in the LA area you might want to be part of this study.