Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

News

Brain Games: Can they fix my memory?

9.27.14

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!

 

Stress Reduction Tip #2: Breathing

10.25.13

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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How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain: Not Saying We Told You So

4.20.12

 

More news about how exercise is so great for your brain!

 

Check out this week’s New York Times Magazine for a great piece on how exercise can actually make you smarter! Yes, even for those of us with Menopaused Minds!


More Menopause Mind Proof: Study Finds Cognitive Fog During Menopause Is Real, But Complicated

3.17.12

A recent study published in the journal Menopause, reports that women do experience some cognitive difficulties during menopause. Specifically, the troubles lies within the domains of attention and working memory, when you’re holding bits of information in your head to use immediately.  Hooray for validation!

 

The study actually shows that women in menopause who have the cognitive complaints also have trouble sleeping and/or report symptoms of depression.  Menopause has been known to set sleep and mood off kilter, which may be how menopause leads to mind fogginess.  But lots of questions remain to be answered by more research, including factors associated with disrupted cognitive functioning, sleep, and mood.

 

At the very least, when you’re telling family or friends that you’re mind has become mush, you have proof to back it up!

Vitamin D & Menopause: Put a Lil’ Sunshine in Your Life

2.6.12

 

Here comes the sun…doo dooo, doo doo. Okay, depending on where you live, this may not be happening anytime soon.

 

If the sunlight is scarce or it’s too cold to go outside in your neck of the woods, you might not be getting enough vitamin D.  Unfortunately, rates of vitamin D deficiency are particularly high amongst post-menopausal women. What’s the big deal, right? Well, not only does vitamin D play a critical role in the absorption of calcium, low levels of it  have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and breast cancer, as well as lower cognitive functioning and slower information processing speed. Yikes! We’d say that’s a pretty big deal.

 

Lengthy sunbathing is frowned upon for a variety of reasons (for example, skin cancer and, eh hem, wrinkles) and anyway, who really wants to get into a bikini?  But the problem is that our major source of vitamin D is from sunlight on exposed skin – skin without sunscreen.   It’s recommended that we be out in the sun for at least 15 minutes, three to four times a week.  If you can’t get this much sunlight, vitamin D is also available in some fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna.

 

 

As mentioned in Science Daily (1/10/12) low vitamin D levels are so prevalent in Europe (50 to 70% of the population) that the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) has recommended that post-menopausal women take supplements.  They’re so concerned about this vitamin D deficiency epidemic that they’re calling upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the issue.

 

Here, closer to home, the North American Menopause Society recommends a daily intake of 800-1,000 IU either through 15 minutes of sun exposure daily (again, without a sunscreen), diet, or supplementation. So if the sun is shining – get out there and enjoy it. It’s good for you…and your mind!


What do the Super Bowl and Menopause have in common? Madonna!

2.5.12

 

We’re not your typical Super Bowl fans. But this Sunday, there’s something you may want to witness…Madonna, at age 53, will be performing during the halftime show!  We hear pom poms will be involved so this may be your chance for 12 minutes of aerobic exercise.

 

Aerobic exercise is just about the best thing you can do to maintain that memory muscle… it’s no wonder Madonna still remembers all of those lyrics and choreography.


If this isn’t proof that life’s not over when you hit menopause, we don’t know what is!