5 Ways to Maintain Healthy Cognitive Ability as You Age

You want to stay sharp as you get older, we get it. Everyone hopes to age gracefully and enjoy their golden years full of new experiences and good memories. But as you know, this doesn’t always happen. Some people, as they grow in years, lose mental clarity and ability. Often this happens so gradually that it’s like watching hair grow—a loss of cognitive ability isn’t even noticed until it’s too late to do much about it.

But don’t worry, there is plenty of good news. 

There are scientific, practical ways to help you maintain optimal brain health as you get older. As a health and industry leader in cognitive and physical performance, Aviv Clinics provides valuable, research-backed information to help you control your cognitive ability long into your twilight years.

5 Categories of Cognitive Skills You Want to Maintain 

When we talk about cognitive ability, what we’re referring to is a set of seven skills that work together to help you in your daily life:

  1. Short-term memory
  2. Long-term memory
  3. Attention—sustained, selective, and divided 
  4. Processing speed, including visual and auditory
  5. Logic and reasoning

Our brains can do brilliant and beautiful things! We simply need to nurture their natural abilities, so we can slow (or prevent) mental decline.

How to Improve Cognition – Follow Your Doctor’s Orders  

Knowing how to improve cognitive skills is the first step toward achieving your goal of staying sharp and full of life for many years to come.

First, are you at risk of cognitive decline as you age?

  • Do you have depression?
  • Are you lacking sufficient mental activity?
  • Are you avoiding physical exercise?
  • Would your doctor consider you obese?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Have you been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes?
  • Are you a smoker?

To significantly lower your risk of cognitive decline, follow your doctor’s orders and incorporate these five must-have lifestyle adjustments to enhance your cognitive ability

 

1. Sink Your Teeth into a Delicious Mediterranean Diet

Good nutrition goes a long way in maintaining a healthy brain and body. Studies show an association between high adherence to a Mediterranean diet and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

A Mediterranean diet entails:

Eating plenty of: 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fish and seafood
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Unsaturated oils (extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil)

Eating in moderation:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

Eating rarely:

  • Red meat
  • Refined grains
  • Added sugar
  • Highly processed foods

Read MIND Your Diet for Better Brain Health for some very interesting and informative guidance from an AVIV dietician, Kathryn Parker, RD, LD/N. 

 

2. Increase Brain Metabolism through the Heart, Muscles, and Mind

Research links moderate exercise to increased brain metabolism and improved overall cognition. Exercise need not be too strenuous, but getting the heart rate up, building muscle, and pumping oxygen through your lungs and blood is very beneficial to your mental health. Physical activity can also improve heart conditions (one of the sources of cognitive decline). 

 Great examples of moderate physical activity include: 

  • Jogging or brisk walking, especially up an incline or in the sand 
  • Stretching morning and night
  • Gardening and other household tasks
  • Cycling either on a stationary bike or along a path
  • Tai chi and yoga
  • Playing outside with your children or grandchildren

If you’re an athlete who wants to up your game, Aviv will help you achieve your physical goals. Watch the stories of success.

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3. Don’t Let Stress Induce Deleterious Effects

If not managed, chronic stress often impairs memory retrieval and information acquisition, even inducing deleterious effects on brain structure and cognition. To help you bounce back from a stressful situation, consider: 

  • Engaging in physical activity 
  • Writing your thoughts in a journal 
  • Getting more sleep—it’s in the downtime that the brain flushes toxins out and cleans itself, allowing the repair you need from spikes of stress
  • Doing relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises

Learn about the stress response, how it affects the brain, and why it can be a good thing when managed properly.

 

4. Actively Build Neural Pathways 

Identify hobbies or activities that keep your mind engaged. For example, one study discovered older adults who took up new body-connected activities that worked the brain in new ways experienced more memory improvement than those who did not. 

Here are a few ideas when wondering how to improve your cognitive skills:

  • Learn a new language and travel to where you can use it.
  • Begin quilting or other detail-oriented crafts.
  • Study photography, take pictures, edit them, and share. 
  • Try reflective therapy, like journaling, to revisit past negative memories and rewrite them more positively (“what I’ve learned” or “how it made me grow”).
  • Invest (especially mentally and physically) into your child’s or grandchild’s hobby. Do they play lacrosse? Learn the rules of play and volunteer for the team. Do they have a knack for mathematics? Be their study buddy.

Here’s how to improve cognitive ability by having fun and building brain power with novelty and challenge. 

 

5. Stay in Touch with Your Trusted Physician

It’s essential to discuss cognitive decline with a trusted physician. The more you understand how your health can affect your brain function, the more you can do to safeguard your cognitive vitality. Discuss your options and advocate for yourself to get next-level care that will keep you healthier for the long term. 

Find your Aviv clinic.

 

Fight Cognitive Decline with Aviv

Maintaining your overall health is beneficial for the longevity of your life. Fight cognitive decline with the Aviv Medical Program. Every person’s body and health are unique, and your medical treatment program should reflect that. 

Aviv is the leader in brain performance—our program will keep your brain at its best. Our diverse team of medical professionals will provide the customized attention you need to maintain optimal cognitive health and reverse cognitive decline. 

Contact us to learn how we can help. 

Nuts and Seeds Offer a Wealth of Health Benefits

If you’re looking for a snack that’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals, may help in weight management, and offers heart- and brain-health benefits, consider adding a handful of mixed nuts to your daily diet.

Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious, low in carbs, and jam-packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and an array of phytochemicals. Research suggests eating nuts and seeds can lower the risk of certain conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke.

Although nuts and seeds pack a wallop of nutrients and complement a well-balanced diet, they’re best eaten in moderation because of their high-fat and caloric content. But even though they’re high in fat, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are preferred heart-healthy substances. However, eating them in excess, as with eating anything in excess, can be counterproductive when you’re seeking to eat more healthful snacks void of fat and calories.

What makes nuts and seeds so beneficial?

Nuts and seeds are considered superfoods, meaning a little bit can go a long way in providing a wealth of health benefits. These superfoods:

  • Won’t affect your lipid panel. If anything, they could even lower bad cholesterol levels. Consuming them in moderation won’t increase your triglycerides or cholesterol. Research shows consumption does not affect your lipid panel nor does it affect weight or blood pressure.
  • Contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, but many nuts are also rich in this nutrient. Did you know the brain is made up of 50 to 60 percent omega-3 fats? These nutrients are key to the structure of every cell wall in the body; they’re an excellent source of energy; and they help keep the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, and immune system functioning properly. When there is an imbalance, the risk for neurodevelopment disorders increases.
  • Are packed with fiber. Fiber is necessary to regulate the immune system, fight inflammation, and help keep the bowel system regular and working. Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, which is important for gut health. How much is needed? If you’re over the age of 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. A handful of nuts provides nearly four grams of fiber.
  • Contain Vitamin E and L-arginine. Nuts and seeds are a great source for Vitamin E, which deters the development of plaque in your arteries. A buildup of plaque in the artery walls can lead to heart disease, angina, and cardiac arrest. L-arginine is a substance that can improve blood flow by making the artery walls more flexible and less prone to blockages.
  • Are an excellent source of protein. Some nuts and seeds are higher in protein than others, which makes eating a variety a good idea. Protein helps your body repair cells and generate new ones. Protein should be about 15 to 25 percent of your daily calories. For older adults, that translates to 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.
  • Contain sizeable amounts of folate. This B-vitamin is necessary for normal cellular function.
  • Are antioxidant powerhouses. They contain antioxidant vitamins and phenolic compounds, which aid in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress creates an imbalance in the body, which allows an excess of free radicals in the body’s cells. Free radicals can damage cells and lead to illness and unhealthy aging. Nuts and seeds have been shown in studies to suppress oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals.
  • Contain phytosterols. This substance may help lower cholesterol.
    Sterols occur naturally in nuts and seeds.

 

brain health

How often should nuts and seeds be eaten and why?

The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. Raw or dry-roasted options are preferred over those cooked in oil. A serving is about a small handful of nuts and about a tablespoon of seeds.

Most nuts contain a host of beneficial nutrients. For good heart health, choose walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Select walnuts and almonds for their antioxidant properties. To promote weight loss, opt for almonds. Pistachios may help reduce triglycerides plus fight inflammation. Brazil nuts are beneficial in fighting inflammation as well. So, when you eat an assortment, you cover all your bases.

How to incorporate them into your diet

  • Add pumpkin seeds to salads, oatmeal, rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa for added flavor, fiber, and texture.
  • Add nuts and seeds—like pine nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds—to smoothies. These choices are great for their protein, fiber, and omega-3 nutrients.
  • Prepare your own trail mix with a blend of nuts and seeds and add the mix to yogurt or enjoy a handful as a snack.

The bottom line

A well-balanced diet that includes eating nuts and seeds can deliver a host of heart- and brain-health benefits. The key to enjoying this nutritious, high-fiber superfood is in moderation. The Aviv Medical Program provides dietary coaching and consultations to ensure your diet aligns with your cognitive and physical goals.

Contact the clinic to learn more.

Choosing the Right Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Program for You

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has become available for more health conditions to help extend healthspan, improve physical performance, and manage cognitive decline. As more facilities providing HBOT open, different types of HBOT technology and treatment protocols have appeared. It has become increasingly important to understand the differences and identify the option best able to meet your health goals and needs.

What are the types of hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers?

There are two types of hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers: multiplace and monoplace chambers.

Multiplace chambers are large, modern, comfortable rooms that feature cushioned seating. They are designed much like a first class airplane seat, with personal entertainment tablets. Aviv Clinics clients receive their HBOT treatments in spacious multiplace chambers that allow them to sit comfortably and engage in brain training during the course of the session.

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Aviv Clinics – Multiplace chamber HBOT suite

Monoplace chambers are rigid glass or plastic tubes that are meant for one person. Patients must use them lying down. Most clinics use monoplace chambers. People who are claustrophobic in small spaces might find them confining. People sometimes associate them with hospital burn units, wound care facilities, or MRI machines. They are sometimes even referred to as “Michael Jackson” tubes because the singer reportedly used this method from time to time.

What treatment program is used for HBOT?

HBOT treatment programs can range widely, so it is important to understand which protocol best fits your health goals. Some facilities offer single, spa-like experiences, while others provide basic HBOT for a few sessions to address specific issues. On the other end of the spectrum are comprehensive, research-backed programs, such as the Aviv Medical Program, that address issues such as mild cognitive decline, stroke, Lyme disease, PTSD and fibromyalgia.

Basic hyperbaric oxygen therapy for specific issues, such as gangrene, non-healing wounds,  infections, and “the bends” experienced by some divers, has been used for decades. For these conditions, the number of HBOT treatments can be as few as one or two sessions.

A comprehensive HBOT treatment protocol, like the Aviv Medical Program, addresses issues that affect your healthspan and physical and mental performance. It differs not only because of the length—every client does at least 60, two-hour HBOT “dives” throughout the 12-week program—but also because it encompasses more than just hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Clients receive individualized exercise and nutrition coaching, as well as regular check-ins with a multidisciplinary team of physicians, physiologists, nutritionists, neuropsychologists, and other health professionals.

Be aware of clinics that offer unclear treatment protocols. Some of these facilities promote their services as more of a spa-like experience, with no standardized treatment plans or science-backed evidence to support their claims.

Is the HBOT program backed by research?

Review whether the facility you are considering has developed its treatment protocols based on scientific, peer-reviewed research. Every treatment you choose has the ability to affect your body positively or negatively, so doing your research and choosing a reputable clinic is paramount.

The pressure and length of treatments, as well as the oxygen dosage used in Aviv’s HBOT treatments, are the result of over a decade of peer-reviewed scientific research. This comprehensive protocol has been shown to maximize the body’s own regenerative power. It is a unique, proprietary system of modulated oxygen exposure that is only offered by Aviv Clinics.

What type of expert/clinician support is available?

An important consideration when choosing your hyperbaric oxygen therapy clinic is the type of expert support available to provide treatment and guidance. The best treatment protocols include a multidisciplinary team.

At Aviv Clinics, clients have access to an expert clinician team that includes physicians, physiologists, psychologists, and nutritionists throughout the 12-week program. The team continues to stay in contact with clients even after the treatment course to ensure they continue their progress. Subsequent six-month follow-up assessments are also part of the program and help clients continue to track their progress.

What assessments are performed?

aviv-clinics-medical-assessment

Tracking progress from the start of the treatment course is needed to confirm whether your health goals were reached. Some clinics include scanning and diagnostic assessments as part of their offerings.

Aviv Clinics offers the industry’s most comprehensive battery of cognitive and physical tests to set a baseline for each client at the start. The Aviv Medical Program assessments include:

  • In-depth medical intakes performed by our expert clinical team, including physicians, neuropsychologists, physiologists, physical therapists, and nutritionists
  • Full battery of computerized cognitive testing that includes evaluation of your memory, focus, information processing speed, attention, and executive function
  • Extensive blood tests
  • Advanced MRI brain imaging protocols (anatomical, perfusion, microstructure)
  • CPET – a heart and lung performance test to measure how the body produces energy with and without oxygen
  • Body composition analysis, including gait, balance, and overall motor functions
  • Full genetic sequencing
  • Cellular performance tests including a stem cell count and assessment of aging biomarkers such as telomeres, which help to calculate your true biological age

The assessments are repeated at the end of the program. This allows our team to provide clients with a full report, summarizing progress throughout the program, and providing the data and analysis necessary to move forward with health and wellness goals.

Will there be medical support during the HBOT session?

Having professional oversight and support during your HBOT treatment is a critical consideration. At facilities that use small, monoplace tubes, clients are typically monitored through cameras.

At Aviv Clinics, a nurse is present inside the HBOT suite to support clients and ensure appropriate treatment during all hyperbaric dives. A trained technician also monitors the session from outside of the chamber. A physician is on site at all times during treatments as safety is Aviv’s top priority.

Is a comprehensive progress report provided?

Many condition-specific or other facilities work on a session-to-session basis. Even if a long-term recovery plan is the purpose, they may only track progress per HBOT treatment.

Aviv Clinics takes a holistic approach by providing all-encompassing and in-depth reports. After clients complete the Aviv Medical Program, the clinician team provides a detailed before-and-after cognitive and physiological analysis, showing their markers of improvement. Clients review their progress, one-on-one with the physician, who explains and interprets the data, and provides next steps.

The Bottom Line

An HBOT treatment protocol that is backed by research, supported by a multidisciplinary and caring clinician team, and a full range of assessments to show progress are all important considerations for choosing the right HBOT clinic to meet your health goals.

The Aviv Medical Program is rooted in extensive scientific research and trials conducted on HBOT treatment for a variety of conditions, including reversing the signs of biological aging, mild cognitive decline (MCI), post-stroke recovery, Traumatic brain injury (TBI), Lyme disease, and Fibromyalgia.

Contact Aviv Clinics to learn more about the Aviv Medical Program and how it can benefit you.

New Study Shows HBOT Can Reverse the Main Activators of Alzheimer’s Disease and Help Prevent Memory Loss

A groundbreaking new study has brought scientists one step closer to preventing and curing age-related cognitive decline, especially related to early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.   

This landmark study, published in Aging on September 9th, is part of an ongoing program researching age-related cognitive decline. Conducted by the Sagol School of Neuroscience in Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv University, the study marks the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)—a non-pharmaceutical method—has proven effective in reversing the main activators and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

HBOT is a form of oxygen therapy that involves administering 100% pure oxygen to a patient in a pressurized environment. HBOT has been used for decades to treat other conditions, such as non-healing ischemic wounds, but for the first time, it also has shown promise as a potential treatment for reverse the main activators and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and treat brain and cognitive problems.

A treatment based on this unique protocol is now available at Aviv Clinics Dubai.

Aging and reduced blood flow

The brain is an incredibly complex organism home to a vast network of nerve cells (neurons) that depend on oxygen to thrive. As we age, the number of blood vessels in our brain naturally begins to decline. This causes reduced blood flow to the brain, which in turn causes the brain to receive less oxygen. This decreased blood flow is also known as vascular dysfunction, and it’s a known precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, along with amyloid plaques.

What is an amyloid plaque?

Amyloid plaques are hard, insoluble clusters of proteins formed in the spaces between neurons. They’re formed from beta amyloids—microscopic protein fragments produced by certain cells in the body. In the brain, beta amyloids are found in the fluid between neurons, and a healthy brain usually flushes them out without consequence. However, just like plaque can accumulate on your teeth if you don’t clean them regularly, the same thing can happen in your brain.

As the brain ages, it’s more susceptible to forming amyloid plaques in its blood vessel walls. Once an amyloid plaque forms it can damage the neurons in the brain, ultimately resulting in neuronal death. These plaques are thought to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the cognitive decline associated with it.

For years, scientists have wondered whether or not it’s even possible to dissolve or shrink amyloid plaques. The groundbreaking new study proves for the first time that a unique protocol of HBOT can both reverse amyloid plaques and prevent them from forming in the first place.

How HBOT can reverse amyloid plaques

Study researchers initially used HBOT with mice to understand the effect it has on amyloid plaques. In this first part of the study, researchers delivered HBOT to a group of mice whose brains contained amyloid plaques. The mice received two 60 minute HBOT sessions a day, five days a week for four weeks. The researchers discovered that HBOT significantly reduced the amyloid burden in the mice’s brains, decreasing amyloid plaques by over 30% and shrinking plaques by nearly 19%.

Alzheimer's treatment study - Reduced amyloid plaques resulting from hyperbaric oxygen therapy

HBOT was also shown to prevent the formation of new amyloid plaques, and the mice exhibited improved performance on cognitive tasks when compared to the control group, giving us evidence that HBOT improved their cognitive functions.

The mice-based study gave promising new evidence that HBOT can be used as both a treatment and a preventative measure for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers then sought to use the same protocol with human subjects.

The human test group consisted of six patients around age 70, all suffering from mild cognitive impairment. After receiving 60 daily HBOT sessions over a three-month period, the patients saw significant improvements to their cognitive functions, including better memory recall, concentration, and response times.

The researchers theorize that this is due to HBOT’s ability to increase blood flow in the brain. When the brain receives more blood, it receives more oxygen. And when the brain receives more oxygen, it can function at its full capacity.

What this means going forward

The study gives us hope that HBOT can be used as a viable drug-free and non-invasive method to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease, bringing us one step closer to preventing and even repairing memory loss and mild cognitive impairment.

“By treating vascular dysfunction, we’re mapping out the path toward Alzheimer’s prevention. More research is underway to further demonstrate how HBOT can improve cognitive function and become an influential tool in the imperative fight against the disease,” affirms Dr. Shai Efrati, one of the investigators conducting the study.

Dr. Efrati is also a medical advisor to Aviv Clinics in The Villages, Florida, which is the only location in the United States to offer the specific HBOT protocol used in this remarkable study. The Aviv Medical Program uses comprehensive testing and assessments before, during, and after the treatment protocol to track progress and provide multidisciplinary clinical team support.

For more information about the Aviv Medical Program, HBOT treatment, and how it may help your brain health, please contact us.

To read the study published in Journal Aging – click here.

Blood Pressure and Brain Health

We all know how dangerous high blood pressure is. It’s directly linked to problems like heart disease and strokes. But there’s a side effect to having high blood pressure that doesn’t always get talked about in mainstream studies: cognitive decline.

Nearly one in three Americans and nearly two-thirds of adults aged 60 and older suffer from high blood pressure, making it one of the most notorious killers in the United States.

Having high blood pressure can directly affect your cognitive function, causing problems like brain fog and forgetfulness. It can even lead to more serious cognitive issues like vascular dementia. Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to manage your blood pressure, no matter your age. There are also treatment options, such as the research-based hyperbaric oxygen therapy program at Aviv Clinics, that target post-stroke and age-related cognitive decline.

What is high blood pressure?

Every blood vessel in your body requires a certain amount of pressure to stay intact. Without it, they’d collapse on themselves like a vacuum. It’s when your blood pressure wanders outside of the acceptable range that health problems start to happen. Low blood pressure is called “hypotension” and can cause problems like dizziness or fainting.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is common in the United States because of our high cholesterol diets, sedentary lifestyles, and high-stress levels. The higher the blood pressure, the greater your risk for health problems, like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It also increases your risk for cognitive problems later in life.

What’s an acceptable blood pressure?

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, (mm and Hg). The upper number, systolic pressure, measures your heartbeats. The lower number, diastolic pressure, measures the time that your heart relaxes between beats. Normal levels of blood pressure are different for every person and depend on factors like age and weight. According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Stage 1 hypertension occurs at 130/80 mm Hg and Stage 2 hypertension occurs at or above 140/90 mm.

Unlike other health problems, high blood pressure is unique because it doesn’t present symptoms on its own. No one ever goes into the doctor’s office specifically because their blood pressure is too high. The only way most people even discover that their blood pressure is too high is when something more serious happens, like a clot. The only way to know if your blood pressure is at a healthy level is to measure it with a blood pressure machine at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or on a home blood pressure machine.

  • Tip: A home blood pressure device is a worthwhile investment to monitor your health. High blood pressure may be a symptom of another illness. It’s always helpful to know what’s happening in your body when it comes to blood pressure and brain health. Take your measurements at the same time every day for consistency, as your blood pressure will naturally rise and fall during the day.

 

How does high blood pressure affect the brain?

While the exact connection between hypertension and brain function is still a little fuzzy, scientific studies are helping to clear the fog. In this study, around 3,700 Japanese-American men living in Hawaii were randomly tested on their cognitive performance. The men averaged around 78 years in age and their blood pressures had already been logged in detail years prior, as a part of previous studies.

After adjusting for biases like prior education and age, the men who performed the poorest on the test were those who had experienced high blood pressure in middle age, suggesting a direct connection between hypertension and cognitive decline later in life. More recent studies have helped to reaffirm this connection, suggesting that high blood pressure and cognitive decline go hand in hand.

Another way high blood pressure can affect your brain is through vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by blood flow problems in the brain. Patients often experience the same cognitive symptoms as those who suffer from other types of dementia, including confusion and memory loss. Having high blood pressure directly increases your risk of developing vascular dementia because of the strain it puts on your brain’s blood vessels, making it difficult for the brain to get the oxygen it needs to function properly.

Fortunately, vascular dementia can be improved through hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), such as the type available at Aviv Clinics in central Florida. HBOT works by delivering oxygen directly to the brain in a pressurized environment. This allows the damaged blood vessels in your brain to heal, helping you regain your cognitive functions.

What can I do to prevent high blood pressure?

While medication is often the first thing people think of when it comes to treating their blood pressure, healthy lifestyle choices are really the best medicine. And while it’s always better if you can correct these problems sooner in life, you can still make a positive change to improve your hypertension if you’re an older adult.

The absolute best things you can do for your high blood pressure and brain health are to follow these 5 main steps.

  1. Eat a clean diet of whole foods
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep well
  4. Engage your mind
  5. Reduce and manage your stress levels

Managing stress levels is especially important for blood pressure and brain decline because high levels of stress increase cortisol production in the body. Having elevated cortisol levels in your body raises blood pressure. And effects of cortisol on the brain can include brain fog, confusion, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, and even more cognitive problems.

Some things you can try to calm your body are soothing activities like yoga or meditation. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you stay grounded in the present moment, and scientific studies have proven its effectiveness in managing stress levels. Yoga is also an excellent choice because it combines the principles of mindfulness with exercise, a two-for-one benefit!

If neither of these activities is quite your speed, pick another relaxing activity. Just about anything will do: golfing, gardening, reading a book, or even playing a video game with your grandchildren. Having fun is the important part. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, your stress levels will naturally go down, and the pressure in your body will ease.

Conclusion

While it is a dangerous condition, especially later in life, it is possible to manage high blood pressure and brain health by making healthy choices in your life. It’s never too late to start!

5 tips for sound sleep and a healthy brain

It doesn’t matter what age you are, getting a good night’s rest is essential for your physical and mental health. Taking the time to recharge every night is especially vital because sleep and brain health are closely related. However, as we age, sleep doesn’t always come as easily as it used to.

In a 2003 poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that over 48% of older adults experience symptoms of insomnia more than twice a week, and the National Institute on Aging reported that insomnia is one of the most common problems experienced by adults aged 60 and over.

Insomnia and sleep disruptions have been known to worsen health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and increase your risk factors for developing other health problems, including heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and hypertension. Let’s dig into the science behind sleep and what are our five best tips for a good night’s rest!

Why sleep is so important to our bodies

Sleep gives your body some much-needed rest, but it’s also vital for maintaining your cognitive health. When you lie down to sleep at night, your body takes this time to cleanse your brain of toxins and waste. The space between your brain cells actually enlarges during sleep, allowing your body to wash out harmful substances like beta-amyloid proteins, which researchers have linked to the formation of Alzheimer’s disease. It follows, then, getting enough sleep can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

A poor night’s sleep has also been tied to forgetfulness and lapses in memory. Because sleep is the vital period when our brains take time to consolidate our memories, not getting adequate sleep makes you more likely to forget things during the day. A good night’s rest is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal in the fight against mental aging.

Why getting enough rest is more difficult as we age

Production of the “sleep hormone” melatonin naturally decreases with age, making it harder for older adults to fall asleep and stay asleep. The aging process also causes changes to the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can make you get tired earlier than usual. Because of this, older adults are also more likely to experience restless sleep and waking up throughout the night.

Environmental factors can also be to blame, such as stress or a lack of structure in your life. Recent retirees sometimes have a hard time adjusting to changes in their schedule, which can lead to fitful sleep.

How to get a good night’s sleep: build healthier sleep habits

Now that you know why a good night’s sleep is so vital, you’re probably wondering how you can improve the quality of your own rest. If you struggle with tossing and turning or restless nights, don’t worry. The good news is that healthy sleep habits are universal and can be practiced by anyone of any age.

It’s never too late to establish a healthy nighttime routine! Here are our 5 best tips to help you combat insomnia, in no particular order.

Work up a sweat

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Exercise helps to keep you in good shape, but did you know that exercising can also improve your sleep? The Sleep Foundation has demonstrated a clear link between exercise and improved sleep quality in adults. Try using a fitness tracker, which can be useful to show your progress and motivate you.

To rest easier at night, try going for a brisk walk or bike ride outside. Exposing yourself to sunshine and fresh air can improve circadian rhythm, so you can stay active with your favorite outdoor hobbies like gardening and fishing. Just be careful not to exercise too late in the day–getting worked up too close to bedtime may actually keep you awake!

Don’t nap during the day

Napping is common among older adults and retirees, with research showing that around 25% of older adults take naps daily. But did you know that your daily power nap may actually be doing more harm than good?

It’s true. While a brief nap can be beneficial for a boost of energy, excessive napping can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you absolutely must have a nap, try to take it earlier in the day and make sure to sleep for no more than 30 minutes.

Establish a bedtime routine

Human beings are creatures of habit, so practicing good habits before bed can help improve your rest. If you don’t already have one in place, try establishing a nightly routine before drifting off to sleep.

You can engage in soothing activities like taking a bath, reading a book or meditating, to relax before bed. Sleep comes easier in a cold room, so make sure that your bedroom is cool before you lie down. Always try to fall asleep at roughly the same time every night to establish routine, and make sure that you fall asleep while lying in bed–not in a recliner or on the couch.

Turn off the TV

Although many of us like to fall asleep with the glow of the TV to keep us company, staring at screens before bed can actually disrupt your sleep. The blue lights found in common electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, TVs and computers can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm. That’s why experts recommend cutting out all screens and electronic devices before going to bed.

A few hours before your usual bedtime, turn off all your TVs and power down your tablets, phones and laptops. You can replace time in front of the TV with screen-free activities like doing a jigsaw puzzle, playing cards or drawing in an adult coloring book. Instead of sleeping with your phone on your bedside table, try plugging it up to charge in another room. You’ll be less likely to check for texts or emails in the middle of the night and can rest more peacefully.

Cut back on caffeine and other foods

Eating or drinking certain things too close to bed can cause sleep problems. Foods high in caffeine like coffee and chocolate have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and interfere with melatonin production. Drinking alcohol late at night also could lead to restless sleep because it can cause decreased REM sleep. Never use alcohol as a sleep aid.

If you can’t do without your morning coffee, that’s perfectly all right. Just make sure that it stays a morning cup. Avoid consuming coffee in the afternoon and eating large meals too close to bedtime. Don’t drink too much water before bed, either, if waking to go to the bathroom is a problem for you. If you must eat before bed, try having something to boost your melatonin, like a handful of almonds or a cup of tart cherry juice.

The bottom line

Along with diet and exercise, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy mind and body.

If you’ve tried all these tips and nothing works,
contact Aviv Clinic and schedule a free consultation with our care team: click here

Exercise and Brain Health: Tips to get the most from your workout

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. Are some forms of exercising better than others when it comes to the brain? Are there right–or wrong–ways to exercise when it comes to maximizing brain power? And how does exercise affect the aging brain?

Aviv Clinics clients receiving the innovative hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment optimize their brain health because their personalized treatment plan combines cognitive and physical training, plus receive nutritional coaching. As part of the program, clients exercise 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.

How cognitive abilities change with age

While most Americans fear losing their memory and cognitive abilities, far fewer actually do. As we get older, a slight level of cognitive decline is inevitable due to the normal aging process. It’s common to have issues with memory and slower thinking. But older adults are also increasingly at risk for mild cognitive impairment and dementia, the latter of 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. Staying healthy and active can protect the brain.

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 demanding–our bodies are designed to move and be active. Sitting, it seems, could be making us sick.

According to LifeSpanFitness, these days the average American 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.

The spiral of decline

If there are underlying conditions or you have risk factors for certain conditions, a sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate them or lead to chronic disease. Dealing with chronic illnesses is difficult even with access to good healthcare, but many do not or cannot get proper care, further exacerbating present conditions. Helplessness and hopelessness about the situation can then lead to anxiety and/or depression. You may feel like you can’t live the life you used to, and may find yourself self-isolating. Unfortunately, declining physical and mental health can set you up to be even less active, and the cycle continues.

Your brain isn’t the only organ affected by this vicious cycle; this kind of lifestyle can lead to problems with cardiovascular health as well. In fact, they seem to be intricately linked; in general, things that improve heart health improve brain health, too.

How are exercise and brain health linked?

Anytime that you exercise, you’re pumping more blood to your brain tissues, and with that comes a lot of oxygen and other nutrients, vital for the brain’s functioning. In response, the brain also cranks out some helpful molecules. 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 prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the hippocampus. These areas are the most susceptible to cognitive degeneration or impairment.

The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, is affected by exercise in a few ways. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can actually increase the volume of brain matter in the hippocampus, an area that will often decline in volume as we age and significantly with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also where a lot of neurogenesis (creating new brain cells) is going on–at least if you’re exercising enough!

The other area that benefits directly from exercise is the prefrontal cortex–this is the CEO of the brain, responsible for most of our executive functions including decision making, attention, problem-solving, and goal setting. Studies have shown that older adults in particular can benefit from exercise due to increased executive functioning.

What’s the best kind of exercise?

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) is a good place to start. While all types of exercise have benefits, most of the studies favor those that elevate your heart rate and keep it there for a time.

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 they are right for you.

Moderate intensity can be measured by keeping your heart going at the optimal rate, in this case, 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. To find out your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 70-year-old’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.

Tips for getting started

If you’re like many (if not most) adults, you might be starting more towards the sedentary end of the activity scale. The exercise prescription above is an ideal goal, and it’s used primarily because that’s what they did in the studies that showed the best outcomes for cognitive health. However, other studies showed that lower-intensity activities like walking (5 miles a week) and yoga could be beneficial, too.

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

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’s always sports and leisure–gardening, golfing, bowling, are all ways to move. Even window shopping or hula hooping can count as exercise. Need more ideas? Try any of these non-boring exercises!

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

Start from where you are

If you’re already pretty active, or you’ve exercised a lot in the past, it’ll probably be easier for you to start. If you are not as active as you could be, that’s okay! It’s never too late to begin a new exercise practice.

If you really want to get the benefits of brain-boosting exercise, be aware of where you’re starting from and build from there. If you’re sedentary, jumping into an intense workout routine could be difficult physically and frustrating mentally. You’re more likely to stick with it if you’re realistic about your goals and abilities.

Focus on frequency

If you’ve struggled in the past to start an exercise practice, you’re not alone. Exercising consistently means forming a new habit, and that’s no easy feat. Starting any habit takes time, effort, and consistency for a little while. But the awesome benefits of habits are that once they’re formed, they’re automatic.

It might be tempting to jump in at full duration and/or intensity, but it’s also a good way to burn out. In the beginning, it helps to focus more on when and how often you exercise rather than how hard or how long. Even a few minutes a day is enough to tell the brain “this is what we do now.” Eventually, you won’t have to remind (or force) yourself to exercise anymore. Once the habit is formed, it’s much easier to increase the intensity and duration.

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 sitting. For example, if you do 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 every day.

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

Be patient

So how long does it take before exercising starts to pay off? While many of the benefits of exercise can be felt immediately afterward, such as improvements in mood and energy, lasting results will take longer. Plan on giving it at least six months to assess your brain’s progress.

When it comes to cognitive abilities, measuring and assessing can be a challenge. 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.

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 your cognitive health.

Reversing the Aging Process: A Closer Look at Telomeres

Aging seems to be an inescapable part of life…spines shrink, skin wrinkles, and attention spans dissipate. But what if aging was escapable — or at least reversible? What if scientists were able to target the root cause of aging in our very own cells and treat it as if it were an illness?

Researchers in Israel have conducted the world’s first study to prove that biological aging can be reversed. Through the targeted application of a unique hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol, scientists were able to reverse the biological aging process in adults aged 64 and older. These findings are truly groundbreaking given the accessibility of hyperbaric oxygen treatment, however, Aviv Clinics Dubai is the only center in GCC region to offer this unique HBOT treatment protocol.

So how did these researchers manage to accomplish such a seemingly impossible task that existed only in science fiction just 50 years ago? The answer lies in telomeres, a critical component of your DNA.

What Are Telomeres?

Telomeres are essential components of a human cell that affect how our bodies age.
Understanding the role that telomeres play in your DNA is essential to understanding
(and reversing) the biological aging process. So let’s start with the basics.

Your DNA

DNA is a commonly understood component of human biology. Yet many of us do not go through life consciously thinking about the ways that our DNA functions. Let’s change that!

Your DNA contains the biological instructions necessary for your body to continue developing. There are millions upon millions of cellular processes occurring within a human body at any given time. DNA is essentially the manager of all of these processes — calmly instructing your cells to divide, consume, and produce complex proteins in order to stay alive. That’s where telomeres come into play. DNA sequences have beginnings and ends, which are capped off with an additional protective layer of DNA, also known as telomeres. Simply put, telomeres are simply the end-parts of your DNA.

Aviv Clinics Telomeres

Telomeres and Shoelaces

The term telomere (tel-uh-meer) draws from the Greek words “telos” and “meros.” Telos means “end,” while meros means “part.”
Telomeres work much like the hardened end caps of your shoelace. Those hardened end caps on your shoelace protect the delicate strings they are connected to. Without those protective caps, a shoelace can quickly come frayed and unusable. But as long as those protective caps persist, a shoelace can stay intact for quite some time — much like telomeres prevent damage from occurring to your underlying DNA. With intact telomeres, your cells are protected and they can continue functioning like normal. Without telomeres, your cells essentially begin to age and die.

Telomere Lengths

The length of your telomeres begins to shorten as your body ages chronologically.
Notice the usage of the word “chronologically” in the previous sentence. Your chronological age is not the same as your biological age. In fact, your biological age is mainly determined by the length of your telomeres!

Short telomeres equate to an older biological age. Longer telomeres equate to a healthier, younger biological age. So it is completely within reason for a healthy 60 year old (chronological age) to be much younger biologically speaking, if they have long, healthy telomeres to continue to protect their cells.

As you’re beginning to see, the length of the telomere is the focus here. As we age, our telomeres shorten, exposing our DNA and leaving our body vulnerable to the diseases of aging. Some of the common diseases of aging — onset by shortened telomeres — include: Heart disease, Strokes, Diabetes, Cancer, and in some studies, dementia

When the telomeres in your cells become too short, they enter an aged, unhealthy state called senescence. In senescence, a cell can no longer divide to continue replenishing the body’s vital tissues. That is what then makes a person susceptible to the diseases listed above.

Telomeres, Oxygen, and Reversing Biological Aging

With the importance of telomeres to health and aging now understood, most people ultimately want to know how to protect them, and how to repair any degradation that has already occurred.

The scientific research team led by Dr. Shai Efrati, founder and director of the renowned Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel, proved — for the first time — that reversing biological aging is possible. By using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), Dr. Efrati and his team of scientists were able to increase the length of telomeres in people aged 65 or older by more than 20%!

HBOT involves the patient inhaling pure oxygen in a pressurized environment. This study was conducted on 35 different adults, aged 65 and higher. Patients had their blood measured before the study, as well as during the 30th and 60th sessions of HBOT.

The findings were truly unbelievable:  Patients who were given HBOT experienced telomere growth by more than 20% — in just three months! HBOT also had the effect of reducing senescent cells (those dangerous, aging cells with little-to-no telomere length) by as much as 37%. Those findings were the basis for creating the cutting-edge HBOT treatment protocol only available at Aviv Clinics.

How Can I Protect My Telomeres?

Unfortunately, about 30%-40% of your telomere length is attributable to genetics that are out of your control. Fortunately, that still leaves you with a wide margin to protect! Thankfully, there are many different ways you can protect your existing telomeres and thus control damage and the negative impacts of aging. These include:

Regular Exercise

Research has shown that people with high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than adults who are moderately active or sedentary. More specifically, adults who regularly exercise demonstrate a biological age difference of nine years when compared to those who don’t.

A Balanced Diet

Like regular exercise, a balanced diet is crucial in protecting telomere length. High levels of body fat create high levels of oxidative stress — stress that directly affects your cellular integrity.

In order to protect the length of your telomeres, you must reduce the levels of oxidative stress in your body. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants can provide your DNA with the proper protection it needs to maintain healthy, long telomeres.

Avoiding Smoke & Alcohol

You already know that smoking and drinking alcohol aren’t  the healthiest decisions — but did you know that people who smoke have shorter telomeres than those who don’t? Likewise, people who excessively consume alcohol experience faster levels of biological aging than those who don’t. The science is in! If you’re interested in protecting the length of your telomeres, stay away from tobacco and alcohol.

Managing Stress

Stress, especially higher levels of cortisol, is one of the main reasons for shortened telomeres. Stress takes on many forms, but we are mainly concerned with: Psychological stress, Chronic stress, Life stress.

These kinds of stress raise the levels of oxidative stress placed on the cells of your immune system. Fortunately, there are many wonderful methods for mitigating stress in our daily lives. Whether it is mindfulness, martial arts, or meditating, you will likely be able to find a method that works best for you.