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Posts Tagged ‘brain health’

Merry Stressmas, and an Anxious New Year!?! 12 simple steps to minimize the holiday fallout

young man overwhelmed with Cap santa claus and Christmas ornaments at homeAhh, the holidays! Time for many to celebrate their faith. Time for others to reflect on the accomplishments of yet another year gone by, and to plan for an even better one ahead. Time to be with family, give thanks, serve others, and enjoy a break from the normal routines of life. Right???

In a perfect world, yes. Although, the stark reality for so many is that the holidays bring on an increasingly high level of undue stress for more reasons than there are days in the holiday season. Financial struggles, health concerns, passing of a loved one, work deadlines, shopping, travel, crowds, and family squabbles are but a few that can spark fear, worry, sadness, anxiety, and depression in just about anyone; if they are not prepared for it.

Add to this the profound increase in calorie intake (particularly sugars), sedentary behavior, late nights and poor sleep, excessive alcohol intake, travel fatigue, decreased physical activity levels, and a general lack of attention to one’s health this time of year, and you have a perfect recipe for both simple and deadly mental and physical health problems.

While suicide increase during the holidays has largely been proven a myth, there are direct correlations between increased mental and physical stress around the holidays leading to exacerbation of depression and other mental health disorders, and a resultant spike in the number of calls to suicide prevention and substance abuse hotlines. It can be theorized that many around the holidays are thankfully unable to act on suicidal thoughts give the increased presence of friends and family, although self-medication through increased drug and alcohol use over the holidays can certainly lead to worse outcomes after the new year for many.

While this is a piece on stress around the holidays, the importance of physical health (which is directly impacted by stress) needs to be considered briefly. As an example, the journal Circulation published research in 2004 showing nationwide trends in heart attacks increasing by 5% during the holidays, with peak incidences occurring on both Christmas and New Year’s Day. Coincidence??? Certainly not. An editorial in the same edition of this journal discussed further the “Merry Christmas Coronary” and the “Happy New Year Heart Attack” phenomenon – related to increased mental and physical stressors this time of year.

With the gloomy realities and statistics behind us, we can now focus on what is most important – what can we do to prevent or minimize the fallout of the holiday season to ensure we may enjoy it to the fullest, and so that we may proceed with peace of mind, good health, and longevity into the year ahead?

  • Drink responsibly. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink every 2 hours in social situations, with water in between to avoid intoxication and dehydration – your brain will thank you!
  • Walk away. Don’t feel you must change anyone’s mind about politics, sports, or anything else for that matter. Engage in positive dialogue.
  • Reach out. If something is deeply upsetting you, sometimes the worst thing to do is hold it in while everyone else is celebrating. Confide in a trusted source.
  • Don’t stress over shopping. Getting into fist fights over the newest TV or toy is clearly not what the holidays are about and will dramatically increase your stress levels. Is it really about the presents?
  • It’s OK not to travel. Many are compelled to travel due to family pressures and the like. It is OK to ‘skip a year’ if you are overwhelmed and feel you need a break.
  • Get to bed. Sleep cycles are impacted enough going into winter with shorter days and longer nights. Be mindful of sleep routines as they have a large impact on buffering chronic stress responses and clearing your brain of toxins.
  • Stick to your regular eating habits. If they are healthy ones, that is. It is OK to ‘sample the goods’ around the holidays, but overdoing it will be sure to weaken your immune system and allow stress to harm your brain and body.
  • Move your body. Exercise should be a regular part of your daily routine, especially around the holidays. It minimizes the effects of stress and burns the excess calories you will likely indulge in.
  • Meditate. Quiet time away from the distractions of the holidays to self-reflect and calm your mind will reduce stress levels.
  • Turn off the tube. TV usage skyrockets during the holidays for many, leading to less physical activity and social disconnection. Decrease computer and social media use while you’re at it!
  • Play games, listen to music, tell stories. All activities that will engage your mind and connect you to others around you during the holiday season.
  • Connect socially. One of the secrets to stress reduction. Social connection produces hormones that reduce stress. If you have little or no family and friends around, volunteer opportunities abound.

Author’s Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing undue stress during the holiday season (or any season) leading to withdrawn, erratic, or dangerous behavior, increased substance use, trouble at home, work, etc., please know there are resources that can help. Brain Training is a highly effective option for dealing with chronic stress outside of acute or emergency situations. In these situations, national helplines are available and should be utilized:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255

National Substance Abuse Hotline: 1.800.622.HELP (4357)

5 Important Tests to Consider When Seeking Treatment for Addiction

Addiction way out problem sign. Prevention and cure addiction problem concept.Addiction or, more appropriately, substance use disorder (SUD) is defined as one’s recurrent use of drugs and/or alcohol leading to significant clinical and functional impairment. This impairment may be reflected in the areas of physical and mental health, employment, school, relationships, finances, and more.

One thing is for certain – the vast majority of those struggling with SUD also have underlying challenges with learning and behavior, and may have one or more mental health disorders. While the reasons for these underlying challenges are likely as many as the number of challenges themselves, this shifting of perspective away from the genetic view of addiction offers great hope for those seeking progressive therapies that, in many cases, can have a profound impact on the underlying disorders and the problem behaviors and outcomes associated with SUD.

Newer thinking also dictates that addictive tendencies can be due to factors such as concussion and traumatic brain injury, and metabolic imbalances caused by food allergies, environmental toxicities, nutrient deficiencies, and the like. And let’s not forget stress…  

In order for progressive brain-based modalities to be delivered effectively, which provide a tremendous complement to standard mental health strategies implemented during both in-patient and out-patient programs alike, one needs to understand that SUD is not a disease as we would normally think of one (e.g. cancer, Parkinson’s, etc.), and it is not a moral failing or a character flaw on the part of the user. SUD can affect anyone… of any class, race, gender, and ethnicity.

SUD is in fact a ‘brain problem’ that, in many respects, can be measured and needs to be approached as such for maximum gains. Let us consider 5 areas of measurement related to brain function that reveal a great deal about learning, behavior, and mental health status; and, more importantly, let us realize that something can be done to improve upon function in any or all of these areas:

  • Brainwave Activity (EEG) – In our brain we have networks related to attention, vision, sensations, relaxation, emotions, vital functions, and more. How much delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma brainwave activity we have under different circumstances dictates how well various parts of these networks perform. Quantitative EEG (qEEG) is gaining popularity in select mental health circles as an extremely viable diagnostic tool that can enable us to peer into the inner workings of the brain and these brain networks that make us uniquely human.  
  • Cognitive Testing – Executive function, cognitive flexibility, simple and complex attention, and processing speed are just a few of the tests of higher cognitive function that can reveal a great deal about how one’s brain interacts with its environment. They are also excellent diagnostic tools for monitoring progress when treating the various subsets of learning and behavioral issues underlying SUD.
  • Metabolic Function – Blood sugar, amino acids, urine organic acids, food antibodies, heavy metals, environmental toxins, hormones, neurotransmitters, vital nutrients, genetic variants, and so much more are a mix of both classic and progressive ‘biomarkers’ of brain function. How our bodies handle fuel, utilize nutrients, process hormones, and react to toxins in our environments determines how well our brains handle what is presented to them on a moment to moment basis.
  • Eye Movements – Generally ignored in the mental health arena from a diagnostic perspective, eye movements of all types are directly related to the brain regions that control them. From primitive abilities of finding visual targets that involve parts of the brainstem and emotional centers like the amygdala (fear response), to fast eye movements controlled by our higher functioning frontal lobes; eye movements deliver a wealth of information related to SUD and its underlying causes. Videonystagmography (VNG) is one type of diagnostic tool used to measure these types of functions.
  • Balance and Coordination – More and more, addiction based programs are implementing movement based activities such as Tai Chi and yoga. From both balance and relaxation standpoints, there is good reason to do so. Our sense of self is largely influenced by our ability to physically interact with our environment. When one has severe balance or coordination impairment, as is seen in conditions like schizophrenia, mental function and behavior will likely be impaired. Measurement tools such as dynamic posturography and standard tests of movement and coordination can be utilized to measure these abilities.

The inherent beauty of any of these tools, that can reveal a wealth of information about cognitive, behavioral, and mental functions, is that they can in turn be utilized to track progress when one enters into a collaborative treatment program with their mental health specialists and qualified functional neurologist. The blending of the ‘brain’ and the ‘mind’ sciences is long overdue and is proving to be clinically effective with regard to its impact on addiction and SUD, and the underlying disorders that are being shown with greater clarity to be the root cause of them.

The APEX ‘Day of Discovery’

Day of DiscoveryAnalyzing brain activity

  • Is your brain not working as well as it used to?
  • Have you been struggling with a recent or lifelong brain performance issue that you want answers for?
  • Or, do you simply want to know how well your brain is working to ensure it is serving you optimally?
  • If you knew there was something you could do to tell, would you do it?

…If so, APEX Brain Centers’ comprehensive ‘Day of Discovery’ is just what you’ve been looking for.

What is it?

The Day of Discovery is an extremely valuable and critical investment in your health, longevity and prosperity. Fear of a declining brain is one of the top issues of our time, and this unique opportunity puts the power of informed guidance in your hands to make the best choices possible for your brain and body health. By investigating numerous ‘biomarkers’ of brain health and integrity, we are able to connect the dots between your experience of life and your current state of brain and body function.

Your Day of Discovery will include the following:

  • Comprehensive history and review of previous diagnostic testing
  • Comprehensive neurological exam looking at functions of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system
  • Quantitative EEG (qEEG) for measurement of brainwave activity
  • Cognitive testing to assess memory, attention, executive function and more
  • Videonystagmography (VNG) for detailed assessment of eye movements
  • Dynamic posturography for investigation of multiple aspects of balance
  • Interactive Metronome testing of mental and physical timing capabilities
  • Review of all testing with precise recommendations for appropriate intervention

What should I expect and how do I prepare?

Your Day of Discovery will take anywhere from 4-6 hours depending on physical ability, level of fatigue, technical factors and any unforeseen circumstances. You will spend the duration of the day in our office and should pack a healthy lunch/snack depending on time of day. You should do your best to obtain quality sleep prior to your Day of Discovery, refrain from alcohol/recreational drug/cigarette intake, maintain adequate hydration, eat a healthy breakfast the morning of testing, bring copies of any pertinent diagnostic tests with you, be on time to ensure the smoothest of transitions throughout the day, not wear any skin care products/make-up/hair gel, and bring a positive and proactive attitude with you as this day is designed to empower you with critical information to help you create positive change in your life; not to point out flaws in your performance!

Call us today at 828.708.5274 to set up your Day of Discovery, or email us at [email protected] for more information.

Love…Between the Ears

Heart and brain concept. Reason or heartTestosterone, estrogen, dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, oxytocin and vasopressin…

These brain chemicals and hormones have everything to do with all phases of love, from attraction or ‘love at first sight’ to long-term relationships and attachment.

The phase of superficial attraction vs. the deeper bonding you may be in dictates what chemicals will be present and in what amounts. Also, factors such as gender and overall physical and mental health play a role in what stages of love one is (or isn’t) in based on the nature and quantity of chemicals produced.

In general, earlier stages of attraction are dominated by adrenaline and dopamine; which account for behavioral traits of being clumsy and tongue tied due to stress responses encountering your love interest with the former, and having increased focus and energy with the latter. Serotonin is what can get you into trouble as this is what causes you to focus on your attraction more than anything else – very similar to the decrease in serotonin levels observed in those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The latter stages of attachment and deeper bonding are orchestrated primarily by oxytocin and vasopressin; although other factors are present at all stages in varying amounts, depending on level of attachment and continued attraction. Oxytocin has been called the “cuddle hormone” and is an integral part of bonding between couples, mother and child, and, interestingly enough, dogs and their humans.  (our four-legged friends produce this when they see their favorite person). Vasopressin has been shown to enhance interpersonal relationships through positive communication.

So, while we don’t want to dissect this most natural of emotions too much during the Valentine’s Day season, a basic understanding of the brain chemicals discussed and the many influences upon them (e.g. diet, exercise, stress, sleep, environmental factors, brain injury, mental health disorders, etc.) is in order for you to better understand how you view the world and how it views you through the “eyes of love”.

Case Study: Balance and Memory Problems – Roger

Son & Elderly FatherRoger’s story

At the time of presentation to APEX Brain Centers, Roger was a 70-year-old male struggling with severe balance problems, clumsiness, fatigue, and a general disinterest in life. He used to enjoy life as a family man, successful entrepreneur and golfer. Just over 10 years prior he had undergone radiation therapy for cancer that damaged his 8th cranial nerve (the balance and hearing nerve). He had also undergone prism therapies and surgery for eye position abnormalities, which have caused further insult to his ability to maintain good balance and to learn effectively. Although not listed as a primary complaint, he also suffered from significant cognitive decline in several areas as evidenced by very low to low average scores on standardized cognitive testing.

Roger sought care at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC in May of 2015 and underwent an intensive course of Brain Training. He was admitted into in an individualized program directed by extensive diagnostic testing, and led by clinicians highly experienced in functional neurology. What follows is a sampling of some of the cutting-edge clinical interventions and amazing functional gains Roger experienced during his time at APEX.

Intervention for balance and cognitive decline

Roger underwent comprehensive Brain Training at a frequency of 3 times per day over the course of 15 days (with 2 days off between each for much needed rest and recovery). His brain function was carefully monitored throughout the training process with measurement of EEG brainwaves, vital signs, eye movements, balance, mental and physical timing, and more to ensure he was receiving the proper amount therapy to be effective, but not too much so as to be counter-productive. Modalities implemented included, but were not limited to: neurofeedback (NFB), Interactive Metronome, vestibular rehabilitation, metabolic/nutritional therapies, eye movement and neurological rehabilitation, whole body vibration, electrical stimulation, breathing exercises and home care recommendations.

Outcomes after Brain Training

Subsequent to his Brain Training program, Roger reported subjective improvements in the vast majority of his pre-intensive complaints. More profound than that; his wife was quoted as saying, “it’s like I have my old husband back”. She noted that he used to be the life of the party and had been slowly deteriorating over time to the point of sitting in his chair all day and sleeping more and more often. He was finally plugging back into life, putting an end to his isolation and apathy. As is demonstrated by his balance testing, he is also experiencing a renewed ability to maintain balance, allowing him to be safer and more efficient in navigating his physical environment.

Actual, measurable objective improvements recorded with post-intensive diagnostic testing include:

  • Cognitive Testing: Increase in his Neurocognition Index of 48%. This is a standardized overall score of cognitive performance. Increases in various aspects of memory, attention, processing speed and more as great as 21%.
  • Interactive Metronome: 56% improvement in task average with motor timing, and normalization of hyper-anticipatory timing tendency with motor tasks (i.e. responding prematurely to a pre-set reference tone).
  • Computerized Assessment of Postural Stability (CAPS): 20.5% improvement in balance on an unstable surface with eyes closed – bringing him from severe to mild reduction in balance compared to his peers. Elimination of a posterior center of pressure (CoP); significantly reducing his risk of falling backwards.
  • Videonystagmography (VNG): Significant improvements in numerous aspects of oculomotor (eye movement) functionality including: gaze holding, slow and fast eye movements, optokinetic responses, and spontaneous/involuntary eye movements.

Takeaway

With an alarming increase in the number of baby boomers and seniors experiencing balance issues and cognitive decline (that are in fact related), it is important to recognize the symptoms of these potentially debilitating disorders and, more importantly, that something can be done about them. Early intervention is key, as the longer one waits and the more function is lost, the more difficult it is to recover and have full engagement with life!

A Commentary on Concussion, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

03E10599As the buzz surrounding the release of the projected Christmas blockbuster movie Concussion grows; the evidence continues to mount in support of the seemingly insurmountable challenges posed by this ‘silent epidemic’.

Continued reporting from one of America’s most trusted public television investigative news sources, PBS’s FRONTLINE, demonstrates the urgency of the matter at hand; and the extremes to which it can lead… Dementia and, in severe cases, death!

The most recent FRONTLINE update from September 18, 2015, based on research from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University, can be viewed in their article entitled New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease. The most shocking part of this reporting is that the disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), was found in 87 of 91 player’s brains tested. Let that soak in for a moment… That is 96% of the brains tested in this particular ongoing study showing signs of a potentially avoidable killer disease. We will come back to this in a moment.

Some definitions, facts, and stats to ponder:

  • Concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions
  • Most sport-related concussions (almost 90%) occur with NO loss of consciousness (LOC)
  • A median 2.7 million TBIs occur in the US each year (think about how many go unreported), at a cost of nearly $50 billion annually
  • Symptoms of concussion include: headache, dizziness, balance and speech problems, nausea, light and noise sensitivities, memory and concentration difficulties, behavioral and emotional struggles, and anything out of the ordinary observed that was not an issue prior to the event/s
  • Risk factors for concussion include: prior concussion, vertigo/dizziness, alcohol/drugs, high-risk behaviors and sports (e.g. football, hockey, soccer, etc.), military conflict, abusive relationships, driving, and high-risk occupations (e.g. construction, utility work, etc.)
  • Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is another word for concussion; even though, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a ‘mild’ brain injury
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disorder of the brain found in those with a history of repetitive brain trauma
  • Symptoms of CTE include: memory and executive function decline, depression, irritability, impulsivity, aggressiveness, suicidal behavior, eventual progression to dementia

(All facts and figures presented are courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Mayo Clinic)

***Did you know??? Those with ADHD are significantly more likely to experience worse outcomes with a concussion than their non-ADHD peers. This is of extremely important note as many children are placed in sports to control problematic behavioral and academic challenges. Read the abstract from a paper on this topic presented in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics***

Back to the FRONTLINE reporting of 96% of the NFL players’ brains containing direct indications of CTE. What is being revealed in this ongoing study is one of, if not the most, statistically significant findings of our times. Consider for a moment if you will… If there were an outbreak of any communicable disease in a family, school, small town, cruise ship, or some similar controlled group separate from our general U.S. population; it would take, in most cases, less than 1% of the population being affected to mobilize critical resources to control and eliminate such an outbreak. Why is nothing being done to prevent and treat this largely controllable epidemic that has been unfolding before our very eyes for some time now?

While there is an extraordinary amount of activity and funding being directed towards this catastrophe, we are still largely no further along in the detection, advocacy, and treatment for this ‘silent epidemic’. As a clinician who has been in the trenches working with concussion and TBI for over 15 years, the stark reality is that the vast majority of patients that have walked through the doors of our Center have been given the same advice: “Wait and see”. That is, to go without treatment in hopes of symptoms subsiding; which, in rough estimates from various sources, will not happen in approximately 25% of cases! In other words, at least one in 4 will continue with any or all of the debilitating symptoms listed above long after a blow to the head.

Why “wait and see”? The primary tests utilized after one has sustained a hit to the head and suspected brain injury are structural in nature. What this means is if you have nothing that shows up on a CT scan or MRI, you are structurally ‘OK’ and sent on your own to wait out the symptoms – possibly with the assistance of medications for pain, dizziness, nausea, etc.

What are often overlooked, or not acted upon if they are in fact implemented, are tests of brain function. There are a great number of ‘biomarkers’ of brain function that can be measured with great precision – that is, tests that tell us what’s going on in the body as a result of commands from the brain; and what might not be working well after a particular region of the brain area has been injured. What follows are some examples of these biomarkers that can be measured and improved in most cases of concussion and TBI:

  • Balance/Gait
  • Eye movements
  • Physical timing
  • Smell
  • Cognitive abilities (e.g. memory, focus, attention)
  • Brainwaves
  • Vital signs (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, breathing)
  • Blood sugar, hormone regulation, and other metabolic functions

Once functional deficits are identified; a host of neurological, cognitive, and metabolic rehabilitative interventions and processes can be employed to normalize these functions as best possible – and, in many cases, entirely! Examples of such would include: eye movement therapies, gait training, neurofeedback, physiotherapeutic modalities such as electrical stimulation and vibration, nutritional therapies, aromatherapy, visual and auditory training, meditation, lifestyle changes, and more.

While the quest continues to identify the best, evidence-based practices to combat this growing epidemic with little to no therapeutic intervention being rendered in most cases; there are a small number of progressive centers that strive to provide highly effective functional clinical interventions, as opposed to “wait and see” that has failed so many. Given the apparent lack of immediate shifts in the cultural circumstances that are causing brain injuries, and the inability or lack of desire of many to abstain from behaviors that are causing them, it is imperative that intervention with any head injury be focused largely on the therapeutic aspects once adequate healing time has passed.

One parting thought: There remains a sentiment in opposition to studies of the nature of the one referenced in FRONTLINE; dismissing the evidence as an overreaction to, and sensationalizing of, data from a highly specific group of individuals (i.e. football players get head injuries). My question to you is: If just one person in your family, community, etc. were to contract a disease like polio; do you think there would be any discussion of overreaction to the impending action that would be taken to remediate the cause of this potentially crippling disease?  

If you knew there was something you could do, then why “wait and see”?

On Demand: Your Free Daily Dose of Brain Goodness

podcastOptimal brain health is not something you achieve overnight.

It is the culmination of the vast number of decisions you make on a daily basis; week after week, month after month, and year after year.

The choices you make today, and every day, will determine how your greatest asset will serve you at any stage of life!

Due to the ever-growing demand for information in this 21st century, and the lightning speed at which it is expected, we are often asked by folks if we have resources to teach them how to ‘Build Better Brains’.

In the absence of a comprehensive Brain Training program, and, in addition to it, it is the small things you do every single day that will dictate how well your brain and body functions well into your golden years. There is no quick fix. I repeat, there is no quick fix! While there are always the unforeseen circumstances that cause our health to decline, our brain and body health is largely well within our control.

Due to this demand for information, and realizing more and more that many folks are truly beginning to care about, and for, their brains; I have launched the ‘Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford’. This podcast was designed to deliver practical, everyday tips for building the best brain possible. Some will be familiar and some brand new, although it is the routine application of these tips that will help insulate you from one of the greatest fears of our time – that of a declining brain!

The daily tips will cover evidence-based topics and applications in the areas of physical, cognitive, metabolic, and lifestyle health; all of which impact and dictate the effectiveness of your greatest asset. I hope you will join us, and join in the conversation as we will be taking listener calls and questions, exploring popular topics in greater detail, conducting interviews, and putting listener ideas into action as the series progresses.

So, whether you’re dealing with neurological conditions such as brain injury (TBI), concussion, ADHD, dementia, memory loss, anxiety, depression, MS, Parkinson’s, PTSD, addiction and more; wanting to elevate performance in sports, academics and business; or simply looking to sharpen your mind and prevent or delay cognitive decline – this podcast is for YOU!

You can listen in daily at www.TrainYourBrainPodcast.com and/or subscribe on iTunes by searching for the Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. See you on the air!

iPads for Everyone!!!

Logo concept FINAL_RGB_WEBEveryone that signs up for a 5 or more day full intensive training program at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC, that is! (Unique offer details below).

While technology and all that come with it can cause significant impairment for many, it can also be used to provide an extreme advantage when it comes to Training your Brain. The ever-growing list of hi-tech applications (apps) for mobile devices and tablets is astounding, many of which hold significant promise for re-training brain dysfunction, and for improving upon already strong performance in those looking to reach their peak potential. As with anything, there is a downside – apps used improperly and not under expert guidance can, in some cases, be counter-productive, and even harmful!

The following are the main areas of apps for brain performance: 

  • Memory and Attention: We have all heard of that brain training program that begins with ‘L’ that most folks pronounce incorrectly! While this and many other similar apps are quite useful and largely without side-effects, they may not be providing all they claim in the absence of a comprehensive brain health program. 
  • Eye movements: The secret is out, eye movements are directly related to our higher, more human, cognitive brain functions. A simple Google search of ‘eye movements and cognition’ should get you rolling there! The challenge is that these sensitive windows into higher brain function can very easily be trained incorrectly, leading to further dysfunction or significantly limiting peak performance. User beware: Expert direction is essential with these type of apps! 
  • Neurofeedback/Biofeedback: By far the newest and most concerning area of mobile brain training, app stores are piling up with programs that will help you regulate your brainwaves, heart rate, muscle tension, and more. Common sense should let you know that training your brainwaves in the absence of higher education in neurophysiology and neuroplasticity might not be a very wise choice. Once again, user beware!

Although just a sampling of what’s available in the various app stores in the cyber world, the take home message here is that ANY effort in training your brain should be directed by a qualified health care provider trained in these areas of brain performance for maximum benefit and decreased probability of side-effects.

Enter the iPad…

All clients entering into a 5 or more day full intensive training program at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC through May 31, 2015 will receive a FREE iPad Mini with Retina Display (or comparable device) as a valuable aid to your brain training program, and to help you continue progress once discharged. All you would need to do is have an iTunes account to purchase any needed applications (typically less than $35.00), and the desire to make your brain the best possible brain it can be.

This special offer is not to be combined with any offers and you must reference this post at the time of consultation or admission for validation purposes. Let us help you harness the power of technology and put you in the driver’s seat on your journey to Building a Better Brain!

How to Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s Related Memory Loss

There are many types of dementia, some of which are preventable and others that are not. Conditions that are considered genetically driven, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and brain tumors, lead to degeneration and loss of nerve connections and cells within the brain that result in the decline in cognitive abilities such as memory, reasoning and problem solving. But no matter the cause there are ways to slow the rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s related memory loss. The key is acting early. Most types of dementia are progressive. The earlier you seek help the more successful you will be at preventing memory loss.

Even in the case of Alzheimer’s disease, thought by most to be completely incurable, evidence suggests that the progression of the disease is impacted by factors within our control, most notably the proper control of our blood sugar levels. Finding the cause of memory loss can help you and your health care providers determine the best means of preventing further memory decline. Certain types of depression lead to ‘pseudo-dementia’, which can be treated with great success. Even age-related memory loss can be impacted quite successfully with the appropriate nutritional, exercise, stress management and Brain Training methods.

Recognizing Early Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

If you recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia you can be proactive in preventing memory loss. If you or someone you know is struggling to find the right words, regularly misplacing common everyday items, overreacting (or underreacting) to situations, getting lost in familiar surroundings, or having extreme difficulty with simple tasks such as balancing the checkbook, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may be suspected. Disinterest in formerly pleasurable activities and a decrease in the sense of smell are also telltale signs that one’s brain function may be declining. If this is the case seek help from a practitioner who is experienced helping those with memory loss as soon as possible.

Prevent Memory Loss through Brain Training

APEX offers Brain Training for memory loss prevention. We understand the mechanisms of memory loss well and use specific diagnostic and training procedures to help anyone, even those with dementia, to Build a Better Brain. Through brain mapping, cognitive testing and other brain assessments, we design a Brain Training program customized to help you retain your memory, or possibly even improve it. Brain Training for memory loss may include neurofeedback, transcranial magnetic stimulation, Interactive Metronome training, specific brain and body exercises and nutritional support, among many other modalities.

Foods and Supplements to Support Memory Retention

To support a healthy brain and memory, it is good practice to avoid processed and refined foods. Minding your calorie intake is critical. A great first step is to develop an ‘eat to live’ philosophy instead of a ‘live to eat’ strategy. Eating a sensible diet of real, live, or whole foods is the logical first step towards Building a Better Brain and preventing memory loss.

The lists of brain foods or ‘superfoods’ that are reputed to prevent memory loss are long. One needs to exercise caution when claims for products or foods are seemingly too good to be true and some simple advice will go a long way towards eating for a healthy brain.

Also consider a full metabolic and nutritional assessment to see if dietary changes can help you see improvement in your memory, or in other areas of health.

Exercise for Brain Health 

Memory loss prevention is only one of the reasons that exercise is good for our brains. Exercise encourages new nerve cell growth in parts of the brain that facilitate memory and learning. Exercise also improves blood supply and fuel delivery to already existing brain pathways and regions. Exercise simply makes us smarter and is considered by many to be the best memory loss treatment on the market!

Food for Thought: 4 Foods to Improve Brain Function

Your brain requires nutrients just as your body does, and adding “smart,” healthy foods to your diet can help keep your brain healthy too. The following is a list of foods that improve brain function and help boost your brain power, protect cognitive performance during aging, and generally help you feel your best.

1. Fruits and Veggies

When it comes to foods that improve brain function, whole foods like fruits and veggies power your brain much more efficiently than processed foods. Superfruits like blueberries have been shown to help improve or delay short term memory loss and may reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Broccoli is another superfood with nutrients that protect against free radicals and heavy metals that can damage the brain. Spinach is a good source of folate and vitamins A and E, which can help slow the effects of aging on the brain. Tomatoes contain lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant shown to help improve mood and combat dementia.

2. Healthy Fats

Omega 3s are heart-healthy and promote good circulation and blood flow which is beneficial for your brain. Salmon is a common source of omega 3s, which have been shown to support brain structure and function and can offer protection against dementia, cancer, and arthritis. Coconut oils contains fatty acids which have positive effects on brain function and can help protect against age-related memory loss. Avocados are another example of foods that improve brain function, and are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow and can help lower blood pressure.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are examples of foods that improve brain function in a small but powerful package and they’re high in vitamin E, which has been shown to protect against cognitive decline with aging. Pumpkin seeds and sunflowers seeds are rich in protein, omega fatty acids, and B vitamins, and they contain tryptophan, which can help combat depression and allow for improved sleep. Walnuts and almonds are good for the nervous system as well as the brain, and are great sources of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Chia seeds are also packed with omega 3 fatty acids and are a good source of dietary fiber, and a cholesterol-free source of protein.

4. Whole Grains

Brown rice, quinoa, and wheat berries are all examples of heart-healthy whole grains that promote cardiovascular health. In studies of foods that improve brain function, whole grains have been shown to be beneficial for protecting against stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. Bulgar is a nutty tasting grain that’s prized for its anti-inflammatory properties due to its betaine content, and it’s also high in fiber, which can help decrease the risk of gallstones and some types of cancer. Of all the whole grains, barley has the highest fiber content, plus it’s loaded with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, and can help reduce blood pressure.

Looking to boost your brain power with proper nutrients? Find out more about metabolic and nutritional therapy at APEX to help you achieve optimal health for your brain, and your body, in a real, sustainable way. Proper nutrients are critical for brain health, and, because no two brains are alike, we can evaluate which nutrients are most appropriate for you and your needs to help your brain perform at its absolute best!

APEX Brain Centers is leading the way in neuroplasticity-based brain enhancement programs that are opening new doors for those struggling with addictions, learning and behavioral disabilities, test performance, athletic performance and more.

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