6 Tips for Powering Up Your Brain

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Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased 9% while deaths from alzheimer’s have increased 145%.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019.

By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia may grow to a projected 13.8 million, barring no medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or cure the disease.

Not only is it difficult coming to terms with a loved one’s memory loss, but it can add additional stress to everyday activities around the house.

This is why dementia is such a difficult road to navigate for so many people and families around the world. While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s dementia yet, a lot of research is being done to try to find treatments and practices that can slow or prevent cognitive decline.

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Ohio is one of the leading research centers for dementia. And so far, they’ve found six lifestyle changes that can improve brain health.

If you’re struggling with memory problems or you have a family history of dementia, it’s never too late to make some simple changes to your lifestyle that can improve your chances of fighting memory loss.

Here are the Cleveland Clinic’s six pillars of a healthy brain:

Pillar 1: Physical Exercise

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”

People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking. Even if you’ve never exercised, any physical activity is better than none at all.

What kind of exercise is best?

Endurance exercise, like running, swimming or biking, has been shown to foster new brain cell growth and preserve existing brain cells.

Strength training, like lifting weights or using resistance bands, builds muscle, strengthens your bones, and improves your mood. It can also enhance concentration and increase your decision-making skills.

Flexibility/balance training, like Yoga and Tai Chi can improve your posture, reduce risk of injuries and falls, and improve your overall movement and ability to do things better throughout life. Even simple exercises like standing on one foot or walking backward have proven helpful.

Pillar 2: Food & Nutrition

“Eat smart, think better.”

As you age, your brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors. This leads to oxidation of your brain cells.

Imagine what a cut apple looks like after it’s left on a counter for 5 minutes. That browning is oxidation and the same general idea is what’s happening to your brain as you get old.

Luckily, there are lots of antioxidants available in food that can help protect your brain from these harmful effects.

Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, olives, and nuts helps maintain brain health and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

The MIND and DASH diets are also good options to consider. Of course, if you’re at risk of developing diabetes, follow the diet your doctor recommends.

There is a high correlation between diabetes and dementia. Some researchers have even referred to dementia as Type 3 Diabetes. To protect your brain, you need to keep your blood sugar levels in check and that starts with what you eat.

Pillar 3: Medical Health

“Control medical risks.”

Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia, says the Cleveland Clinic. However, you can control and reduce almost all these risks if you’re proactive.

Getting your annual check-up, following your doctor’s recommendations and taking medications as prescribed can all help lower your risks.

If you have diabetes or are on the verge of becoming diabetic, you can reduce the risk by following these tips says the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Avoid white sugar, white flour and hydrogenated fat.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat some protein with every meal.
  • Control portion size.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week.
  • Include aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance.

Another major risk factor for dementia is high blood pressure. The Cleveland Clinic recommends following these tips to reduce hypertension:

  • Cut down on salt (less than one teaspoon a day).
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.
  • Keep active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take your medication.
  • Aim to keep blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg.

Pillar 4: Sleep & Relaxation

“Rest well.”

Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night is a must. And to ensure a good night’s sleep, you need a completely dark, quiet, and cool bedroom. You should not be able to see your hand five inches away from your face with the lights out.

Meditation is also a great way to relax and has been shown to reduce cognitive decline. Other ways to reduce stress are saying “no” more often, writing down all the things that bother you, and using imagery to anchor your emotions.

Pillar 5: Mental Fitness

“Use your mind, or lose it.”

You have something called “brain reserve,” which helps your brain adapt and respond to changes and resist damage, says the Cleveland Clinic.

People who continue to learn, embrace new activities, and develop new skills and interests are building and improving their brain reserve. That’s why working at a challenging job, going back to school, or taking classes can all expand your brain reserve.

Other mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, chess, puzzles, and card games have all been shown to help improve brain health. Even playing electronic “brain games” may help improve your reaction time and problem-solving ability.

Pillar 6: Social Interaction

“Stay connected.”

A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction within their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Leading an active social life is the key to protecting your memory. Joining clubs and volunteering are great ways to keep your network alive. Even adopting a pet can improve your brain health.

Pets can calm us down, boost our immunity, improve our heart health, keep us moving, and enhance our social life, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Overall, lifestyle has a profound effect on your brain health. What you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how well you sleep, the way you socialize, and how you manage stress all play important roles in keeping your brain healthy. It’s never too late to make some of these small changes, you can even start today.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post 6 Tips for Powering Up Your Brain appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Achieving a Deeper Sleep in 2 Minutes

This post Achieving a Deeper Sleep in 2 Minutes appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night?

Would you like to be able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat?

Today I’m going to show you how you can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, in less than 2 minutes using a simple 2-step program.

This program was designed for U.S. military fighter pilots during WWII. Believe it or not, the man who developed this program was an American track and field coach who is regarded as one of the greatest sprint coaches in the world.

Over his career, Bud Winter produced 102 All-Americans, 27 who went on to become Olympians.

Almost all of Winter’s achievements in track and field can be tied back to his philosophy and research on relaxation.

Winter’s 2-step program that helped U.S. fighter pilots relax and sleep well during stressful times is outlined in his now out-of-print book Relax and Win.

In 1959, Sports Illustrated interviewed Winter, asking him to explain how the program came about:

“I taught relaxation during the war to pilots,” says Winter. “We were losing pilots in training because they were too tense. Pilots who had been fine in training tensed up going into combat and were lost. Pilots on Guadalcanal couldn’t sleep at night because the Japanese were sending over nuisance bombers to disturb their rest.

We had to figure out some way to relax them. We worked out a program that taught pilots how to relax themselves, and we ran a test on two platoons, 60 men in each platoon. The 60 who learned how to relax did better in everything which requires physical coordination.”

In Relax and Win, Winter explains the relaxation program in two steps:

Step 1) Physical relaxation.

Step 2) Mental relaxation.

Sleep comes from achieving a state of mental relaxation. But in order to get to a state in which you’re mentally relaxed, you first must become physically relaxed.

Become Physically Relaxed

Here’s how you become physically relaxed according to Winter:

“Sit back in your chairs and put your feet flat on the deck. Knees apart, your hands limp on the inside of your lap. Now, close your eyes and drop your chin until it rests on your chest.

Let’s breathe slowly, deeply, and regularly. Take all the wrinkles out of your forehead. Relax your scalp. Just let go. Now let your jaw sag-g-g. Let it drop open. Now relax the rest of your face muscles. Get the brook trout look on your face. Even relax your tongue and lips. Just let them go loose. Breathe slowly.

Now, let’s go after the eight muscles that control your eyes. Let them go limp in their sockets. No focus, just let them go limp. Breathe slowly.

Now drop your shoulders as low as they will go. You think that they are low, but let them go more.  Did you feel the muscles in the back of your neck go limp? When you think you are really relaxed, let them go even more.

Now, let’s relax your chest. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale and blow out all your tensions. Just let your chest collapse. Let it sag-g-g. Imagine you are a big, heavy blob on the chair, a jellyfish. Breathe slowly. When you exhale, release more and more of your tensions.

Let’s go after your arms. Talk directly to your arm muscles.

First, talk to your right bicep. Tell it to relax, go limp. Do the same to your right forearm. Now to the right hand and fingers. Your arm should feel like a dead weight on your leg. Repeat the relaxation process with your left arm.

Breathe slowly.

Your entire upper body has been exposed to relaxation and a warm, pleasant feeling comes over you. You feel good. A sense of well-being invades your body.

Now for your lower body. Talk to your right thigh muscles. Let them go to a dead weight on the chair. Let the meat hang on the bones.

Go through the same routine for the right calf muscles. Then all the muscles of your right ankle and foot. Tell yourself that your right leg has no bones in it. It is just a flabby, heavy weight on the deck. Repeat the process with your left thigh, calf, ankle, and foot.

At present you are all relaxed physically, or think you are. For a little insurance, let’s take three deep breaths and when you let them out, blow out all the remaining tensions, one… whoosh, two… whoosh, three… whoosh.”

Getting your body to feel like a jellyfish might seem tough at first. If you’re struggling, try tensing up your muscles first, then relaxing.

Mental Relaxation

Now that you know how to physically relax, here’s the trick to mental relaxation. Winter says, “if you get your mind clear of any active thoughts for just ten seconds, you will be asleep.”

The reason why a quiet mind is so important to achieving a state of total mental relaxation is because what you think, your body will do.

Winter warns against having thoughts where you’re in motion. Studies have found that simply imagining yourself exercising activates parts of the brain that fire when you’re physically in motion, and can even strengthen the muscles you imagine yourself using.

In order to tame your thoughts, Winter devised three sleep-producing fantasies you can imagine while falling asleep. Notice these 3 fantasies limit any thoughts of physical motion:

Sleep-producing Fantasy #1

“First, we want you to fantasize that it is a warm spring day and you are lying in the bottom of a canoe on a very serene lake. You are looking up at a blue sky with lazy, floating clouds.

Do not allow any other thought to creep in. Just concentrate on this picture and keep foreign thoughts out, particularly thoughts with any movement or motion involved.

Hold this picture and enjoy it for ten seconds.”

Sleep-producing Fantasy #2

“In the second sleep-producing fantasy, imagine that you are in a big, black, velvet hammock and everywhere you look is black.

You must also hold this picture for ten seconds.”

Sleep-producing Fantasy #3

“The third trick is to say the words ‘don’t think… don’t think… don’t think,’ etc. Hold this, blanking out other thoughts for at least ten seconds.”

The most surprising finding from this whole experiment was after the six weeks of practicing Winter’s 2-step program, 96% of the pilots who participated were able to fall asleep in less than 2 minutes!

If the news is keeping you up at night, give it a try.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Achieving a Deeper Sleep in 2 Minutes appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s

This post The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Despite a large body of science supporting the benefits of taking naps, I almost never sleep during the day.

But this past Saturday, after a full morning watching my daughter compete in the West Coast surfing championships, I felt pretty worn out. And with a big group dinner planned for that night, I went back to our Airbnb in need of a recharge.

Most people would just crawl into bed. Me? I have to do some research first!

It turns out there are several different strategies to catching a few Z’s during the day, and optimal times to employ each of them.

The ideal scenario is timing your nap based on when you started your day.

Dr. Sara Mednick is a sleep researcher and she’s created an interactive “nap wheel” that will tell you when the best time to take a nap is.

The goal is going to sleep at a time when your slow-wave sleep (SWS) will perfectly intersect with rapid-eye movement (REM). Basically, the time when you’ll get the deepest, most relaxing round of rest.

Here’s a link to the nap wheel on her site.

Just as an example, if you woke up at 7:00 AM, your ideal nap time would be 2:00 PM.

Of course, whether or not you can take your nap at the ideal time or not, my personal recommendation is not to hit the sack too late into the day.

I can remember one time when I fell asleep on the couch in the late afternoon daylight only to open my eyes after the sun had already gone down. Not that great!

It also pays to watch the length of time you sleep for.

In fact, experts say there are different types of naps to consider:

1. The Power Nap

If you just need a quick refresh, sleep for somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes. You won’t enter really deep sleep so it’s easy to wake back up and return to whatever task is at hand.

2.  The Coffee Nap

This one sounds a little crazy, but it’s the same thing as above only you drink some coffee first. Scientists say this actually works better for two reasons…

Obviously, caffeine is a stimulant. So you’ll automatically feel more alert as it kicks in, which happens to be right around the time you’re waking up.

What’s even cooler is that caffeine competes with adenosine for the receptors in your brain. Since adenosine is a chemical that promotes sleep – and makes you feel more tired – it doesn’t really take hold as much as it would if you hadn’t consumed the caffeine before nodding off.

End result? You may get a double benefit from pre-gaming with the coffee!

Research I’ve read suggests 200 mg of caffeine is a good amount for a coffee nap, though that’s a full two cups worth! 

Also, you should probably avoid taking a coffee nap too close to your regular bedtime. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of disturbing your regular sleep. Most experts recommend stopping caffeine consumption a full six hours before bedtime.

They also recommend drinking your first cup somewhere between 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM but we can talk more about that some other time. 

Now, let’s move on to…

3. The “Almost There” Nap

A one-hour nap is pretty good overall. You’ll get the deepest type of sleep (slow-wave) but it might take you a little while to come around. If you want the best overall result sleep a little longer…

The Ideal Full-Sleep-Cycle Nap

It takes about 90 minutes to run through all the different phases of sleep (light, dreaming, etc.) so sleep for an hour and a half is just about perfect.

You should wake up feeling really good, and since you completed the full cycle it should also be relatively easy to get up.

The Worst Type of Nap

Sleep experts say a 30-minute nap will give you almost zero benefit because you’ll be waking up just as your deeper phases of sleep were getting underway.

So basically, consider a quick power nap with or without some coffee or commit to a longer nap somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes.

What did I end up doing this past weekend?

I had set my alarm for 20 minutes but never heard it go off and woke up after my wife texted me another 45 minutes later!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post The Best 4 Ways to Catch Some Zzz’s appeared first on Daily Reckoning.