Be “Brain Smart”: A Round-Up of TED Talks about Brain Health

Sure you use your brain all the time, but do you know how your brain really works? Do you know what you can do to keep your brain strong and healthy to support your concentration, creativity, and decision-making? To help you get a better idea about your brain’s health and functioning, we’ve rounded up a selection of TED Talks about neuroscience that will teach you how health-supporting activities like exercise and sleep affect your brain’s health, what happens in your brain when you think, and focus tips for protecting and improving your brain’s health and longevity!

The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise by Wendy Suzuki

What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory — and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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Focus on Healthy Vision

The irony of staring into a computer screen to write a blog post about healthy vision is not lost on me, but here we are. Even if you don’t spend the majority of your day stuck behind a monitor, it’s important to take good care of your peepers. Most vision problems are preventable and can be avoided by following a few healthy suggestions. Here are just a few simple tips for taking an active role in the health of your eyes.

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Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature

We all know lots of ways to boost our health – working out, getting adequate sleep, eating produce, etc. But did you know that one really easy way to positively benefit your health is getting some time outside? Many of us spend a lot of time indoors because of our work/school environments, weather, and indoor hobbies/Netflix binges. However, you can reap the benefits of spending time in nature even through as little as 20 minutes a day! We’ve rounded up some of the major benefits of spending time in nature to show you that spending time in the great outdoors is not only refreshing and fun, but can have some really wonderful mental and physical health too.

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The Best Apps for Managing Stress

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 4/27/17.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. In the short-term, low level stress can help us focus and improve our performance. It can give us the boost we need to finish a big project or make an important decision. However, I think we can all agree when we say that an overabundance of stress is the absolute worst.

First, a quick primer on stress: Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life.  When your brain perceives a threat (anything from a fast approaching deadline to a fast-approaching wild animal), it signals your body to release a burst of hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. This “fight-or-flight” response fuels you to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Once the threat (or stress-inducing trigger) is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state. However, given the nonstop complications of modern life,  many of us rarely return to that relaxed state, merely hopping from one stressor to another.

It’s easy to get stressed out from day-to-day demands. Luckily, there are healthy ways to manage your stress.

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What’s the deal with dietary supplements?

Who remembers those commercials for Flintstones brand chewable multivitamins from back in the day? As a kid, I was happy to take one a day because, let’s face it, they tasted like candy. Now that I’m an adult, it’s definitely a little harder to feel like I should be taking a daily vitamin or other dietary supplement. There are so many bottles sitting on the shelf at the grocery store and so many labels; it can be overwhelming when you’ve just come to pick up some eggs. Understanding a bit more about these supplements and how they work can go a long way towards helping you determine whether or not they should be a part of your life.  As National Nutrition Month comes to an end, we’re providing you with an overview of dietary supplements to help you decide whether you need to boost your nutrition this spring.

What exactly is a dietary supplement?

Dietary supplements can contain one or more dietary ingredients like vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other substances. They usually come in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form, but can also come as powders and bars, too. They’re meant to supplement (not replace) the nutrition you get from your daily diet.

Do I even need to take a dietary supplement?

It depends. Your nutritional needs should technically be met as long as you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet full of a variety of foods. The foods we eat are full of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and other substances that are good for your health, but sometimes you might not be getting enough of a particular nutrient. This can be due to lots of reasons even outside of what you eat. For instance, if you’re getting insufficient exposure to sunlight, you might not be getting enough vitamin D; this is where a dietary supplement could be helpful.

What should I take then?

Before you pull every bottle from the shelf, it’s a very good idea to talk to your doctor first to determine what supplement may be right for you, or if you even need one. It can be dangerous to exceed the level of nutrients you can safely intake. Your doctor can tell you just how much of a particular supplement will be beneficial to your health. If you’re already taking one, make sure your doctor is aware – some supplements may not play nicely with prescription medication.

How much of a recommended supplement should I take?

The manufacturers label will suggest a serving size as it relates to the potency of the supplement ingredients, but this can get a little confusing depending on what your doctor has recommended for you. You don’t want to take more (or less) than what you need. Read the labels as carefully as you can, and follow up with your doctor to make sure you’ve picked up the right thing. You can also ask your local pharmacist for help with interpreting supplement labels.

Where can I find more information about the types of supplements that are available?

A good place to start is MedlinePlus. Powered by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MedlinePlus presents information in an easy to read format and provides you with lots of links to other safe places to look for health-related information. The NIH also has a number of helpful Vitamin and Mineral Fact Sheets that can provide you with scientifically-based overviews about the many vitamins and minerals that are out there.

Resources

https://medlineplus.gov/dietarysupplements.html

https://www.nutrition.gov/dietary-supplements/questions-to-ask-before-taking-vitamins-and-mineral-supplements

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/DietarySupplements-HealthProfessional/

 

Tips for a Healthy Spring

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 4/14/16.

Springtime brings with it a flurry of activity and a sense of renewal. The flowers bloom, the weather warms, and I get an intense drive to clean my home and refresh it for a new season. Although this season abounds with fresh opportunities, it also brings its own health concerns (pollen, anyone?). Follow these tips to help you have a healthy spring and enjoy the best of the season!

blooming-springtime

How will you stay healthy this spring?

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The Best Apps for Better Sleep

An oldie but a goodie: This app round-up was originally published on 11/2/17.

Happy Daylight Savings Time! Although the time switch means it’s time for warmer weather and longer days, when our clocks spring forward, it often leaves us feeling groggy and tired. In general, we tend to be fairly sleep deprived – according to the CDC, more than a third of American adults are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, causing chronic sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Yikes!

Luckily, aside from Daylight Savings Time, this week is also Sleep Awareness Week, giving you a prime opportunity to focus on getting better rest. There are lots of ways you can improve your sleep, including these tips from the National Sleep Foundation. To encourage you to focus on getting better sleep, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite sleep apps to help you track your sleeping habits, fall asleep faster, and sleep more soundly.

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Habits for Healthier Sleep

Raise your hand if you’re tired right now. OK, now raise your hand if you’ve been tired at least a few afternoons this week. Unfortunately, I bet every single one of you lovely readers raised your hand for at least one of those – according to the CDC, one third of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, regularly clocking in at fewer than 7 hours a night. The number of people who experience occasional and/or recurrent sleep deprivation is even higher – studies show that nearly everyone experiences occasional sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of problems: from reduced concentration, lowered immunity, irritability, and low productivity in the short term to the increased risk of heart disease, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation, dementia, and much more over the long term.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to help you sleep more and sleep better! Next week is Sleep Awareness Week, so we want to encourage you to try these tips next week to see how you feel! If you find yourself more rested, you can work them into your regular routine.

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Get Moving! Best Exercises for Heart Health (That Aren’t Running)

We all know that in order to develop strong muscles in our body, we need to exercise. But did you ever consider that your heart is also a muscle? Arguably the most important muscle in your body, the heart also needs to be worked out to stay in tip top shape and keep ticking. If the thought of lacing up and heading out the door for a heart-thumping run gives you panic attacks, no need to stress. Running isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of ways to make your heart strong that don’t involve running—although, that’s also a pretty great way to strengthen your ticker, too!

hearthealth

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