Movies On the Brain

In 2018, more than 1.3 billion movie tickets were reportedly sold in the US and Canada, alone, so I think it’s safe to say, people like watching movies. Why not take advantage of their widespread popularity and plan a movie screening or film festival for Brain Awareness Week!

Already a proven and popular activity among Brain Awareness Week partners, screenings can work in a more formal setting for adults, but also as a classroom activity for kids. To make them truly informational, it’s great to follow the movie with a lecture or panel discussion featuring experts on the move topic, or with a classroom discussion between a teacher and students.

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A Healthy Brain Needs a Healthy Body

The heart-brain connection is well established, and studies are finding increasing evidence that cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity contribute to the risk of cognitive decline.

Stroke and dementia are more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure, for example, according to the National Institutes of Health “Mind Your Risks” campaign, which clearly outlines the risks and steps to manage them.

The good new is, many of the steps can easily be incorporated into your daily routines: Continue reading

It’s Healthy Aging Month!

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Every September is Healthy Aging Month, and there is no better time than the present to start living a healthier life for your brain. Whether you are 80 or 18, it’s never too late or too early to follow some basic principles.

The Dana Foundation’s Successful Aging & Your Brain booklet discusses what older adults can do to keep their brains sharp as they age. Although it is true that cognitive decline, dementia, and other brain diseases and disorders become more common with age, it is also true that our brain improves in many ways as we grow older. With time, we accumulate more knowledge and apply past lessons in judging present challenges and opportunities—in other words, we become wiser. Our brains also maintain their ability to change in response to experiences, known as plasticity, well into old age.  Continue reading

Tips to Get Moving for National Senior Health and Fitness Day!

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Image: Shutterstock

Whether you’re already physically active or looking to get started, today is a great day to get moving! It’s the 25th anniversary of Senior Health & Fitness Day, the nation’s largest annual health promotion event for older adults. More than 1,000 local organizations in all 50 states are hosting activities such as fitness walks, low-impact exercises, health screenings, health information workshops, and more.

While exercise has benefits for the whole body, it is especially important for your brain as you age. Experts from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), a collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars, and policy experts who focus on brain heath and aging, agreed in a report that people who exercise “show beneficial changes in brain structure and function” and “have lower risk of cognitive decline.” Physical activity can make positive changes in our brains that will keep us sharp into old age.

The experts at GCBH also outlined the following guidelines for anyone looking to improve their level of physical activity and keep it enjoyable:

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National Parkinson’s Awareness Month Interview with Robert Edwards, M.D.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects roughly one in 100 people over the age of 60. With no biomarker or objective test to make a definitive diagnosis, PD has kept researchers searching for clues on how to treat, and hopefully prevent, the disease.

April is National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, and so we sat down with Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Robert Edwards, M.D., who specializes in the treatment of PD at the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Clinic. Edwards is a professor of neurology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. His lab has received international recognition for demonstrating that vesicular monoamine transport protects against MPTP toxicity, suggesting an important mechanism that may also protect against Parkinson’s.

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Robert Edwards, M.D.

Regular exercise is proven to have positive effects on gait speed, strength, balance, and overall quality of life for people with PD. Though studies are still limited, dance therapy is said to greatly improve quality of life for this group, even more so than typical exercise. Can you talk a little bit about this?

RE: I am not an expert in this area, but exercise has clear short-term effects on function and for those more severely affected, on quality of life—those earlier in the disease are doing pretty well in any case. Presumably, exercise helps by improving the function of the basal ganglia circuitry that controls movement, much as it would in normal individuals. Dance therapy focuses on balance and other aspects of motor function different from standard exercises, so might be expected to add something new. Continue reading

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