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How’s your brain health? January 4, 2007

Posted by genchan in General, Health, Lifestyle, Social.
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An avid supporter of anything that promotes health, I decided to blog a bit on the ways to stay ‘brain active’.

The Alliance for Aging Research, a non-profit citizen advocacy organization based in Washington, offers ten steps to keep our brains healthy. Below are the ten steps as reported in Yahoo! News (1.1.07):

  1. Eat a Brain-Healthy Diet. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in fish), protein, antioxidants, fruits and vegetables and vitamin B; low in trans fats; and with an appropriate level of carbohydrates will help keep your brain healthy.
  2. Stay Mentally Active. Activities such as learning a new skill or language, working on crossword puzzles, taking classes, and learning how to dance can help challenge and maintain your mental functioning.
  3. Exercise Regularly. Exercising often can increase circulation, improve coordination, and help prevent conditions that increase the risk of dementia such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
  4. Stay Social. Spending time with friends, volunteering, and traveling can keep your mind active and healthy.
  5. Get Plenty of Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on brain health.
  6. Manage Stress. Participating in yoga, spending time with friends, or doing other stress-relieving activities can help preserve your ability to remember and learn.
  7. Prevent Brain Injury. Wearing protective head gear and seat belts can help you avoid head injury, which has been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
  8. Control Other Health Conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, and controlling stress can help reduce your risk of diseases that affect your brain, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and hypertension.
  9. Avoid Unhealthy Habits. Smoking, heavy drinking and use of recreational drugs can increase the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
  10. Consider Your Genes. If your family history puts you at risk for developing dementia, work with your doctor to find ways to maintain your brain health to help avoid or slow the progression of cognitive decline.

These ten steps are not extraordinary or uncommon. You have probably heard about them over and over again. They are what your parents have been nagging you when you stay up late watching TV, engage in drinking and smoking, lazing on the sofa the whole day while munching on that favorite french fries, or disliking certain types of veges. While most of them are familiar to all of us, its interesting to note that learning something new be it for work or for leisure has positive implications for the health of our brains which is said to decline with age.

Apart from learning, which is mainly an input activity, it is important to balance it with output, i.e. the ability to express ourselves through words and actions by staying social. Having an active circle of friends could help us to unwind, gain feedback and exchange ideas/thoughts thus training our brain to remain vibrant and fresh.

As the steps clearly show, ensuring our brain health cannot be separated from having a fit body. Yet, there is one thing that is beyond our ability to control (at least at present) and that is what we inherited through our genes. So as long as we stay clear of the last point above, lets get working on the remaining nine steps and prevent cognitive decline.  

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Leading by example? December 7, 2006

Posted by genchan in General, Health, Japan, Lifestyle.
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02.jpg 01.jpg In Japan, metabolic syndrome has become a buzzword, a hot topic of sort and more and more people are paying attention to it. Its one of those health related issues that tend to plague industrialized countries, often affecting middle-aged people.

It starts with some extra padding around the waist, from a harmless bicycle tyre size to a harmful tractor tyre size bulging. Its not so much about physical appearance but internal effects that could raise one’s blood pressure and sugar level bringing about lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, stroke and others.

 This has got people all worked up, thanks to the media. Now, the fitness industry is seeing a boom in business as people become more aware of their health risk and seek for ways to change their unhealthy lifestyles. Gradually, there have been a renewed interests in health equipments targeting home users and over-the-counter health food/supplements for those too lazy to sweat out in a local gym.

 Surprisingly, two Vice Ministers of Health, Labor and Welfare are trying to lead by example in a rare attempt of showing off their pot bellies as they are being measured and keeping to a simple health program for 6 months – here. Their goals? One aims to reduce his weight by 5 kg and waistline by 5cm while the other by 6kg and 6cm. Both are currently over 80kgs with a waist circumference of about 100cm.

And their program would be? Taking 10 min walks, avoid using elevators, avoid sweet carbonated drinks, reduce to 1 can of beer a day, reduce oily and fried food to a meal a day, and to take no more than 3 meals a day.

Noble! But how big a deal is loosing 5 or 6kgs over a period of 6 months based on the program above? Not much I would say. That was my first thought when I first read about it. Its hardly a diet and says nothing about metabolic syndrome let alone leading by example.

I guess that’s the best they can do or willing to do. They have until May 2007 before they are being measured again.