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A hug is duct tape for the soul.

 
Here's a link to a blog post about 14 Safe Ways to Change Your Brain. It came to us via this email from Kaitlyn Cole:

 Hi John,
I recently discovered your blog, and I have become a frequent reader.
We recently published an article “14 Safe Ways to Change Your Brain”
that dovetails well with your audience. Perhaps you would be
interested in sharing with them?

Here's the link:
(http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2011/12/14-safe-ways-to-change-your-brain/).

Thanks for the great content, and I hope the article I've linked
primes your interest.

Regards,
Kaitlyn Cole


------------------------------------------


You know how it goes. Someone sends in a comment or a great review only to reveal (sometimes unintentionally) that their main purpose was not to praise your site but to promote their own. I'm willing to give Kaitlyn the benefit of the doubt, however, because I believe her article does offer benefit to our readers. So, link on over to OnlineUniversities.com and start improving your brain in healthy, enjoyable ways.

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From ThirdAge: 

Dementia as a cause for emergency hospital admissions has risen by 12 percent in the last five years, a new report from dementia experts shows. According to Yahoo News, 2,000 more dementia-related cases showed up in emergency rooms this year than in 2006.
Researchers believe the numbers reflect a “continued failure by some hospitals to accurately diagnose people with dementia,” Yahoo said.
Common and Complex: Commissioning Effective Dementia Services in the New World recommends that health departments and other stakeholders in the fight against the affliction come up with a standard diagnosis of dementia for 2012. Doing so will save on both costs and time, said Jeremy Hughes.
“For many thousands of people with dementia, being admitted to the hospital is not the best treatment,” said Hughes, who serves as the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society. “It is also very costly. Commissioners must invest in services in the community to reduce this number and help people with dementia to live well at home…Change cannot come soon enough.”
According to eMedicineHealth.com, about four to five million people in the United States have some degree of dementia. With the ongoing aging of the population, that number is expected to increase over the next few decades.
In the U.K., the need for change is especially apparent. The National Audit of Dementia criticized British caregivers for their poor treatment of dementia in a report issued this week.
Link here to the just-published U.K. report cited above: Common and Complex: Commissioning Effective Dementia Services in the New World 

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From NewsWise:
Many people with dementia don’t realize they have the disease until it’s at an advanced stage, when everyone can tell something is wrong. Other people might start forgetting dates or names and worry they have dementia, yet their memory problems are just a normal consequence of aging. Having primary care doctors routinely screen patients for dementia at annual check up visits—just like they do for high blood pressure or cholesterol—could identify people in need of dementia care and reassure those who are healthy. That’s what dementia experts argued at a meeting held last month in New York City, as reported on Alzforum (www.alzforum.org).
The meeting was co-sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF). The two organizations intend to issue joint recommendations on how to increase dementia detection in primary care practice. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010 calls for Medicare to start in 2011 to pay for an annual wellness visit that includes the detection of any cognitive impairment—that means, any disorder in which thinking (cognitive) abilities are reduced, including dementia.
One argument against this coming prospect is that there isn't much doctors can do for people who test positive for cognitive impairment or dementia. But participants at the AFA-ADDF meeting argued there is some evidence that knowing if someone has dementia helps doctors provide better overall medical care. On the other hand, it will be challenging to add dementia screening and follow-up to an already crowded primary care system. There are many tests that doctors can use to detect dementia, and they do so reliably. Even so, a large proportion of patients who screen positive on those tests do not return for further follow-up.
 Visit the original source.

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From Daily Rx: 


Headaches are surprisingly common for months after children and teenagers suffer a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion.
Brain injury from a whack on the head occurs in more than 500,000 children and teens yearly. Almost 45 percent of them have headaches three months after even a mild traumatic brain injury, said Heidi Blume, MD, MPH, from Seattle Children's Research Institute and principal investigator Fred Rivara, MD, MPH, of HarborviewInjury Prevention and Research Center, University of Washington.
A year after head injury, most headaches had stopped. Writing inPediatrics, Dr. Blume and coauthors say no one knows why girls and teens most often have headaches after a traumatic brain injury. They also have the most migraines and other headache problems, 
Dr. Blume and colleagues analyzed the number of headaches 3 and 12 months after mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury in children ages 5 to 17. The 402 children with a mild injury had a higher rate of headaches, 43 percent of the group, compared to 37 percent of the 60 children with a moderate to severe injury.
The study's comparison group was patients with arm fractures, and 26 percent of them had headaches.
Concussion is one common brain injury often ignored. The Merck Manualsays concussion involves unconsciousness, loss of memory, or other mental change. These problems last from seconds to several hours. Even a moderate concussion can cause tiredness, nausea, headache or dizziness.
Other possible problems include difficulty concentrating, depression, apathy, anxiety or losing the sense of smell. Symptoms usually go away over weeks to months.

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The high number of wounded warriors returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan will test America’s mettle in many areas for decades to come. While every veteran should be accorded all manner of assistance, from an education, a job and more, health care will no doubt rank highest for a large number.More than half a million veterans sustained an injury while on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Florida alone is home to almost 41,000 Iraq-era veterans on disability rolls, a McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2010 Veterans Affairs data discovered.

As the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan near, troops will be returning home in droves. The scars remain hidden to many soldiers -- until flashbacks, nightmares and other psychological impacts of combat surface.As Herald editor James A. Jones Jr. pointed out in a report last Sunday, veterans should enroll in the VA health care system upon returning home regardless of the state of their health.East Manatee’s Steve Valley served as an Army sergeant major in Iraq, came back in good health and enrolled upon the recommendation of the military. He now preaches that mantra.“You may not need the VA care now, but who knows in 10 or 20 years? You may develop a problem that could be traced back to your time in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he told Jones.

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From The Huffington Post:


What do puzzles and bowling have to do with dementia?
A small new study in the journal BMC Medicineshows that doing puzzles, bowling and singing help to make dementia-slowing drugs more effective, and seem to be effective at slowing down the brain decline of people with dementia.
HealthCanal reports that researchers from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany had 61 dementia patients in nursing homes either take their regular treatment for dementia, or take their regular treatment in addition to doing what is called "MAKS" therapy for two hours a day, six days a week. Everyone did their assigned therapies for one year.
"MAKS" includes motor stimulation, "daily living" activities, cognitive stimulation and a "spiritual element." The therapy includes things like singing, playing croquet, gardening, crafts, preparing snacks, talking about happiness and other mentally stimulating exercises.
Researchers found that the MAKS therapy was effective at stopping the dementia from progressing further, and the people on the MAKS therapy were also able to keep doing their everyday tasks. However, people who only took the dementia-slowing drugs had their dementia progress.
The MAKS therapy seemed to work best on people with mild to moderate dementia, compared with people with severe dementia, researchers reported.

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We posted about this subject before, but it's warning can withstand repeating. Brain damage is not something to risk if you can help it.

From The Atlantic: 

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but research shows that repeatedly hitting your head against a fast-moving object can lead to serious brain injuries


PROBLEM: Though common sense dictates that hitting your head against objects that move as fast as 34 miles per hour can cause serious injuries, many soccer players repeatedly field balls this way in training drills and games. Curious and perhaps also concerned, researchers led by Dr. Michael L. Lipton wanted to know if there is a threshold level for heading frequency that, when surpassed, results in brain damage.


METHODOLOGY: The investigators conducted DTI, an advanced magnetic resonance technique that allows researchers to assess microscopic changes in the brain's white matter, on 32 amateur soccer players who have played the sport since childhood. They estimated how often each of the participants headed the ball annually and then analyzed their brain scans for signs of injury.


RESULTS: Soccer players who headed balls more than 1,000 times a year had significantly diminished fractional anisotropy or FA in regions linked to attention, memory, executive functioning and higher-order visual functions. (FA is a measure that reflects the ability of water molecules in the brain to steadily move along axons, and abnormally low FA within white matter has been associated with cognitive impairment in people with severe brain damage.)

CONCLUSION: Those who head soccer balls with high frequency exhibit brain abnormalities similar to those found in traumatic brain injury patients.

IMPLICATION: Practices involving this wildly popular sport may need to be reevaluated to protect players from brain damage. Lipton notes in a statement, "While heading a ball 1,000 or 1,500 times a year may seem high to those who don't participate in the sport, it only amounts to a few times a day for a regular player."

SOURCE: The study, "Making Soccer Safer for the Brain: DTI-Defined Exposure Thresholds for White Matter Injury Due to Soccer Heading," was presented recently at the annual meeting of theRadiological Society of North America.

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From BBC News:

Lady Thatcher's private secretary has expressed concern at the way a film about the former prime minister begins by showing her with dementia.


Cynthia Crawford, from Worcester, has not seen the film The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, and said she could find it "quite distressing".
The opening scenes depict Lady Thatcher as an elderly woman who cannot remember whether her husband Denis is alive.
The film is due to be released in the UK in January.
Ms Crawford has worked with Lady Thatcher since 10 September 1978 and still visits her regularly.
She said she was in a dilemma about whether to see the film which depicts Lady Thatcher with dementia looking back on her life.
"Because Lady T and I are great chums and friends and mates, and I have travelled all over the world with her, I think it's going to be very hard to see that," she told BBC Hereford and Worcester in an interview on Saturday.
'Heart and soul'
"Her executors were given the initial script. I don't know if it's been modified, but we didn't care for the script at all. The children were very upset."
Ms Crawford has received offers of private viewings of the film, but said she was waiting for the right time.
"I expect eventually I will pluck up the courage to see it because everyone is talking about it," she said.
"I've had nothing but phone calls from the press... inviting me to watch a private view with [Lord] Heseltine, Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson."
Ms Crawford features in the film and is portrayed by actress Angela Curran.
She said Meryl Streep had put "her heart and soul" into playing Lady Thatcher and had carried out "great research".
But she said: "I don't think it could ever be really depicted in the proper way.
"This is probably as good as it's going to get. I just think this retrospective angle is not happy for her or her close friends."

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From the Paramus Post:




If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, your instinct might be to cling to beloved traditions this holiday season. But according to Nataly Rubinstein, you—and your loved one—might experience the most holiday joy by adapting your plans and expectations. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight people over the age of 65 suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, with that statistic rising to almost half of individuals over age 85 (that’s 5.4 million Americans overall). With those disturbing odds, it’s likely that you’ll be coming into contact with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or another dementia this holiday season. 
            Whether your loved one is a parent, grandparent, other relative, or family friend, you’re probably wondering what to expect during your time together. According to Nataly Rubinstein, the presence of Alzheimer’s or dementia will change the way the holidays “have always been,” but you can take concrete steps that create the best odds for an enjoyable experience.
            “When someone you know and love is diagnosed with one of these diseases, the ‘new normal’ can be difficult to understand, accept, and deal with, especially around the holidays,” says Rubinstein, author of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival Guide (Two Harbors Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-9361981-3-9, $17.95). “The key to best managing your holiday experience is to educate yourself as to what you should expect and to regulate your expectations accordingly.”
Here are seven things Rubinstein suggests keeping in mind if you’ll be visiting someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia in the coming weeks:


Understand why you feel the way you do. There’s nothing joyous or merry about the fact that someone you love has a degenerative and ultimately fatal disease. So even though this is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” according to Rubinstein, it’s completely normal for you to feel sad, confused, worried, or even frustrated by the prospect of coming holiday gatherings.
“Especially if the diagnosis is fairly recent, family members and friends tend to feel some mixture of fear and dread as the season of celebration approaches,” she shares. “That’s because we know on some level that things have changed forever. We are losing the holiday experience and beloved traditions as we’ve always known them, so of course our emotions are going to take a hit. It’s very important to admit and articulate to yourself—as well as other family members—why you’re feeling uncharacteristically stressed and upset.”
Manage your expectations. We live in a society that’s inundated by Hallmark holiday images: families gathered happily around the menorah or Christmas tree, laughing around the dinner table, or singing favorite holiday songs. Even if you’ve somehow managed to achieve this type of complete holiday bliss in the past (which is unlikely), you need to know that this year will not be the same.


“Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by dwelling on the past,” Rubinstein advises. “Even if you have spoken to Dad recently and he sounds good, realize that celebrating with him will not be like old times. Alzheimer’s and dementia will dramatically and permanently change aspects of your father and his behavior. So trying to force him—and your family as a whole—into a pre-disease holiday template is like trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole. While it might sound Scrooge-like, it’s wise to hope for the best while preparing yourself for the worst.”


Acknowledge the elephant in the room. For all families with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia (especially if that person is nearing or in the late stages of the disease), there is an 800-pound elephant standing in the middle of the room, right next to the stockings, garland, and snowglobes. What if Mom dies on Christmas or during Hanukkah? That’s the worst thing that could possibly happen—it would absolutely ruin this year, and it would attach bad memories to the holidays for the rest of our lives.
“I don’t doubt that the thought has occurred to you, and I bet that you feel guilty and selfish for considering it,” Rubinstein says. “You’re probably reluctant to express this worry to your family members for fear of being perceived as depressing or morbid. But the fact is, you have to deal with reality—a death on Christmas could happen. You don’t need to insert this dreadful ‘what-if’ into every conversation, but it might be helpful to discuss it with a few close loved ones. You might be surprised when they admit that they’ve been considering the same possibility.”

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From Huffington Post:
Government inspectors told lawmakers Wednesday that Medicare officials need to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs to nursing home patients with dementia, an unapproved practice that has flourished despite repeated government warnings.
So-called antipsychotic drugs are designed to help control hallucinations, delusions and other abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they're also given to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients in the U.S. to pacify aggressive behavior related to dementia. Drugs like AstraZeneca's Seroquel and Eli Lilly's Zyprexa are known for their sedative effect, often putting patients to sleep.
But the drugs can also increase the risk of death in seniors, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to issue multiple warnings against prescribing the drugs for dementia. Antipsychotics raise blood sugar and cholesterol, often resulting in weight gain.
An inspector for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Senate Committee on Aging that the federal government's Medicare program should begin penalizing nursing homes that inappropriately prescribe antipsychotics, according to written testimony obtained by the Associated Press.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides health coverage to nearly 80 million senior, poor or disabled Americans.
HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson proposed that Medicare force nursing homes to pay for drugs that are prescribed inappropriately, and potentially bar nursing homes that don't use antipsychotics appropriately from Medicare.
Continue reading.

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From the Statesman: 
Roadside bombs were the signature weapon of the Iraq War, and the traumatic brain injuries they caused to Americans fighting in Iraq were the signature wound.
The severity of these brain injuries varied. Some were disabling; others were similar to the concussions experienced by football players. By 2007 they had affected tens of thousands of troops — not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan as well.
The injuries were often invisible — the blast waves created by roadside bombs jolted brains or slammed heads to the ground or against vehicles but didn't always leave an external wound. Mild traumatic brain injuries were hard to diagnose and the intellectual and emotional problems they were capable of causing sometimes didn't show up for months.
Concerned, members of Congress passed a law four years ago requiring the military to test troops before they deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan to establish a cognitive baseline, used later to assess whether one was suffering from a brain injury.
Good intentions are often no match for conflicts of interest and policies that keep the government from profiting from things government employees invent.
As ProPublica, the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization, and NPR reported in a story published Tuesday in the American-Statesman, the test the military chose to use — the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric — is not considered a sufficiently reliable method for screening or diagnosing traumatic brain injuries. The Army's surgeon general, Eric Schoomaker, said in a confidential email obtained by ProPublica and NPR that ANAM's use as a screening tool for mild traumatic brain injuries "is fraught with problems."
More than 1 million troops have taken the test. It has cost the government $42 million to administer.
The decision to use ANAM was politically and financially, not scientifically, motivated. "The people who invented ANAM and stood to make money from it were involved in the military's decision to use it. No other tests received serious consideration," ProPublica and NPR reported.
Army researchers developed the ANAM test. That, supposedly, was one of its biggest virtues: Since the Pentagon owned the test, the military could use it for free.
But the military allows its scientists to profit from the work they do for the government. Further, the military licensed ANAM to contractors, and then had to pay "millions of dollars to use" a test its researchers developed, ProPublica and NPR reported.
Continue reading.

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