Puzzles for your brain

How to Knock 10 Years Off Your Age

My dad did the crossword puzzle every day, and, I believe, Sudoku. He reached the age of 90 with his faculties intact.  I’ve always credited those puzzles.

Something we’ve all instinctively known has now been proven by a research study. Doing puzzles will keep your brain sharp.

Scientists at the University of Exeter and King’s College London studied 19,000 people over the age of 50. The participants had to report how often they did word and number puzzles. Then they took cognitive tests to measure brain function. The more puzzles people did, the better they did on the tests in attention, reasoning, and memory.

The study concluded people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age on tests assessing grammatical reasoning and eight years younger than their age on tests measuring short term memory.

The scientists can’t say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in later life, but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer.

The study is expanding into other countries and will extend for a period of 25 years using an online platform called PROTECT that allows follow up with participants annually.

I have never been interested in Sudoku and rarely do a crossword puzzle these days. Maybe I’d better invest in a puzzle book.

Do you do puzzles?

Advertisements

The great outdoors

boat-1620452__340

 

Even after living on a relatively rural island in Florida for more than 20 years, I still consider myself a city girl. I burn easily in the sun and bugs love to bite me, so I really don’t like spending time outdoors all that much. But a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan has given me incentive.

People have always been urged to commune with nature to reduce stress, but just how much time was needed and what kind of experience would do the trick weren’t known.

Lead author of the research, Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, says people who spent 20 minutes a day in nature saw a significant reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. The “nature pill” prescription is sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.

Participants were studied over an eight week period. They were to spend 10 minutes or more, three days a week anywhere outside that made them feel like they’d interacted with nature. There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.

The 20 to 30 minute window produced the highest reduction in cortisol. After that, the benefit continued but at a lesser rate.

I guess I can spare 20 minutes outside on a stressful day, and what day isn’t? How do you feel about taking a “nature pill?”

 

Welcome to pioneer land

covered-wagon-2967229__340.png

 

I have to confess I am something of a Luddite when it comes to technology. Oh, I’m on my laptop pretty much all day every day. And I spend an unreasonable amout of time on Facebook. But I have steadfastly refused to succumb to the lure of smart phones. I have only had a minimalist mobile phone which I only turned on to make calls, not receive them. It was basically for emergencies.

Then, my husband’s daughter gave him an Echo Dot for his birthday last Thanksgiving. Frankly, I didn’t see the point. What was this thing supposed to do anyway? We’ve since learned how to get it to play music at dinner time and how to set a timer and an alarm. But I could easily have done all those things without it.

echo

I tried to use smart plugs but soon discovered they require a smart phone. The two plugs I bought went back.

Well, I finally broke down and bought a smart phone. This Tracfone is still basic, but it does allow me to access apps.

tracfone

Both Orlando daughters came to visit over the weekend, bearing new Wemo smart plugs. It took both of them combined quite a bit of time to configure one of the plugs to the lamp in our living room. Now I can turn on the lamp remotely by using my spanking new phone. Of course first I have to turn on the phone, wait for it to power up, and wait for it to find the plug. I still don’t understand why or when I would want to do this.

wemo

Could somebody please explain all this to me? What am I missing? Do you ask Alexa to do your bidding?

Falls not just a problem for the elderly

slip-up-709045__340

 

It is common knowledge that falls are a problem among the elderly. They often lead to broken hips from which the person may never really recover. A recent study, however, indicates the problem with falls starts much earlier than we think.

Researchers in Trinity College Dublin have identified a sharp increase in falls after the age of 40, particularly in women.  They drew on data from TILDA (the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing) as well as data from similar studies in Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands and found that for women the prevalence of falls increases from the age of 40 on — 9% in 40-44 year olds, 19% in 45-49 year olds, 21% in 50-54 year olds, 27% in 55-59 year olds and 30% in 60-64 year olds.

What this means is that preventative measures should be undertaken beginning around the age of menopause. Waiting until after a fall has occurred is not nearly effective enough.

Health consequences like fractures, head injuries, reduced social participation, increased risk of nursing home admittance, decline in independence and subsequently increased need for care are serious and costly. In addition, there are emotional costs. The researchers estimate one in four people over the age of 50 is afraid of further falls.

Midlife ladies, here is a slideshow of balance exercises to get you started in preventing a fall.

 

Take back control of your life

Is your life spinning out of control? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a single resource to keep all the bits and pieces you must keep track of in one place? Search no more.

The new, improved version of the Living Well Planner is available to pre-order. It’s pretty as you can see, but it also is a workhorse. Inside, you can set and track goals, budgets, meals, and everything else in your life. Watch and listen.

 

 

Full disclosure: I have recently become an affiliate with Ruth Soukup’s company, so I will get a commission if you make a purchase through my link.

 

I want to be alone

greta-garbo-398405__340

 

What a relief! A new study indicates social withdrawal isn’t always a bad thing.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo looked at the motivation behind the desire to be alone. They cite three reasons why people avoid others. One is plain old shyness because of fear or anxiety. A second is avoidance, dislike of being with others or social interaction.

The third, however, is that some people just like spending time reading or working on their computers. They call this unsociability. Can I hear an amen from the introverts of the world?

That third category of people may not initiate social opportunities but will accept them if offered, so they are not totally missing out on peer interaction.

The first two categories result in negative outcomes like lack of social skills or support. The third is positively correlated with creativity. This gives me great comfort.

So, if you are like me and really would prefer to keep your distance most of the time, go ahead. Embrace your solitude. You know you want to.

 

 

.

Conversing over cocktails

drinks-2578446__340

Once upon a time, I took several semesters of noncredit Spanish classes. I did OK in reading, but in situations where I needed to speak to someone in Spanish I froze up. Maybe I should’ve had a cocktail first.

A study by the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London found that people who drank a small amount of alcohol were judged to have better pronunciation in a foreign language. Alcohol impairs executive function including the ability to remember things, so it should hamper speaking a second language. But it also lessens social anxiety.

Interestingly, in this study, outside observers rated those who had consumed a low dose of alcohol significantly better speakers than the control group who had non-alcoholic beverages . The actual participants did not rate themselves higher.

So if you try this at home, stick to only one drink and don’t judge yourself. You’re conversing better than you think.

Go ahead and gossip

yada-yada-1432923__340

A new study says gossiping is not a character flaw. It is instead a highly developed social skill and competitive tactic.

Women tend to comment on each others’ appearance. Men, on the other hand, gossip about each others’ wealth and athleticism.

The study’s author Adam Davis of the University of Ottawa doesn’t seem to regard the men’s gossip in the same light as that of women. He seems to think it is only women whose gossip is designed to undermine rivals for a potential mate’s attention.

Personally, it sounds the same to me. Women assume men are more interested in a more attractive mate, so they try to make other women seem less attractive. Men assume women want a rich partner or at least a physically fit one who can presumably protect them.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

newborn-1328454__340

 

A new study by Rubin Naiman, PhD, a sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, warns that lack of dreams is leading to many health concerns.

When we fall asleep, we first experience the deep sleep that our bodies prioritize. Dreams, however, occur during REM, rapid eye movement, sleep that typically comes late at night or early morning. Naiman says health concerns are usually attributed to sleep loss might actually be  caused by dream loss.

Personally, I don’t usually remember my dreams. Does this mean I am not dreaming enough? Should I be worried?

Eat more amino acids to lose weight

apricots-2527193__340

 

If you, like me and millions of others, are overweight, a new study offers a possible solution.

Researchers at the University of Warwick found that tanycytes, cells in the part of the brain that controls energy, detect nutrients in food such as  amino acids. Two amino acids, arginine and lysine, react the most with these tanycytes and thus make you feel more full. Large concentrations of arginine and lysine are found in pork shoulder beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils, and almonds.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to add more of these foods to my diet ASAP.