cognitive problems

  1. How physical activities can save your brain

    The right moves for beating dementia

    Want to beat dementia? Start moving.

    The couch potato lifestyle is responsible for 21 percent of all dementia cases, making it one of the leading preventable causes of the brain-robbing condition.

    If that's not enough to get you off the sofa and outside, take a look at the latest research, which confirms exactly what I've seen all along: Seniors who get even moderate levels of basic physical activities have a much lower risk of cognitive problems, including dementia, than couch potatoes.

    And that's even true of people who have some of the earliest warning signs of dementia within the brain itself.

    For the new study, researchers recruited 638 seniors who had the type of damage in the brain linked to dementia, but no actual outward signs of the disease, and tracked them for three years.

    Those who got even very modest levels of physical activities were 60 percent less likely to develop any form of cognitive impairment and 40 percent less likely to suffer from vascular dementia over those three years.

    The only condition where physical activities didn't show a direct benefit was full-blown Alzheimer's -- but I've seen other studies that have shown otherwise. One study published earlier this year found that the most sedentary seniors have 2.3 times the risk of Alzheimer's disease of those who are most active.

    In the new study, the levels of physical activities were also fairly moderate -- just 30 minutes of walking, biking, or gym classes three times a week. Maybe that's enough to keep some forms of dementia at bay, but not quite enough to protect against Alzheimer's.

    I'd say shoot for more -- between two and three hours a week or more of light to moderate activity, and not just to save your brain.

    A little movement can help protect the rest of your body, too, by slashing your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and more. But let's stay focused on lowering that dementia risk today, because another new study shows what happens inside your brain when you get even a little bit of movement.

    Keep reading for more...

  2. Seniors are routinely given too much anesthesia

    Surgery is traumatic enough at any age. But once you get up there in years, even a minor operation can be tough to recover from -- especially when you're given an overdose of anesthesia.

    And sadly, this happens all the time.

    In fact, two-thirds of all seniors get too much anesthesia during surgery, according to a new analysis that also finds the median dose of the anesthetic propofol given to seniors is nearly 20 percent higher than the highest dose they should have received.

    This isn't a simple matter of giving patients a little extra to make sure they're unconscious. It's a dangerous practice that can complicate the surgery and turn recovery into a nightmare.

    In this case, the researchers found that seniors given overdoses of anesthesia were more likely to suffer hypotension, or low blood pressure, right after the anesthesia kicks in.

    It didn't increase the death rate, and because of that the researchers seem to think this might not be that big a deal.

    But it is a big deal -- because there are other factors to consider here besides the death rate, like recovery times and complications, and unfortunately the study didn't look at any of those.

    Any operation in seniors also comes with a risk of cognitive problems -- including a dementia-like condition called postoperative cognitive dysfunction, or POCD. And seniors who are put under are more likely to experience it.

    The condition can last for days, weeks, or even months -- and seniors discharged from the hospital with POCD actually have a higher death risk.

    Anesthesia can also cause or worsen delirium, a growing problem in hospitals that often leads to a downward spiral as doctors give these seniors powerful antipsychotic drugs that can actually make the condition worse.

    That's why it's absolutely essential that seniors only get anesthesia when they need it -- and, when they do, at the lowest possible dose.

    If you or someone you love is going in for surgery, be sure to have a few words with the doctor beforehand about anesthesia -- and make sure he listens.

    In addition, I recommend detoxifying nutrients such as glutathione and milk thistle extract to help the brain recover from anesthesia. Acupuncture can also be helpful.

  3. A wake-up call for bad sleep habits

    Judging by myself and my patients -- not to mention the bags under the eyes of many of the people I meet each day -- I'd say the biggest problem when it comes to sleep is that we don't get nearly enough of it.
  4. How seniors get hooked on painkillers

    One minute, you're a healthy and active senior who wouldn't dream of popping an Advil, much less a powerful prescription painkiller. The next, you're a certified addict who can't get through the day without an opioid drug.

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