yawnfromtwob thumb1 150x102 Yawning Boosts Mental Abilities and Helps Olympian Win
from twob

Like most people recently, I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics on T.V.  While watching Apolo Ohno warm up for one of his Short Track races the other night, I noticed him yawning.  At first I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that he was so tired just before a race that he couldn’t resist the urge to yawn. When I paid closer attention to what he was doing, it looked like he was actually TRYING to yawn. It looked like he was actually warming up to a big yawn by taking several small, fake yawns, just prior to launching into a big natural one. Then I remembered the post I wrote about how Yawning can Improve Memory, Brain Fitness and overall Brain Health. So I thought well, maybe it was a tactic he was using to improve his racing ability just before a race. It turns out I was right!  I recently read an article on Yahoo News that said Apolo Ohno yawns prior to a race in order to bring more oxygen into his lungs and to get the nerves out of his system. But just maybe, without his realizing, it helped his mental abilities too. Short track racing requires a lot of quick thinking and mental strategy. So while his “official” reason had nothing to do with memory, brain fitness and overall brain health, perhaps the brain boosting benefits of yawning helped him win and become the Winter Olympian with the most medals in U.S. history. Who knows? icon smile Yawning Boosts Mental Abilities and Helps Olympian Win

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grilledsalmon Omega 3 Fatty Acids: The Benefits of Fish Oil
from woodleywonderworks

I’m sure you’ve heard before that we should eat fish on a regular basis. Besides being an excellent source of protein, fish contain the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These fatty acids are considered essential because they’re necessary for human health. The body can’t make them – you have to get them through food.

In modern diets, there are relatively few sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re found mainly in the fat of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish.

By contrast, sources of omega-6 essential fatty acids are numerous in the modern diets. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, contain omega-6 and are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets in the American diet as well as in fast foods.

Omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation, blood clotting, and cell proliferation, while omega-3 fatty acids tend to decrease those functions.

Both omega-3’s and 6’s must be in balance in order to maintain optimum health. But the modern diet in America tends more towards the supply of omega-6 fatty acids and less of the omega-3’s. This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of many diseases such as asthma, heart disease, and many forms of cancer, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body.

For this reason, many doctors advise increasing our dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Multiple studies have been done over the years that have demonstrated the numerous mental health benefits associated with increasing our omega-3 fatty acid intake.

Helps Reduce The Risk of Alzheimer’s

One of the benefits being associated with omega-3 fatty acids is that they’ve been shown to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at UCLA and associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, reported that the DHA found in fish oil increases the production of LR11. LR11 is a protein which has been found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients. LR11 is known to destroy a protein that forms the “plaques” associated with Alzheimer’s.

Can Help Prevent Severe Mental Illness

A preliminary study of 81 patients in Austria suggest that severe mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia may be prevented by taking fish oil supplements.  Dr. Janet Wozniak of Harvard Medical School said the findings might reasonably cause psychiatrists to recommend fish oil to some patients because there are many known benefits and little risk.

Improvement in Depression Symptoms

In a 1998 report in the Journal of Affective Disorders, it was reported that significantly lower levels of omega-3′s were found in the red blood cell membranes of patients with depression.

Then in the May 1999 Archives of General Psychiatry, Andrew Stoll, M.D., and his colleagues reported a study of fish oil conducted on 30 manic-depressive patients. Sixty-four percent of those who took 10 grams of fish oil per day for four months reported a marked improvement in their symptoms. By contrast, only 19 percent of those who received the placebo benefited.

Curbing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD, ADHD)Symptoms with Fish Oil

Paul Montgomery, a researcher in the psychiatry department at the University of Oxford in England, found that “A lack of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” For the study, schoolchildren were given fish oil supplements rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) for a period of three months. The children showed significant improvements in behavior, reading, and spelling.

Says Montgomery. “I think supplementation with omega 3′s is the only sensible way forward. One gram per day seems right for most children.”

Can Fish Make you Smarter?

In a Norwegian study, about 2,030 people in their early 70s reported their fish consumption and took various mental skills tests. People who reported eating on average at least a third of an ounce of fish per day outscored those who skimped on fish.

In another related study, Dutch researchers took blood samples from 800 men and women aged 50-70. They also were given mental skills tests at the study’s start and again three years later. Test scores were lower on the follow-up test but the drop was gentlest in people with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids at the study’s start.

Other Health Benefits of Fish Oil and Omega-3’s

Besides mental health benefits, there are many other health related benefits of consuming fish oil and omega-3’s, such as:

  • decreases risk of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats),
  • decreases triglyceride levels
  • slows the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque
  • lowers blood pressure (slightly)
  • reduces chance of a stroke
  • reduces chance of death in people with cardiovascular disease
  • reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • may help slow the progression of colon cancer
  • help prevent the development of prostate cancer
  • protects against the development and progression of retinopathy
  • reduces inflammation

Intake Recommendations

The American Heart Association recommends that we eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week. Check out Fish 101 for specific consumption recommendations.

When it comes to supplementation, there currently is no recommendation but the Food and Drug Administration classifies three grams per day as “safe”. According to the American Heart Association, people taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules should do so only under a physician’s care. High intakes could cause excessive bleeding in some people.

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

Additional Resources On Fish Oil

Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oil Improves Mental Health

Fish Oil to Treat Depression?

Alternative ADHD Treatment: Fish Oil

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brain food, essential fatty acids, fatty acids, fish oil, omega 3, omega 3 fatty acids

A lot of people come to my blog looking for online brain games and advice on how to find the best ones. In order to help you make more informed decisions, I’m producing a series of reviews of commercially available brain games. You can find a listing of all the commercially available brain game reviews in the Articles section of this website.

Lumosity Online Brain Games

Name: Lumosity
URL: www.lumosity.com
Product Type: Online access, subscription based

I’m starting my review series off with the first commercial online brain games product I ever purchased, and the one that I still use today.

This article is intended to help you reach an informed decision on whether Lumosity is the right commercial online brain game for you.

Before reading on, if you have no idea as to how brain games can benefit you or how you would go about selecting a good one, read my post titled; Brain Games Benefit You Now, and In The Future

A Brief History

As I initially educated myself on the subject of online brain games, I realized that I wanted something that;

1) Worked.. Meaning that it would actually benefit my brain health and fitness.

2) Wasn’t too expensive.

3) Would be fun to play and use.

I went looking online for commercial brain games that met my initial criteria. I discovered Lumosity and was completely intrigued by the online brain game product. What most interested me at first was how well rounded and professional the product was.  A lot of commercial online brain games seem almost childish. I mean, games that seem like they were created or targeted mostly for children. Lumosity brain games however, seemed more geared for adults in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong.. some of the games included in Lumosity do have the look and feel like they were designed for younger audiences, but I think overall the product is geared towards adult to young adult ages.

As usual, I did some due diligence first and looked around the internet to see what other people were saying about Lumosity.  It was hard to find a negative comment. Most of them were very positive.  As you look around, you’ll find that most sites dealing with brain health and fitness offer links to Lumosity – so I knew it wasn’t a fly by night outfit. It was and still is, in fact, one of the leading online brain game products and companies out there today.

I then went ahead and signed up for the free 14 day trial with Lumosity. Once I got the feel for the product and saw everything offered first hand, I opted up for the subscription service.

Even though I have by now tried and used many other commercial online brain game products, I continue to subscribe to and use the brain games at Lumosity.

Why I Use Lumosity Online Brain Games

In a nutshell, there were seven reasons why I initially chose and continue to use the Lumosity online brain games product.

  • The product is accessed online, meaning I didn’t have to download anything to start using it. Therefore, I could play it on any computer, anywhere, anytime I wanted. In addition, as the product improves and more games are added over time, I’m always using the latest version.
  • There was a free trial period where I could evaluate the product before I paid any money.
  • Once I did sign up for the subscription service, I could cancel it at anytime.
  • There were lots and lots of different brain games included in the product. In fact, there are even many groupings of brain games, each group targeting a certain aspect of brain function. For instance, there are whole groups of brain games targeting memory improvement, processing speed and problem solving, just to name a few.
  • There were Neuroscientists on the development team. This was important, because I wanted to make sure that neuroscience was behind the development of the games.
  • The product is relatively in-expensive, especially when one considers the health benefits derived from such a product.
  • The brain games found at Lumosity are fun to play. They also continually increase in difficulty as you progress in ability.

Price

There are three levels of Lumosity access.

1) Visitors – Free but limited access to brain games and content on the Lumosity website. No sign-up is required to play the limited access set of brain games.

2) Members – Once you sign up for a free member account with Lumosity, you have a 14 day free trial to all of the brain games offered at the site. You won’t be billed for anything unless you keep your account open past your 14-day free trial. After that, you will be billed depending on the subscription plan you chose at member sign-up. You can cancel at anytime using your member account page.

3) Subscribers -  Once the free trial is over, you can pay in billing increments of your choice (monthly or yearly) and have access to all the games, training programs, and progress tracking tools.

Membership Plans Available (billing cycles) – You can choose one of the following subscription plans upon sign-up.

Monthly Subscription — $14.95 / month

Yearly Subscription — $79.95 (most popular plan)

Two Year Plan — $119.95

Cancellation policy – When you subscribe to Lumosity, you are signing up for an automatically recurring billing at the interval of your choice. You can cancel your subscription at any time. After canceling, your account will retain subscriber level access to all of the brain games through the remainder of your billing cycle (mthly, yearly or two year).

My subscription preference- I signed up and continue to remain on the Yearly Subscription membership plan. I am now in my second year as of this writing. For me, it’s the least risky yet affordable way to go.

Choosing An Online Brain Game

I recommend before choosing a commercial online brain game you do your own due diligence and read forums and ask for opinions from current customers. Narrow down your list of potential commercial online brain game products based on your most important criteria and then test one out. Remember, making a purchase doesn’t lock you in, most online brain game companies offer a free trial and money back guarantees (just make sure there is one before buying).

In addition, I suggest that you read the blog posts I list in the articles section of this site under the heading: Brain Games: How To Choose The Best. These articles will give you more information on how best to evaluate and select an online brain game product.

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The ability to manage stress is very important. I noted in a previous post on stress management that when we’re stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released in our body. In the short-term, cortisol helps the brain to cope with life-threatening situations. But when overloaded with cortisol, the brain’s neurons end up firing too frequently end up dying.

Neurons dying.. that doesn’t sound good to me.

One way we can manage our stress and keep cortisol at bay is by simply taking time, several times a day, to stop and take a few deep breaths. Especially when you’re feeling extra stressed – like when you boss just dropped a big load of work on you with a tight deadline!

Simply stop.. take a few slow.. deep – deep in the belly..  breaths. Try to focus on the feeling of the air passing through the nose. What does it feel like?  Does the in-breath feel cool on the skin?  Does the out-breath feel warmer. Focus on those feeling with each breath.  Close your eyes and continue with this for a min.. or two.

There, don’t you feel a little calmer now?  icon wink Stress Management Tip: Take a Few Deep Breaths

Try this deep breathing stress management tip a few times a day for the rest of the week and see if it helps you have a calmer mind.

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