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Exercise, Cholesterol, And Dementia: How Are They Related?

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As we age, there are many aspects of our health that can potentially decline. 

Thankfully, from physical to emotional, and even mental health, exercise boasts many benefits to these areas that are easily obtained when we simply move our bodies.

Specifically, exercise can improve the health of your brain and keep your cholesterol levels healthy! 

But, is there any connection between those two exercise induced improvements? 

As elevated cholesterol levels have been linked to deteriorating brain function, this begs the question: If there is a link between exercise and lowered cholesterol levels, and there is a link between cholesterol levels and cognitive functioning, can we accurately theorize that exercise could potentially benefit brain function, even decreasing the risk of dementia? 

Let’s find out…

Exercise And Cholesterol

We’re all familiar with what is meant by exercise, or physical activity, but what exactly is cholesterol? 

Cholesterol is a substance, often described as waxy, that is used by your body to make vitamins and hormones, build cells, and help guide nerve endings. 

But, as cholesterol moves through your blood, if there is too much LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, it can bind with other substances to build up within your arteries making them hard and ultimately increasing your risk of both heart attack and stroke. 

Exercise, thankfully, works to increase the size of the proteins that work to carry cholesterol through your blood. And, it also stimulates specific enzymes tasked with moving LDL cholesterol to your liver, where it is then converted to bile and excreted. 

Even better, studies show that those people who participate regularly in vigorous exercise effectively increase their levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) as well, which works to remove cholesterol from the blood. 

So, clearly exercise has benefits pertaining to keeping good and bad cholesterol at healthy levels, but how does it affect brain function, specifically dementia? 

Before we can look at this potential link, let’s explore the effects of cholesterol on the brain…

Cholesterol And Dementia

The term dementia is used to describe a group of medical conditions and disorders (such as Alzheimer’s disease) all stemming from abnormal changes that occur within the brain. 

When these changes take place, dementia sufferers experience symptoms severe enough to alter their daily lives, such as: 

  • Loss of memory
  • Slowed thinking
  • Difficulty communicating 
  • Decreased problem solving skills
  • Diminished motor control or coordination
  • Confusion
  • Decreased ability to focus

Due to these changes, dementia can also cause a person to experience changes in their personality or behavior, including depression, increased agitation, anxiety, paranoia, and even hallucinations. 

All of these symptoms and changes are thought to be caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain, leading to a loss of connectivity between these cells. 

So then, how does cholesterol fit into the puzzling question of: “what causes this nerve cell damage within the brain?” 

And…this is where it gets tricky. 

As we already briefly mentioned, cholesterol helps to guide nerve endings, making it a needed element of healthy brain function. 

However, cholesterol can cause a build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid, which causes the formation of amyloid plaque, a commonality present in the brains of dementia sufferers. 

And, the presence of this build up is thought to be the link to why research consistently proves that high cholesterol levels, especially throughout the middle stages of life, can greatly increase a person’s risk of developing dementia (particularly Alzheimer’s disease) later in life.  

In fact, high levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol have been found to negatively affect even general cognitive function, with those people with high LDL cholesterol reporting problems with memory and/or memorization. 

So then, after all the gloom and doom, how about some good news? 

Thankfully, recent studies have found a promising solution for the changes within the brain associated with dementia! 

Exercise And Dementia: The Science

Most all kinds of exercise have been noted for their benefit to the body. 

From improvements to the health of your heart, to weight loss and better weight management, to even your emotional health, regular exercise is a needful part of a healthy lifestyle! 

And, as physical activity also boasts benefits to the health of your brain, researchers have delved deeper into this notion, leading to some promising findings regarding aerobic exercise and a decreased risk of dementia. 

Exercise Benefits The Hippocampus

A recent year-long study found that aerobic exercise helps to slow the shrinkage of the part of the brain associated with memory (the hippocampus).

Comparing brain function and brain size in two groups of sedentary, aged adults with current memory problems, a team of researchers explored whether exercise worked to improve or prevent neurocognitive function.  

The team also studied the effects of such exercise on both brain atrophy and the amyloid build up often present in dementia patients. 

Within this study, one group of participants engaged in aerobic exercise for roughly 30 minutes, 4-5 times a week, while the other group only did flexibility training. 

And, while both groups preserved cognitive function regarding memory and problem solving, it was the group who regularly engaged in aerobic exercise that gained benefit to the portion of the brain associated with memory, experiencing less shrinkage in their hippocampus. 

The team of scientists here believe that the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise may be the reason for this added benefit, theorizing the improvements to vascular health extend to the health of the brain as well. 

And, other research regarding the effects of exercise on the body back up these findings! 

Exercise Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects On The Brain

A recent study published in Nature, detailed the effects of exercise on the health of the brain specifically looking at how physical activity causes the release of anti-inflammatory molecules.

Here, researchers studied two groups of mice, one group freely permitted to exercise on an exercise wheel over the course of a month, while the other group had their exercise wheel locked, preventing such activity. 

After 30 days, the exercising mice were observed to have more neurons in their hippocampus than those mice who were sedentary. 

Then, the study was furthered when a third group of mice were also forced to be sedentary for the span of a month, afterwards being infused with the blood plasma of the mice from either the sedentary or active group. 

The results? Those mice infused with the blood plasma of the active mice all performed better in a series of cognitive tests than those mice infused with the blood of the sedentary mice. 

Pairing these findings with a similar study from UC San Francisco, researchers have singled out a protein known as clusterin, which they believe effectively provides needed anti-inflammatory properties specifically targeting the brain (brain inflammation).

To test this belief, the team:

  • removed clusterin from the blood of the active mice and miraculously, the prior benefits to the sedentary mice infused with this blood ceased to be
  • administered clusterin by itself and signs of brain inflammation in the neuro-affected mice were diminished

 Ah, but how did these research findings involving mice work out when tested in humans? 

Evaluating data collected from a six month study on 20 veterans with mild cognitive impairment, researchers found those participants who exercised three times per week had higher levels of clusterin in their blood and showed improvements when memory was tested. 

And, while these findings do not mean that clusterin is, or will be, a cure all for dementia, they do show an interesting link between regular physical activity and improvements in memory and decreasing hippocampus shrinkage. 

Conclusion – Exercise, Cholesterol, And Dementia

So, what do we know for sure: 

  • It is true that high cholesterol levels can increase one’s risk of dementia. 
  • It is proven that exercise can improve cholesterol levels. 
  • We know that exercise can improve brain function and prevent cognitive decline.

And, what looks promising: 

  • Exercise seems to not only lower cholesterol levels, but may protect against dementia. 
  • Specific proteins (clusterin) produced through aerobic exercise have the potential to reduce cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia. 

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HEALTH

10 Morning Rituals That Help Shed Pounds

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Let’s start here by going out on a limb…

I’m going to guess that the first thing you think about when you awake in the morning, alarm blaring or not, is not weight loss. 

Sure, if you have extra pounds to shed, it’s on your mind, but I doubt you wake up thinking about it. 

But, did you know that how you begin your morning can have a lot to do with your success when it comes to shedding those excess pounds?

Yep, that’s right…something as simple as your morning routine, the things you do so often that you don’t even have to think about them, can help you lose weight! 

So often weight loss can be a dreadful thing. Lots of to-don’ts, right? 

Well, here we’re going to show you ten powerful to-do’s that you can easily incorporate into your morning routine to set you up for weight loss success!! 

1- Hydration Station

What’s easier than drinking water, right? 

Starting your day with a glass or two of room-temperature water (preferably with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon for optimal health benefits) can actually help you shrink your waistline. 

Hydrating first thing in the morning can boost weight loss by increasing the number of calories your body burns for the next 60 minutes (it does this by increasing your metabolism). And, it can reduce the overall amount of calories you consume, due to making you feel full. 

Staying hydrated also helps your body flush out toxins, giving another helpful boost to your metabolism and aiding you in your weight loss efforts. 

2- Protein Packed

Some folks skip breakfast, and some folks can’t erase what their kindergarten (and first, second, and third grade) teachers told them: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Now, of course, there is conflicting evidence debating the truth of that matter, but what isn’t debatable is the power of protein! 

Eating a breakfast high in protein has been proven to reduce cravings and promote weight loss. 

Protein can also reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone known to control hunger, thereby reducing your appetite, keeping you feeling full for longer periods of time. 

Studies have also shown a link between those eating protein-packed breakfasts and a reduction in body fat (possibly due to the fact that protein is harder for your body to store as fat).

Reach for protein-rich foods like eggs, greek yogurt, nuts, and chia seeds for a healthy, protein-packed breakfast.  

3- Mindfulness Matters

Most of us are familiar with Rene Descartes saying, “I think, therefore I am.” But, do we truly act on this notion? 

Studies have proven the truth of this sentiment for centuries. What you think about matters!

Mindfulness involves intentionality. 

Rather than spending your mornings mindlessly scrolling through social media or sitting in front of the television, focus on the present moment, being aware of each of your thoughts and feelings. 

This time spent mindfully, first thing in the morning, can set you up for success throughout the rest of your day. 

And, studies have found the practice to significantly impact weight loss (successfully), reducing behaviors contributing to obesity specifically. 

Spending just 5 minutes in the morning, choosing a comfortable spot to sit and connect with your senses, training your body to focus on intentionality, can increase your likelihood of success in losing weight. 

Mindfulness has even been shown to indirectly boost weight loss by reducing mood swings (often a contributing factor to weight gain through mood-related binge eating). 

4- Brown Bag It

I’m sure you’ve heard the classic Ben Franklin quote, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” And yes, this applies to packing your lunch…in multiple ways. 

Taking the time to pack a nutritious lunch in the morning:

  • ensures you have a lunch full of foods that are consistent with helping you achieve your weight loss goals
  • keeps you from succumbing to in-the-moment temptations (think drive-thrus and vending machines) when hunger calls 
  • ensures you have healthy options midmorning and midafternoon when hunger is known to strike (when you pack healthy snacks to consume throughout the day as well)
  • as opposed to eating out, you can control exactly what goes into your meal, measuring accurately your calorie intake (crucial for weight loss) and other dietary needs

And, studies have shown that people who prepare their meals ahead of time have better-quality diets overall and are less likely to be obese. 

5- Move It To Lose It

Okay, I know…you can exercise any time of day, right? True…but, studies show those who exercise first thing in the morning reap more rewards from it. 

  • Those who work out in the morning are classically more consistent at getting in exercise each and every day. 
  • Exercising in the morning has been shown to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level all throughout the day. 
  • A reduction in afternoon food cravings is associated with morning exercise. 
  • Morning exercise has been proven to boost weight loss (overall). 
  • Some claim that working out prior to breakfast boosts fat burning. 

So…move it in the morning and reap those benefits all throughout the day. 

Plus, when you workout in the morning, you don’t have to worry about squeezing it in at a later time in your busy day or being too tired to workout at the end of a hectic day. 

6- Change Your Commute

Have you considered that simply switching up your drive to (and from) work can do wonders for your waistline? 

One obvious reason to change routes would be to avoid any temptations on your drive that may cause you to routinely forego your goals for sugary or fatty fast foods on the way to work. 

But, you can also check off your morning exercise goal on your way to work by choosing to walk or bike instead of driving to work. 

As studies have shown that those commuting via car tend to gain more weight than those who get to work on foot or cycle (or rollerblade…nothing wrong with creativity), it’s no wonder that similar studies have proven such choices regarding active methods of commuting contributed to lower body fat percentages and significantly lower body mass indexes. 

7- Step On The Scale

I know…that dreaded ‘s’ word is a rough one. But, hear me out. 

Studies show that daily weight monitoring results in greater weight loss, and there’s truly (and scientifically) no better time to do it than first thing in the morning. 

Before the water, before the exercise, before breakfast, and after you’ve urinated first thing in the morning, step on the scale. This is your most accurate weight reading of the day. 

A healthy mindset regarding the scale involves knowing the causes for fluctuations (eating at a later time the night before, havingn’t had a bowel movement, consuming more sodium) and using the number you see to not reflect on yourself but your overall progress. 

Weighing yourself first thing in the morning shouldn’t be a discouraging factor, but a tool to collect data to motivate you regarding your weight loss goals and provide the information you need to adjust your diet or continue on with what you’re doing that has proven successful. 

Routine morning weigh-ins can build healthy habits, and studies show those who regularly engage in this practice lose more weight on average than those who skip the scale. 

8- Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Whether it means getting a few extra z’s in the morning or heading to bed a bit earlier in the evening, changing up your routine to allow for some extra sleep may help you lose weight. 

Many studies centered around sleep and weight loss/gain have shown that a lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your waistline. 

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to an increase in:

  • calorie intake
  • hunger
  • cravings
  • appetite

Specifically in regards to weight loss efforts, studies have shown that when sleep was lacking, dieters lost up to 55% less fat even though their dieting efforts remained the same. 

Aside from this, lack of sleep in general doesn’t always set you up for the best decisions when it comes to weight loss. 

I’m sure you know the drill: You’re too tired, so you skip your workout. Then once you skip your workout, your other goals seem less important (even if only for that day) and your nutrition isn’t on point, and those decisions seem to snowball from there. 

Getting enough sleep (at least 8 hours nightly is recommended for adults) will help your decision-making, curb those cravings, and regulate your appetite, all keeping you on track to reach your weight loss goals! 

9- Time For Sunshine

Sunlight can help you shed pounds in a few surprising ways, specifically in the morning. 

Studies show those individuals who are exposed to the sun in the earlier hours of the day generally have a lower BMI (body mass index) than those people who don’t get sun exposure until later in the day. 

One study found that even moderate amounts of sun exposure had a direct impact on weight. 

And, animal studies have shown UV exposure to actually suppress weight gain. 

Your hormones also benefit from the vitamin D your body produces when exposed to the sunlight, thereby boosting your energy levels, and aiding in your weight loss efforts. 

Morning sunshine also contains the highest levels of blue light. So, when you develop a habit of getting sun exposure first thing in the morning, even something as simple as letting the sunshine in through your windows, this can greatly influence (in a good way) your circadian rhythm, helping you get better sleep.

Seek to get 20-30 minutes of sunlight exposure between the hours of 8 am and noon to fully benefit from all nature’s light has to offer in regards to your waistline. 

10- Cold Showers

You read that correctly. It’s not a typo. But, don’t skip this one…hear me out…

As awful as a cold shower sounds, first thing in the morning, there truly are many benefits to be had from this practice. 

While a hot shower is no doubt comforting, the heat can actually be pretty harmful, causing unwanted skin conditions and even high blood pressure. 

A cold shower, however, while it certainly boasts benefits to the health of your skin and hair, can also help you lose weight! 

A specific type of fat, known as brown adipose fat, can be activated by a cold shower. The activation of this fat then causes the release of two types of hormones (irisin and FGF21) which can help you lose weight by burning white fat tissue. 

A cold shower in the morning can also boost your metabolism and improve your energy levels. 

But, since the thought of a cold shower first thing in the morning doesn’t sound all too pleasant, let’s detail the best way to reap those benefits: 

  • First, you can begin your shower at a temperature that is comfortable to you, then gradually continue to lower the temperature after the first few minutes. 
  • Once you’ve reached a cold temperature, keep the water at this temperature for at least 3-4 minutes. 
  • Keep in mind that you can also ease yourself into this practice, starting with only a few seconds (of cold temperature), and then working your way up each day until your body is used to the cooler temperatures. 

As your body seeks to warm itself after these cold showers, you’ll automatically be burning more calories, already on your way to shrinking your waistline! 

#1 Sleep mistake packs on belly fat 

Did you know sleeping a certain way could pack on belly fat?

One 68-year-old grandma was making a big mistake and since fixed the issue and lost 84 pounds…

#1 Sleep mistake packs on belly fat

Who knew this sleep position was causing a deadly, stress-induced response in her already frail body that caused her metabolism to crash and this one recurring nightmare to almost come through…

#1 Sleep mistake packs on belly fat

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HEALTH

Finding Balance: The Key to a Healthy Work-Life Routine

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In today’s fast-paced world, finding balance between work and personal life can be a challenging task. With the constant demands of work and the pressures of personal life, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. However, finding the right balance between the two is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life routine and ensuring overall well-being.

One of the key aspects of finding balance is setting boundaries. It is important to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life in order to prevent one from encroaching on the other. This means setting aside time for work during designated hours and making sure to prioritize personal time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

Another important aspect of finding balance is time management. It is crucial to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities in order to effectively manage one’s time and avoid feeling overwhelmed. This may involve setting a schedule, making to-do lists, and setting realistic goals in order to stay on track and maintain a healthy work-life routine.

In addition, it is important to take care of oneself both physically and mentally. This means prioritizing self-care activities such as exercise, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and taking time for relaxation and stress relief. Engaging in activities that promote well-being and relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature, can help to recharge and rejuvenate both the body and mind.

It is also important to communicate with others about your needs and boundaries. By being open and honest with colleagues, managers, and loved ones about your priorities and limitations, you can establish a support system that can help you maintain a healthy work-life routine. This may involve setting boundaries with work colleagues, asking for help when needed, or expressing your needs to your family and friends.

Ultimately, finding balance between work and personal life is a continuous journey that requires effort and commitment. By prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, managing time effectively, and communicating openly with others, you can create a healthy work-life routine that promotes overall well-being and happiness. Remember, finding balance is not about perfection, but about making small, sustainable changes to create a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

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Link Between Diabetes And Dementia?

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Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are diminishing the health of many across the nation, increasingly affecting children as well, at an alarming rate. 

And, though I’m sure you’ve heard of the ways that these factors can adversely affect your health, putting you at risk for concerns such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes to name a few, they can also affect the health of your brain. 

Instances of diabetes leading to dementia are growing, and this is causing researchers to dig a bit further into this now-commonly-known link.  

So, what is the connection between diabetes and dementia? 

Do age and onset make a difference? 

And, if you have diabetes, or are at risk for diabetes, what can you do to reduce your risk of cognitive decline? 

Diabetes & Dementia

Diabetes is a health condition that changes how your body converts food into energy. 

As you eat, foods are normally broken down into glucose (sugar) which is released into your bloodstream. 

When the amount of sugar in your blood increases, this sends a signal to your pancreas to release insulin, a substance that allows your cells to then use that sugar as energy. 

In the case of diabetes, however, the body doesn’t produce adequate amounts of insulin, causing too much sugar to remain in the bloodstream.  

This can then lead to further health concerns such as kidney disease, problems with vision, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. 

And, it’s the last threat on that list that is garnering much attention as of late. 

Diabetics actually have a 73% greater risk of developing dementia than non-diabetics, with type 1 diabetics being 93% more likely to develop dementia. 

And, while dementia can be caused by a number of illnesses or even injuries, specifically speaking of its link to diabetes, it is thought that high levels of blood sugar and insulin can also cause harm or damage to the brain. 

So then, what is the connection between these two health conditions? 

First, we know that diabetes most often leads to a slow and subtle decline in brain function, but in patients who are already experiencing cognitive decline, the likelihood of this decline progressing to full-blown dementia increases greatly. 

But, aside from those already experiencing cognitive decline, diabetes knowingly causes damage to blood vessels, and it is also a known risk factor for vascular dementia, a type of cognitive decline often associated with brain damage due to problems with a lack of blood supply to the brain. 

In fact, the risk of developing vascular dementia increases by 100% in diabetes patients. 

And, as diabetes can lead to heart damage or stroke, blood vessels within the brain can become damaged in such instances. 

Diabetes can also cause chronic inflammation throughout the body which is known to damage brain cells. And, some studies have shown diabetes to cause an increase in the production of a toxic protein which causes damage here as well. 

And, type 2 diabetes, in particular, is linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and even mild cognitive impairments including difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, learning new things, and making decisions. 

The link here is usually seen in patients with type 2 diabetes and those with Alzheimer’s disease, both suffering from oxidative stress and diminished insulin signaling. Here, insulin resistance in the body leads to diabetes, and insulin resistance in the brain leads to Alzheimer’s disease. 

But, as recent research has given us greater knowledge regarding this connection, a finding that is particularly troubling surrounds the age of onset, given the fact that the age of diabetes diagnoses seems to be getting younger and younger.

Age Of Onset Could Make All The Difference

While the link between diabetes and dementia has been well established, this connection has led scientists to search for even more answers. 

And, the results of this ongoing research have led scientists to believe that the earlier one is diagnosed with diabetes, the greater their risk is for developing dementia. 

Over time, the effects diabetes can have on blood pressure and heart health are thought to be one of the largest contributors to dementia as heart and brain health are closely linked. 

Another risk associated with an early life diagnosis of diabetes is that the longer you are faced with controlling your body’s blood sugars, the more likely you are to have had instances or episodes of low blood sugar as well. 

Instances of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) over time can cause damage to the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center), leading to memory loss and dementia. 

Thankfully, not only are there some things you can do to reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the first place, there are also things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia as well, even if you already have diabetes. 

Decreasing Your Risk Of Dementia When Living With Diabetes

So, now we’ve learned that diabetics also have to be concerned with cognitive decline as they manage an already troublesome disease. 

But, thankfully there are some ways to manage that risk! 

Maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight if you are overweight or obese can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and can prevent complications (like dementia) from the disease if you are a diabetic. 

Losing weight can…

  • keep your blood sugar levels healthy and in turn reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure or the buildup of arterial plaque which can both lead to heart disease or stroke, thus potentially damaging your brain
  • make your body more sensitive to insulin, causing insulin resistance to decrease and allowing diabetes to be better managed
  • reduce the risk of vascular damage, a common link to dementia

Exercise and a healthy diet are often mentioned in conjunction with weight management, and these certainly are crucial in keeping or reaching a healthy weight, but these can also help you to manage diabetes and decrease the risk of the disease progressing to dementia as well. 

To effectively manage diabetes, aside from controlling blood sugars, be sure to 

  • exercise at least 30 minutes per day 
  • eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins 

These practices can prevent diabetes, keep the disease from progressing, and may potentially reduce the risk of diabetes progressing to dementia. 

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