Constitutional Health Network:
Brain Health

If you turn on the TV to relax after a long day, you may want to re-think your strategy. This is especially true at the moment, while we wind up the end of a particularly stressful and divisive presidential campaign. But it’s also true during more “normal” times. While settling in for some Walking Dead or American Idol may seem fairly harmless, it just might be another stressor in an already stressful world.   Society has always had a love/hate relationship with television. Even as we tune in for the next installment of our favorite show, we’ve blamed TV for a variety of ills from short attention spans to violence to obesity. And while science has mixed opinions on the truth of these claims, recent research is beginning to back up what many of us who’ve cut the cord already knew: watching TV can stress you out.  Here’s why. It teaches you to be afraid Most “entertainment” shows fit into a handful of categories ...

I can’t talk about stress often enough. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room when we’re talking about all the ills of the modern world, the secret ingredient in so many “lifestyle” diseases. You can do everything else in your power to get your health back on track, only to have it undermined by constant stress. And right now—the holiday season—a time that’s supposed to be about love and togetherness and good will—is one of the most stressful times of the year for most of us. And stress, as we all know, takes a toll on us at every level, both physical and psychological.   Of course, some of this is “good” stress—visiting with children or grandchildren we might not see as often as we’d like, family get-togethers, and so on. And some of it is “bad” stress—worrying about what kind of gift we should buy so-and-so, worrying about money, family get-togethers (again) and more. ...

A few weeks ago I told you about so-called “superagers”—people over 80 with the brains of folks 30 years younger. To recap: scientists have identified a tiny subset of the population that seems unremarkable till they hit middle age. But once they hit their fifties, these folks don’t show the decrease in memory ability that we normally see in the “senior” population. It’s as if their brains get to age 50 or 55 and then just stop aging.   There doesn’t seem to be any common thread connecting them. Their IQs are all over the place, so it isn’t a matter of simply being more intelligent to begin with. Nor does it seem to be lifestyle-related; some have lived very health-conscious lives while others smoke, drink, and eat what they want. It’s a puzzle science would dearly like to solve.   Scientists are frantically searching for some common factor that causes “superagers’” brains to stay ...

Eastern practices like yoga and meditation have always been popular with a certain subset of the population, but over the past decade or so they’ve really gone mainstream. If I’m honest, I’d have to say that this is due in large part to the “me too” mentality. Yoga and meditation suddenly became hip for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that highly visible celebrities started endorsing them.   And that’s a good thing. People who might once have scoffed at trying something as “out there” as meditation or yoga have taken up the practices. Some, of course, drop out as soon as the novelty wears off. But for those who stick with it, the health benefits are often significant.   The sudden popularity of these and other mindful practices have had an added benefit: the anecdotal stories have spurred science to look into what effects they really have on our health. It’s thanks to this sudden upsurge in ...

In the past few decades, we’ve developed some very odd—and rather unhealthy—ideas about anger. As a society, we’ve adopted the idea that anger is a bad thing. That it’s something we should never express. In fact, the underlying message we get is that not only should we not express anger, we probably shouldn’t even feel it, and that if we do then there must be something wrong with us.   Maybe this has something to do with the culture of victimhood we’ve transitioned to over the past several decades. Or maybe it’s the other way around; whether this view is a cause or a symptom is a question best left to sociologists. In any case, today the overwhelming popular viewpoint is that to feel angry—and certainly to act on that anger in any way—is to be unstable in some way.   Which is a load of horse hockey, of course. And although I’m not usually on the side of the shrinks, this is one area where ...

Are you a superager? Unless you’re over 80, you’ll have to wait to find out. Meanwhile, science is uncovering some intriguing clues. While it might bring to mind images of sprightly seniors in brightly colored capes valiantly battling Father Time, “superager” is a real term scientists are now applying to a select group of the elderly. We’ve long known that some people simply age better than others; some people may look far younger than their years, others may be as active as much younger people, and still others have the mental acuity of a person thirty years their junior. It’s this last group that science has designated “superagers” and scientists want to know just what’s going on in their brains to make them so special. What makes superagers so super? To be considered a “superager,” a person must be over the age of 80—but have the memory of a 55-year old. That’s a tiny fraction of the ...

If you’ve ever lived with chronic stress—and how many of us haven’t, at some point—you probably already know this. If you haven’t, it might be a surprise. And if you’ve lived with ongoing stress for a very long time, you might not even realize how it’s affecting you. Whatever your situation, here’s the newest thing science is telling us about stress: it damages your memory.   If you’ve ever been the parent of small children or cared for an ailing relative long-term you’re probably already familiar with what I like to call “caregiver dementia.” It goes by many other names. Some people call it “brain fog.” Older people may call it “having a senior moment.” But it all boils down to the same thing—stress-induced short-term memory loss. And at long last, science is finally admitting that it really happens. More than that, scientists now think they might even know ...

If there were something simple and enjoyable—and even free—that would cut your risk of dying (from anything!) by more than 20 percent, would you do it? If you said, “yes,” it might be time to take a trip to the library. A new study from Yale University found that people who read on a regular basis are up to 23 percent less likely to die from any cause than non-readers. Read a book, not a magazine The study looked at more than 3,600 people. All were over 50. It followed them for twelve whole years, not just the space of a few months. And though researchers can’t tell us exactly why reading seems to have this effect, the results showed that the regular readers added about two years to their lives. What they read, and how long they read, also seemed to have an effect. Those who read books, as opposed to other things like magazines, and who read for just three and a half hours per week—=the equivalent of only half an hour each ...

When was the last time you enjoyed some peace and quiet? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “It’s been a while.” Days, maybe. Weeks. Possibly even months. We live in a noisy world, and it’s becoming increasingly louder with each passing year. As technology has grown more sophisticated, so have the ways in which we subject ourselves to unnecessary noise.   Where once the loudest thing we had to endure was the early-morning crowing of a rooster, today we have countless types of noise inflicted on us nearly every waking moment—and it doesn’t stop when we sleep. Noise is a constant, and if the environment doesn’t assault us with enough we inflict it on ourselves.   Many of us keep the television on day in and day out, “for company.” We have the radio on in the background “to break the silence.” We have computers and phones, iPads and iPods and MP3 players, all pouring noise ...

Stress is a huge problem in today’s world. It seems like we’re bombarded from all sides, from scary stories on the news to crazy drivers on the road to the everyday stress and strain of family life. (God bless ‘em—we love ‘em, but kids, grandkids, in-laws, siblings and even spouses can push the stress meter up.) But here’s something most of us don’t recognize and don’t want to admit even if we do: a good part of our day-to-day stress is self-created.   Yes, you read that right. And it may offend some people to hear it, but let’s call a spade a spade. There are a lot of things that are out of our control—things that stress us out which we really can’t do anything to change. But the scary truth is that a big chunk of the stress many of us suffer comes as much from internal factors as from external ones. I say scary because the solution is this: change. And change can be frightening. But changing the way we ...

If killing part of your brain in return for milder symptoms of a non-life-threatening problem sounds like a good deal to you, don’t bother to read the rest of this. If destroying part of your brain sounds like a high price to pay for anything or like the plot of a mad scientist movie, then read on. Because the FDA just approved a new ultrasound “treatment” that does just that. And they based that approval on a trial that included a whopping 76 people. That sure makes me feel safe. It just gives me the warm fuzzies knowing that there’s a government agency that cares so much about my health. I feel so much better knowing what rigorous scientific study new gadgets and surgeries go through before they go into everyday use. After all, if it was used on 76 people and none of them actually died, then surely it’s completely safe. Right? Bah humbug. Every once in awhile I think I’ve passed the point of being surprised by Big Medicine or Big ...

It seems like you can’t open a newspaper these days or visit a news site without reading some mention of the newest looming “crisis.” Today that's the so-called “opioid epidemic.” Now, I’m not here to give an opinion on whether there really is an “epidemic” or not. I say “so-called” because we’re fed panic-stricken stories about some new “epidemic” on a regular basis. Is this one legitimate? I don't know. And it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because I don’t want to talk about whether painkiller addiction is a real issue. What I want to talk about is the subtle effect this laser-like news focus is having. It’s changing the way we think about addiction—whether it’s to painkillers, alcohol, cigarettes or something entirely different. And it’s not a good change. But what does this have to do with your brain? It's that the Big Guys would like us to ...

Flint, Michigan and its poisonous water isn’t big news anymore but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. It doesn't matter how many lawsuits are filed or how many glasses of Flint water President Obama casually drinks. The problems remain for the people of Flint. Fines will be issued, sure. A handful of people may pay a handful of millions—but that won’t do a single thing to fix the health problems caused by this case of epic disregard for human health and life. The people of Flint will be dealing with the health issues long after the problem is “fixed” and the guilty parties are “punished.” And although the Flint situation was very high-profile, Flint residents aren’t the only people in this situation. A recent report by USA Today found at least 2,000 water systems with dangerous levels of lead across the country. A water sample from a Maine elementary school had levels 42 times higher than the EPA’s ...

Tylenol has been on the market for over 60 years, and has been available over the counter for nearly as long.    What started out as a prescription pain reliever for children became, by 1976, the best-selling OTC pain reliever in the country. Since then it's been knocked out of the top slot by the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories—ibuprofen and naproxen—but it still ranks in the top four for OTC pain reliever sales. It's the one analgesic that pregnant women are allowed to take in the U.S. It's one of the safest, most effective pain relievers we have. Right?    Not so fast. Tylenol is just a brand name for acetaminophen. And it's actually not terribly safe at all. Of course we already knew that. Just a small overdose of Tylenol can cause liver damage. Tylenol has been sending people to the hospital and even the morgue for years. But new research suggests that not only is it little better than a placebo for many types of ...

I've had sleep on my mind a lot lately, probably because it's been a hectic couple of weeks and I haven't been getting enough of it myself. In fact the other day I even wrote about how most of us should be getting a lot more sleep than we do, and why we're not.    That led me to thinking about stress, and how stress and insomnia or chronic sleep deprivation go hand in hand. Stress and lack of sleep are often a vicious cycle—being sleep-deprived creates stress, and being stressed makes falling asleep and getting good quality sleep once your eyes close difficult.    Lack of sleep and chronic stress both have a seriously detrimental effect on us, and they actually affect our bodies and our brains in almost the same way. They affect our memories and our ability to focus. They make us more likely to have a stroke. They can cause our brains to shrink. And they both lead to the build-up of the beta-amyloid plaques that are so ...

It’s amazing how easily some health concepts are accepted as gospel while others aren’t. Some ideas just seem to catch our imaginations and hold on. Others never make it into the collective consciousness no matter how strong the evidence. The idea of depression as a “chemical imbalance” is one of the ideas we’ve latched onto in spite of the lack of evidence. In fact, since we’ve been able to actually measure the levels of chemicals in the brain, the evidence strongly suggests that depression has nothing to do with brain chemicals. Or at least not the brain chemicals that antidepressants affect. Of course that hasn’t stopped Big Pharma from coming out with new drugs to treat this theoretical imbalance. Neither has the fact that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos. The idea of depression as a physical problem — a chemical deficiency — has taken root and we're not going to let go of it. As the years ...

If you're a man and you're over 50, you're probably familiar with the PSA test for prostate cancer. It's hard to ignore. Like so many "regular screenings," you're reminded of it at every turn. Even though the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stopped recommending it a couple of years ago, there's still a lot of pressure on men to get tested. However, for most men there's no real reason to do this.    Back in 2012, the Preventive Services Task Force told us that PSA testing is a waste of time. They concluded that the harm outweighs the benefit. That it doesn't save lives. And that it does lead to a lot of unnecessary treatment.    That hasn't stopped Big Medicine from pushing the test, of course. And it hasn't stopped them from profiting from aggressive and unnecessary treatment either. Now there's yet another reason to pass on PSA testing, and to think very carefully about your options if you ...

Most articles on keeping your brain young and sharp all repeat the same handful of things:       •  Exercise     •  Lower your stress     •  Eat “healthy”     •  Play brain games     •  Get enough sleep   There are several reasons these things appear on nearly every list.   First, they really are important. Regular exercise has been shown to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. The same with reducing stress. Stress and diet play a role in heart disease and diabetes, which both raise the risk of dementia significantly.    Playing games — and particularly video games — improves cognitive function, though “brain games” don’t appear to be any more beneficial than other types of video game. Chronic ...

Tomorrow, people across the country will gather together, sit down to a communal meal, and give thanks for the good things in their lives. It's a ritual that most of us look forward to each year.    Far-flung family members return home. We touch base with friends and loved ones we may not have had much contact with through the year. We rekindle relationships that may have fallen by the wayside. We talk together, cook together, eat together. We share stories and laugh together. We might even watch football together. We spend the day in the glow of real community, full and happy and appreciative of what we have.    Then we rush out for Black Friday shopping and forget gratitude till the next Thanksgiving.  You don't need a special day to give thanks I have mixed emotions about Thanksgiving. On one hand, the tradition of setting aside a day for prayers of thanks-giving is as old as humanity, and I find it beautiful that even in ...

You may have heard that there's a link between cellphones and brain cancer. You may even have ditched your phone over it. You may have put up with eye-rolling from your friends, or been called a crank. Or you might have been the one snubbing the idea. But whichever side of the question you've come down on, here's the truth:    Cell phones are strongly linked to some forms of cancer, and the risk just gets higher as cell phones get more powerful. And even cordless phones emit the same dangerous radiation.  The Science is in: Your cell phone really causes cancer The fear that cell phones cause cancer has been around nearly as long as the phones themselves. Once considered a fringe idea, science is now backing this up.    Of course, the media seldom reports on this, but study after study comes to the same conclusions. Just last year, a Swedish study found that those who used their phones a lot were twice as likely to develop ...

It’s a running joke that cats are really aliens bent on taking over the world and it turns out, the idea may not be so far off the mark. We’ve long known that cats play host to a parasite which can infect humans - his is why pregnant women are exempt from emptying the litter box. But while scientists thought that the parasite goes dormant once it infects humans, recent research shows that this isn’t the case at all. Not only does the beast not go dormant, it lives in your brain and exerts a sort of mind control. Mind-control gone wrong Toxoplasmosis gondii is a parasite that normally infects cats. It’s famous among scientists for its novel method of spreading itself from one cat to another - it hijacks rats and changes their behavior so that they’re more likely to get eaten. That’s pretty creepy. Toxo leaves the host cat via cat poo. A rat comes in contact with it through contaminated dirt, food, or whatever, and gets ...

With the recent recall of Blue Bell Creameries ice cream products, food poisoning is once again in the news. Although most contaminations haven’t been as widely publicized as the ice cream incident, there have already been hundreds of outbreaks of foodborne illness this year. Every week there’s a pocket of food poisoning somewhere, and food gets recalled or a business shuts down. The one thing we will never hear linked to food poisoning; however, is Alzheimer’s disease.   And it’s beginning to look like we should. How the USDA legalized cannibalism Factory farming is a disgusting practice, there’s no doubt. And at the height of the hysteria back in the 90s, it was found that Mad Cow Disease came directly from how factory-farmed cows were fed. In an effort to cut costs, factory farmers were feeding their cows...other cows.   That’s right. Cows, those munchers of juicy green grass, were being fed “waste ...

There are a billion articles out there on improving your memory. Or more accurately, about 31 million, according to Google. Most of them regurgitate the same overused information—do puzzles, use mnemonic tricks, take fish oil, yada yada yada. This isn’t one of those. When you boil all the information out there down, the takeaway is that your brain is much like your muscles and bones. If you want to keep it strong, you need to use it, as much and as often as possible, and sometimes in creative ways. Taking fish oils and doing puzzles is good advice—that’s why there are so many articles about it. But we’ve learned a lot about the brain in the past few years, and discovered that there are plenty of other things that work even better. "Multi-tasking" is hurting your memory One of the key things you can do to improve your memory and mental focus is to do just that… actually focus! You may feel like you’re able to have a ...

Supplements For Your Brain: Good or Bad? Spring’s return signals a return to an active lifestyle. Many seniors opt to work on enhancing their overall health. For example, you might make healthier food choices or begin an exercise program.  However, you must always ensure your physician approves of your choices. Even simple changes like adding a new vitamin to your daily routine needs your physician’s input.   As you age, your body goes through many challenges. Without your input, your body will deteriorate. You may have genes that place you at a higher risk for having Alzheimer’s disease (AD). While uncertainty stares back into your eyes, you must take an active role in your care to ensure you live a long, happy life. Why Should My Doctor Know About My Vitamins? Nearly every visit to the doctor comes with blood tests. These tests allow the doctor to check your nutrient levels. As you age, your appetite may decrease. This results in ...

Many older adults joke about having “senior moments,” those times you forget why you went into the kitchen or can’t recall a word that is on the tip of your tongue. These moments occur due to natural aging processes within your brains. While you can’t stop aging, there are steps you can take to support healthy brain functions. Your Aging Brain The aging process causes changes throughout your body. Within your brain, these can affect memory and other activities. Specifically, as you age:     • Some parts of the brain shrink.   • There is a breakdown in the ability of one part of the brain to talk with another.   • Arteries narrow, which reduces blood flow to the brain.   • Some people experience plaque or minor swelling of the brain.   Each of these issues is normal in an older brain and often results in reduced brain ...

Many people believe that sleeping poorly is a normal part of the aging process. However, according to the National Institute on Aging, “Many healthy older adults report few or no sleep problems.” Although sleep patterns do change as we age, waking up tired every morning due to sleep difficulties is far from normal.   We’ve all felt the effects of a fitful night of sleep - being unfocused and forgetful. But did you know that continued sleep deprivation leads to lasting cognitive issues? That’s right!   According to neuroscientists in a 2013 University of California, Berkeley study, lack of sleep can cause permanent cognitive deterioration. They found that as the quality of sleep declined so did the ability to retain lasting memories.   Chronic and acute sleep deprivation has a negative impact on many cognitive processes. There is a loss of attention and alertness. Memory is adversely affected. Response times are slower. ...

So what happens when your brain shrinks? If you think a shrinking brain sounds like the plot for a horror movie or a thriller, think again.Your brain is shrinking right now, this very instant. And it will continue to shrink for as long as you live. Does this mean you'll end up with a brain the size of a raisin if you live long enough? No. It does mean that as you age it may take you longer to process some information, or have more difficulty with some topics than others. The bad news is that it's a normal process that happens to everyone. The good news is that there's something you can do about it. The incredible shrinking brain: not a movie title, just biology Throughout childhood, our brains grow at an amazing rate. During our teens and even our twenties they're in a constant state of creating new connections and removing disused ones, and brain size stays fairly steady. Once we pass our mid to late twenties, though, our brains slowly but ...

Unless you live in a cave with no internet access or television, you’ve probably heard of the Zika virus. It’s a mosquito-borne illness that’s related to dengue fever, and it’s creating a world-wide panic. The CDC is telling us to avoid travel to countries where it’s common. The World Health Organization has declared it a public health emergency. It’s this year’s Ebola, and the media can’t get enough of it. But is it really the plague that it’s being promoted as? Or is there more to the story? I’ll admit, when I first read about Zika I was more than a little uneasy. Like several other tropical diseases, it sounds like the stuff of horror films. And it appears even worse, in some ways, than the scariest of these. Ebola kills you, for example, and it kills you in a truly horrifying way. But Zika, the news reports say, causes horrible birth defects. Defects that might, in some cases, be a worse fate than simple ...

The medical and scientific worlds were quick to call Dr. Robert Lustig a crackpot when he first started telling the world that fructose was a poison. This month, a study by UCLA scientists vindicated the “fructose is poison” message. The paper was published in the journal EBioMedicine, which is about as reputable as journals come—it’s jointly published by The Lancet and Cell, two highly respected medical journals. And what it tells us is that not only is excess fructose a poison, it’s much worse than anyone ever imagined. Fructose doesn’t just make us fat and diabetic, like Dr. Lustig tells us. It doesn’t just damage the liver. It actually causes genetic damage—in the brain. This isn’t the first time UCLA has looked at fructose and the brain This month’s study expands on a study UCLA researchers did back in 2012. Both studies found that rats given fructose-sweetened water did much more poorly on memory tasks. In ...

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’m not a fan of psychiatry. Psychiatric drugs are some of the most over-prescribed, useless, and even dangerous pills on the planet. And psychiatry seems determined to turn every little personality quirk and character trait into a “disorder” that needs medication. So what I’m about to say probably will surprise you. It might even shock you. So hold onto your seat. Are you ready? Here it is: Psychiatry just did something fantastic. At this year’s annual meeting of the American Psychiatric association, researchers presented a study that is so spot-on, so absolutely right, so downright sane that I had to read the news twice to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. If anyone in the profession pays attention to this—which sadly, they probably won’t—it could begin to change the way mainstream medicine looks at some kinds of mental illness. What did this amazing study say? Simply ...

There’s good news on the horizon for both Alzheimer’s patients and for supporters of medical marijuana. THC—one of the active compounds in marijuana—has been found to remove the clumps of toxic amyloid plaque that build up in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. If you’re not familiar with THC, it’s short for tetrahydrocannabinol. It's one of the two main chemical components of marijuana. It’s powerful medicine. It’s also the chemical which give you a “high.” In spite of this, THC is currently used to treat an amazing array of conditions from chronic pain to the side effects of chemotherapy. And while federal law still makes it very difficult to study the medicinal effects of cannabis (marijuana), more research is being done every day. There are already several cannabis-based prescription drugs on the market and more are in the works. Although cannabis has been studied as a possible treatment for some types ...

An amazing scientific breakthrough could mean that hundreds of thousands of people suffering from autoimmune diseases might finally have what they’ve been dreaming of: a cure. In diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, the immune system mistakes part of the body for a foreign invader and attacks it. This immune reaction causes chronic and sometimes even fatal disease. There are treatments for some of these diseases, but till now the only possibility for a cure was also likely to be fatal. Not just for hopeless cases anymore It’s been shown that a transplant of bone marrow stem cells can reset the immune system and reverse autoimmune diseases. But in order to successfully do this doctors must first destroy the patient’s own immune system with chemotherapy or radiation. This procedure is fatal about 20% of the time. And even when it doesn’t kill, it can cause massive damage throughout the body. The chemo and ...

For years, science has told us that Alzheimer’s disease ( watch our video to fight back diabetes naturally ) is the result of the buildup of a substance called beta-amyloid. This protein forms sticky plaques in the brain, so the theory goes, where it interrupts brain cells’ ability to make connections and communicate with one another. The plaque eventually causes the cells to die and leads to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This is the theory that nearly all experimental Alzheimer’s treatments have been based on. If we could stop the build-up of plaque, the thinking goes, we could slow or stop the progression of the Alzheimer’s disease. But a new study from Harvard University Medical School suggests that most of what we think we know about Alzheimer’s disease might be dead wrong. There’s compelling evidence that amyloid plaque isn’t the cause of Alzheimer’s disease at all. In fact, it’s probably the body’s attempt ...

On August 12, long jumper Jeff Henderson captured the gold with a leap of 8.38 meters. It was a memorable moment for Team USA—the first US gold medal in the event since 2004. The win might have had fans cheering, but what he did after being awarded his medal brought a tear to their eyes. It reminded us all just what the Games are all about and the spirit that underlies them. The 27-year-old Arkansas native is a multi-talented athlete who is also a sprinter. He became a serious athlete at age 15 and winning the gold is thus far the pinnacle of his career. In a touching gesture guaranteed to tug the hardest heartstrings, he decided to pay tribute in front of the whole world to the person who helped him climb to that pinnacle, even if she doesn’t remember it now. Henderson dedicated the gold to his mother. And he confided that she is one of the millions of people world-wide who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—the most devastating form of dementia. ...

“Let food be the medicine." It's advice that’s fallen in and out of favor throughout history. Some American pantry staples such as Kellog’s Corn Flakes and graham crackers started life as “medicinal” foods but are now on the “don’t eat that!” list. Others, such as the spice turmeric, show some real scientific potential. And sometimes unexpected foods show truly surprising health benefits. For example: recent research suggests that our pancakes might contain one of the keys to defeating Alzheimer’s disease—in the form of maple syrup. It might not be good for our waistlines but Canadian researchers say it appears to have a positive effect on our brains. Alzheimer’s disease is the most devastating form of dementia. It robs its victims of their memories, their personalities, and eventually their lives. It has no cure. And although science still doesn’t understand its root cause, it appears ...

We talk about Alzheimer’s a lot. We do it as a society. We do it here at Constitutional Health too. But although it may be the most talked-about—and probably the most frightening—it’s far from the only chronic brain disease. Multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, ALS and other degenerative brain diseases are equally devastating. They just destroy in different ways. One of the most common of these is Parkinson’s disease. It’s actually the second most common neurodegenerative disease. Like Alzheimer’s, it affects millions. Like Alzheimer’s, it kills brain cells and leads to loss of function. Sometimes, like Alzheimer’s, it leads to dementia. Like Alzheimer’s, there is no cure. And although it really hit the public consciousness when actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed while only in his late twenties, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s usually affects people over 50. Unlike Alzheimer’s, there ...

Nearly every culture in the world has a tradition of using heat for healing. The Romans, Greeks, Scandinavians, and many other cultures used saunas. Native Americans used “sweat lodges,” and many indigenous cultures used similar practices. But today, while we do still see saunas and sweats used for healing, the practice is largely limited to native cultures and “alternative” medicine. In the mainstream, the sauna or steam room is viewed as nothing more than a high-end relaxation technique—and a pricey one at that.   But this summer, a maverick psychiatrist making waves by suggesting we should re-think that view. According to him, these ancient heat-healing practices have the power to cure one of the most common but intractable forms of mental illness: depression. Feed a fever, starve depression? Dr. Charles Raison didn’t set out to find a treatment for depression. He was just intrigued by another culture.   While ...

If you’re a die-hard list-maker, there may be many different reasons you keep up the habit. Maybe you feel you need lists to keep you “on task.” You might find they help you prioritize and get more done in the day. Maybe you’re just a little OCD and not starting your day with a list leaves you mildly off-balance and jittery. Ask five different list-makers what motivates them, and you’ll get fifty different enthusiastic answers. If you’re not a list-maker, though, the very thought of becoming one might make you feel a little anxious. Lists may make you feel boxed in. You might feel like they stifle your creativity and leave no room for spontaneity. In fact if you’re not a list-writer, just the idea of writing down and organizing your “to-do’s” can be downright panic-inducing. So you might want to take a deep, calming breath before we go on. Because today I’m here to tell you something scary: Making to-do lists ...

Twenty-five years ago, the idea that “happiness is a choice” was profound. Today it’s a meme, as meaningless as dozens of other tired old clichés that get thrown around. In fact, to a certain segment of the population it’s become little more than a way to judge and belittle people. Having a bad week? Going through a rough patch in your life? Well (these folks say) happiness is a choice, and if you just tried harder… We all know people like this. And not surprisingly...they’re often not the happiest people themselves. You see, they’re missing the point. “Happiness is a choice” has some truth in it, but it’s a huge oversimplification. Happiness isn’t just a choice. It’s a bunch of choices. You don’t just wake up one day and tell yourself, “I’m going to be happy from now on” and that’s that. You can’t flip a mental switch and go from discontent to happiness in the ...

In the past decade we’ve discovered that your pancreas isn’t the only organ that produces insulin. Your brain also makes insulin and, like your body, it can become insulin-resistant. When that happens, your brain cells can’t use sugar properly and eventually they starve. This could be the beginning of the chain reaction that eventually leads to Alzheimer’s.     When your body becomes too insulin-resistant we call it type 2 diabetes. When it happens in your brain, we don’t call it anything…but maybe we should. A growing number of doctors now argue that we should start calling it what it is: type 3 diabetes.   But there’s good news.   You see, we know what causes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We also know how to prevent it. And the same steps that prevent type 2 diabetes will prevent—and possibly even reverse—type 3.      You may have heard it before. ...

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