Dakim Blog

October 8, 2009

Heart healthy is brain healthy

Written by: Dakim

A new study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and the Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders journal, found that middle-aged people who smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes are more likely to develop dementia later in life. The results of the study suggest that people should modify their lifestyle in order to gain better brain health later in life.

Researchers from the universities of Minnesota, North Carolina and John Hopkins and the University of Mississippi Medical Center studied more than 11,000 people aged 46-70 who were participants in a 1990 study, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities. The participants underwent a physical exam and cognitive testing. In 2004 the researchers followed up with the individuals to see how many had been hospitalized for dementia. The researchers identified 203 cases of hospitalization.

The results showed that smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are all strongly associated with dementia. The rates of hospitalization with dementia increased exponentially with age in men and women, and in different ethnic backgrounds. African American women had the highest rate of all.

• Current smokers were 70% more likely to be hospitalized for dementia later in life.
• Individuals with high blood pressure were 60% more likely.
• And people with diabetes were twice as likely.

The authors of the study say the results suggest that smoking cessation and prevention, or control of blood pressure and diabetes starting in midlife may have the added benefit of decreasing the risk factor of dementia hospitalization later in life.

In related research, published in the journal Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, researchers found that elevated cholesterol levels in midlife significantly increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research spanned four decades, studying 9,844 men and women starting when the individuals were 40 to 45 years of age. It is the largest long-term study with the most diverse population to examine midlife cholesterol levels and late in life dementia.

The findings were as follows:
-High cholesterol (240 or higher milligrams per deciliter of blood) increases by 66% the risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
-Borderline cholesterol (200-239 mg/dL) raised the risk by nearly the same amount.

“Our study shows that even moderately high cholesterol levels in your 40s puts people at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia decades later,” said the study’s senior author. Rachel Whitmer, Ph.D., a research scientist and epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

“This study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, adds to other research emphasizing the importance of addressing dementia risk factors in midlife, before an underlying disease or symptoms appear,” the researchers said.

Summary of an article published on AlzheimersWeekly.com.

October 1, 2009

Researchers Report That Obese People Are at Greater Risk for Developing Alzheimer’s

Written by: Dakim

In a new study, obesity is found to be linked to brain degeneration.

In the current online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, Paul Thompson, senior author and a UCLA professor of neurology, and lead author Cyrus A. Raji, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues compared the brains of people who were obese, overweight, and of normal weight, to see if their brain structure looked different.

The researchers used brain images from an earlier study called the Cardiovascular Health Study Cognition Study. They used scans of 94 elderly people in their 70s who were healthy (not cognitively impaired) five years after the scan. Using the Body Mass Index (BMI), they defined the weight categories as follows: normal weight—BMI between 18.5-25; overweight—between 25-30, and obese—greater than 30. The researchers converted the scans into three-dimensional images with high-resolution mapping of anatomical differences in the brain.

They found that:

  • Obese people had 8 percent less brain tissue than people with normal weight, making their brain look 16 years older than a lean participants brain.
  • Overweight people had 4 percent less tissue, making their brain look 8 years older than a lean participants brain.

Of the results Thompson said, “That’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain, but you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control.”

Adapted from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Summary of an article from August 25, 2009, posted online by the American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF). (NOTE: This article is no longer available, but see the AHAF Web site for additional news on the latest research on Alzheimer’s disease.)

August 11, 2009

BrainFitness System reviews: America is checking out the games that keep the brain fit

Written by: Dakim

Have you tried out the Dakim BrainFitness System? Well these folks have, and the reviews are rushing in. Check out what people are saying about the BrainFitness system:

Future-Making Serious Games tries out the System. Dakim: serious game grounded in science

Brain fitness for seniors: a review by BrainTraining101.com

GearDiary.com says Dakim has stepped up with the development and design of the BrainFitness System.

Brain training sweeps across America: Alzheimer’s Weekly talks about the System and its success.

August 2, 2009

The five components of the Dakim BrainFitness System

Written by: Dakim

Dakimflow is the system we’ve developed to make the games that you love. Dakimflow is pretty amazing—and very well designed. I’m going to give you an inside tour.

The Dakim BrainFitness System is made up of five progressively more specific components: Show, Event, Level, Screen and Element. Below is a picture of a Matryoshka, or a Russian nested doll. It’s a perfect example of how these components fit together.

Five nested matryoshka dolls with labels from largest to smallest of "Show," "Event," "Level," "Screen," and "Element"

The Show is what’s on your specific Dakim BrainFitness System unit. Sometimes we make special Shows for conferences or demonstrations. But the Show almost everyone uses is called Defense-US. Defense stands for Defense against Alzheimer’s and dementia, of course!

The different kinds of games you play are all Events. One of my favorites is Find What’s Different. This game requires that you pick out the different picture from a series of almost identical pictures. It can be tricky! For example, there is a screen that shows five snowflakes. Only one has a minor difference that needs to be identified.

There will be Levels in each Event, or game. Find What’s Different could have up to five different levels. One is the hardest level and five is the easiest. Of course you can’t see what Level you’re on; Dakim BrainFitness self-adjusts without you having to worry about it.

Every Level has different Screens. Take the snowflake example, the first screen might have Dan showing you the pictures of the snowflakes and asking you to find the one that’s different. The next Screen you see will point out where the difference it. Finally, every Screen is made up of Elements. The snowflakes are Elements, as is the question at the top, and even the background color!

Every single one of the Elements, Screens, Levels, and Events is given specific and personal attention. We put a lot of thought here at Dakim into getting it just right—but I don’t need to tell you this.

-Submitted by Tegan Artho-Bentz, Interactive Media Production Specialist

July 31, 2009

Find Your Caregiving Funny Bone for Better Heart Health

Written by: Dakim

Caregiving may seem like serious work, but as I heard Dr. Christine Northrup say in her book, The Power of Joy, “If anything is worth taking serious, then it’s certainly worth laughing about!” Even if your spouse or parent has Alzheimer’s, (or you do), life isn’t all grim, and the foibles and chaos that comes your way makes great fodder for chuckles, stories, and the occasional belly laugh.

Turns out, laughing is now doctor’s orders.

Laughter’s Effect on The Body:

  • Laughter increases blood flow
  • Laughter can lower blood pressure and cause blood vessels to relax
  • Relaxed blood vessels puts less strain on your heart
  • Laughter can help boost your levels of nitric oxide, which in turn opens your vessels
  • Laughter and being in a good mood helps to regulate your hormones

Dr. Roizen, author of Real Age states that laughing often can help you look and feel 8 years younger.

But let’s face it, caregivers don’t fall out of bed giggling.

There’s stress in just facing your day. My mother had my entire day planned out before my feet ever hit the floor. She may have had Parkinson’s, and later Alzheimer’s, but she had a “needs” list two miles long–meds, doctor appointments, “fake emergencies.” Then there was all the things she didn’t instigate–falls, feelings of paranoia (from the Alzheimer’s) and confusion. Is it really possible to keep your sense of humor in the midst of all this? Yes–and it’s crucial!

Find Your Caregiving Funny Bone:

  • Develop a quirky, “dark” sense of humor. Instead of that grumpy nurse getting on your last nerve, find her amuzing, imitate her when you get to the car. I’m not trying to be mean here, but comedy is often a bit twisted. It’s better than chewing her head off or griping about it all the rest of the day.
  • Start collecting funny movies. DVD’s have really come down in price, and old(er) movies cost as little as five dollars. You can get everything from old I Love Lucy reruns, Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny (your parent or grandparent will really like these–to movies you loved from the 80s, 90s, or TV shows such as Seinfeld. You can find used copies, or turn in some you don’t watch anymore. Even when you don’t feel like laughing, put on a funny DVD–instead of watching the news.
  • Visit www.Jokes.com, or check out the boards at www.Alz.org. There’s a humor section where caregivers tells jokes, and even share their funny/crazy adventures. Or check out YouTube. Type in humor and pets, humor and sports, and before long, you’ll be chuckling in front of your monitor.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. In fact, plan to call or meet the funniest person you know–in the next month–for coffee, or a phone chat. You’ll be glad you did. If you have a real grump in your life, don’t call them first thing in morning! That’s the worst way to start your day. Life is tough, but lots of people have adapted and have figured out how to spin the bad into good. Those are the relationships you want to encourage.
  • Make sure your home is well-lighted and that you get outside every day for at least ten minutes. The opposite of laughter is depression, and it’s too easy for caregivers to get a mild (or full-blown) case of depression. Many elders like dark houses, but it’s not healthy for you. Open the curtains, turn on the ceiling fans for circulation, and on cooler days (or warmer in the winter), open your windows . Nature is healing and uplifting.
  • Go for a walk. More and more research is indicating that many people are Vitamin D deficient because they’re simply not getting enough sun. Ten minutes is perfect. That’s just a short stroll. Take your loved one on a short walk, or at least get them out on the porch. Elders and young children suffer the highest rates of Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Don’t take life so serious! Yeah, life is tough, so lighten up! Sometimes you just have to break loose. Laugh til you cry. Cry til you laugh. Do everything you can to stay above the sorrow, the apathy, and the heartbreak. Fight. Fight hard. Fight not only for yourself, but for all those who love you.

Sometimes you have to jump-start your laughter. Don’t wait to put the funny movie in, call your friend, or tell a joke. Do it because you don’t feel like it–yet. The old fake it ’til you make it means…you’ll make it.