The Mindful WomanKeiro’s Women’s Wellness Conference September 29, 2012 Beth Mulligan, PA-C www.mindful-way.com
Everyone Experiences Stress and…. Women try to do it all We may not have been taught to include self care Eventually this catches up with us
External and Internal Stressors External Internal Health Issues Worrying about the future (or the past) Financial Problems Negative thoughts Family illness about health or Accidents family Employment Physical discomfort problems and what we think it means
Stress Hormones affect our Bodies and our BrainsWhen we trigger the “fight or flight” response, we produce Stress HormonesThey impair our ability to use the higher functioning part of the brain for cognitive thought and planning.Older people who do poorly on timed tests do as well or better than college students when allowed to go at their own pace.
The Facts:Aging does affect some aspects of memory in a negative wayGenetics do matter – strong family history and high risk genes can significantly increase the chances of Alzheimer’s or dementia
Good NewsThere are many simple, no-cost or inexpensive things we can do to maintain our brain.Numerous animal and human studies provide strong evidence that our lifestyle choices can improve our brain function.
Normal AgingDecreased short term memory – harder to remember namesDecreased attention capacityMore benign “senior moment” memory loss episodesNamenesia, roomnesia, fleeting thought episodes
Memory LossOver the course of our lifetimes there are many events that can diminish our brain capacityAge-related neurodegenerative changes can be accelerated and provoked or conversely avoided and delayed based on luck, illness, and lifestyle choices
We used the think the brain was fixed and it’s “all down hill from here.” Now we know about Neuroplasticity The ability of the brain to change, adapt, repair itself, improve function, in response to injury, toxic damage, stroke, inflammation and aging
Things that Affect Memory and Cognitive Function Age Diet Family History Exercise Trauma Smoking Toxins Alcohol Infection Social support and Medical Conditions interactions Medication Mental activity Stress Stress
Johns Hopkins Researchers Linked High levels of cortisol with poor cognitive performance in older individuals 967 people, average age 61, given 20 standardized tests- measured cortisol before, during, and after testing As cortisol levels rose, cognitive performance declined in a manner consistent with aging 6 years. This is preventable and treatable with training.
The Aging Brain is more susceptible to Stress HormonesCortisol is damaging to the part of the brain –the hippocampus- responsible for learning and memory.As we age the feedback mechanism to shut cortisol down is impaired.Meditation (Stress Reduction) helps reduce cortisol and makes the hippocampus more robust.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Older women who meditate regularly have a decreased cortisol response to stress. The longer they had been meditating- the less they produce cortisol when stressed.
University Zurich Study on Stress and Memory Healthy adults were asked to memorize 60 unrelated nouns Participants were then tested immediately and 1 day later. Participants were given cortisol tablets or placebo. Cortisol (like the stress hormone we produce ourselves when stressed) was shown to impair memory.
Harvard Study Shows: MRI’s showed that regular practice of meditation is associated with increased thickness in the gray matter- the cortex. The cortex is the part of the brain that thins as we age and is also responsible for cognitive reasoning and problem solving. Meditation may slow this process.
New Harvard Study: Journal of Neuroscience Imaging January 2011 Eight Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Study shows increased volume in the structures of the brain associated with memory, learning, empathy and awareness- using MRI’s And shrinking in areas associated with anxiety and stress
Ways to come into the present moment- which in itself reduces stress: Meditation, Relaxation and Yoga Support of other people Mindfulness – Paying attention to the present moment Doing things we enjoy
Focusing on the breath, and on the senses islike opening a doorway to the present moment
Diet High saturated fat, low fish, low antioxidant diet linked to dementia Eating more fish (especially cold water oily fish like sardines, mackerel, cod, salmon, herring) or taking an omega-3 supplement daily is protective against dementia Sunflower seeds, olives, almonds, spinach - VitE
Diet Cont’d Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with better brain function Plants with deep and varied coloring have the most antioxidants – kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, red bell pepper, eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, raisins, cherries, red grapes
Exercise Many studies in both animals and humans have demonstrated protective effect to regular exercise 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week (at least 4 days/week) Walking, jogging, biking, swimming
Social Networks Active lifestyle, social engagement protects against dementia Numerous studies have linked supportive social networks and strong association with community with less risk of dementia Having a sense of meaning and purpose in life protects against memory loss
Don’t Let the Media Scare You A Johns Hopkins report says that people who are not exposed to stereotypes on aging are less forgetful than those with preconceived notions about aging and memory loss.
Remember and Think from a Calm Centered Place Slow down, and be still. Take a few conscious breaths. Observe yourself, your thoughts, feelings and what is around you. Prioritize from a calm peaceful place.
Simple things we can do Be proactive in dealing with stress! Meditation classes or CD’s, yoga or tai chi classes Take a break from the phone, computer, and TV Have a quiet car Eat less, exercise more Eat more plants, less meats Spend time outdoors Do something you enjoy but rarely do ( Listen to music, draw, dance, go to a kid’s movie, lifelong learning) Connect with others in meaningful ways. Put Self care at the top of your “to do” list
Whatever your plans for the future may be… don’t forget to enjoy the present moment.