Boost Memory with Cocoa

Boost Memory with Cocoa

Before chocolate was found to be as good for us as it is, many scientists thought that there was nothing of substance behind the treat. Researchers believed that chocolate could result in more sugar cravings, reduced weight loss results and even the development of extensive skin problems. Now researchers are beginning to find that some seemingly taboo foods, such as coffee and red wine, are actually incredibly good for us. Chocolate tops the list, giving chocoholics a whole new reason to shop for their favorite dark chocolate brands. 

Researchers find that unique compounds in cocoa could actually help boost your memory. Not only does the research suggest that chocolate has memory reinforcing capabilities, but studies also show that cocoa can help reverse the memory loss that is caused by aging. This breakthrough could mean tremendous changes for those who suffer from age-related memory problems, as researchers are also beginning to look into how chocolate's compounds can be used as an active ingredient in the fight against dementia and other cognitive degenerative disorders.

Experts found that individuals could begin forgetting things as early as age 30. Often, it is simply an unavoidable aspect of the aging process. As we grow older, our cells begin to decline in their activity and presence. This is found in all parts of the body, including the brain. As more and more people are beginning to live longer thanks to the advances of modern medical technology, many are becoming frustrated that with a longer life comes a harder time remembering things.

However, the recent research shows that though there is still much mystery surrounding the human brain, the flavanols found in cocoa could be a tremendous and simple step in finding an effective cure for cognitive aging in humans. Flavanols are what scientists call the antioxidants found in all types of raw and unprocessed cocoa beans. Studies conducted on mice showed that the antioxidants were instrumental in improving both short-term and long-term memory in the rodents.

The research was especially fascinating because not only did memory improve in the rodents, but older mice actually showed signs of memory loss reversal. Researchers found it remarkable that the flavanols in dark chocolate was able to turn back the cognitive clock by such a tremendous amount. Human participants were able to improve upwards of several decades worth of memory loss.

In order to get more accurate results for human participants, studies looked at 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 over a period of 12 weeks. Those who took part in the study were not only able to show better memory reactions, but neuro-imaging showed that there were also tremendous physical and chemical improvements in the section of the brain that is correlated with memory.

Though the results are certainly encouraging, there are still many unanswered questions that scientists hope to explore further. What role could the flavanols have in improving memory loss symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? Now, more stringent trials are being conducted to learn more about the connection between the human brain and flavanols.

Those who are interested in enjoying some of the long-term health and memory benefits should be sure to do so correctly. Not every chocolate bar is good for you. Try to avoid milk chocolate whenever possible and opt for dark chocolate when you can. The higher the cocoa count the better, though if you are not a fan of the taste, you can always take a look into some bittersweet options to make the chocolate easier to enjoy. Think about incorporating it into your meals as well, or as a quick, small and healthy snack.

Do Some Herbs and Spices Help With Arthritis Relief?

Many well known drugs that have been proven effective as medicines come from plants, such as aspirin and quinine. So it really shouldn't be a surprise that the long tradition of using herbs and spices to treat medical conditions is actually effective. 

Below are seven that are well established as anti-inflammatories and can play a role in helping to control inflammatory conditions, like arthritis. Bonus, they have been chosen for this list because you are probably familiar with them already.

1. Turmeric
Many people swear by the anti-inflammatory properties of this bright yellow spice commonly found in Indian cuisine and readily available at your local grocer. Although studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in this spice, does combat inflammation, results vary. You can give it a try and see if it seems to help you. If you it does, skewing your diet towards Indian cuisine may be a relatively easy way to help keep your condition under control.

2. Ginger
Although ginger is probably best known for its ability to combat nausea, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. This fact has been backed up by studies. This zesty spice is used in many Asian dishes, but it is also readily available in most brands of ginger ale. Just look at the bottle. Most of them say "contains real ginger" somewhere on the packaging. If you need to limit your consumption of sugar, you can get diet ginger ale. 

3. Cinnamon
Studies have proven the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon. Although many of the items on this list get used in savory dishes, this one is often used in deserts. However, it also acts as a blood thinner, so may be contra-indicated if you are on certain medications or have certain conditions.

4. Garlic
Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties. For the best medicinal effect, use fresh garlic, not garlic powder. If you really do not like the flavor of it, it can also be found in supplement form.

5. Cayenne
The active ingredient in cayenne and other hot peppers is capsaicin. It has anti-inflammatory properties and also gets used in some medications as a topical pain killer. It has been proven in studies to ease arthritis pain. 

6. Black Pepper
Although the active ingredient in pepper is piperine, not capsaicin, it has similar effects. So if hot peppers are too hot for you, you can go for black pepper as a milder flavor with similar health benefits. 

7. Licorice
Licorice not only reduces inflammation, it helps support the adrenals. Not only can you get it as a supplement or in tea, if you read the packaging, you can sometimes find actual licorice in the candy of the same name. However, it is contra-indicated for people with high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney problems. 

Many herbs and spices have medicinal effects that help you control arthritis pain. This includes licorice, black pepper, cayenne, garlic, cinnamon and ginger.

Losing Your Sense of Smell can be a Sign of Alzheimer's

Losing Your Sense of Smell can be a Sign of Alzheimer's

A weak sense of smell can be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the elderly. For the longest time, it was not certain what played such a major role in determining how the disease progressed, but now researchers have discovered that the culprit behind the smell loss could be beta-amyloid, which is a protein that can build up in a toxic form in those who have the disease.

In order to determine the extended repercussions of smell loss and how it could be linked with Alzheimer's, scientists performed extensive tests with laboratory mice in order to develop a disease that could resemble Alzheimer's in humans. Researchers found that the plaque-forming protein was able to restore the sense of smell in the animals, though they also believe that the smell centers of the brain were among the first affected by toxic beta-amyloid as the disease unfolded. This resulted in a fascinating duality that scientists observed in determining how to control the illness. Because critical thinking and memory areas of the brain were often the next to go, scientists were confident that the presence of smell loss could be a sure potential indicator of Alzheimer's.

However, the loss of smell can be difficult for doctors to diagnose because it can also be caused by numerous other conditions other than Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes viral illnesses, brain injuries and even side effects from medications can all be to blame for the condition. The research that the scientists conducted, however, indicates that it is possible that a general poor sense of smell can be recognized as a sign of Alzheimer's development. If the sense of smell loss is paired with other mild cognitive impairments or some other form of memory loss, the link to Alzheimer's becomes stronger and stronger.

The new research based on the mice shows where and how the loss of smell occurs in the brain, and the way that the impairment develops show that it is also likely to be much more treatable in the future. The mice that were exposed to a small amount of beta-amyloid were unable to detect odors. In these instances, the plaques largely made up of these toxic proteins had appeared in the brain sections responsible for smell before making their way to the sections responsible for memory. In these developed cases, the mice had spent much more time sniffing for odors than usual, but also were unable to remember the smells or tell the differences between odors in different lab experiments.

When the research team then aimed to reverse the effects, the results were definitive. The mice were put on a long-term drug that cleared the presence of the beta-amyloid from inside the brain. After just two weeks on the drug, the mice were able to resume smelling as normal. After withdrawal from the drug for a week, however, the impairments returned. This research could provide individuals with promising results in reversing the effects of Alzheimer's.

Healthy Habits can Fight Even Genetic Heart Disease

A new study involving more than 55,000 adults looked at the effect of four lifestyle factors on the incidence of heart disease. The conclusion: Even those with a known genetic predisposition to heart disease can influence the outcome by avoiding unhealthy habits and pro-actively developing healthy ones.

The study assigned a risk factor based in part on whether or not participants carried any of 50 genes known to be associated with increased risk of heart disease. It also looked at the four following healthy lifestyle factors:

  1. No current smoking
  2. Lack of obesity (BMI less than 30)
  3. If they engaged in physical exercise at least once a week
  4. Healthy dietary pattern

Participants were ranked based on the number of healthy lifestyle factors they had. The study found that although genetic factors can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease -- by as much as 90 percent in some cases -- every health lifestyle factor helped reduce the risk.

This runs counter to what many people believe about genetic health factors. Most people wrongly believe that if you have "bad" genes, there is no fighting it. You might as well throw in the towel.

But this is not true. Diet and lifestyle make a significant impact on health outcomes, even for those individuals born at high risk due to known genetic factors. The more positive lifestyle factors, the more positive impact.

If you have genetic factors for heart disease, you can work on reducing your risk by doing the following things:

Eat Healthy
This means fewer processed foods and more fresh fruits and vegetables. It also means avoiding saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol. Limit salt and sugar and eat a high fiber diet.

Be Active
You should exercise at least once a week. But you should also avoid sitting for excessive periods of time. If you work a desk job, get up and walk around a little every hour or so. Your heart will thank you.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are underweight or overweight, work on gradually getting to a healthy weight. Then work at maintaining a healthy weight. Yo-yo dieting -- losing weight and then packing it back on -- is worse than just carrying a few too many pounds.

Avoid Tobacco and Limit Alcohol Use
If you smoke or use other tobacco products, give it up. Drink alcohol only in moderation.

Contrary the popular belief that genetic predisposition to heart disease is destiny, new studies are showing that lifestyle factors can help mitigate genetic risk. If you are at high risk, eat right, exercise, keep your weight down and avoid tobacco.

Healthy Lifestyle Linked to Higher Intelligence

Healthy Lifestyle Linked to Higher Intelligence
When you lead a healthy lifestyle, you can look forward to all types of bodily benefits. Everything from an improved metabolism to better muscular growth, proper nutrition and dieting can have overt benefits on your sense of well-being. Research also shows that a healthy lifestyle could be linked to a higher intelligence.

Better Nutrition Leads to Stronger Cellular Performance

When the body has the proper level of nutrition it needs, all operations work better on a cellular level. The cells have the fuel and energy they need to carry out their tasks without being bogged down by any number of problems. This efficiency results in a better metabolic function that gets rid of waste materials more quickly and provides the body with more energy. This becomes crucial in the brain, where the removal of waste materials and better functioning of cells means that cognitive functions are sped up and optimized. Studies also show that a healthier lifestyle through nutrition can help get rid of mental sluggishness. Drinking more water can lead to reduced migraines as well, which can optimize mental activities in the future, particularly in those who struggle with migraines and similar issues.

Better Exercising Habits Leads to Circulatory Solutions

As you exercise more frequently, your metabolism speeds up and optimizes blood flow through your organs. This increased blood flow can allow nutrients to reach necessary processes much more quickly, which can result in better long-term functioning. This results in a compounding effect, where all of the benefits build on top of each other to provide the body with the boost it needs to provide the individual with better movements and health. This extends to the brain as well, as the better fed the mind is, the better cognitive function the individual retains. Those who lead a healthier lifestyle will find themselves enjoying greater mental clarity and better memory function. Like any other lifestyle changes, however, it is important to make sure that you take it slow at first. Make the gradual changes you need to lead into healthier routines for your future.

Six Things You Didn't Know About Caffeine

Many of us get a daily dose of caffeine by drinking a cup or two of coffee throughout the day. We all recognize that caffeine can give you a little buzz and make you feel almost instantly more alert after drinking it. You have also probably heard that, just like with most foods and nutrients, too much caffeine can actually have a damaging effect on your system. Given that some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, here are some things that you might need to know about caffeine before you reach for that third cup of coffee. 

1. Caffeine can help you boost your memory. Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that daily intake of coffee improved the executive brain function of the elderly participants in their study. It was also associated with a lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease as you age. 

2. Caffeine can lower your risk of recurrence of colon cancer. The Journal of Clinical Oncology published a study in 2015 that found people with stage three colon cancer who drank at least four cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of dying from colon cancer or having it recur. 

3. Caffeine can assist with managing your pain. Caffeine is a major ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relievers that you can find at your local pharmacy. If you consume about 200 mg of ibuprofen and a regular cup of coffee, you may be able to alleviate your pain from a headache or menstrual cramps much faster. 

4. Caffeine improves the quality of your workout. The next time you head to the gym, you may want to grab a cup of coffee. You will be able to perform the movements with more intensity than if you had just consumed water. 

5. Caffeine reduces your risk of developing skin cancer. A study was published in Cancer Research in 2012 that shows people that consume more coffee have a lower risk of developing the most lethal form of cancer, melanoma. 

6. Be careful of consuming caffeine from energy drinks. Many popular energy drinks contain up to 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of about five regular cups of coffee. They are also very high in sugar. 

How High Stress Jobs Can Lower Life Expectancy

We have all heard that stress can be detrimental to your overall health, but new research reminds us of the importance of managing stress from your employment on a regular basis. For jobs that tend to be associated with higher levels of stress, workers may be actually changing their DNA over time. 

Research proves that if a person is chronically stressed at his or her job, there are vitally important parts of their DNA that can be eroded over time. For people with chronically high stress levels, the telomeres, the protective edges around DNA strands, become shorter and can lead to errors in DNA strands. These errors have a direct impact on how long we are able to live because mutations in the DNA strands can lead to increased risk of getting cancer. 

It is possible to mitigate some of the damage done by stress by making good lifestyle choices, such as sticking with a healthy diet and getting daily exercise. However, chronic stress can lead to a serious breakdown in the immune system, which means that you are more susceptible to disease and infection. Your body has less energy available to fight off harmful bacteria. Therefore, even though you may be able to take steps in other aspects of your life to make healthy choices and increase your longevity, stress during your daily employment can still take a serious toll on your lifespan. 

If you are experiencing high levels of stress at work, you should not be ashamed to speak with a mental health care professional to evaluate if there are any coping mechanisms you could try to reduce your stress levels throughout the day. You may want to do an introspective analysis about whether a change in job would be healthier for you. If you feel that you are unable to make a job change because of financial reasons, then you may want to spend some time evaluating your personal savings and budget to see if any adjustments can be made. Remember that your health is the most valuable thing you have.

Staying Clean Helps Your Mental Health

According to new research, having a clean and organized home can improve your mental health. If you have a problem with clutter in your home or everything you own is covered with dust, then it is time to discard some possessions and begin cleaning.

1: Being Organized Reduces Your Anxiety

When you must spend several hours searching for an important document, you will become anxious. Constant anxiety leads to other problems because you will have more adrenaline in your body. If you are having problems finding the things that you need each day, then you might arrive late for appointments. 

2: Reducing the Quality of Sleep

Your bedroom should be a quiet and relaxing oasis at night, but if you have to walk through piles of clothing to reach a bed, then you are not going to have high-quality sleep. Organize and clean your room to have a soothing place to sleep at night. 

3: Preventing Socializing With Others

To improve your mental health, you need to socialize with other people, but if your home is a dirty and cluttered disaster, then you won’t want to have any guests. Having a messy and grungy home can lead to isolation, and isolation is a major cause of depression. 

4: Increasing Your Attention Deficit Disorder Symptoms

If you have attention deficit disorder, then having a disorganized home can make the condition worse. Researchers know that individuals with attention deficit disorder cannot handle having too much brain stimulation. When a home is cluttered, you are unable to focus on what you need to accomplish because there are too many distractions. 

5: Feeling Overwhelmed On a Daily Basis

When your dirty and messy home makes you feel overwhelmed, then you might begin to sleep too much or develop avoidance techniques such as drinking until you are drunk. Instead of dealing with the clutter and dirt, you will begin to ignore until it spirals out of control completely. 

3 Myths about Your Health

It is important to understand what you need to do in order to stay healthy. However, separating health myths from facts can be challenging, and it is just as important to understand what health information is out there that is misleading. Here are three health myths that can actually be detrimental in some cases. 

Vitamin supplements are the answer

Like all three of the myths listed here, there is some truth to this one. Vitamin supplements can be critical for people who have certain shortages such as vitamin D and vitamin B-12, and your doctor may responsibly prescribe specific vitamins or a multivitamin. However, the danger arises when people begin to believe that vitamins can be a replacement for eating healthily and become overly reliant on supplements. Furthermore, overuse of some vitamins can be dangerous.

Most experts agree that for people who eat a healthy diet, a daily multivitamin is not necessary. Unfortunately, many people fail to eat a balanced diet. The problem is that the science is still unclear about how well the body absorbs nutrients from multivitamins versus food. Furthermore, when vitamins are obtained through food, other nutrients accompany them as well such as fiber. 

The supplement market is not well-regulated, so it can be difficult to know what you are actually putting into your body. Furthermore, megadoses of vitamins can be harmful with consequences ranges from an upset stomach to liver problems and more. You should follow your doctors' instructions regarding vitamin supplements. 

Other sweeteners are superior to sugar

As with vitamins, this myth has its origins in truth. Sugar is not particularly good for you. However, some people believe that sugar in other forms, such as honey or brown sugar, is less unhealthy than processed white sugar. This simply is not the case. The body responds to all of these sugars in the same way.

There are also a number of myths about the dangers of sugar. You may have heard that sugar is as addictive as heroin, but all scientists really know is that sugar stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain just as many activities do. There is little research to support the idea that sugar makes children more hyperactive.

Some people may choose artificial sweeteners over sugar. The main advantage of these sweeteners is that they may aid in weight loss. In general, it is best to avoid too much sugar in any form.

Organic food is healthier

Tens of thousands of studies have found no evidence that organically grown food is healthier than food that is grown conventionally. Furthermore, organic food is not even necessarily free of pesticides. Many states allow organic farmers to use so-called "organic" pesticides. This simply means that the pesticides used are made from natural rather than synthetic materials. The effects of organic pesticides have not been widely studied, so it is unclear what the health risks may be. Organic farming may be beneficial to the soil and environment in many ways, and buying organic produce may support smaller scale farmers, but being unable to afford organic food does not meaning having to eat a substandard diet. 

There is one health fact that arises from dispelling all of these myths, and it is that the best approach to a healthy lifestyle is eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Getting the recommended servings of vegetables and fruit daily and keeping the consumption of overly processed foods to a minimum are both key. 

Keeping Your Fat Intake Down

Cutting calories and eating more produce might be your solution to a healthier outlook, but there's more complexity to weight gain and loss than first believed. Although these strategies are good starting points, you should also look at your fat intake as a key indicator of a healthy lifestyle. As you age, your body doesn't burn fat as well as it used to, which leads to unhealthy weight gain. Keep your fat intake down with a few tips that are easy to incorporate into daily lifestyles.

Be Aware of Recommended Daily Values

Ideally, you shouldn't consume more than 20 or 35 percent of your daily calories as fatty sources. This percentage is usually based on your age, gender and current weight. The percentage values may seem high, but many people eat substantially more fat than this each day. Keep a food diary, such as a downloaded app, that can help you quantify your meals. You may not realize how much fat is in that handful of peanuts or dip of a chip in ranch dressing.

Learn About Portion Sizes

As you try to keep your fat down, some people might go the extra mile to eliminate it entirely. However, you need fat in your diet because it offers substantial energy throughout the day. Simply portion out your fats so that you have an equilibrium within your system. A beef steak can be your main course, but don't eat a full pound of it. Remember that proteins should only take up a quarter of the plate or the size of a card deck. 

Trim the Fat

Passing up a great meal shouldn't be necessary when you take the proper steps to lower the fatty calories. Pull out that chicken, pork or beef. Cut off the extra fat sections that are obvious before cooking it. Choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, to cook these items each night. If a delectable sauce is calling your name, try to skim the fat from the juices before indulging. You'll end up reducing your fat intake while enjoying your favorite entrees. 

Swap Items Out

Heavy cream, butter and other fatty foods are often incorporated into recipes that substantially increase the calories. Try to swap out these items for healthier selections. Low-fat yogurt, hummus and skim milk are smart substitutions in those traditional recipes that will still retain flavor while lowering the fat content. Baking with applesauce and other substitutes is another example of a clever tactic to reduce fat. Be aware of your ingredients, and swap them out as necessary.

Curb the Dining Out

It's true that you'll eat fewer calories when you cook your own food. Try to eat out less often. The portions and fats inside one takeout burger alone are staggeringly high. If you must eat out, order your food very carefully. Choose broiled or baked items while requesting any dressings and sauces on the side. You can't control every aspect of your fat intake while dining out, but it's possible to cut down. Ask the wait staff about particular dishes that might be healthier than others. Restaurants will often add "heart health" choices to every menu.

The side effects to limiting your fat intake include lower blood-pressure and cholesterol numbers. In many cases, you might fight off ailments that require a daily, prescription pill. Try a low-fat diet so that you can reap the health benefits. It simply takes some self-control and discipline to follow along.