How to Boost Brainpower and Increase Productivity

Don’t we all wish we could have 10 more hours in a day? That’s impossible, of course, but by boosting your brainpower, you can increase your productivity, which will create the illusion of more time. While there exist quick fixes for sharpening your brain (like eating antioxidant-filled blueberries or going for a run to score some endorphins), these three tips work best as habits to develop and maintain over time.

Get the sleep you need

Reducing caffeine will improve your sleep and mental capability

Cutting caffeine can greatly improve your quality of sleep.

Getting your minimum six hours isn’t even the most important aspect of sleep – what’s really important is getting high quality sleep. Try a sleep-tracking app like Sleepbot or a Fitbit to track your REM cycles. You can also use such apps to set an adjustable alarm that will wake you when your sleep is lightest to increase the quality of your sleep.

You can also unplug before bed to improve your sleep quality. The blue light found on tablets, smartphones, and eReaders actually signals your body to wake up, right before going to bed. Try reading a paper book before bed instead.

Lastly, cutting caffeine (at least in the afternoons, if you can’t live without your morning cuppa) will better the quality of your sleep, among other benefits. Still need a three o’clock pick-me-up? Try an iced herbal tea to give you a boost without the buzz.

Stimulate your brain

Socialization is actually good for your mental health

Socializing is actually good for you – it stimulates your brain. Party on!

Abandon your GPS and calculator in favour of using a map or doing calculations in your head. You can also sign up for a daily-word email to increase your vocabulary. Exercising your brain can also be accomplished by playing Scrabble (or Words with Friends!) instead of just talking or texting. Interestingly, socialization is also hugely beneficial to your brain. By inviting friends over, you  reduce your chances of dementia. What better excuse is there to open a bottle of wine?

Another way to stimulate your brain is to do something new. This can be as simple as walking somewhere instead of driving, as intense as trying a new sport. Learning a new language or instrument also positively impacts the brain.

Treat your body right

Meditation benefits mental ability

Thirty minutes of yoga or meditation will increase your daily productivity.

First, kick the habit. Cigarettes have been linked to memory deficits, so the sooner you quit, the better it is for your body and brain.

Exercise regularly, even if it’s just a longer walk to your car. Try parking further from work, or getting off the bus earlier than usual to increase your walking distance. Practicing yoga or meditating also works – just 30 minutes a day contributes greatly to mental capacity.

Eating right also has a big impact. That means loading up on superfoods like blueberries, almonds, dark chocolate, and greens to boost your brain, but also making a habit of staying hydrated and eating clean and balanced meals.

 

5 Tips For Better Bone Health

Our bones support us – literally – throughout our lives. It’s especially as we age – and when those bones start to creak a little – that we tend to become more aware of the importance of bone health, and of the risk of osteoporosis, a disease marked by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue (which often leads to increased bone fragility and breakage). But keeping our bones strong and healthy should be a priority at any age. 

Visit londondrugs.com/osteoclinics to schedule an appointment to learn more about bone health.

We spoke to Tanya Long, Senior Manager of Education for Osteoporosis Canada, about ways that you can boost your bone health at any age. She offers these five tips.

Balance Your Diet

A well-balanced diet, says Long, is one that features foods rich in calcium, adequate protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Foods like these not only ‘feed’ the bones, but provide other nutrients that are important for bone health, too.

Get Enough Calcium

Food, Long says, is the very best place to get your calcium. But if, for any reason, your food sources are not adequate in terms of providing the calcium your bones need, speak to your doctor. You may then consider taking a calcium supplement, on your doctor’s advice.

Supplement Your Vitamin D

Osteoporosis Canada recommends routine daily Vitamin D supplementation all year round for adults. Vitamin D, Long explains, isn’t always easily found in food sources and she says sun is simply not a reliable enough source of Vitamin D. Seek medical supervision, however, if you’re thinking of taking more than 2,000 International Units of Vitamin D per day.

Exercise

We know that exercise is crucial in building and maintaining strong bones. Long says your exercise routine should include strength training (such as wall push-ups or working with free weights), balance and posture training, as well as weight-bearing activity (weight-bearing means any activity requiring you to be on your feet, like dancing, walking, stair-stepping, etc.)

Your doctor can advise about helpful medications.

See Your Doctor

Over 50? Talk to your doctor about a fracture risk assessment, which will tell you your risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years. Also, all women and men 65 years or older should have a bone mineral density test. If you are at high risk of fracture, Osteoporosis Canada recommends medication, on advice from your doctor. Find out more about the role of medication in treating osteoporosis here. 

To find out more about osteoporosis and bone health in general, please visit the Osteoporosis Canada website.

And find out more about how to identify your osteoporosis risk factors – and how to minimize that risk – at one of London Drugs’ Osteoporosis Screening Clinics.

Prescription for exercise

Image_001Physical activity is the best treatment for type 2 diabetes. Why not do it in the great outdoors?

Exercise is considered one of the cornerstones of treatment for people living with type 2 diabetes for a host of reasons: it improves the body’s use of insulin, burns excess body fat, improves muscle strength and heart health, increases bone density, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, lifts one’s mood, and increases energy.

Exercise doesn’t just make you feel better, it also reduces disease, lessens hospitalizations, and can actually help you live longer. A 2012 study of 650,000 people from the U.S.-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute proved just that. It found that people over 40 who walked briskly for 75 minutes per week lived an extra 1.8 years. That increased to 3.4 years when they walked 150 to 299 minutes per week and to 4.5 years for 450 minutes per week.

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How to maintain your diet & exercise regime

So you’ve gone through a London Drugs Nutrition Clinic, and you’re armed with information about your current physical metrics, about healthy nutrition, and about some personal health goals you’d like to achieve. But how do you make sure that you can maintain the enthusiasm you have today and see your goals through? Here are some tips that can help you stay on track.

Steps to Maintaining your Regime

  1. If becoming more active is one of your goals, choose an activity you enjoy. You’re less likely to put off doing something you find fun. Even better—plan the activity with a friend or group. You’re less likely to put off something other people depend on your to participate in.
  2. If eating healthier is part of your health plan, make it easier by preparing meals in advance. If you’re cooking for the entire family, cook in batches and freeze meals.
  3. To keep your new routine top of mind, try to read something about nutrition or fitness every other day. Continuous learning will give your overall goal importance and priority over the long run.
  4. If you’re making many changes at once, try setting reminders on your computer or phone for things like taking a walk or preparing your grocery list. Program a few “way to go” messages for yourself while you’re at it. You deserve the recognition!

Dr Art Hister – Yet Another Reason to Exercise

A terrific talk on aging I heard a while ago pointed out something that I had never considered but which seems to be quite true, and it’s a very depressing thought.

This aging expert pointed out that although you often see pictures of a 70-year-old doing something quite amazing like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, but you never see an 85-year-old doing something similar.

That’s because, he said, of age-related frailty, meaning that we lose our muscle strength as we grow older.
Thus, it’s commonly said that we lose roughly 1 % of our muscle mass every year beyond the age of 40, and eventually – sometime between 75 and 85 for nearly all of us – we reach a tipping point of lost muscle mass when we can’t do so many – or even any – of the things we used to do so easily years before.

So the great news is that maybe that doesn’t have to happen.

In a study with terrifically hopeful possibilities, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined 40 competitive athletes – runners, cyclists, swimmers – between the ages of 40 and 81, and the researchers found that – quite to their surprise – that not only did those athletes have as much muscle tissue as people decades younger than them, they also remained nearly as strong as many people a couple of decades younger than them.

Now, clearly these were elite athletes and very few of us are able to train as much as these people do.

But this isn’t an all-or-none situation so seems to me that even some regular exercise can delay or postpone that heretofore seemingly inevitable frailty that the elderly suffer and which condemns so many seniors to having to give up their independence.

And honestly, doesn’t some exercise done a few times a week seem like a small price to pay for raising your chances to live a longer independent life down the line?

Dr Art Hister – Marathon Runners

If you want to run a marathon, get tested first.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, so many baby boomers have set themselves a goal of running a marathon (or several) before they pass into older age. Unfortunately, many have set out to do this without first determining if they are fit enough to undergo the load that marathon-running puts on their no-longer-that-young hearts.

So a recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 should get at least a few marathon-hoping individuals to sit up and take note.

In this study that used MRIs and a sophisticated battery of tests on a group of amateur marathon runners both before and up to 8 weeks after the race, the researchers found that “abnormal heart segments (are) more widespread and significant” in non-fit runners (presumably, more widespread than most people or doctors think).
And the lead researcher concludes that “marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think” (which if you’ve ever been to a marathon and watched the parade of runners that come by is absolutely no surprise). He goes on to advise that everyone who is thinking of running a marathon should seriously consider getting a test known as Vo2 max, which measures oxygen consumption by the heart while the person is working out.

Dr Art Hister – Weight and Genes

Bad news for those of you who swear you can’t lose weight because of your genes: you’re probably wrong.

Lots of people swear that no matter what they do, they can’t lose weight, even if they “don’t eat more than a mouse eats, honest”, even if they “exercise till I can’t stand it any longer”.

But the brutal truth is that even though there are a few people out there who indeed cannot lose weight easily, most of us can, and when we don’t lose weight on a diet or from exercise, it’s very likely because we are eating too much or not working out enough, or more often than not, both of those combined.

And if you believe the data from a study published in PLoS Medicine, even most obese people who are genetically prone to becoming massively overweight can nonetheless overcome their genetic predisposition and still lose a significant amount of weight.

In this study, even in obese people who had inherited “17 variants” of genes leading to obesity (in other words, the dice were really loaded against these folks staying slim), those who did the most exercise tended to weigh much less than those who were sedentary, and some were even able to maintain normal weights by doing enough exercise.

Bottom line: if you want your bottom not to grow too large, do more, eat less.

Sorry, but I just report em as I see em.

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