How Increasing Lifespan Makes Focusing on Brain Health More Important

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia currently affect 47.5 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, 5.3 million Americans are affected by the disease, and the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that this number could more than double to 16 million by the year 2050.

On the other hand, human lifespan has been steadily on the rise since the 19th century. This rise has been largely due in part to medical advancements that have greatly reduced the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other debilitating conditions. A long life is something many of us strive towards, but increased lifespan seems to be outpacing the increase in long-term cognitive ability since medical advancements for brain health have not accelerated at the same rate that they have for other ailments and chronic conditions.

The majority of scientific research has found that cognitive decline typically begins at age 42, a figure that has remained stagnant for over a century. Though the scientific community is making medical advancements almost daily, there has been no major breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, the most notorious brain health issue of our time.

While we anxiously await the day a cure is found for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, we advocate that each and every individual take charge of their personal brain health. Engaging in healthy habits is a life-long commitment, but is incredibly important for promoting long-term brain health, improved mood and overall well-being!

As brain health advocates, the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ team is always striving to provide the best and most up-to-date information and tips. Read one of our most recent blogs, “10 Facts You Need to Know to Promote and Harness the Power of Neuroplasticity”, to learn more about strengthening your brain in your day-to-day activities!


Innovations in the Alzheimer’s Care Environment

Long-term brain health is influenced by more than one factor; everything from a healthy diet to the outside environment can help promote a healthy mind. These factors are also thought to potentially delay the progression of cognitive decline, which is why Jean Makesh is using this concept to reenvision memory care homes for older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Typically, memory care centers often feel like a hospital or hotel and fail to convey the hominess that can potentially alleviate anxiety. Jean Makesh is changing that by building care communities that are designed to resemble the warm environment of a familiar neighborhood from the 1930s and ‘40s.

Each facility contains indoor courtyards, streets and faux golf courses, along with venues such as a movie theatre, fitness center, spa, library and 24-hour bistro. Although everything is indoors to protect residents from wandering, the environment does not hold them back. Residents can enjoy sitting on their own front porch, which encourages socializing between neighbors.

Fiberoptic ceilings mimic the sunrise and sunset, and display twinkling stars at night, to aid residents with their wake and sleep schedules. At mealtimes, appetite-boosting aromas are dispersed throughout the facility. And if a resident were to become agitated, the anxiety-relieving aroma of frankincense (derived from the gummy sap from Boswellia and Commiphora trees) is introduced into their room.

As a former occupational therapist in the skilled nursing industry, Makesh is well-versed in helping individuals excel at basic activities of daily living. He has meticulously designed every aspect of the facilities to allow people with Alzheimer’s or dementia to function at their maximum potential, even going so far as to offer classes on daily living skills. Some clients have even learned to bathe and dress themselves again.

So far, there are three Lantern centers in Ohio, and each one reflects the community that surrounds it. Although this facility may not cure dementia, it provides a safe space for individuals to thrive, promoting independence, well-being and happiness. Makesh does have plans to expand in the future, and until then, we look forward to hearing more about the success of the residents in their day-to-day lives.


How High Blood Pressure Affects Brain Health

On our Cognitive Therapeutics Method blog, we have often noted the link between heart and brain health, highlighting the importance of exercise in promoting blood flow and keeping aging brains healthier for longer. On October 10th, 2016, the American Heart Association issued a scientific statement emphasizing that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cognitive impairment, once again solidifying the link between heart health and cognitive functioning, including the risk for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

The statement was issued after reviewing multiple studies on the association between blood pressure and the risk for cognitive impairment, concluding that high blood pressure, especially in middle age, is linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Although the warning is founded upon multiple studies, the American Heart Association does acknowledge that it is not clear yet as to whether reducing and controlling high blood pressure will decrease an individual’s likelihood of developing dementia. It will benefit the heart in reducing the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other heart diseases, but further studies are needed on the exact cause and effect of high blood pressure on the brain to determine its role in Alzheimer’s and dementia.

High blood pressure is not the sole cause of dementia – diet, drinking and smoking habits, race, gender and countless other factors have been said to play a role in the incidence of dementia.

For the time-being, it is important to live a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ focuses on a healthy diet, physical activity and mentally-engaging activities to promote long-term brain health. To learn more about the Method, visit


Caffeine May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Older Women

Coffee has been proven to have positive effects on the brain, even going so far as to protect the brain against mild cognitive impairment when consumed in moderate, consistent amounts. A new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee has added to the growing body of research supporting the brain health benefits of coffee, specifically in women over the age of 65.

Published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, the study found that higher caffeine intake in older women was associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment.

The study analyzed data from 6,467 post-menopausal women who reported some level of caffeine consumption; all women were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Caffeine intake was estimated from self-reported answers to questions on intake of coffee, tea and cola, including frequency and serving size.

Assessments of cognitive function were performed annually for up to 10 years. Of the participants, 388 women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or another form of cognitive impairment. Self-reported consumption of over 261 milligrams of caffeine per day was associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia. That amount of caffeine is equivalent to two to three eight ounce cups of coffee, five to six eight ounce cups of black tea or seven to eight 12 ounce cans of cola.

After adjusting for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, medical conditions and more, the research team found that individuals who consumed more caffeine than the median amount had lower rates of diagnosis compared to those that consumed less than the median amount. Although the team cannot make a direct link between caffeine consumption and cognitive impairment, their findings add to the growing body of research.

Considering that caffeine is easily incorporated into any diet, these findings are exciting for the field of dementia research. For now, we recommend 1 to 2 cups of coffee daily, as it is best enjoyed in moderation!


Using Mindfulness to Combat Pain

The Cognitive Therapeutics Team frequently advocates for non-pharmacological approaches to well-being in order to protect the body and brain against the possible side effects of medication. In line with this thinking, we see promise in research that suggests mindfulness can combat symptoms of pain.

Practicing mindfulness means taking measures to live fully in the present moment. By focusing on your current state, both physically and emotionally, and experiencing how you feel without passing judgment, it may become easier to let go of anxieties associated with the past or the future. Practicing mindfulness is akin to meditation – elements of mindfulness are used in many meditative relaxation techniques, including tai chi, yoga, prayer and more.

Dr. Sara Lazar, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says, “Mindfulness is basically paying attention to the present moment without judging.”

How to Perform Mindfulness

In order to practice mindfulness, sit in a quiet and comfortable space. You should be comfortable – sit up straight, but not stiff, with your hands resting on your thighs. Focus your attention on how your body feels. How do your feet feel on the floor? How do your hands feel on your legs? Do you feel any physical discomfort?

Next, focus on your breathing, paying particular attention to each exhale. If you become distracted with outside concerns, imagine them as clouds floating by and watch them pass as you return to your breathing. Experts recommend practicing mindfulness for five to 10 minutes once a day, gradually building up to 20 minute sessions.

Why Mindfulness Can Help Pain

Often, feelings of pain are intensified by our negative reactions; our emotional aversion to pain affects how we experience it. Clinical studies have proven that practicing mindfulness techniques can reduce some of the pain associated with chronic conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia. Instead of anticipating pain in fear, mindfulness can help you take a step back and experience pain objectively. Where does the pain start? What does the sensation feel like? Does it move or change over time?

Researchers have studied the brains of individuals who practice mindfulness versus those who do not through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Interestingly, they found that those who practice mindfulness have greater activity in pain centers of the brain despite reporting that they feel significantly less pain than others. However, they have less activity in areas involved in emotion and memory – by experiencing pain as a sensation instead of something that is unpleasant, they are able to mentally block some of the pain.

Depending on the severity and cause, mindfulness may not work against every type of pain. However, mindfulness has a multitude of other benefits, including an increase in happiness and a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. Start today by practicing for five minutes three days a week, and build up from there!


How Oral Health Impacts Brain Health

Oral health has often been a good indicator of overall physical and mental health, especially in older adults. A study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society is further exploring the connection between teeth and the brain.

The study used data on 62,333 participants from the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) project. All participants were over the age of 65 and all were determined to be physically and cognitively independent. A baseline survey was conducted between August 2010 and January 2012, and a follow-up survey was administered between January 2013 and December 2013; both surveys consisted of self-administered questionnaires.

The questionnaires included the self-reported number of teeth (20+ natural teeth, 10-19, 1-9 or no natural teeth) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology Index of Competence (TMIG-IC), which assesses high-level functional capacity with 13 questions.

The researchers accounted for external factors such as sex, age, medical history, social components and more. They found that participants with fewer than 20 teeth tend to be older than those with more than 20 teeth. They also found that individuals with fewer remaining natural teeth often had a lower socioeconomic status and worse health behaviors.

More importantly, the researchers found that participants with 10 to 19 teeth had a TMIG-IC score that was 0.035 points lower than participants with 20 or more teeth. Participants with 9 teeth or less had significantly lower TMIG-IC scores. The study also found an association between tooth loss and decline in higher-level functional capacity.

The research team believes that there are three potential causes for this association. The first is that tooth loss is often caused by inflammation, and chronic inflammation has been shown to negatively impact physical and cognitive health. Another determinant could be that poor oral health affects an individual’s ability to communicate and be social, which affects brain health. Lastly, the research team hypothesized that tooth loss could impact chewing and nutritional intake, thereby affecting physical and cognitive health.

Although there is the possibility for self-reporting bias in this study, the results lean towards an association between poor oral health and cognitive decline. Keep your teeth (and brain!) healthy by flossing and brushing twice per day – once in the morning and once before bed!