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Neuro/Mental Health Tips

Alzheimer's Disease/Dementia

Activities and Dementia
It is important to choose activities that the demented person can manage. All human beings, including people with dementia, have a fundamental psychological need to be occupied. However, the nerve pathways in the brain which carry motivation may be damaged in a person with dementia. You may therefore, have, to help them get started. Many people with dementia also have problems concentrating. They may be unable to concentrate on anything, such as a TV program or reading the paper, for very long. This means that activities have to be adapted to meet their very special needs.


Administering Medications to a Confused Person
An effective way to administer medications to a person with dementia (confusion) is to crush the tablets (if it's a medication that can be crushed safely) and mix the powdered medication in a small amount of applesauce or pudding.


Bathing a Person with Alzheimer's Disease
Try to make sure that all bathing materials (soap, shampoo, washcloth, towels) are within easy reach, so that you will not need to leave the patient unattended even momentarily. Safety issues also become more important. To lessen the chance of the patient slipping or falling, try placing a rubber mat or decals on the floor of the bath tub. Grab bars and shower seats may also be helpful. They can be purchased at most any medical supply store. You may want to lower the temperature of the hot water in your heater to reduce the chance of scalding.


High-Fat Diet May Raise Alzheimer's Risk
A high-fat, high-calorie diet may double a person's risk for Alzheimer's disease, especially if the person is genetically predisposed to the disorder.


Importance of Consistent Care of Person with Dementia
It's important that care to a demented person be provided on a consistent basis. Changes in routine have a negative effect by increasing confusion and agitation.


Music and Alzheimer's
Doctors say the right kind of music, golden oldies, can help Alzheimer's patients interact with others better.


Noise and Dementia
Speak gently and distinctly to a confused person. Loud voices only add to the person's confusion and may make the person agitated.


Preparing a Person with Alzheimer's for Visitors
Talk about and show pictures of the people who are coming to visit.
Have the person with AD watch and/or help with preparations.
Persons with AD may recognize faces of family members and friends but may be unable to recall names. Name tags are helpful.
Have a "quiet" room if things get too hectic and have someone familiar stay with the demented person so he or she doesn't feel isolated or left out.
Prepare for distractions beforehand (e.g., use of photo album) to divert attention if problem behaviors occur.


Radio, TV and Alzheimer's
A radio and television left playing in the room with a person who has Alzheimer's can help calm and reorient them.


Some Foods May Cut Alzheimer's Risk
Eating nuts, leafy green vegetables and other foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.


Trial Alzheimer's Vaccine
A safe, effective vaccine for people with Alzheimer's may be on the horizon.
Researchers are working on a vaccine that stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies against the beta-amyloid protein found in the brain-clogging plaques involved in the disease.


Depression

Depression and Placebo Effect
Brain scans show that patients with depression have clear physical responses to both drugs and sugar pills in a study that could help explain the "placebo effect."


Depression and Strokes
Men who suffer from depression and anxiety are more than three times as likely to die from a stroke as other men.


Headaches

Avoid Common Headache Triggers
Avoid the following common headache triggers: strong perfume, noisy environment, bright light, caffeine, chewing gum, high sodium intake, skipping meals, hot dogs or any cured meats containing nitrates, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chocolate, nuts, liquor and aged cheeses. (The tyramine in chocolate, nuts, liquor and cheeses is the culprit).


Exercise and Headaches
If you have a mild tension headache, exercise will probably relieve it. If your headache is more severe, don't exercise. The pain will worsen.


High Altitudes and Headaches
Take Vitamin C and aspirin before your next trip to a higher altitude if approved by your doctor. Take 3,000 milligrams of Vitamin C and two aspirins the day before and each day during the trip to prevent headaches.


Pain Medications for Headache
Take a pain reliever such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin) at the first sign of a headache or it most likely won't alleviate the pain.


Self-Massage and Acupressure
Self-massage and acupressure can help end a headache.
Two key acupressure/massage points are the bony ridges at the back of the neck and the web between the thumb and forefinger. Apply pressure until you feel pain.


Sleep a Headache Away
Sleep can often alleviate a headache, but don't sleep in an awkward position or on your stomach because it may tighten your neck muscles and trigger a headache. Try sleeping on your back.


Wear a Headband
Wear a headband or tie a scarf around your head to end headache pain. It decreases blood flow to the scalp and lessens the pounding.


Natural Stress Relief

Control Your Drinking
Alcohol can depress the central nervous system and disturb your sleep. So do yourself a favor and limit your intake.


Count to 10
Before you do or say something you'll regret, silently count to 10. Use this time to take a few deep breaths, stretch, or recite an affirmation.


Don't Grind Your Teeth
Stress tends to settle in certain parts of our bodies, the jaw being one of them. When things get hectic, open your mouth wide, and just say "ahhh."


Evaluate Your Stress
Using a scale of one to 10 (one being equivalent to a minor hassle and 10 being a true catastrophe), assign a number to whatever is making you tense. Most problems rank pretty low and are not worth your worry.


Exercise Your Green Thumb
Tending a garden can help people to escape their worries. If you haven't got a garden, try a houseplant. It works!


Fight Back
Next time you are faced with a conflict, be proactive. For example, if your flight gets canceled, don't wallow in self-pity. Find another one. If your office is too hot or too cold, don't suffer in silence. Call the building manager and ask what can be done to make it more comfortable.


Get a Pet
Researchers have found that those who owned a pet had lower blood pressure than those who didn't. If you don't have a pet, visit a friend's: Petting an animal for just a couple of minutes helps relieve stress.


Get Your B Vitamins
The B vitamins can help your body cope with stress. They can also boost the immune system and counteract fatigue. Look for a B complex pill with 400 mcg of folic acid and 50 mcg of all other B vitamins.


Get Your ZZZZZZZ's
Get the sleep you need (about eight hours is optimal for most people). But don't sleep to escape your worries. That will only makes you groggier.


Gobble, Gobble
Turkey is a major source of tryptophan, which relieves anxiety and helps alleviate stress and insomnia. So eat up.


Great Natural Stress Reliever
A great stress reliever is a body massage with lotion containing peppermint, spearmint or menthol. The scent as well as the massage have a relaxing effect.


Herbal Stress Relief
Have you had a bad day? Brew a pot of chamomile tea. It's nature's tranquilizer. Drink at least 2 cups for effective stress relief.


Herbal Stress Relief II
Both Siberian and Panax ginseng, which bolster the adrenal glands, may also be effective in coping with stress. These stress-fighting herbs are sometimes called "adaptogens" (because they help the body "adapt" to challenges) or "tonics" (because they "tone" the body, making it more resilient). All can be safely taken together.

Other herbs and nutritional supplements, used singly or together or combined with the supplements above, may be of value in special circumstances. For stress-induced anxiety, try kava, which is best reserved for high-stress periods lasting up to three months. Take melatonin if worry is keeping you up at night, and St. Johnís wort if stress is accompanied by mild depression.


Horizontal Mambo
If sex has been on the bottom of your to-do list for too long, move it to the top. Sex increases levels of endorphins, those mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, and it's one of the best total-body relaxers around.


Imagine a Calm Place
Close your eyes, take three long breaths, and picture yourself in a relaxing scene (hiking in a forest, lying on a deserted beach, walking through town after a fresh snowfall). Focus on the details-the sights, the sounds (or lack thereof), the smells.


Just Say No
Trying to do everything is a one-way ticket to serious stress. Be clear about your limits, and stop trying to please everyone all the time.


Just Say Yoga
Muscles tighten during the course of the day, and when we feel stressed out, the process accelerates. Yoga can help loosen muscles and encourages deep breathing. Find a yoga studio in the Yellow Pages or buy a video so you can practice at home. Some simple stretches can even be done in your office.


Laugh Stress Away
To reduce the hormones associated with stress, have a good laugh once or twice a day.


Music to Soothe Your Soul
After a hard day of work, treat yourself to downtime with some relaxing melodies. Change into comfy clothes, find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed, light a few aromatherapy candles, breathe deeply and let your mind and soul be massaged by the music.


Natural Stress Relief I
If you feel stressed, close your eyes and stretch out in a quiet darkened room for 15 - 20 minutes. You'll be surprised how much this helps decrease your stress.


Natural Stress Relief II
A warm bath is relaxing, but adding some well-chosen herbs to the water could make your soak even more effective.
Place dried herbs -- a single herb or a mixture of your favorites -- in a cloth or net bag, then toss the bag into the tub or hang it from the faucet as the tub fills. For a refreshing, stimulating bath, try lovage, mint, rosemary, sage, orange, pine, or thyme. To calm down at the end of a busy day, chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, marjoram, marigold, or mint are good choices.


Nature Sounds to Relax
Research shows that the sounds of nature have a relaxing effect. Pop in a CD of surf sounds the next time you want to mellow out.


Phone a Friend
Sharing your troubles can give you perspective, help you feel cared for, and relieve your burden. So pick up the phone or walk next store and catch up with a friend.


Play a Few Bars
A number of studies have shown that music can do everything from slow heart rate to increase endorphins. Good bets: "Air for G-String" by Bach, "Pastoral" by Beethoven, "Nocturne in G" by Chopin, "Water Music" by Handel, or "Autumn" or "December" by pianist George Winston.


Practice Mindfulness
Heighten your awareness of the moment by focusing intently on an object. Notice a pencil's shape, color, weight and feel. Or slowly savor a raisin or a piece of chocolate. Mindfulness leads to relaxation.


Put It On Paper
Divide a piece of paper into two parts. List the stressors you may be able to change on the left side and the ones you can't on the right side. Then change what you can and stop fretting over what you can't.


Put the Pressure On
Acupressure relieves stress like acupuncture, but with fingers instead of needles. Try applying light pressure with your index fingers to one of these three points: between the eyebrows; the back of the neck slightly below the base of the skull; and about half an inch to the left or right of the spine.


Relaxing Music
What soothes the senses also eases jangled nerves. Relax to music with a tempo just slightly slower than your heart rate. Some good classical offerings: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, 2nd movement, and Orchestral Suite No. 2 and Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, 1st movement.


Repeat a Mantra
Devise an affirmation, or a short, clear, empowering statement. For example: "I feel calm. I can handle this." Then, the next time you feel as if your life is one disaster after another, take a deep breath and repeat it 10 times.


Say a Little Prayer
Studies show that religious spiritual people are calmer and healthier than those who profess no faith. So say a little prayer for yourself.


Say Cheese
Smiling is a two-way mechanism. We do it when we're happy and relaxed, but doing it can also make us feel that way. So go ahead and grin. Don't you feel better?


Shake It Off
Shake your hands and arms vigorously for 10 seconds while breathing deeply. It may seem a little silly at first, but it's surprisingly relaxing.


Skip the Mall
Avoid the malls on busy shopping days, remembering that you'll have more luck on less crowded days. Also consider off hours.


Snack a Little
Foods that are high in carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Crackers, pretzels, or a bagel can give you a boost on stressful days.


Soak It Up
A warm bath can relax the muscles and lull you into a state of calm. Garnish with your favorite bath salts or oils.


Switch to Decaf
Too much coffee only makes stress worse. So cut back as much as possible. To avoid caffeine withdrawal, try adding a little decaf to your morning mug, increasing the proportion of decaf to regular over the next couple of weeks. And, watch out for caffeinated soft drinks.


Take a Deep Breath
Breathing deeply oxygenates the blood, helping to relieve stress. So put your hand on your abdomen just below the navel. Inhale slowly through your nose and watch your hand move out as your belly expands. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times.


Take a Walk
Before you blow up at your boss, take a trot around the block to clear your head. If you haven't got time, walk to the bathroom or water cooler. Anything counts.


Take a Whiff
Place a few pieces of rock salt in a small vial, then add a couple of drops of aromatherapy oil (made from anise, basil, bay, chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rose, or thyme). Open the vial and inhale the perfumed air for a little breather. Oils and rock salt are often sold in health food stores.


Tea for You
Chamomile tea promotes relaxation and can relieve anxiety. Buy it in ready-to-use tea bags or steep two teaspoons of the dried flowers in one cup of water for five minutes. Drink three cups a day for optimum effect.


Try a Tonic
A study at Duke University in Durham, N.C., found homeopathy effective in quelling anxiety disorders. Look for stress formulas such as Nerve Tonic (from Hyland) or Sedalia (from Boiron) in your health food store.


Try Eye Yoga
Try this yoga eye relaxation technique: Rub your hands together vigorously until they feel warm. Then cup them over your closed eyes for five seconds while you breathe deeply.


Vitamins and Stress Relief
Because many nutrients are crucial to the bodyís natural ability to cope, a daily multivitamin and mineral is especially important during times of stress. Take vitamin B complex as well; the extra B vitamins it supplies promote the health of the nervous and immune systems and can counteract fatigue. Calcium and magnesium are worthwhile too, because they can relieve muscle tension and strengthen the heart.


Warm Milk Helps You Sleep
It's a scientific fact that warm milk really does help you sleep. Make sure you drink it approximately one hour before you plan to retire. Cocoa doesn't count. Chocolate is a stimulant.


Seizure Disorders

Living with Epilepsy
Try not to worry constantly about having a seizure. Don't let those fears keep you at home. Wear a medical identification bracelet and carry a first aid card so if you should have a seizure, people know what to do.


What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy, sometimes called a seizure disorder, is a chronic medical condition produced by temporary changes in the electrical function of the brain, causing seizures which affect awareness, movement, or sensation.


Stroke

Stroke Risk Factors
Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
Uncontrolled diabetes
High blood pressure
High cholesterol level
Smoking
Previous transient ischemic attack (TIA)
Heart disease
Carotid artery disease (the artery that carries blood to your brain)


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