Increase Mental Prowess As You Age: It Is Possible With Brain Plasticity!

Everyone knows the importance of exposing young minds to various ideas and knowledge. We want to teach useful skills and instill good values early because of the notion that children’s brains easily adapt to stimuli and therefore learn faster. This principle may be useful in shaping the minds of youngsters, but it may discourage an adult from learning something new with the thought that studying at a later age becomes more difficult. We have this misconception that the brain’s functions start to diminish as we grow older.  Unsurprisingly, we tend to associate old age with weakening mental faculties such as memory loss or disorientation. Fortunately, this way of thinking is now being challenged with the theory of brain plasticity.

What is brain plasticity?

Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity debunks the notion that the brain stops developing at a certain age. On the contrary, it suggests that the human brain has this remarkable ability to adapt to various changes and further develop or repair itself.

Brain plasticity is the product of years of research in the field of neurology as scientists discovered that new nerve cells or neurons are born everyday throughout your lifespan. The growth and production of these nerve cells are affected with our lifestyle, diet and experiences.

Why is neuroplasticity important?

The old field of study used to claim that once brain cells die, they are irreplaceable. This theory sadly implies that old people just have to deal with deteriorating mental health. Neuroplasticity breaks this old belief as it shows that the brain can continually evolve and change. This means that we are capable of remaining brain fit until old age.

The ability of the brain to regenerate itself does decrease as we age, which explains why children can indeed absorb new ideas and master new skills faster. Still, brain plasticity supports the idea that the elderly can enroll in classes or develop new skills without fear that learning will be extra challenging. Brain plasticity is also an important breakthrough in the field of mental health as it suggests that the mind has the power to fully recover from brain injuries or emotional trauma. Moreover, illnesses related to aging and memory such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease can easily be avoided.

Ways to keep the mind sharper

If you do not take care of yourself, brain plasticity will decrease as you age. The following are some of the things to keep in mind to maintain and even increase your mental aptitude as the years pass:

Stay active.

Inactivity slows down the production of new neurons, so engage in any form of physical activity such as walking or running to stimulate the brain. Research done by neuroscientist Dr. Sandrine Thuret showed the effect of physical activity helped the growth of new brain cells. In this research, a group of mice were placed in a cage with no running wheels while another group were placed in a cage with one running wheel. Brain scans of the mice showed that the group in a cage with a running wheel were significantly growing more neurons than the mice who did not have a running wheel.  

Get an adequate amount of sleep.

Do not abuse your body and mental abilities by pushing it to the limits. Our body, including the brain, needs rest to recover and replenish itself. The best way to give your body a break is by getting enough sleep. It is important to make sure you get enough hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation decreases the size of the brain as proven by a 2016 research study by a group of scientists.

Expose yourself to new things.

Exercise your brain by constantly immersing yourself in new mental stimulants. This means being open to new ideas and always being eager to learn new things. Traveling or going to new places and trying new activities are also fun ways to keep the brain’s health at its best.

Stay positive.

A happy mindset is essential for a healthy brain. Stress and depression will not only lessen your quality of life, but it will also reduce your brain’s ability to function. This is backed by a research that was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine which revealed that stress negatively affects brain functions.

Eat more brain food.

To nourish brain health, it is recommended to eat a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids and decrease intake of calorie-rich and sugary foods. Instead of munching on junk food, it is best to snack on nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, walnuts and sunflower seeds. You should also cut back on dishes full of saturated fat and your alcohol intake should be in moderation. Some of the things you can indulge on are dark chocolate, red wine and blueberries.

Neuroplasticity erases the fear that we have to succumb to memory loss as we age. It gives hope that you can literally grow older and wiser. However, to fully benefit from the idea behind brain plasticity, you will need to consciously mind your lifestyle, diet and mindset.

Dean and Marcie WhalenIncrease Mental Prowess As You Age: It Is Possible With Brain Plasticity!
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Tips To Gain The Benefits Of The Ketogenic Diet

Everybody wants to be healthy and fit because of the many benefits they bring. A healthy lifestyle is bound to make you feel good inside and out. Still, most people find it hard to stick to a diet because it mainly involves curbing appetite and limiting food intake.

So how does a weight-loss method that actually encourages a high-fat diet sounds to you? It may sound unbelievable, but this is precisely what comes to mind when one mentions the ketogenic method.

What is the keto diet and how does it work?

A myriad of ways to shed those extra pounds have been introduced throughout the ages, but the ketogenic diet is appealing to many because it allows consumption of food which we are normally taught to avoid when trying to lose weight such as meat and dairy.

The keto regimen promises to help you lose weight by following a diet plan composed of more fatty food, moderate protein and minimal carbohydrates. Since glycogen production, which the body needs for energy, comes from proteins and carbs, the increase intake of fat-rich food while limiting consumption of protein and carbohydrates sets the body into a state of ketosis. In this metabolic condition, the body is forced to convert the fatty acids into energy. A simple way to explain it is that the keto diet uses fat to burn fat. So if you love meat and other fatty-foods, the keto diet may be the solution to help you attain the figure of your dreams.

What are the benefits of the keto diet?

Advocates of the keto diet attest to the many ways that it improves overall health. The most obvious benefit is that it helps you maintain your ideal weight. Aside from that, the keto method also prevents onset of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. One long-term study showed how the keto diet aids in weight loss of obese patients.

The keto diet can also lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Other health benefits include improving brain functions and preventing memory-loss problems such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Is keto diet the right one for me?

Most people dread the idea of dieting because not everyone has the discipline and determination to let go of what some would consider comfort food. On the contrary, the keto diet will allow you to indulge in fatty foods. The notion that you do not have to deprive yourself and still lose weight makes the keto diet popular. However, health matters are a serious concern, so no matter how appealing it seems, it is not wise to blindly plunge into any diet program.

While a keto diet may be effective, some nutritionists claim that it can only bring short-term benefits. Some researchers also say that in the long run, a high-fat, low-carb diet may cause adverse effects on health. A keto diet is also not advisable for pregnant women and people with certain conditions such as kidney problems and Type 1 Diabetes. To prevent potential harmful effects, it is best to consult a doctor before diving into the keto diet craze.

How can you ensure success on a keto diet?

Once you know that the ketogenic diet is safe for you and decide to give it a try, not knowing the do’s and don’ts of this diet  cause harm. Keto is a high-fat diet, but it does not mean you can consume everything fatty. Trans fat is still harmful, so stock up on food that are sources of good fats such as nuts and olive oil. Food to avoid will be carbs such as rice, bread and pasta. Each person is different so the amount of fat, protein and carb intake will vary. A dietitian can help create a customized meal plan for your keto diet.

Any diet regimen that promises to help you lose excess body fat without much effort is bound to be a hit. The success of any diet plan, though, will rely on the individual’s effort to research ways on how to do it properly and the commitment to stick to a healthy lifestyle.  

Dean and Marcie WhalenTips To Gain The Benefits Of The Ketogenic Diet
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Recreational Team Sports That Will Help You Stay In-Shape

As children, it was easy to get daily exercise. We explored our backyards, ran at recess and had neighborhood friends who begged us to come and play outside. As adults, things aren’t so easy. We think of our backyards as nothing more than postponed yard-work. Our recesses have turned into coffee breaks. And our friends? Well, they only beg us to pick up our phones to view the latest memes. None of which help us stay in shape. We didn’t lose our love of play or appreciation for healthy competition; matter of fact, we watch sports all the time. So why do we no longer play them ourselves? Adult athletic leagues offer friendship, exercise and a chance to relive our childhood passions. What could beat that? Whether you want to join a local recreation league, an amateur team or form a team of your own, there are many sports to choose from. (Clickable league links are in each sport’s title)

Basketball(or here)

For those who love high-paced, high-scoring activities

Requires: Agility, speed, hand-eye coordination

Soccer

A runner’s dream! Soccer is a perfect way to implement a high level of cardio and build leg strength.

Requires: body control, balance, conditioning

Hockey

Hockey offers a bit of variety with the option of ice or field play. Master skaters who love being on the ice find joy chasing down a puck and making the big shots. Field hockey is played on foot.

Requires: Endurance, speed, hand-eye coordination

Tennis

With quick bursts of energy and powerful racquet swings, tennis is a full-body workout.

Requires: Flexibility, quick response, hand-eye coordination

Volleyball

Played both indoor and outdoor, volleyball is a know for short spurts of high-intensity play.

Requires: Multi-level movements, spatial awareness, quick bursts of energy

Baseball/ Softball

America’s favorite! Time to put all those catching lessons from dad to the test. A slower paced activity for those who are okay with lower-scoring sports and long breaks between action.

Requires: Arm strength, patience, running, hand-eye coordination

Football

Most adult leagues feature flag football, which increases safety while maintaining the fun.

Requires: sprinting, agility, balance

Other Unique Team Sports: Ultimate Frisbee, Roller Derby(or here), Kickball, Quidditch, Dodgeball

Cautions

Don’t Over-Commit

As tempting as it is to commit to a team on a whim, don’t fall victim to impulse. Many teams require practice, weekly matches, and extra time in the gym. You may also need to travel for playoffs, championships, and tournaments. Sans proper research, the unexpected time commitment can lead to burnout or lack of follow through. Make sure to pick a league that aligns with the time availability that you can handle.

Listen to Your Body

Starting a new sport, or even a new season of an old sport can cause strain on the body. Suddenly increasing your level of activity can be a jolt on muscles that haven’t been conditioned. Instead of jumping from no (or low levels of) activity to high exert play, make the transition seamless by preparing for your sport weeks in advance. If you feel irregular pain and fatigue during the season, listen to your body instead of pushing yourself past your limit. Let your teammates know that you need to sit out or rest and jump back in during the next game.

Don’t Forget About Your Mental Health

At their best, team sports feed an internal need for socialization, physical activity, and challenge. At their worst, those three things can go awry. If you find yourself on a roster where tense interpersonal relationships are causing issues, don’t overlook how that affects your mental health. Some teammates will take the league more seriously than others. The varied levels of competitiveness are a common cause for dissension amongst the group. As is the varying level of skill. If the level of physical activity or challenge is causing strife, the mental weight of the situation can also negatively affect your health. The goal is to remain happy while your body benefits from the workout. If that isn’t happening, there’s no shame in finding a new team, or a new sport. Your physical and mental health comes first, even when you are a part of a team.

Be Mindful of Your Budget

Before you consider joining a team sport, first look into the cost. For some, the fees can be higher than assumed. If that’s the case, instead of giving up on joining, research other local teams. Gyms, rec centers, independent clubs, and sports complexes all offer adult sports programs. If your first choice is too pricey, there’s no harm in placing budget over preference. If your heart is set on playing in an expensive league that isn’t necessarily budget-friendly, consider playing one season a year while supplementing your exercise regimen with a less expensive alternative during the off-season.

Adult team sports greatly benefit both your physical well-being and your social life. Enroll in a local club today and restore your rightful title as a lifelong athlete.

Dean and Marcie WhalenRecreational Team Sports That Will Help You Stay In-Shape
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How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Whether you’re a picky eater in search of ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, or you have a child who perpetually leaves “the healthy stuff” on his plate, I’m here to help. There are plenty of creative techniques that will assist you in your efforts in meeting your nutritional needs, without feeling like you are forcing yourself to eat things that you dislike. Keep reading for a few easy tips.

Purée or dice them

Mashing, processing, or blending a cooked fruit or vegetable, create a purée.
Traditionally, the skin and seeds will be removed and liquid will be added, to create a smoother end result. You can purée an array of foods such as carrots, beets, bananas, and blueberries; the possibilities are endless. Fruits and veggies can even be combined to double the benefit. Purées can be used as a base for soups, smoothies, and sauces. Depending on your choice of ingredient, purées can also add fun and vivid color to foods, which increases their visual appeal to children. A win-win.

Dicing means cutting into small chunks. Diced vegetables add color, flavor, and important vitamins to dishes. Many recipes like salads, pasta sauces or egg rolls already include diced vegetables, but they can be added to other foods as well. Below are a few examples:

· Scrambled eggs with diced asparagus, red bell peppers, and onions
· Rice/quinoa with diced mushrooms and broccoli
· Flaked tuna with diced carrots, celery, and grapes

If dicing is too difficult (raw carrots are hard to dice) try using a peeler or food processor to make the process a bit easier.

Make fruits and vegetables look like other tasty foods.

Popular foods like fries, chips, pasta and ice cream can be elevated to fit into a healthy lifestyle. Simply replacing the core ingredients with nutrient dense foods can make all the difference.

Here are a few substitutions that will leave your whole family wanting more:

Fries
· Zucchini fries
· Carrot fries
· Beet fries
· Apple fries

Chips
· Kale chips
· Banana chips
· Apple chips
· Eggplant chips

Pasta (*use a spiralizer)
· Spaghetti squash
· Eggplant lasagna noodles
· *Carrot noodles
· *Zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Ice Cream
· Nicecream
(Blended frozen bananas are the base for “Nana Cream”. Nicecream can be combined with other fruits, purées, and flavors to increase the taste complexity)

· Fruit popsicles
(Purées, mixed with chopped fruits, can be frozen to create healthy popsicles)

· Yogurt popsicles
(Greek, dairy-free, or traditional yogurt, with added fruits, make a perfect frozen treat)

Pizza
· Cauliflower crust
(After pulverizing the cauliflower in a food processor, combine it with garlic, herbs, egg, and spices, then bake)

Bake them

Fruits have been baked into muffins, breads, and cakes for centuries, but did you know that vegetables could be included too? Most of us only have extensive experience with carrot cake, a fan favorite, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

A list of untraditional (vegetable based) baked goods:

· Zucchini bread
· Red beet pancakes
· Coconut butternut squash bread
· Chocolate avocado cake
· Spinach muffins
· Cauliflower bagel bites
· Chickpea peanut butter cookies

Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of sustaining any healthy diet. Each meal should contain at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable. Reaching that goal doesn’t have to be difficult. Be creative when preparing your food and use the tips above as a guide. Before you know it, you’ll have formed a habit of eating foods that are both delicious, and good for you.

Dean and Marcie WhalenHow to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
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Our Favorite Tips to Keep the Family Healthy

Adopting a healthy lifestyle for your family is important for every member to reach his or her full potential. In our household, we focus on health in all areas of life––mentally, emotionally, and physically––because we know that well-rounded health leads to a well-rounded life. Our home encourages this all-inclusive healthy lifestyle because our family is the happiest when we make our health a priority. However, we know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle in every area of life can be difficult when life gets busy. That’s why we came up with three of our favorite tips to keep the family healthy even when life gets in the way.

Stay active

An active lifestyle leads to health in multiple areas of life. Not only does it help maintain a healthy weight, but it also reduces the risk of conditions like a stroke and heart disease. Perhaps most notably, staying active increases children’s self-confidence, enhances cognitive function, and provides them with a healthy way to improve their mental health. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, a pickup game of basketball in the driveway, or soccer practice after school, make sure your family members participate in physical activity every day.

Make sleep a priority

When life becomes overwhelmingly busy, sleep is often compromised. However, make sure sleep is a priority in your household because a well-rested person performs exponentially better throughout the day. Overtiredness leads to lack of energy, crankiness, and laziness. One of the best ways to ensure that your family members get enough hours of sleep each night is to establish a nighttime routine for your whole family and stick to it as often as possible because consistency maintains our internal body clocks. Also, make sure you don’t over-commit yourself or your family because two big nights in a row may not be worth the meltdown on day three.   

Eat meals together

Sharing meals with your family provides an opportunity for everyone to catch up with each other on a daily basis. But, your family dinners are also so much more beneficial than that. This time together provides your family with an opportunity to learn how to choose and pair healthy foods together, understand what foods make you all feel and perform your best, and establish healthy eating habits to use as a guide throughout life. Not to mention, family time around the table can also foster healthier relationships and improve communication within your family.

It’s easy to let the business of life take advantage of your family’s time and health, but follow these three tips to keep your family healthy no matter what.

Dean and Marcie WhalenOur Favorite Tips to Keep the Family Healthy
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Why Mornings Should Be The Best Part of Your Day

Mornings get a bad rep from the moment the alarm goes off. Everything from chores around the house, to tasks at work, and errands to run can easily overflow your thoughts before your feet even hit the floor. Not to mention, the chaos running around your home packing lunches and trying to get kids out the door and off to right places before the sun has completely risen. So it’s completely understandable why so many people go to bed at night dreading the next morning.

But why live your life like that? If you take some time to change a few habits in your morning, you might just find that the morning should be the best part of your day.

Take 5 minutes of alone time

Before the day’s activities take priority, be sure to give yourself priority first. Just five minutes every morning to take the time to think to yourself can change your outlook for the whole day. Maybe sit down and write three things you want to keep in mind all day––to be more intentional with your family members or more patient with your coworkers. If journaling isn’t really your thing, consider just sitting with a cup of coffee and looking out the window. A few moments of down time can really set the tone for the day ahead.

Make an effort to have real conversations with your family members

Mornings are likely one of the two times your entire family will be under one roof the entire day. Instead of yelling things up the stairs like “Leaving in minutes!” or “Don’t forget your lunch!”, make an effort to have an actual conversation with your family members before everyone heads off to different destinations until the evening. Sitting down for breakfast and discussing what’s going on for everyone that day can be a game-changer for your family.

Do one thing every morning that brings you joy

Whether it’s going out for a jog or reading a few pages of your book, do one small thing each morning that makes you happy. Instead of heading straight to your email app to check what’s on the schedule for the day, take some time for self-investment. If you make sure you give yourself time for one thing you love to do each morning, it will make your alarm a lot less miserable.

Just by changing your habits you can make your mornings something to actually look forward to. Try these three tips to make mornings the best part of your day.

Dean and Marcie WhalenWhy Mornings Should Be The Best Part of Your Day
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3 Must-Haves for Tropical Island Hopping

You’ve been saving up for the ultimate dream vacation, and you finally have enough to be able to splurge on yourself. You’re eagerly planning a lavish tropical island hopping getaway. Perhaps you’ve got your sights set on the many islands of Fiji, or maybe the breathtaking Hawaiian islands are more your scene.

In any case, there are three main essentials—three must-haves, if you will—that you’ll absolutely need to bring with you when you’re tropical island hopping.

1. Sunscreen

No one is immune to the sun’s harsh rays. No matter how tan your skin naturally is, everyone needs to slather on the SPF. The closer you are to the equator, the more likely you are to be burned.

Who wants to spend their tropical island vacation looking like a lobster and feeling like they’re made of glass, too fragile to touch or be touched? Instead of frying yourself in the hopes of coming back with a sun-kissed glow, be smart and save your skin with at least SPF 30. You’ll have a much better time, and you’ll still probably come home with some color.

2. Pen and Paper

When you’re on vacation, exploring all that tropical islands have to offer you, it’s important to unplug. Put your phone away; forget about your e-reader. Focus on the here and the now.

At the end of each day, though, be sure that you’re recording your thoughts and feelings with pen and paper. Why post a fleeting status on Facebook when you can put pen to paper and have that treasured memory forever?

3. Camera

The final must-have for a tropical island hopping vacation: a camera for all of those moments that transcend words. It’s true what they say, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” In addition to your priceless journaling, you should take snapshots of your travels.

Those captured moments will be looked upon fondly for years to come. If you want to make them extra special, don’t just post them online; get them printed and hang them up. That way, you’ll have a little piece of paradise, just hanging in your living room.

Dean and Marcie Whalen3 Must-Haves for Tropical Island Hopping
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