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August 20, 2018

Lifestyle

Memory Health – How the Brain Works and the Changes Caused By Alzheimer’s

August 20, 2018

The brain is our most precious organ apart from the heart. Without it, we don’t live. Our bodies may continue to sustain life without brain function (much like a coma), but we can all agree that that is not living.

At just three pounds, the brain is so important as is its care. Concussions, lack of use, and factors that have little to do with outside considerations all impact how well our brain will or won’t function later on in life.

Over five million Americans live with some type of dementia, but some studies are showing that degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are on the decline, and that’s welcome news.

The Framingham Heart Study, a joint project on Alzheimer’s research undertaken by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute and Boston University, has been studying dementia since 1975. The study followed 2,000 caucasian people, aged 60 to 101, and hope to show that some cases of dementia might be preventable or at least delayed. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and found that over the past few decades, dementia has been steadily decreasing by some 20% per decade.

The study found that the decrease of dementia seemed to apply only to those participants who had at least a high school diploma, but factors contributing to the decline have not been fully identified.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that lower levels of education and Alzheimer’s are connected. The brain seems to need to be used, and optimally, in order for it to stay sharp and not fall victim to diseases like Alzheimer’s. This doesn’t mean that those with a higher education won’t be prone to getting dementia, but only that it would push it to later on in life as Alzheimer’s research seems to indicate.

Based on research, we can surmise that those with a higher level of education stand a better chance of not getting degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, but it has yet to be concretely proven.

Keeping the mind active is so important for good brain health; something most people don’t even recognize as a thing to think about or concern themselves with, but they should.

Some activities for stimulating the brain are gardening, puzzles of all kinds, exercises that flex memory use, crosswords, and Sudoku. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, so break out the games and gardening tools, and take steps to keep your brain sharp because working the brain will help limit your chances of the brain being affected by Alzheimer’s.

So how does the brain work and how does Alzheimer’s change how the brain works? The brain is an organ; arguably the most important one. It has a soft, jelly-like consistency and is part of the nervous system. Without our brain, we would have difficulty walking, talking, and even doing something as simple as dressing ourselves.

There are four parts of the brain: the cerebellum, cerebrum, brain stem, and limbic system. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is divided into four parts itself: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. While these different parts of the brain have their own particular functions, they also work together.

The cerebrum controls our thoughts, such as reasoning, emotions, problem-solving, and perceptions. The cerebellum maintains our balance and muscle tone, and our gait. The brain stem controls and is responsible for blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. The limbic system controls hunger, thirst, memory, fear, and emotion, so it is this limbic system that we need to put attention too when it comes to Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and literally destroys parts of the brain. But how does it do that exactly?

In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells lose the ability to form new connections with other cells, and this is important as cells can’t simply exist on their own. Messenger chemicals in the disease also decline, and these losses make it very difficult for people to learn new information and retain what information was already stored in their brain, hence the loss of information and memory in those who suffer from the disease.

Someone with Alzheimer’s can forget their child’s name and even their own. Much isn’t understood about the disease, but more is being learned as Alzheimer’s research continues.

With Alzheimer’s, the nerve cell connections that are there also disappear and basically the information stored in them (like information stored on a USB drive or CD) fades.

As the disease progresses and worsens (which it inevitably does as there is no cure yet), nerve cells start to die. The death of nerve cells destroys the brain’s ability to understand the world around them and has them start forgetting information they knew before the disease set in.

Over time, widespread cell death erases even the most basic knowledge stored in that person’s brain and they lose the ability to recognize family and friends, and often forget who they are, and where they live.

In its latest and final stages, Alzheimer’s disease ends up destroying brain cells that control movement and swallowing, so constant care for basic life needs at this point is required. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s often need to be placed in a facility with round-the-clock help to keep them safe and cared for as it is beyond the scope of most family members to provide such consistent attention. Eventually, those who suffer from the disease die from Alzheimer’s.

Researchers and scientists are constantly working to figure out the mystery of how exactly Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells. Not much is known about the precise workings of the disease and the connection between cells and the brain, and the interplay that unfolds that to lead to degeneration of the brain in such an overwhelming and debilitating manner.

However, there are actions that can be taken to delay the disease and working in closely with a physician will provide the best long-term outcome. Don’t delay. Take action to maintain your brain health today.

Lifestyle

Windows – How to Adorn This Often Overlooked Blank Canvas

August 20, 2018

There are many reasons to build a new home. Ensuring you have one of the most energy efficient homes is only one of many.

But it’s a big one.

After all, having an energy efficient home will ensure you pay less every single month in utility bills. And building a new home gives you the chance to select the best, most efficient building materials on the market. Your furnace, your water heater, even the appliances you select for your kitchen will all make an impact on your bottom line.

But don’t overlook your windows. They’re part of the design of your home. You have a choice in size, style, quality, and efficiency. Choosing Energy Star rated windows can help you save hundreds of dollars a year in your energy bills alone.

Have you shopped for windows before? If not, there’s a lot to learn. And the more you learn before you make your final selections for your new home, the more you can customize them to give you a look and feel you desire.

What window material is best?

Windows are made from a variety of materials with the three most popular being wood, vinyl, and aluminum.

Wood windows are considered to be the most traditional material. Wood is classic. Wood is solid. Wood gives you a look and feel like nothing else can. That’s why all other materials work to mimic this look that stands the test of time.

A solid wood frame provides far better insulation qualities than steel or aluminum. That means wood windows are a great choice to ensure the most energy efficient home. They may require a bit more work than other materials—you’ll have to paint them from time to time. But with the right care, they can last a long time.

Not sure you want to commit to the maintenance requirements of wood? Give vinyl windows a try instead. They perform similarly to wood windows, but are less expensive and require less maintenance over time. With the newest technology, vinyl windows have high R-values and are structured with significant amounts of insulation. They are a close alternative to real wood.

Aluminum windows offer low maintenance and are the least expensive option available. They are flexible in design and can be finished to take on a specific color, or left alone in its natural state giving it an even more maintenance-free option to your lifestyle.  

What window style is best for your room?

You’ll be surprised at how many different styles and selections of windows there are, each offering its own benefits to your home.

You might be most familiar with single and double-hung windows. These windows slide up and down to open and close. A single hung window has one operable piece of glass whereas a double hung window has two—you can slide both top and bottom open to determine how best to create airflow. This design makes opening and cleaning a breeze.

Casement windows are hinged at the side. That means instead of lifting your window into place, you’ll use a crank to open and close the window. Casement windows are great options for the difficult to reach areas of your home.

Awning windows are hinged at the top and open outward. Because they create an awning, they are the only window you can leave open during a rain shower without worrying about rain getting in. They operate with a hand crank system to allow you to open up to as much ventilation as you need.

Slider windows are similar to double hung windows, with the sliding action from side to side. They come in many sizes while still offering ventilation making them the perfect choices for your largest wall space.

Picture windows are fixed within the window frame, without the possibility of ventilation. That makes them the most energy efficient window option for your home. They come in just about any size, shape, or combination you can imagine, which makes them the perfect choice for glorifying a view.

What about glass options?

The most important aspect of a window is the glass. The glass you select determines the energy efficiency of your home. It’s also decided by the glass that is used between the panes, and how many panes of glass are in place.

Two panes of glass are better than one; three are better than two. You’ll find triple pane windows in energy efficient homes not just because they create a tighter seal, but also because they are more resistant to moisture. It’s the condensation that impacts your efficiency, and triple panes do an excellent job of keeping moisture away.

You’ll find either Argon or Krypton gas between your windows for the best insulation qualities. You’ll also find Low-E, a film placed on the inside of your window panes that helps reflect infrared light to keep conditioned air where it’s supposed to be.

Of course, it’s also important to look for the Energy Star rating. These guidelines are used to help you determine efficiencies with all four parts of the window: the glass, the gas, the spacer, and the reinforcement. The higher the rating, the more guarantees you’ll have of creating a highly efficient home.

What about style?

Now comes the fun part. Now it’s all about style.

Do you like a traditional home, filled with the looks of a simpler time? Do you envision a large front porch with the traditional farmhouse to match?

Or maybe you’re idea of the perfect home is modern and contemporary. A wall of glass is ideal for your plans.

That’s where windows accentuate the look. While some houses may do well by playing up the color palette of your window frames to emphasize the looks of your home, in other cases nothing but glass will do. You could never get by with having flashy frames that stand out from the rest of your home.

You already have a style in mind, even if you don’t know it. Take a look at your “dream home” file. What pictures do you have in there? What photos have you pinned? What pages from a magazine have you ripped out? Take a closer look at the windows.

Do they stand out or blend in? Do they accentuate the wall space or are they the wall?

Customizing a new home built just for you is the fun part of the process. And while you might be dreaming of move-in day, excited for all the new opportunities a new home will bring to your family, don’t forget to spend a little more time on the details.

If you select the perfect windows today, you’ll have a home you love for a lifetime.