Mind Games: Your Brain Needs a Good Workout, Too

Friday, November 22, 2013 1:08 PM comments (0)

mind exercisesEveryone knows your body needs exercise to stay in peak shape. But did you know your brain does too? Physical exercise is essential to the health of both your body and brain, but you can do even more to keep your brain in shape. Challenging your brain with cognitive exercises is another great way to keep your mind sharp.

Chad Yucus, MD, Neurology at NorthShore, answers questions and shares some ways to give your brain the workout it needs to stay sharp at any age:

Do brain teasers and puzzles actually help to keep your mind sharp? Are certain types of puzzles and activities better than others?
There are many types of cognitive activities that help to keep the brain sharp, involving word games and number games, such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, computer games and board/card games.  There is no strategy that is particularly better than another, but learning a new hobby, game and/or language is a good way to keep the brain sharp.

Why would a new hobby be helpful?
Learning a new skill or starting a new hobby that requires skills you don’t typically use can be helpful because it challenges you to keep learning and function in a way that is not familiar. It’s a great way to stay mentally active whatever your age.

Who benefits from cognitive exercises and activities?
Everyone. 

How do you keep your brain healthy to prevent memory loss?
There is no strategy to truly prevent memory loss, but there are strategies to delay the effects of any pathology (changes caused by disease) that may be developing in the brain.  This is based upon building a cognitive reserve before any problems begin to develop. These strategies include the cognitive exercises above, physical exercise, social activities—spending time with friends, planning events—regular sleep patterns and a low-cholesterol Mediterranean diet.  

How much time should you devote each day to cognitive exercise?
Think of it in terms of regular physical exercise. Your brain and the rest of your body need about the same each day, approximately 30-60 minutes of cognitive and physical exercise every day is a good place to start.

How do you exercise your brain?

Epilepsy – Know the Facts, Not the Fiction

Monday, March 26, 2012 9:10 AM comments (0)

EpilepsyNearly one in 100 people are affected by epilepsy, and yet there are many common misunderstandings about this condition. Epilepsy by definition is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. A single seizure episode does not constitute epilepsy.

In recognition of Purple Day—a day dedicated to increase awareness about epilepsy—Lawrence Bernstein, MD, Neurologist at NorthShore, identifies some of the common misconceptions about epilepsy:

  • People with epilepsy cannot drive.
    True and False. A person suffering from a seizure when driving may put themselves and others at risk. Whether or not someone can drive will depend on state and local laws, as well as physician recommendations. In many cases, once someone has stabilized their condition (either through medication or another method) they may be allowed to resume driving. The decision to drive or not is often a personal decision made by the individual, family and healthcare professional.
  • People with epilepsy should not have children.
    False. While it is important for epileptic women to plan in advance and have a discussion with a neurologist, there is no reason why women cannot have children. In fact, the majority of pregnancies in epileptic women are uneventful.
  • Children with epilepsy never outgrow it.
    False. Epilepsy is not a lifelong condition. Many children who are on medications for epilepsy and remain seizure-free for two to four years can be tapered off their medication. While medications will not eliminate the existence of epilepsy for everyone, it’s advisable to coordinate best treatment options with your pediatric neurologist.
  • All epilepsy is inherited.
    False. While a family history of epilepsy may increase the risk for developing the condition, it is not the only factor and the risk is often very low.
  • Epilepsy is contagious.
    False. This condition cannot be spread or passed on to others. More than 70 percent of epilepsy cases are not linked to a specific cause. Frequent risk factors for developing epilepsy include: age, previous injury to the brain, stroke, and infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • If medications do not work there is no useful treatment.
    False. Medication is one treatment option for epilepsy. Other useful treatments include: surgery, nerve and brain stimulation, and diet.

What other misconceptions do you have about epilepsy? Are there other questions you have about this condition?

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