Common Myths About Concussions A concussion is a traumatic brain injury characterized by the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth, striking the inside of the skull. Symptoms vary based on the individual and the severity of the impact. Signs of a concussion may include headache, sensitivity to light or sound, dizziness, sleep problems, nausea, changes in mood, confusion and memory problems. Common Concussion Myths (Items that are NOT true about Concussions) A concussion happens only with a blow to the head. Not all concussions are the result of a blow to the head. The cause could be an indirect blow somewhere else on the body that results in the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth. This causes a temporary change in the brain’s energy metabolism, resulting in concussion symptoms. A person with a concussion always loses consciousness. A concussion involves the loss of consciousness only about 10 percent of the time. And a person who loses consciousness as a result of some type of head trauma doesn’t necessarily have a concussion. Dilated pupils are a sign of concussion. Pupil dilation is not a reliable sign of concussion, particularly when both pupils are dilated equally. Our pupils can become dilated when the autonomic nervous systems sympathetic branch is stimulated and the fight or flight response is triggered. This can happen when the body is under stress due to excitement, nervousness or anxiety. However, when one pupil is more dilated than the other, it could be the sign of a structural brain injury that requires immediate emergency attention. Concussion patients should be awakened every few hours so they don’t lose consciousness. While checking on the individual within the first four hours of a concussion is important, the risk of a more serious brain injury typically passes after approximately four hours. After that, the individual should be allowed to rest, sleep and conserve energy for the next 48 to 72 hours. As a person further recovers from a concussion (following the 48- to 72-hour rest period), it’s also important for them to maintain their normal sleep patterns. Often, patients experience ongoing fatigue, causing them to sleep during the day and resulting in nighttime insomnia. We recommend melatonin for these patients, along with the standard sleep “hygiene”: no cellphones, tablets or TVs in the bedroom. Children who have suffered a concussion should avoid all screens and digital media. These activities may make symptoms worse, especially in the first few days after injury. If symptoms become worse, the activity should be avoided. Once individuals become less symptomatic, however, it is important to get back to normal activities that do not worsen symptoms, including screen time. If the child’s concussion is related to a sport or activity, he or she is now disconnected from teammates and friends. Taking away a child’s normal activities and social network — such as video games and cell phones — can be like taking away their identity, which can add to their sadness or anxiety. This can be harmful to the recovery process and could even prolong it. If you think you or a loved one has a concussion, you’ll want to be checked out by a doctor right away. Call us if you have questions on what to do if you do have a concussion.
Brain Exercises to Boost Memory Your brain health is important. We don’t just lose muscle over time, our brains can atrophy, too. More specifically, your brain's cognitive reserve, its ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging and other factors without showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss, diminishes through the years. That can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks. Just like the workouts you do to make your muscles stronger, it’s important to exercise your brain to slow and reduce atrophy. The following brain exercises have been proven to work.
- Test your recall. Make a list, of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
- Play Music. Learn to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is ideal for the aging mind.
- Do math in your head. Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult, and athletic, by walking at the same time.
- Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook a new cuisine. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all involve different parts of the brain.
- Learn a new language. The listening and hearing involved stimulates the brain. What’s more, a rich vocabulary has been linked to a reduced risk for cognitive decline.
- Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
- Draw a map from memory. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
- Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
- Refine your hand-eye abilities. Take up a new hobby that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
- Learn a new sport. Start doing an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body, such as yoga, golf, or tennis.
More and more studies are showing that a lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to Alzheimer's disease and people with Alzheimer's disease often have trouble sleeping. Why a correlation with sleep you say? Sleep is very important. Your system not only needs sleep to function, but it also needs sleep to ensure your memory is functioning properly. According to the Alzheimer's association, Alzheimer’s patients often have problems with sleeping or may experience changes in their sleep schedule. Scientists do not completely understand why these sleep disturbances occur. As with changes in memory and behavior, sleep changes somehow result from the impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain. When managing sleep changes, non-drug coping strategies should always be tried first. Sleep patterns are found to regularly change among those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but tend to be more severe in Alzheimer's patients. There is evidence that sleep changes are more common in later stages of the disease, but some studies have also found them in early stages. As with most changes in memory and behavior, sleep changes somehow result from the impact on the brain. According to the Alzheimer's Association, sleep changes can include: Waking up up more often and stay awake longer during the night. Brain wave studies show decreases in both dreaming and non-dreaming sleep stages. Those who cannot sleep may wander, be unable to lie still, or yell or call out, disrupting the sleep of their caregivers. Daytime napping and other shifts in the sleep-wake cycle. Individuals may feel very drowsy during the day and then be unable to sleep at night. They may become restless or agitated in the late afternoon or early evening, an experience often called “sundowning.” Experts estimate that in late stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals spend about 40 percent of their time in bed at night awake and a significant part of their daytime sleeping. In extreme cases, people may have a complete reversal of the usual daytime wakefulness-nighttime sleep pattern. Need more sleep? Or have additional questions about Alzheimer’s and sleep? Talk to your doctor.
Alzheimer's Disease... Your mind is such an important part of your being. Many Americans often start losing their memory and all too common suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. At first, someone with Alzheimer's disease may notice mild confusion and difficulty remembering. Eventually, people with the disease may even forget important people in their lives and undergo dramatic personality changes. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia — a group of brain disorders that cause the loss of intellectual and social skills. In Alzheimer's disease, the brain cells degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function. Current Alzheimer's disease medications and management strategies may temporarily improve symptoms. This can sometimes help people with Alzheimer's disease maximize function and maintain independence for a little while longer. But because there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease, it's important to seek supportive services and tap into your support network as early as possible. Starting to feel a difference in your memory and have additional questions about Alzheimer's disease? Make sure to talk to your doctor.
Can’t find your car keys or wallet? Forget what items you wanted to get at the grocery store? Can't remember the name of the personal trainer you liked at the gym? You’re not the only one. Everyone forgets things occasionally. Still, memory loss is nothing to take lightly. Consider the following Mayo Clinic brain stimulating and memory sharpening tips to help you with your memory loss. Remember seek help from your doctor if you feel your memory is worse than it should be. Stay active - Mentally. Brain puzzles. Cross words. Read! Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and might keep memory loss at bay. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization. Regularly Socialize. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others — especially if you live alone. When you're invited to share a meal or attend an event, get going. Organize your life. You're more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner. You might even repeat each entry out loud as you jot it down to help cement it in your memory. Keep to-do lists current and check off items you've completed. Set aside a certain place for your wallet, keys and other essentials. Limit distractions and don't try to do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you're trying to remember, you'll be more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you're trying to remember to a favorite song or another familiar concept. Sleep! Sleep plays an important role in helping you consolidate your memories, so you can recall them down the road. Make getting enough sleep a priority. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a day. Talk to your doctor if you are having problems with your memory.