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Food for Thought — May 2019

Food for Thought — May 2019


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Healthy Food and Other Ways to Feed Your Brain

Our brains never rest. They hold down a highly specialized 24/7 job. As one of our largest and most complex organs, the brain contains more than 100 billion nerves that communicate through synapses, or connections, to control thinking, breathing, memory, sleep, hearing, digestion, feelings, heart rate, and so much more. Think of your brain as your body’s command center; it controls everything! Weighing just 3 pounds, the brain has a hefty job.

Did you realize that your lifestyle has a big impact on the health of your brain? Your eating and sleeping patterns, how you manage stress, how much you exercise and how you socialize can either nourish your brain or stress it. While we can’t change our age or genetics, we can adopt healthy habits to have a positive effect on our brain.

Studies show improvements in brain health with a Mediterranean-style diet that’s rich in vegetables and fruits, fish, whole grains, nuts and “good” fats. Dr Jonathan Graff-Radford, MD from the Mayo Clinic says that research suggests that people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia) than people who don’t. Eating healthy foods can lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels and improve blood vessel health. The improvements can help slow down memory loss and boost thinking power. Let’s get specific about the best brain foods to eat every day:

  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, collards, kale and broccoli) contain vitamin K, folate, lutein and beta carotene. Legumes (lentils, chick peas, peas and beans) are vegetables too, and great sources of protein, B vitamins and fiber. Practically every vegetable is healthy, but French fries aren’t!
  • Fruits offer a healthy way to have a sweet treat. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are loaded with antioxidants, the substances that protect cells from damage. Cherries (and berries) contain flavonoids which are the antioxidants that give these fruits their rich color. Strawberries, apples with skin, grapes, oranges and many other fruits are all healthy options.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, cod, canned tuna and pollack are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (healthy unsaturated fats that the body can’t make so they must be gotten from food). Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slow memory problems, prevent heart disease and stroke, and help control many other conditions.
  • Whole grains, including oats, barley, brown rice and quinoa, are rich sources of B vitamins.
  • Nuts are excellent sources of protein, healthy fats and fiber. Walnuts are especially high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid that can help lower blood pressure. Almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts are easy to take on the go and are filling too.
  • Healthy unsaturated oils like olive, avocado, canola and flaxseed oils can be used to sauté vegetables and dress salads.
  • Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and other herbs and spices that contain antioxidants can decrease inflammation and give color and flavor to foods.
  • Black coffee and green/black tea are linked to improved memory since they contain brain-boosting antioxidants.
  • Red wine and dark chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation for brain health. Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol which has been linked to reducing cell damage and risk of developing dementia. Recommended daily limits per day are 1 glass for women, 2 glasses for men. Red grape juice can be substituted for wine but watch for added sugars. The flavonoids in dark chocolate (72% cocoa) are believed to improve blood flow to the brain.

By eating the above foods and avoiding the following foods, you can help stabilize your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and work towards healthier blood vessels—the foundation for boosting brain power. Foods to avoid:

  • Added sugars or syrups like high-fructose corn syrup found in sodas, sweetened drinks, fruit beverages and sweet tea add hundreds of calories. The sugar causes blood sugar levels to spike and interferes with mood and sleep. Drink water (or flavored, but not sweetened, seltzer water), herb teas and coffee instead.
  • Enriched, bleached or refined flour, such as those found in white bread, rice, pasta and baked goods, cause blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, which can cause all kinds of health problems from weight gain to high blood pressure. Replace these foods with whole grains.
  • Saturated fat that’s found in meat, poultry skin, whole milk products and some oils is linked to high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer. Better options are ground turkey or vegetable bean combos for burgers, skim or lower-fat dairy products, and olive oil instead of butter or palm oil.
  • Trans fats or hydrogenated oils are added to many packaged foods and desserts. Trans fats are a man-made product with no nutritional value; they increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer. The foods that contain trans fats are also likely to be high in sugar, white flour and saturated fat. Try nuts and fruit for snacks and treats.

These food dos and don’ts are common among many diets, not just the Mediterranean-style diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), low-carbohydrate or combination diets all suggest similar healthy eating habits.

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The Brain and Aging

As we age, our bodies change, and it is common to notice changes in thinking too. Remembering, making decisions, organizing and planning can get harder. You’ve probably noticed older adults struggling to find words, remember names and do multiple things at once.

It is normal for these changes to occur. With age, certain parts of the brain begin to shrink, blood flow to the brain may decrease and communication between nerve cells may be reduced.

Through a healthy diet and other ways to feed the brain, it is possible to give your brain what it needs to do more, for longer.

Feeding the Brain

Besides adopting a healthy diet, there are other ways to feed the brain. Having social connections with family and friends and staying involved in activities that interest you can keep your brain humming. Working on crossword puzzles or other challenging brain games exercises the brain’s “muscle.” You are never too old to pick up a new skill like learning mahjong, playing Sudoku or using an elliptical machine. Walking or other types of exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week, deep breathing and meditation help increase blood flow to the brain, relieve stress and pave the way for a good night’s rest.

Speaking of sleep, maintaining good sleep habits help your brain restore and rebuild after a busy day. Sleep and these other activities have been shown to maintain and repair nerve cells in the brain and improve communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

Need Help?

Making changes in diet and other deeply ingrained lifestyle habits can be challenging. KnovaSolutions can help you identify obstacles, set goals (baby steps are good) and map out a plan of action.

Maybe you’ve noticed your thinking isn’t as quick or a parent is more forgetful. Or maybe you need help deciding what to do about more dramatic changes.

Maybe you’ve noticed your thinking isn’t as quick or a parent is more forgetful. Or maybe you need help deciding what to do about more dramatic changes.

We’ll help you problem-solve. Give us a call at 800/355-0885, Monday-Friday, 8 am-8 pm, MT.

Click here to view/download the full newsletter. We encourage you to leave a comment or question below and a KnovaSolutions nurse or pharmacist will reply.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider.  If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.


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Is Breaking News Breaking You? — February 2019

Is Breaking News Breaking You? — February 2019


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How to Stay Informed while Minimizing Stress

Almost two-thirds of all Americans say that the daily news causes them stress, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey. Feeling anxious, depressed, hopeless, irritable and worn out are some of the symptoms of “headline stress disorder,” a phrase coined by psychologist Steven Stosny.

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Managing Your Weight — January 2019

Managing Your Weight — January 2019


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For a Healthy Body and Mind

Carrying excess weight takes a toll on every part of the body. It affects walking, breathing, sleeping and mood, and can have a negative impact on quality of life. Being overweight can also increase the risk of developing serious medical conditions. The risk might rise from the stress the heart and joints suffer from carrying extra pounds. Or it may be due to complex changes in hormones and metabolism (how the body uses calories and fat).

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Over-the-Counter Medications — December 2018

Over-the-Counter Medications — December 2018

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Taking These (and Supplements) Safely

Over-the-counter medications (OTC) are easy to find at the store. They offer relief from common health problems like stuffy noses, seasonal allergies and achy muscles. They also can help prevent problems like constipation and nausea. You may feel empowered to solve a health issue without having to see your primary care provider for advice or a prescription.
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Complementing Your Medical Care — October 2018

Complementing Your Medical Care — October 2018

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With Approaches That Benefit Your Health

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 30 percent of adults use healthcare approaches developed outside of mainstream western medicine. These approaches are called complementary and alternative —terms that are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to note that they are different.

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Calcium and Vitamin D — September 2018

Calcium and Vitamin D — September 2018

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Essential Nutrients that Work Hand-in-Hand

No matter our age, our bodies need calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as other important functions. However, without enough vitamin D, calcium can’t be absorbed by the body. What happens then? The body draws from calcium stored in the bones, which weakens them and can lead to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become fragile, brittle and prone to breaks. Maintaining calcium and vitamin D levels in a healthy range over your lifetime can help prevent the risks of weak bones, teeth and other potential issues.

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Common Medical Conditions — August 2018

Common Medical Conditions — August 2018

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Can They Be Prevented or Reversed?

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. One in two adults has a chronic disease and one in four has two or more, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

When it comes to our health, there are things we can’t control and those that we can try to influence. We can’t change our genetic makeup, gender, race or age—some of the factors that can make us more likely to develop a chronic medical condition. However, many health conditions are caused by lifestyle factors that we do have some ability to manage—our diet, exercise, stress management, weight and smoking habits.

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Ah, Summertime! — July 2018

Ah, Summertime! — July 2018

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How to Enjoy It While Staying Safe

Picnics, roasting marshmallows, swimming, camping, fishing—you name it—these are the treasures of summer. With longer days and schools closed, summer often means vacation time. But even if your summer doesn’t include a vacation, you’ve likely shed some layers and are spending more time outdoors. Being outside is a great way to reboot and revive the mind. To make the most of this more relaxed season, remember to take a few precautions to keep you and your family safe.

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Working Smart — June 2018

Working Smart — June 2018

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Finding Your Way to Workplace Wellness

Fulltime workers spend, on average, more than one-third of their day, five days per week at their place of work. We rely heavily on the fruits of our labor: skills, confidence, camaraderie, and most importantly, an income. Since our work life is so important to our livelihood, it makes sense to work smart. Workplace health and wellness includes activities and policies designed to promote the well-being of employees, support health behavior in the workplace, and decrease the risks of injuries. Employees can experience greater job satisfaction by making some key adjustments in the workplace.

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The Path to Emotional Wellness — May 2018

The Path to Emotional Wellness — May 2018

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How to Improve Your Resiliency

Your mental health and wellness affects practically every aspect of your life—how you think, feel and act at home and work, with family, friends, colleagues and the general public. People who are emotionally healthy tend to go about their day with a sense of purpose. They engage in enjoyable activities and balance them with their work and family life. They have fulfilling relationships and have a positive outlook.

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Why It’s Important to Have a PCP — April 2018

Why It’s Important to Have a PCP — April 2018

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And What to Do When Your PCP Isn’t Available

Your primary care provider (PCP) is that professional you see every year or so for preventive screening or more often if you are managing ongoing health concerns. S/he’s also the one you call when you get sick or develop concerning new symptoms. But, what if your PCP isn’t available? Your options depend upon the circumstances.

Wait, Back Up!

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Is Personalized Medicine for You? — January 2018

Is Personalized Medicine for You? — January 2018

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Evolving Field of Medicine Offers Promise

Healthcare providers have always sought to individualize care for their patients. But now, advances in medical research allow providers to study a person’s genes, offering another tool to guide decisions about preventing, diagnosing and treating disease. Personalized medicine, also called precision or individualized medicine, is an evolving field where providers use genetic testing to understand how a person’s disease risks are unique. Used alongside information about family history, symptoms and environmental factors, genetic testing can help providers prevent illness and/or determine which treatments will work best.

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How Walking Can Extend Life — December 2017

How Walking Can Extend Life — December 2017

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Even Minimal Walking Offers Health Benefits

You don’t have to run or bike intensively to get the health advantages of regular exercise. A new study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM) showed that 120 minutes or less of moderate-intensity walking each week can add longevity to your life. 120 minutes? That’s less than 18 minutes a day!

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Confusing Cancer Terminology — November 2017

Confusing Cancer Terminology — November 2017

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Making Sense During Difficult Times

Almost 13 million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer every year. People may experience unexplained pain, weight loss, fatigue and other symptoms followed by screening tests, imaging, and maybe biopsies before getting the dreaded diagnosis. Learning that you or a loved one has cancer is overwhelming and stressful.

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It’s Not Just Flu Shot Season — October 2017

It’s Not Just Flu Shot Season — October 2017

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Time to Review Your Vaccination Status

Vaccines are among the most cost-effective prevention services around. They do more than protect you from getting preventable diseases; they also reduce the spread of disease. If you’ve been vaccinated for an infectious disease (measles, chickenpox, hepatitis, influenza, etc.), you greatly reduce the risk of getting that disease and the chance of spreading it to others who are not immune.

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Suffer From Low Back Pain? — September 2017

Suffer From Low Back Pain? — September 2017

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A Look at Alternative/Complementary Therapies

The U.S. spends $90 billion a year on back pain! That’s more than the combined cost of care for high blood pressure, pregnancy AND depression. Back pain is one of the top reasons people see their doctor and the leading reason people miss work. Lost time and productivity is estimated to cost another $10-20 billion.

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Deprescribing: A Growing Trend — August 2017

Deprescribing: A Growing Trend — August 2017

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What Was Good Then May Not Be Now

It is becoming more and more common for people to take five or more medications. The more medications a person takes, the greater their risk for negative health outcomes, such as reduced quality of life, increased side effects, drug interactions, physical or mental impairment, falls, addiction, hospitalization or even, death. The use of some medications, especially as people age or become sicker, can do more harm than good. There is also greater risk of taking them incorrectly—the more medications, the more confusion.

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Preventing Surprise Medical Bills — July 2017

Preventing Surprise Medical Bills — July 2017

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What to Do If You Get One

An unexpected medical bill can be a very unpleasant surprise. It is a bill for a medical service that you did not expect to receive because you thought your insurance would cover it. Surprise bills are becoming more common as our healthcare system becomes more complex and insurance companies reduce the number of providers in their network or exclude coverage for out-of-network services.

The best way to avoid surprise medical bills is to prevent them. It’s not always possible, but there are ways to minimize the risk.

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