Author Archives: Christian Elliott

About Christian Elliott

This is a test of ultimate plugin

Common Drugs & Memory Loss

Several types of common over-the-counter drugs can cause cognitive impairment. People with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease face a 250% increased risk of cognitive impairment from these drugs.

New research published in the medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology highlights several common medications that can cause memory loss and cognitive impairment. These types of medications, called anticholinergic drugs, are taken for allergies, common colds, stomach discomfort, and motion sickness.

This table shows the generic and brand names for common anticholinergic drugs:

Common Anticholinergic Drugs That Can Cause Memory Loss

Generic NameBrain Name(s)
ChlorpheniramineAlka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Liquid Gels
DimenhydrinateDraminate, Dramamine, Gravol
DiphenhydramineBenadryl, Sominex, Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Aleve PM, others
RantidineZantac, Deprezine

The study involved 688 people with an average age of 74 who had no problems with thinking and memory skills at the start of the study. The participants reported if they were taking any anticholinergic drugs within three months of the start of the study at least once a week for more than six months.

The study found that people with biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in their cerebrospinal fluid who were taking anticholinergic drugs were four times more likely to later develop mild cognitive impairment than people who were not taking the drugs and did not have the biomarkers.

Similarly, people who had genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and took anticholinergic drugs were about 2.5 times as likely to later develop mild cognitive impairment than people without the genetic risk factors and who were not taking the drugs.

People who take anticholinergic medications are encouraged to discuss options with their doctors or pharmacists before making changes to their medications, since some of these medications may cause adverse effects if stopped suddenly.

Six Ways to Boost Mental Health and Immune Function

As the world experiences a wave of mandatory social distancing measures, we thought it would be useful to list a few ways to boost both your immune system and mental health:

1. Eat Healthy Foods

Eating a healthy diet is common sense for overall well-being. While no single food will magically fend off illness, certain nutrients can help protect your body from billions of bacteria, viruses, and other germs. Some nutrients and foods that support healthy immunity include:

  • Garlic, turmeric root, ginger root
  • Mushrooms – shiitake, maitake, reishi, lion’s mane
  • Active omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA), found in salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish
  • Zinc-rich foods, like oysters, crab, grass-fed lean meats and poultry, and chickpeas
  • Selenium-rich foods, such as broccoli, sardines, tuna, Brazil nuts, and barley
  • Vitamin C-rich foods, like guavas, kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oranges, papaya, broccoli, pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, tomato, kale, and snow peas
  • Vitamin E-rich foods, including sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, hazelnuts, spinach, Swiss chard, butternut squash, kiwis, broccoli, and rainbow trout

2. Get Quality Sleep

Quality sleep stimulates the immune system, while sleep deprivation can raise the stress hormone cortisol. Required levels of sleep do vary among people, but most studies indicate adults should try to get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Those with a compromised immune system should get even more sleep.

3. Increase Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy immune regulation and inflammatory response. Failure to get enough vitamin D can lead to health problems and other mental and physical difficulties. If you aren’t getting 10 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day, supplementing with at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 is a good idea.

4. Be Physically Active Each Day

Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily will increase your blood circulation and can help strengthen your immune system. The increase in circulation improves delivery of nutrients to your bone marrow, spleen and other organs of immunity. Better circulation also helps clear waste products from the body and transport hormones that keep the immune system alert and active.

5. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is key to the functioning of all our organs including those of the immune system. Every organ system in the body needs adequate hydration to function properly. Water helps cleanse the body and remove toxins. By keeping your body systems well-hydrated, you allow them to work optimally so they can maintain healthy immunity.

6. Practice Stress Reduction Daily

Take a 5 minute break when you can.  This short guided videos can help:

Guard your self-care time. It keeps you healthy.

Privacy and Monitoring Your Brain

Facebook recently announced its intention to acquire CTRL-Labs, a neural interface startup developing a wristband that can control computers and other devices. The wristband works by decoding electrical signals travelling through muscles in the forearm. CTRL-Labs will now be part of Facebook’s Reality Labs group.

The CTRL-Labs acquisition (between $500 Million – $1 Billion) kicks off the next phase of brain-computer interface (BCI) applications moving into the consumer marketplace.

There are and will be many life improving aspects of BCI devices, especially for people with disabilities, and importantly, the rapidly growing senior population in the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. in particular faces a caregiver availability crisis, and BCIs hold the promise of keeping many people with special needs safe at home.

There are also some interesting questions regarding BCI devices and personal privacy.

Who Owns Your Brainwaves?

As we’ve seen in the past with other technologies, BCI applications will race ahead of several important (and critical) personal privacy and public policy issues.

Consumer EEG devices like the Muse headband can accurately read brain waves with only four sensors. Elon Musk’s Neuralink has a more ambitious goal of implanting thousands of tiny electrodes on the surface of the brain, which can then transmit to a nearby wireless device. Research labs are investigating whether a person’s unique brainwaves could be used as a highly secure authentication method for access to computers, databases, command & control systems, homes, workplaces and more.

This rapid progress on BCI devices brings a multitude of situations to ponder:

  • Your EEG signature is unique, meaning you could be identified through your brainwaves. Who owns your EEG signature, and how will this data be used by governments and corporations?
  • Could your unique EEG signature be copied & impersonated by another person, organization, or AI program?
  • While ‘reading your thoughts’ stays in the realm of science fiction, BCI devices could be used to identify deception (aka lie detectors). How accurate would this tool be, and could there be ways to game the lie detector algorithm?
  • Can companies require employees to wear a brainwave headband at work, to monitor alertness and attention?

This last point is happening now in a several Chinese schools. Students are required to wear a EEG headband during class, and when a student’s attention begins to wander, an alert is sent to the teacher’s monitoring system (and the parent’s mobile phone). Privacy, personal freedom, mixing with government and corporate policies will play out in different countries, with likely different results. A brave new world ahead.

Rocking Promotes Restorative Sleep

Rocking yourself to sleep at night might be as good for you as it is for babies, based on recent research out of the University of Geneva. In the study, volunteers slept overnight on gently rocking beds. The volunteers were also hooked up to EEG monitors to record their brain-wave activity during the night.

Sleep is a vital restorative period for the body and brain. Deep sleep (NREM Stage 3) in particular is important for consolidating new memories – aka learning! Deep sleep also clears metabolic debris from the brain, including amyloid and tau proteins, the biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Night Rocking Improves Deep Sleep

Nocturnal rocking measurably improved sleep quality for the study volunteers. The volunteers moved faster from NREM stage 1 to stage 2 sleep, then spent more time in the deepest stage 3 sleep. They also experienced 60 percent fewer EEG arousals in this deep-sleep stage. Arousals are sudden shifts in EEG frequency that last at least three seconds. These arousals are often followed by a return to deep sleep, but can also lead a person to wake up.

Volunteers completed memory tests before and after the rocking bed nights, and the results showed large improvements in memory recall after the rocking nights. This study points to a possible large scale solution for insomnia without habitual medication.

For a good night’s sleep, also practice these principles:

  • Associate your bed and bedroom with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. (Alcohol metabolizes into glucose, which is a stimulant to the body.)
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during waking hours – use a lamp that simulates sunlight if necessary.
  • Daytime exercise can promote good sleep. A relaxing exercise, like yoga or meditation, can also be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.

Technology for Caregivers

A new focus on technology for caregivers is generating a wide range of interesting tools and services for this long-neglected market.

The inaugural HLTH conference in Las Vegas included several discussions on the aging-in-place trend, and how (for the most part) family caregivers will continue to shoulder the bulk of elder caregiving roles.

A panel at HLTH discussed new approaches to caring for the aging population in the U.S., which is the largest and fastest-growing segment of the country’s population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of individuals age 65 and older is expected to nearly double from 2012 to 2050, and those older than age 85 will more than triple during that same period.

The Growing Caregiver Burden

More than 34 million Americans are caregivers to older adults according to AARP, and more than 16 million are caregivers to people living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, based on a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association.

With the escalating care service costs described below, options for assisted living, full time home health aides, and memory care facilities will be financially out of reach for many.

A typical family caregiver to a senior is an adult child (median age ~50), who works close to full time, and is also raising a family of her/his own. Time limitations and financial constraints are a constant worry for this caregiver demographic.

Assisted Living Becomes Unaffordable

Genworth provides a cost of care prediction tool that highlights the escalating cost of senior care services. This snapshot of care costs in the year 2037 includes a very optimistic assumption that senior care costs will increase by only 3% each year:

Assisted living facilities can vary widely in the type of medical care provided. Many residents in assisted living also require home health assistance, which will bring the cost in 2037 to at least $160,000 per year.

With increasing longevity and decreasing catastrophic illness, assisted living can stretch into a decade or more, which will require $1.5 million or more for a studio or one bedroom apartment that includes light housekeeping and three meals a day.

We’re facing a reality that assisted living and related 24×7 senior care services will quickly become out of reach for most of the middle class in the U.S. and other countries.

Worried about the memory health of a loved one? Try the memory loss checklist and receive a free report.