Researchers have also documented clear links between aerobic exercise and benefits to other parts of the brain, including expansion of the prefrontal cortex, which sits just behind the forehead. Such augmentation of this region has been tied to sharper executive cognitive functions, which involve aspects of planning, decision-making and multitasking—abilities that, like memory, tend to decline with healthy aging and are further degraded in the presence of Alzheimer’s. Scientists suspect that increased connections between existing neurons, rather than the birth of new neurons, are responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise on the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions outside the hippocampus.
In our own study of more than 7,000 middle-aged to older adults in the U.K., published in 2019 in Brain Imaging and Behavior, we demonstrated that people who spent more time engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity had larger hippocampal volumes. Although it is not yet possible to say whether these effects in humans are related to neurogenesis or other forms of brain plasticity, such as increasing connections among existing neurons, together the results clearly indicate that exercise can benefit the brain’s hippocampus and its cognitive functions.
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that exercise that is cognitively stimulating may indeed benefit the brain more than exercise that does not make such cognitive demands. For example, Gerd Kempermann and his colleagues at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden in Germany explored this possibility by comparing the growth and survival of new neurons in the mouse hippocampus after exercise alone or after exercise combined with access to a cognitively enriched environment. They found an additive effect: exercise alone was good for the hippocampus, but combining physical activity with cognitive demands in a stimulating environment was even better, leading to even more new neurons. Using the brain during and after exercise seemed to trigger enhanced neuron survival.
One of the immune system’s jobs is to protect us from harmful bacterial. And the beneficial organisms that we refer to as probiotics contribute to this effort in a number of ways. In the gut, a robust population of beneficial bacteria can help crowd out harmful bacteria, making it harder for them to thrive. In addition, probiotic bacteria can influence the activity of our own immune cells, regulating inflammation, barrier function, and cell-to-cell signaling.
One way to foster healthy intestinal bacteria is to eat more of the foods these bugs like to eat—namely, fiber. Increasing your intake of plant fibers from vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds is like filling a bird-feeder with the kind of seeds that the beautiful songbirds you want attract like best. If you feed them, they will come!
And if we want to attract a lot of different types of songbirds—er, bacteria—then we want to put out a variety of foods. That means you don’t just want to get all your fiber from a single source, such as a fiber supplement. You want to get it fiber from lots of different kinds of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
Health care is a big business, and our system reimburses hospitals and health care workers for caring for the sickest people rather than healthiest ones. This process depletes healers’ energy and often causes them to become exhausted and sick. That means all of us who work in or study to work in health care are at risk. To break this vicious cycle, we need self-scrutiny and willingness to change.
Health-professions students and workers live in chronically stressful environments—responsible for an increasingly sick population, which they are expected to repeatedly rescue from failure. To heal others, our health care professionals need healing themselves.
American medical students, physicians and nurses: There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that our health care system and many of its workers are sick. The good news is that we can heal them. We should waste no time in starting.
From a Scientific American online article by Adam Myers:
I once witnessed the care of a patient who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which blocks airflow to lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Over the course of a particularly hot Texas summer, he was admitted to the hospital time and time again—racking up more than $60,000 in medical expenses. Doctors were treating his breathing problems repeatedly, but they did not understand why the patient continued to have trouble.
One population health–oriented physician dug a bit deeper, holding in-depth conversations about the patient in the hospital—and later, having a team member visit his home. There, it was discovered that he lived without an air conditioner. A caring individual purchased and installed a $400 air conditioner for him, and his hospital visits stopped.
“The development of these battery-free technologies will revolutionize implantable devices,” says Ramses Martinez, a researcher in industrial and biomedical engineering at Purdue University, who was not involved in either study. “Soon traditional rigid implants will evolve into conformable systems capable of harvesting the energy they need to function from the patient.”
Current pacemakers have batteries that last less than 10 year and require expensive surgery to replace them. Harini Barath (Scientific American, May 28, 2019) reports that the pig’s heart generated ample energy to power a human pacemaker. Read more below: