Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Shift Away From Hypertension

Hypertension Away!

A staggering fifty million Americans have high blood pressure. Often, people who have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, do not realize it because the disease does not have any warning signs or symptoms, earning it the nickname the ‘silent killer.' Patients who are untreated for a number of years not only quietly damage their internal organs, but also run the risk of serious health problems such as heart attack or stroke -- and stroke is very bad for your brain! In fact, unchecked hypertension can deduct 10 to 20 years from your life.

Transcendental Meditation has been used and studied as natural means of reducing high blood pressure for over four decades. A recent pilot study showed a more than 50% reduction in mortality rate from heart disease over a five-year period in participants practicing TM. More than $5 million in NIH Scientific funding has been awarded to continue study these treatments of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

TM has also been shown to slow the aging process, reduce cholesterol, insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Introduced to the West more than 40 years ago by the Indian Spiritual teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, TM is a meditation technique for reducing stress and developing full mental and physical potential. It is practiced 15-20 minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably with eyes closed. More than five million people throughout the world have studied transcendental meditation.

Cesar Molina, M.D., a cardiologist in Palo Alto, California, said, "A single hypertensive medication for one year can cost as much as $l,000, and the effects will last no more than one year. The cost of learning TM is much less, and the benefits will last you a lifetime."

Breathe, smile and relax. That's a little shift toward meditation!

Bright light in your winter day,

Suzanna Stinnett

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oxytocin: The Cuddle Chemical

Oxytocin: The Cuddle Chemical

Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and hormone with quite a reputation.
In addition to oxytocin's powerful effects on the body, it strongly affects your mind and behavior. It is nature's antidepressant and anti-anxiety hormone. It creates feelings of calm and a sense of connection, so it actually shapes how you view the world. The whole universe looks like a better place when you feel tranquil and loving. Oxytocin also reduces cravings, which makes it the key to healing addictions of all kinds.

Have you heard the saying, "the more you give, the more you get?" Well, it applies to oxytocin, too. The more you nurture and connect with others, the more responsive your body and brain become to it. This makes it an unusual neurotransmitter. Compare it with substances like alcohol or caffeine. The more you use them, the greater the quantity you require to obtain the same effect. Oxytocin is the opposite. The more you give and nurture, the more strongly you respond.

Consciously encourage oxytocin production with caring behavior. In this way you protect and strengthen the bonding connections in your brain and tap the health benefits of sustained levels of oxytocin.

Quite a wonderland, that brain!
with love

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Inspiration in the Neural Net - What a Pleasure!

INSPIRATION. Think about it.

Diving into the neural net this morning, I realized the power in our urge to seek inspiration. Inspiration feeds the brain in so many ways, it is well worth surrounding yourself with inspiring books, quotes, colors, images, and sounds.

Serotonin, the pleasure chemical, is one likely side effect of being inspired. We are more capable of meeting the challenges of our lives in the presence of inspiration. A sense of purpose accompanies inspiration, along with higher self-esteem.

There are many ways to trigger inspiration. That book you return to so often, with its quotes or parables, is offering you a neural habit of inspiration-induced brain chemicals. Talk about win-win! You take something you already enjoy, and as it feeds you in the moment, your brain is being wired to repeat this with more ease and more connections each time you use it. Images of loved ones and loved places which trigger good memories can be part of your palette of inspiring input.

Listening to your special morning music, whatever it may be, can pave the way to a fully inspired moment. Think of it as the vehicle, waking you to your best expression of you. As you come into your day, give yourself these powerful stepping stones to the point of inspiration. You know when you are inspired -- you breathe deeply, and your mind sparkles in some recognizable way. The pesky negatives wired into thought fade into the background. Now your day is wide open. You are activated!

Suzanna Stinnett

Monday, February 07, 2011

Newness: The Stuff of Brain Growth

Newness: The Stuff of Brain Growth

Many of us are thinking of changes we want for the coming year. This is a beautiful opportunity to incorporate brain growth as part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

Newness is the key to triggering dendrite growth. The “growth end” of the brain neuron, the dendrite area, literally reaches as we open our minds to new understanding, new connections, new experiences and new skills. This reaching can be seen as a kind of a stretch. Put your arm out and reach toward a nearby window or door. Look at your hand and watch your fingers extending. That’s what your dendrites do when confronted with newness. In that process, supported by the basic nutritional elements of brain health, your dendrites grow in complexity and length. Age does not affect this ability to grow your brain power. Happy day!

Research has shown that in people whose brains have made extensive dendritic connections, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s never manifested even when the brain upon autopsy showed the changes of Alzheimer’s disease. This alone is powerful motivation to consider triggering dendrite growth.

How do we bring this element of newness into our lifestyles? Take a moment to review your normal day. We all have a number of routines, familiar and automatic. There’s a clue to look at in your routine. What are you doing automatically? Changing little things in those automatic actions will begin to trigger dendrite growth. Try switching hands when you brush your teeth, and you will get an idea what it feels like when your dendrites are reaching. It may be uncomfortable or annoying. Look at that experience of “uncomfortable,” and you can see what newness requires.

Now think about some areas of your life where you might really enjoy reaching beyond your comfort zone. What is intriguing, fascinating to you? What gives you a little stir in your heart or midsection? What moves you?

When I committed to doing fifty-five blogs in a row on brain health, I felt a sensation of excitement, mixed with an anxious whir. Also mixed in there was curiosity and anticipation. Nothing to do with comfort. All those different feelings add up to a worthy foray into newness, and here I am.

I invite you to journey through your day with an eye to the routine you have created. Do this with love, and see what unfolds.

Suzanna Stinnett

Monday, January 31, 2011


Your brain is at risk from its own powerful chemicals. Cortisol is produced in the presence of stress -- almost any stress -- and is the culprit of short-term and long-term memory impairment. Habitual fear and habitual confusion are two of the most powerful brain-cell killers. Consider how you go through your day, your week, your life -- can you benefit from reducing stress, just a little bit?

Today's blog is a little reminder to try some stress-reducing techniques. Remember, little changes make all the big changes happen. Be your own guide, and lovingly point your compass toward calm waters a couple of times today.

Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., wrote the book "Brain Longevity." His work continues to inform us deeply of the needs of the brain through aging. The following suggestions come from Dr. Khalsa:

"Successful stress management involves reducing depression, improving your ability to deal with stressful situations, and, most of all, utilizing techniques that elicit the relaxation response—a condition characterized by a lowered metabolic rate and a calm state of mind. Stress-relaxation techniques are a crucial component in creating a healthier brain, according to a large body of medical research."

The following approaches have been scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels by prompting the relaxation response:

Meditation. Meditation stops your brain from speeding forward, causing longer spaces between thoughts, and it enables you to connect with your inner spirit. According to many research studies over three decades, this simple technique can increase your ability to perform, help lower your heart rate, reduce anxiety, soften chronic pain, and increase longevity. There are four general requirements for the most basic form of meditation: a comfortable sitting position, a quiet environment, a "mental device" such as a word, sound or short prayer upon which to concentrate, and a focused attitude.

Guided Imagery and Visualization. Guided imagery is usually done with the use of a tape and, therefore, utilizes outside suggestions, such as, "See yourself on a beach or other beautiful spot." Visualization is a technique in which people create their own inner scene without the aid of outside stimulation to spark the relaxation response.

Hypnosis. Hypnosis can be self-induced or induced by a therapist trained in this technique. Both self-hypnosis and regular hypnosis produce the desired results. For example, Eriksonian hypnosis, initially developed by psychologist Milton Erikson, is powerfully effective in benefiting physical and mental health over the long term. This type of hypnosis uses a prearranged script that is customized to the individual by a trained therapist.

Deep Breathing. Deep breathing is a classical way to bring balance back into your life. As your breathing deepens, the relaxation response forms and your respiration rate slows. Yogic long deep breathing and Zen breathing are both very effective. In yogic breathing, first the diaphragm expands; then each portion of the lungs, from the bottom to the top, fills with oxygen. A mantra or healing sound may be utilized with yogic breathing, while in Zen breathing, the participant usually focuses on their breath. In both of these techniques, the breathing is usually done through the nose.

Classical Music. Your ears are intimately connected to your brain because your auditory nerve is a major component of the central nervous system. Once the messages from the nerve reach the central nervous system, they are distributed throughout the brain. Therefore, hearing loud aggressive music may produce belligerent behavior. By contrast, listening to classical music, with its rich textures and harmonious orchestrations, produces more pleasant conduct.

Massage. The largest body of research on the effects of massage therapy was performed on seriously ill premature infants. The study, conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine, observed newborn babies in a neonatal intensive care unit, with all its attendant monitoring equipment. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, were markedly elevated in these infants, and this correlated with a poor medical outcome. When touch therapy by a nurse or preferably by the infant's mother was introduced into the baby's care, their bad hormones went down, their good chemicals went up, and the children healed. This research has also been carried out in adults with a similar biochemical picture.

Prayer. Surveys indicate that close to 95 percent of Americans, representing multiple religions and spiritual practices, pray. Prayer manifests its benefits in many ways: a reduction of stress chemicals; improved health behaviors, such as not smoking; and enhanced spirituality, defined as a person's search for the sacred. Spiritual living is linked to better medical outcomes when treatment is necessary, as well as less depression and longevity. While all forms of prayer are good stress management tools, short prayers that are chanted, sung or repeated appear to be the most useful.

Note: It is not necessary to lock yourself in to any of these stress-relaxation techniques. Rather, feel free to explore any or all of them to see what works best for you. Simply start with any of these techniques for a few minutes a day and enjoy better brain function.

Have a peaceful day,
Suzanna Stinnett

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 - The Year of the Brain - The Global Brain!

2011 The Year of the Brain
The Global Brain!
Even people who are not spending time every day taking in information from the web are subject to the growing intelligence of the global brain. There's really no way around that.

But it's a good thing. We're learning to manage information flows by using tools more efficiently, and especially by filtering. Filters can be automated, like friendly robots guarding us from overwhelm. They can also be people - bloggers, for example. People do the best job of "curating," or bringing information to their audience through reliable, consistent filters called "personality."

You'll see some of my curations showing up on Kindle this year. One of them is called The Brain Whisperers. More on that soon!

Best wishes for your most outrageous success.
Suzanna Stinnett
Kindle Publisher & Content Specialist
Bay Area Bloggers Society
#Kindlechat happens on Twitter Fridays 12-1pm PST
Find me on Twitter: @Brainmaker

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Alzheimer's Disease - Or is it Diabetes?

Alzheimer's Disease -- or is it diabetes?

Researchers at Northwestern University have published their findings regarding an important correlation between the brain’s use of insulin – and forms of resistance to insulin – and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Insulin is a hormone which the brain uses to anchor new memories. When certain toxic proteins (which are known to pile up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s) bind to the neurons at the synapse, they take up the “parking spaces” which the neurons are holding open for insulin. The insulin which should be entering those parking spaces, or receptors, can be thought of as the little wagon which brings in the memory. Insulin is thwarted where it is supposed to be doing its job. This is a form of insulin resistance. The correlation is so strong that the authors of this research are calling it “Type 3 diabetes.”

Professionals working with later stage Alzheimer’s patients have found that a big dose of sugar, while certainly not part of a recommended diet, can often give the patient a window of cognition. I wonder if that sugar dose is triggering the body to release more insulin. If so, could the brain is then use it to provide some synaptic snap?

The various researchers working to uncover more of the mysteries of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are not in agreement about how important a role is played by the production of insulin in the brain. However, the conversation is stimulating some very promising new areas of research.

You can read more about the recently published paper here, and more about the discovery that the brain produces insulin here.