8 Ways to Love Your Brainy Valentine

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Nurture brain health by taking your loved one on a power walk.

The day is almost here, and even if you have already found the perfect card, made dinner reservations or ordered flowers, you might also consider a timeless gift of caring for your brainy Valentine. Here are eight gift ideas from our experts on brain health at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Give them today or in the weeks and months to come.

1. Get your loved one to the doctor. If he has not had a physical recently, schedule one and offer to accompany him and take him to breakfast or lunch afterward. Even young people should have regular physicals as a general rule. No matter how old you are, your best defense against stroke is seeing a doctor who can help you modify any risk factors you might have with medication, a wellness program that stresses exercise and nutrition, or a smoking cessation program.
Brett Kissela, MD, MS
Professor and Albert Barnes Voorheis Chair
Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine
UC Comprehensive Stroke Center

2. Give blueberries. Studies by UC researchers in older adults with early memory changes found that regular consumption of blueberries helped improve memory and enhance brain activation. Blueberries contain polyphenolic compounds, most prominently anthocyanins, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as other benefits for brain function.
Robert Krikorian, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Researcher, UC Mood Disorders Center

3. Never let your loved one ride in your car without buckling his or her seat belt.
Laura Ngwenya, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Medical Director, UC Neurotrauma Center

4. Take your loved one for a power walk. Exercise is the best way to improve the brain and the heart.
John M. Tew, Jr., MD
Professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, Surgery
Vice President and Executive Director for Community Affairs, UC Health and UC College of Medicine

5. Know the signs of stroke. Knowledge that a stroke is occurring or has occurred is critical, because medication must be administered within 4 ½ hours of the onset of symptoms.  Because an individual who is having a stroke may be incapacitated or unaware that a stroke is occurring, assistance from a loved one or bystander may have lifesaving value. To simplify recognition of a stroke’s symptoms, the UC Stroke Team developed the mnemonic FAST:

F: Facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side
A: Arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side
S: Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
T: Time to call 911

Dawn Kleindorfer, MD
Professor of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine
Co-Medical Director, UC Comprehensive Stroke Center

6. If you’re taking in a movie, do your loved one a favor by parking a little farther from where you need to be and using the stairs if you can. Thus far, exercise is the only proven disease-modifying (neuroprotective) intervention in Parkinson’s disease and cannot be made into a pill. A bit of exercise a day is love given to the brain.
Alberto Espay, MD, MSc
Endowed Professor and Medical Director
James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders

7. Encourage your loved one to seek help if you notice a radical change in mood or personality. And whether you see such a change or not, consider a gift of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate. Studies have shown that when eaten a few times a week in small amounts, it can improve arterial function, which can help lower blood pressure. What is good for the arteries is good for the heart and brain. http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-health-benefits-of-dark-chocolate.html
Cal Adler, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Co-Medical Director, UC Mood Disorders Center

8. Help your loved ones protect their hearing. I am seeing increasing numbers of young adults who are experiencing tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears. We don’t know what the long-term ramifications are, but the data is growing that our use of cell phones, MP3 players and other electronic devices is having an impact. Noise is too loud if it hurts your ears or if you have to raise your voice for someone near you to understand what you’re saying. If you are going to be exposed to very loud sound — such as a rock concert — take two pairs of ear plugs: one for your loved one and one for yourself.”
Ravi Samy, MD
Chief of the Division of Otology/Neurotology, Department of Otolaryngology
Director, Adult Cochlear Implantation Program


— Cindy Starr

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