Tuesday, August 16, 2011
By Mr. Noah Kaminer, Administrator
If you ask people what they fear about growing old, chances are they will say it is the fear of losing their mental capacity, their independence and getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While there is a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s, it is also associated with certain lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. So can you prevent it? Some studies suggest that if you change your lifestyle, you can indeed prevent Alzheimer’s. What changes are necessary?
Regular Exercise: According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%. Regular exercise can also slow further deterioration in those who have already started to develop cognitive problems.
Quit Smoking and Drinking: Smoking and heavy drinking are two of the most preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Not only does smoking increase the odds for those over 65 by nearly 79%, researchers warn that a combination of these two behaviors reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years. When you stop smoking, the brain immediately benefits from improved circulation, no matter your age.
Protect your head: Studies suggest that head trauma at any point in life significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This includes repeated hits in sports activities such as football, soccer, and boxing, or one-time injuries from bicycle, skating, or car accident. Protect your brain by wearing properly fitting sports helmets and buckling your seatbelt.
Eat a Healthy Diet: What is good for the heart, is good for the brain. Eating a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet rich in fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and fresh produce will increase your heart’s health and may subsequently decrease your Alzheimer’s risk.
Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in certain fish and fish oil, may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. A brain enhancing diet should also include fresh fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and berries, and antioxidants — including the occasional red wine or a dark chocolate. To help maintain consistent blood sugars, eat small meals throughout the day and avoid refined carbohydrates high in sugar and white flour, which rapidly spike glucose levels, inflaming your brain. Finally, relax with a daily cup of brain healthy green or white tea — 2 cups daily has proven benefits.
Get Your 8 Hours of Sleep: Your brain needs regular, restful sleep to function at optimum capacity. Sleep deprivation leaves you cranky and tired, impairing your ability to think, problem-solve, process, store, and recall information. Deep, dreamy sleep is critical for memory formation and retention. If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Reduce Stress: Chronic, severe stress takes a heavy toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area of the brain known as the hippocampus, hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s. Use stress management techniques such as meditation to reduce stress.
Socialize: Often, we become more isolated as we get older. But, studies show that the more connected we are to other people, the better our memory and cognition. Staying socially active may protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia. So, make every effort to be around other people and socialize with friends and family.
Mental Stimulation: Those who continue learning new things throughout life, challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia — so make it a point to stay mentally active. Activities involving multiple tasks or those requiring communication and interaction offer the greatest protection. Stimulate your brain each day with activities to keep your mind mentally sharp; do crossword or Sudoku puzzles, read books, play musical instruments, learn sign language, learn a foreign language, play Scrabble or board games, read mysteries and try to decipher them
In essence, you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias by eating right, exercising, staying mentally and socially active, and keeping stress in check. By leading a brain healthy lifestyle, you may be able to prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s entirely and slow down, or even reverse, the deterioration of aging.
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