With Alzheimer’s on the rise and still without a cure or effective medication, it’s essential to start taking measures now to increase our chances of not suffering from this degenerative disease.
I know, I know. For many of us it seems like ages away before we are old enough to have to think about age-related diseases. However, we really can’t afford to wait until we HAVE TO think about them. While it’s great to be designing our lives now, we also need to consider the quality of your lives tomorrow.
The good news is there are proven measures we can take now that can drastically reduce our chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s and even prolong the more sprightly years of our life. Check them out:
1. Keep stress in check – Surprisingly, this is a huge contributor to dementia. Short periods of stress are okay and can actually be good for you, however suffering from stress and anxiety over long periods is terribly bad for you.
When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol (this produces the ‘fight or flight’ coping response). High cortisol levels over longer periods wreak havoc on your cognitive brain. In fact, research confirms that people with dementia have much higher levels of cortisol in their bloodstream than people without. A study has also shown that people with stressful lives are around 2-3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than others. Therefore, stress management is paramount.
2. Move your body – Regular exercise protects the brain through increasing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to brain cells. It also creates new brain cells faster and improves brain function. Several studies, such as the one mentioned in this article, show that eldery people who exercised regularly showed significant gains in mental agility, while the non-aerobic group showed continuing decline in tests of thinking speed, fluency with words and ability to multi-task. Conveniently, regular exercise also helps combat stress, thus killing two birds with one stone.
It’s the old ‘use it or loose it’ mantra. Just as you need to exercise to be fit, you also need to give your brain a daily workout to stay mentally limber. This is especially important if you are in a job that does not require daily problem-solving or memorization, or if you are unemployed (including stay at home moms and the retired). Just because you are busy does not mean you are exercising your brain.
So, pick up a new hobby, like social dancing (yes, it significantly helps fight dementia!) or learning a new language, or sign up to receive fun daily brain puzzles by email (Luminosity is a good one). Whatever you do, just do it!
4. Eat smart – Dementia and Alzheimer’s could be prevented, and possibly halted in the early stages by having the right diet. I’ll spare you the specifics of why but trust me each of these are backed by significant research:
- Cut out sugar (and simple carbs) – Sugar is downright evil.
- Adopt a Mediterranean style, low GI diet to keep your insulin at dementia-fighting levels.
- Eat fat – the right kind of fat, such as in fatty fish, nuts, olive oil and avocado. Your brain needs it!
- Get plenty of vitamin E from food, not supplements (these are your nuts and seeds).
- Include turmeric in your daily diet.
- Increase your B vitamins through eating lots of veggies.
- Cut out packaged food.
5. Don’t be a hermit – Get out and nurture a strong social network. Studies indicate that good social networks provide more intellectual stimulation (helps with #3 above) and reduce stress (helps with #1 above). Some studies even suggest that simply believing someone is there when you need them makes a difference to your cognitive abilities.
If we can weave each of the above measures into our lives, then we’d stand a much better chance of having better quality golden years. With the pace of life these days and the difficulties most of us are facing in the current economic environment, it’s easy push these aside and let life get in the way. But, like I said in the beginning of this post, don’t wait until you have to pay attention, because by then, it might be too late.
Have you heard of any other anti-Alzheimer’s tips? Please do share!