Is your Lifestyle Damaging your Brain?
Ella Tan | On 31, Jan 2015
Are you just absentminded, or is the forgetfulness a sign of early Alzheimer’s Disease? With every passing decade, health of both body and brain becomes more precarious. To live a long and healthy life, what can we do other than move to Sardinia?
Sardinians (and Okinawans) are among the longest living people in the world. Besides diet, good genes might have something to do with their physical and mental fitness into old age, and a non-stressful lifestyle very likely helps slow brain deterioration.
Dining on fresh vegetables, fruit, fish and enjoying a glass of wine with friends every evening – outdoors, when the weather is pleasant, sounds idyllic. But, sorry, city folk just have to bear with the crowds, noise, pollution, GM foods and tedium of making a living. So, our only recourse is awareness, so we slow down if not avoid dementia.
Dr Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and Director of the Longevity Centre, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), explains the importance of brain health and how to maintain it in his book on Alzheimer’s Prevention.
Research indicates that inflammation is a major cause of Alzheimer’s, so anti-inflammatory strategies like exercise, adequate sleep, omega 3 oils, and a strong immune system are all part of prevention. Watch Dr Small’s talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5HXPxB837s
The good news is that experts believe prevention is possible by maintaining the brain’s health rather than trying to repair a brain already damaged by plaques and tangles. “But even people who have a diagnosis of dementia, we think we can help them although not as much.”
- Exercise by walking briskly for 20 minutes every day, or swim, or do any activity that gets the heart pumping oxygen and nutrients to brain cells which in turn stimulate the brain to grow connections, and become bigger – and a bigger brain is a better brain.
- Lifelong learning protects the brain but more importantly, memory exercises stimulate the brain. Older people should keep up with technology – it works their brains.
- Stress increases risk of dementia, so spend time with friends, relaxing, meditating or practicing Yoga.
- Nutrition is related to brain health. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar. Make sure your diet is rich in omega-3 oils, antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, and maintain optimal body weight.
Lots of research is still going on, so keep a lookout for results, and in the meantime try to avoid developing diabetes as diabetics are doubly at risk of dementia.