In the Digital Age where almost everyone has access to the Internet, we can be bombarded with information. A Google search for the statistics related to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in your lifetime returns over 3 million results.
You could pore over them and feed your fear, or you could accept the reality that if you are 60 years old today, the odds of developing Alzheimer’s are 4.8%, or in other words, there is a 95.2% chance that you won’t develop the disease. Are you still afraid of Alzheimer’s disease? Here’s something you can do about it.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one of the surest ways to protect your brain health is to recognize its connection to heart health. We’ve known for decades that a healthy lifestyle can protect us from heart disease.
What we know now is that that same lifestyle can protect our brains from Alzheimer’s. Taking steps to ensure vascular health will help your heart deliver necessary nutrients and oxygen to your brain to keep it healthy too. Staying physically and mentally active and eating a diet rich in Omega-3s and a few key vitamins will go a long way toward maintaining a healthy heart-head connection.
Two key components for both heart and brain health are diet and exercise. According to Dr. Ronald Peterson, Alzheimer’s disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic, “Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
In fact, every time your heart beats, 20% of the blood pulses up to feed your brain. Exercise that elevates your heart rate really gets your blood moving, carrying oxygen and all those precious nutrients to your brain.
Dr. Andrew Weil, noted holistic health professor and founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, recommends a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the best sources are wild salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, mussels, and rainbow trout. If fish aren’t your thing, try walnuts or ground flax seeds.
Another valuable diet alternative for brain health might be the Mediterranean diet that focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and promotes fish and shellfish over red meat.
Several studies have shown that social engagement and intellectual stimulation may improve cognitive function and delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s for those who are at risk.
Being bilingual or trilingual, learning new and challenging information, and being socially active seem to somehow store up what Dr. Peterson from the Mayo Clinic refers to as “cognitive reserves.” Although the research has yet to show exactly how these reserves inhibit Alzheimer’s, Dr. Peterson says, “It’s thought that activities that develop cognitive reserve work because they increase the robustness of your brain’s architecture – enriching blood flow, enhancing neuronal activity and putting more of your brain to use.”
Besides language learning, you could try reading and writing, taking a class, or learning to play an instrument to challenge your brain to create new neural pathways.
There is evidence that staying socially active can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Engage in the camaraderie of social or group sports like golf or bowling. If you attend a religious institution, take part in the social activities such as having coffee after a service, volunteering, or joining a breakout group.
Studies show that staying involved socially through working, volunteering, and living with others are beneficial to reducing the risks of developing Alzheimer’s.
As with everything else, taking a positive attitude and remaining optimistic have a positive impact on any health issue. You are far more in control than you may have thought. Alzheimer’s is not inevitable. Even for those suffering from the disease, many are able to live without debilitating effects.
Check out these specific ways to keep your brain healthy throughout your lifetime, and remember, the odds are in your favor!
Are you afraid of developing Alzheimer’s disease? What positive steps have you taken to maintain a healthy brain as you age? Please add your thoughts in the comments below.
Get more information about how to keep your brain healthy as you age. Watch my interview with neuroscientist Indre Viskontas.
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