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Everyday Things You Can Do to Keep Dementia at Bay

By Anthony Cirillo September 07, 2022 Lifestyle

As rates of dementia, including Alzheimer’s rise, the sad news is that promising drug treatments have ultimately proven to be a false hope as clinical trials have repeatedly shown little impact of effectiveness. So how can we hold dementia at bay without pharmaceuticals? Here are some tips.

First, for context, in talking to neurologists, the focus of these drugs have been on the plaques that cause tangles in the brain. There is growing evidence that multiple factors contribute to the development of the disease. These include brain inflammation and conditions that relate to diabetes. The bottom line is that effective drugs are years away, and we need to take matters into our own hands.

Where to Start?

Well, the answer is so simple as to be silly – diet and exercise. You have heard it all before. But let’s put in some new light.

We all know that processed foods are not healthy. They increase our risk for obesity, heart and circulation problems, diabetes and cancer.

A new study says that eating ultra-processed foods for more than 20% of your daily calorie intake every day could set you on the road to cognitive decline. Experts, of course, recommend a Mediterranean diet. Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundation of the diet.

Bottom line, we have to eat healthier and here is something that should scare everyone – ultra-processed foods now account for two-thirds of calories in the diets of children and teens. So, putting older adults aside, look what we are doing as a society when we eat this stuff. We are already setting up our children for health issues and future development of cognitive issues.

What About the Exercise Part of This?

Data from the longest-ever phase 3 trial of exercise on cognition released at the Alzheimer’s conference this month found that exercise may stall cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. 

Three hundred patients in the trial – by Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study in partnership with Wake Forest and the YMCA – were randomized. Some people undertook intense aerobic training while others were confined to stretching, balance and range of motion for 18 months.

The results?

Neither group showed 12-month declines in cognitive tests.

So, exercise not only reduces dementia risk. It reduces your risk of other diseases as well.

Blue Zone Behavior

The last thing I would mention is that people should research what are called Blue Zones. The people who live in the Blue Zones – five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. – researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. Here are their behaviors.

They Move Naturally

They live in environments that nudge them into moving without thinking about it.

They Have Purpose

It adds up to seven years of extra life.

They De-Stress

Stress leads to chronic inflammation. Some pray, take naps and even do happy hour.

They Stop Eating When Full

They don’t wait to get the ‘stuffed’ signal at mealtime. Instead, they stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full.

They Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month. And people in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly.

They Have a Sense of Community

Most belong to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

They Put Loved Ones First

Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home; commit to a life partner and invest in their children with time and love.

They Belong to the Right Tribe

They have social circles that support healthy behaviors. Relatives and friends are very important in these communities.

There you have it. A little bit of common sense, discipline and maybe some hard work can’t hurt when it comes to health behaviors and warding off cognitive decline.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you trying to make the most of everyday life? Which of these eight lifestyle points of centenarians do you follow? What is lacking in your daily routine that might attribute to cognitive decline?

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Colleen Cunningham

This is an excellent article; I would add yoga, qi gong and having music in one’s life both for listening and attending concerts and learning an instrument and/or singing especially in a group/choir. And meditation too!

The Author

Anthony Cirillo is founder of Sage Stream, the Senior Entertainment/Education Network and president of The Aging Experience, which helps people and companies prepare for aging before it becomes a crisis. A health and aging expert, professional speaker, and media influencer, he is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Anthony serves as a Policy RoundTable member for Nationwide Financial and Bank of America.

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