Can you truly stave off dementia? Here are the latest How To’s for Brain Fitness.
If you’re using the term “Senior Moment” a bit more frequently these days, you’re not alone. To support that fact, some startling data from The Alzheimer’s Association states that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis.
• Two-thirds of the 5 million seniors with ALZ, the most common form of dementia, are women.
• Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
• Women make up 60-70% of ALZ and related dementia caregivers. Along with the added stress of adverse consequences in the workplace, the responsibilities are taking a toll on women’s health and well-being.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Now, thanks to the latest in brain health research, there are lifestyle and dietary guidelines, that support the healthy body/healthy brain connection. As an added bonus, those same guidelines aid in weight loss, better sleep, reduced signs of depression, and a waterfall of other benefits.
“Although risk factors such as age and family history cannot be changed, other risk factors can be changed or modified to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia… there is sufficiently strong evidence that regular physical activity, management of cardiovascular risk factors… a healthy diet and lifelong learning may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”
Most of the following guidelines may seem like ‘no-brainers,’ but a few may surprise you!
Maria Shriver, in her interview for Brain Power Today, “A New Protocol to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease is Getting Striking Results for Some Patients,” calls the Bredeson Program “potentially extraordinary.” Dr. Dale Bredesen says his program is getting results not seen before. But he cautions, this only works for patients in the early stages of the disease. His daily protocol includes:
*Eating a Mediterranean diet high in vegetables and good fats
*Regular cardio exercise (variable or high intensity intervals)
*Fasting at least 12 hours after dinner
*Brain training exercises
*Getting at least 8 hours of sleep nightly
*A regimen of supplements to address each patient’s deficiencies.
Says Shriver, “In a small, 2014 study published in the journal “aging,” Bredesen found his program boosted cognitive functioning in nine out of 10 (early onset) Alzheimer’s patients within six months. Some could even return to work.”
Most surprising from Dr. Bredesen’s study? Fasting. Elaine K. Howley interviewed Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore. He says that recent studies on fasting or restricting calories periodically can make us healthier and smarter, and that fasting mimics exercise in how it benefits the brain. In both exercise and fasting, the brain increases production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that encourages new brain cells to thrive.
Several studies have shown that BDNF plays a critical role in learning and memory and that these levels decline in the human brain during aging. “We think keeping levels of BDNF up during aging will sustain cognitive functions, learning and memory ability,” says Mattson. As a caution: Fasting isn’t for everyone, particularly children, women who are pregnant, or those with certain health issues, such as diabetes.
Our new best friend: BDNF
“Exercise elevates ‘Miracle Grow’ throughout the brain,” referring to BDNF, the master molecule of the learning process,” according to John J. Ratly, MD and co-author Eric Hagerman in their book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” This national bestseller delves deeply into the science, scientists and actual study results of exercise and its remarkable effect on neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells. From the lab into the classroom where students have had astounding results raising test scores, to seeing MRI results in older adults who were forming new capillaries needed for neurons to survive in the memory area of the hippocampus, the “evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.”
“Continue to challenge your brain,” says Dallas Brain Coach, Mary Goodenow. “Your brain is like any other muscle; use it or lose it.” She suggests doing single focused tasks, such as meditation, prayer, listening to music, and cognitive training. While Brain Training is not a cure, “I have seen the positive results of Brain Training for all ages in my practice. Most notable is the improvement in Working Memory Skills, along with concentration/focus, organizational abilities and self-confidence!”
A new five-year study of high risk patients is currently underway at UT Southwestern Brain Institute and partner hospitals around the country. Dr. Rong Zhang, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurogenesis, in an interview with Bianco Castro, explains, “This new study builds on prior research linking healthy lifestyle to a healthier brain.”
Hmmmm. Think I’ll schedule a French lesson after my new Aqua Yoga class.
Maybe it IS possible to remember where I put the keys!
This article is NOT intended for medical advice. Always consult your physician before beginning a new fitness routine or diet to be sure it’s right for you.
“Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” – John J. Rately, MD, with Eric Hagerman
“50 Ways to Grow Your Brain” – Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen, RN
“What We Know Today“
Early Onset Alzheimer’s Risk Factors