Alzheimer’s and other dementias are a major scourge of our time, affecting 50% of people 85 and older. This number is expected to triple by 2050 and there is no cure in sight. Dementia is a relentless, progressive disease that robs a person of their memory, judgment, and cognitive abilities, often creating changes in personality and behavior. In some cases, the disease leads to a decline toward complete dependency as the person loses the ability to chew, walk, or swallow leading to a terminal vegetative state. The good news is by making certain lifestyle changes today, you can decrease your risk of dementia by 60% or more.
1. Engage your Brain by reading, socializing with others or learning something new. Our brain is a muscle and in order to function properly it needs exercise.
2. Reduce Alcohol Use and Stop Smoking; both are toxins to the brain. Although a small amount of alcohol can be protective, large amounts cause dementia and cognitive decline. Smoking is also bad; it increases the risk of dementia by 80%.
3. Exercise. Exercise is good for your heart and good for your brain. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week.
4. Get Treatment for Depression. Depression doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women and quadruples it in men. Late-life depression (after the age of 65) is a significant brain health risk.
5. Get Enough Sleep. Sleep deprivation is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and dementia. As we sleep, our brain cleanses itself of toxins that build up during the day. Without healthy sleep, brain fog and memory problems develop, so strive for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If you have insomnia, or suspect that you have sleep apnea, get treatment. Left untreated, sleep apnea literally kills brain cells.
6. Drink Plenty of Water. The brain is 80 percent water; to function effectively it needs to be hydrated. Ideally, you should drink one-half of your body weight in ounces every day.
7. Eat Healthy Fats. About 60 percent of the solid weight of our brain is fat. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and tuna are good for preventing cognitive decline as they tend to decrease overall inflammation. Other foods to decrease inflammation include avocados, cocoa butter, coconut, nuts, olives, and seeds.
8. Use Brain-Healthy Supplements. Ginko supports healthy cerebral blood flow. B Vitamins (B3, B6, B12 & Folic Acid) help to repair neurons, maintain the myelin sheath protecting neurons, and produce neurotransmitters used by neurons to communicate with each other. Vitamin D stimulates nerve growth in the brain and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Fast for 12 Hours at Night. Although it is important to eat breakfast to stabilize your blood sugar, fasting for at least 12 hours at night (between your last food in the evening, and first food of the morning) has many benefits. Memory loss occurs through the production of too much amyloid plaque, and the plaques are removed through a process called autophagy, which is facilitated during nightly fasts.
Although we can’t turn back the hands of time, how we move through time does make a difference. It is never too late to implement a brain-healthy lifestyle. For more information on brain health read The Brain Warrior’s Way by Daniel & Tana Amen.