By Mark A. Mahoney
I have written previously about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, one of its principal manifestations. The focus was on the role of dietary changes in reducing (and potentially preventing) the onset of dementia with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease. Today’s focus is on providing some positive news and providing some relevant information focusing on the continuing research showing the impact that positive lifestyle changes can have on brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association recently compiled simple steps to follow to prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia. Information from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) is also employed to further the relevance of this blog.
Some Positive News
The most promising news related to this disease is that on
September 28, 2018, the largest-ever funding increase for Alzheimer’s and dementia research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was signed into law. In addition the on October 18th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alzheimer’s Association released the third edition of the Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) Road Map: State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018- 2023 Road Map provides public health officials with a set of strategies to realize a better future for all communities impacted by dementia.
Lifestyle Changes: Being Proactive
A recent study in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association concluded that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline and dementia by making positive lifestyle changes.
- Avoid brain injury.
Wear a helmet when riding a bike or playing contact sports, a seatbelt in the car and work to prevent falls.
- Challenge yourself.
Challenging your mind has long and short-term benefits for your brain and can include anything from doing a puzzle to painting or playing a card game.
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
Eating green, leafy vegetables and following specific diets, like the MIND diet have been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia. See the link for information on this diet at:
- Get quality sleep.
People with sleep disorders or those who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
- Maintain good cardiovascular health.
Avoid diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
- Participate in formal education, in any stage of life.Staying active in group activities can reduce the onset of dementia.Taking a class at a local college or community center can help reduce the risk of dementia.
- Quit smoking.
Studies have shown that quitting smoking can reduce the risk of dementia to the same as those who have not smoked. It’s not too late to quit!
- Schedule time for cardiovascular exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise, like running or swimming, increases blood flow to the brain and raises your heart rate.
- Stay socially engaged.
Stay involved in daily life with friends and social activities that are important to you.
- Treat depression.
Those with a history of anxiety and depression have an increased risk of dementia. Talk to a professional and take the recommended medication, if necessary.
The Alzheimer’s Association says that while these tips can help prevent cognitive decline, there is no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 life-threatening conditions in the U.S. that cannot be definitively prevented or even slowed. According to the fact sheet produced by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people. Go to the following website for a detailed fact sheet:
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 30 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.