Expert’s simple advice on how to keep your brain healthy and prevent the risk factor for developing dementia.
Old age is the biggest risk factor for developing dementia. However, there are a lot of evidence that lifestyle factors can potentially make a big difference. According to WHO, one in 14 seniors as well as a significant number of younger people are affected by dementia. An expert, who has operated on over 5000 skulls – all different ages to examine the developing brain to the aging brain, has come up with the best ways to help boost memory, manage stress and reduce Alzheimer’s.
The expert says, “Since we don’t have a medicine for dementia, it is really about lifestyle modification. And doing it early – 40s, 50s, 60s. There is always a window to make a difference.” Fortunately, our brains manage changes efficiently – changing food habits, cutting down on sodium, avoiding fried foods, a bit of brisk walking. All these changes add up to a better lifestyle.
Remember, whatever health advice you follow right now, staying sensible and following the guidelines on minimizing the spread of coronavirus is everyone’s top priority. So, don’t adopt any lifestyle changes without considering your physician.
Here are five changes to prevent Dementia.
1. Standing and walking – With coronavirus on everybody’s minds, getting out and about is not advisable. Until the pandemic situation settles, you could try stretching and do some light exercises at home – simply standing and walking will help as well. The neurons and the supporting cells float in liquid – our brain is like densely packed tissue in an aquarium. The tissue doesn’t physically touch, it gets very close to each other and sprays chemicals at each other called neurotransmitters.
There is also something called as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – the brain protein. 30 minutes of brisk walking will get you to a sweet spot where your brain is showering itself with BDNF – it’s a growth factor, fertilizer for the flesh of the brain. It’s something anybody can do, it’s free and can be just a micro-change in your week.
2. Healthy Heart – Exercise helps with that, and good heart health with control of blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol is fundamental to keeping the plumbing of the brain open, so it’s getting the blood flow it wants. Brain demands amazing amount of blood – 20 percent of out blood flow goes to our 1.3 kg brain.
3. Mediterranean ‘Mind diet’ – The most fundamental thing is the mind diet – essentially the Mediterranean diet. The brain’s 90 billion neurons share the garden inside the skull with supporting cells called glia. It creates fatty insulation for the neurons, so the electricity can bounce around inside our heads faster and more organised. They’re sort of the shrubs around the roses that protect the brain environment. This fatty sheath at the microscopic level is the good fat that comes from fatty fish – and there are some good choices for vegans as well. That’s an essential part of the Mediterranean diet.
Studies over decades show eating mostly plants, fatty fish, nuts, and drinking occasional red wine, really makes a dent in the chances of getting dementia. The nutrients have to get past the gut wall, into the blood, and are then filtered by the liver before passing through the blood-brain barrier. Getting to the brain requires passing three barriers and the Mediterranean diet and its nutrients, whether it’s flavonoids, antioxidants or all of them, really is an effective strategy.
The first thing to do is to switch to more components of the mind diet. Occasional cheesecake or burger or chips isn’t an issue – it’s not the indulgences, it’s the regular things we eat.
4. Socialising – With social distancing, socialising isn’t easy right now. However, it’s the time to make use of phones and laptops to keep in touch with friends you can’t see in person. When pandemic settles, we can embrace our social lives again.
Socialising is also considered an advantage because it’s forcing you to think – what to wear, where to go, etc. For people who are lonely, part of the risk is that they are thinking less and they are thinking negative thoughts.
5. Learn something new – The brain is thinking flesh – you need to learn in order to feed it. Engaging the brain, learning, reading, trying to learn a new instrument or language, even if you fail miserably, just the effort of trying to learn anything will engage wider swathes of your brain, and that serves as the engagement of those brain cells.
But it has to challenge you just a bit. If it’s too easy, your brain doesn’t need to think and you’ll rely on habits. If it’s too hard, your brain won’t engage and you’ll say it’s impossible. So, the trick is to find just that one level past your comfort zone. That’s the trigger for the brain to say it’s got to dial it up