Research evolution on brain health does not show any signs of stopping. However, even with the evolution, there is a surmounting evidence that great populations around the globe can greatly reduce cognitive decline through various lifestyle changes.
Several medical and brain health experts agree that lifestyle changes that include regular physical activity, staying connected socially and a good diet are some of the things that can reduce the aetiology of cognitive decline.
The Alzheimer’s Association, the Cleveland Clinic, just to mention but a few, are some of the institutions that have been on the forefront as champions for lifestyle changes for better brain health.
Why do we need to be concerned about brain health?
Global statistics on Alzheimers and Dementia present a huge monster. By 2017, The global prevalence report by the Alzheimer’s Disease International estimated about 50 million people living with dementia. They project compounding double numbers every 20 years. Essentially, this number will have increased to 135 million by 2050 with developing countries being the most affected.
Medical experts confirm that Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of cases of Dementia. Vascular Dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common Dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of Dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Alzheimer’s disease has devastating effects. Its causes are oft times multifactorial. They relate to how we live. Our diets, physical activity, quality of sleep and how we manage stress.
There is a glittering lining at the end of the tunnel though. This little silver lining is in what we do to protect our memory today, right here, right now. The recommended lifestyle changes protect everyone’s memory, even those who are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The Six Pillars of Brain Health. Source: Cleveland Clinic
Physical Exercise (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-physical/)
YOUR BODY: GET MOVING. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise improves blood flow and memory; it stimulates chemical changes in the brain that enhance learning, mood and thinking. Be fit. Be smart.
Food and Nutrition (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-nutrition/)
EAT SMART, THINK BETTER. You are what you eat. As you grow older, your brain is exposed to more harmful stress due to lifestyle and environmental factors, resulting in a process called oxidation, which damages brain cells. Rust on the handlebars of a bike or a partially eaten apple gives you an idea of the kind of damage oxidation can cause to your brain. Food rich in antioxidants can help fend off the harmful effects of oxidation in your brain.
Medical Health (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-medical/)
CONTROL MEDICAL RISKS. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, head trauma, higher cholesterol, and smoking all increase the risk of dementia. You can control and reduce these risks. Get your annual check-up, follow your doctor’s recommendations and take medications as prescribed. Get engaged in a brain-healthy lifestyle for your body and your mind.
Sleep and Relaxation (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-sleep/)
REST WELL. Sleep energizes you, improves your mood and your immune system, and may reduce buildup in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta-amyloid plaque, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Practising meditation and managing stress may help fend off the age-related decline in brain health. Stay positive. Be happy.
Mental Fitness (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-mental/)
YOUR MIND: USE IT OR LOSE IT. Mental exercise is just as critical as physical exercise in keeping your brain fit and healthy. Mental exercises may improve your brain’s functioning and promote new brain cell growth, decreasing your likelihood of developing dementia. Like your muscles, you have to use your brain or you lose it.
Social Interaction (https://healthybrains.org/pillar-social/)
STAY CONNECTED. Leading an active social life can protect you against memory loss. Spending time with others, engaging in stimulating conversation, and staying in touch and connected with family and friends are good for your brain health. Studies have shown that those with the most social interaction in their community experience the slowest rate of memory decline.
These six pillars are a great way to begin paying attention to the small things that contribute to our focus and concentration. Proactivity is highly encouraged to challenge the brain and the body to new ways, new activities and taking control of how we breathe for better brain health. Life is about having fun and being happy.