Brain Health : 20 Tips To Ward Off Dementia
According to World Health Organisation (2016), 1 in every 4 persons in the world will be affected by some form of mental disorder in their lifetimes, which means it is more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Out of that, 47.5 million people suffers from dementia, which is a mental disorder that is not a “normal” part to ageing, contrary to some popular misconception. Dementia has a tendency to affect the elderly, and occurs when specific neurons important in memory and cognitive functions become abnormal and die…
The brain is made up of a complex network of billions of nerve cells called neurons, as well as other kinds of cells, all protected by the bones of the skull. The typical brain weighs only about 3 pounds, but it is the source of most qualities that make you who you are. Neurons in the brain and spinal cord are part of the nervous system and act as a body’s “Command Central.”
The brain is constantly active, even when we are asleep. As a matter of fact, asleep or awake, the brain requires 20 percent of the heart’s output of fresh blood and 20 percent of the blood’s oxygen and glucose to keep functioning properly. Glucose is a type of sugar that is our brain’s primary fuel.
The brain produces enough electrical energy to power a 40-watt light bulb for 24 hours. That’s a lot of energy for a human organ a little bigger than a softball.
Most of us think that we can start worrying about dementia after we are retired. However, experts advised that if you really want to reduce your risk of dementia, you will need to start taking care of your brain n your 30’s or 40’s, or even earlier.
“More and more research is suggesting that lifestyle is very important to your brain health”, says Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a neuro-psychologist and adjunct associate professor of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
20 Tips To Ward Off Dementia
Dr. Paul Nussbau who recently spoke at the Winter Park (Fla.) Health Foundation offered 20 tips that may help those who want to ward off dementia :
- Join clubs or organizations that need volunteers. If you start volunteering now, you won’t feel lost and unneeded after you retire.
- Develop a hobby or two. Hobbies help you develop a robust brain because you’re trying something new and complex.
- Practice writing with your nondominant hand several minutes everyday. This will exercise the opposite side of your brain and fire up those neurons.
- Take dance lessons. In a study of nearly 500 people, dancing was the only regular physical activity associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The people who danced three or four times a week showed 76 percent less incidence of dementia than those who danced only once a week or not at all.
- Start gardening. Researchers in New Zealand found that, of 1,000 people, those who gardened regularly were less likely to suffer from dementia! Not only does gardening reduce stress, but gardeners use their brains to plan gardens; they use visual and spatial reasoning to lay out a garden.
- Walking daily can reduce the risk of dementia as cardiovascular health is important for maintaining a healthy level of blood flow to the brain. According to studies, It will be ideal to walk 10,000 steps a day.
- Read and write daily. Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas that process and store information. Likewise, writing (not copying) stimulates many areas of the brain as well.
- Start knitting. Using both hands works both sides of your brain. And it’s a stress reducer.
- Learn a new language. Whether it’s a foreign language or sign language, you are working your brain by making it go back and forth between one language and the other. A researcher in England found that being bilingual seemed to delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for four years. And some research suggests that the earlier a child learns sign language, the higher his IQ – and people with high IQs are less likely to have dementia. So start them early.
- Play board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly. Not only are you taxing your brain, you’re socializing too. Playing solo games, such as solitaire or online computer brain games can be helpful, but Nussbaum prefers games that encourage you to socialize too.
- Take classes throughout your lifetime. Learning produces structural and chemical changes in the brain, and education appears to help people live longer. Brain researchers have found that people with advanced degrees live longer – and if they do have Alzheimer’s, it often becomes apparent only in the very later stages of the disease.
- Listen to classical music. A growing volume of research suggests that music may hard wire the brain, building links between the two hemispheres. Any kind of music may work, but there’s some research that shows positive effects for classical music, though researchers don’t understand why.
- Learn a musical instrument. It may be harder than it was when you were a kid, but you’ll be developing a dormant part of your brain.
- Travel. When you travel either to a distant vacation spot or just across town to an area unfamiliar to you, you are forcing your brain to navigate a new and complex environment. A study of London taxi drivers found that experienced drivers have larger brains because they have to store a lot more information about different locations and how to get there.
- Pray. Daily prayer appears to help your immune system. And people who attend a formal worship service regularly live longer and report happier, healthier lives.
- Learn to meditate. It’s important for your brain that you learn to shut out the stresses of everyday life.
- Get enough sleep. Studies have shown a link between interrupted sleep and dementia.
- Eat more foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, sardines, tuna, ocean trout, mackerel or herring, plus walnuts (which are higher in omega 3s than salmon) and flaxseed. Flaxseed oil, cod liver oil and walnut oil are good sources too.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables mop up some of the damage caused by free radicals, one of the leading killers of brain cells.
- Eat at least one meal a day with family and friends. You’ll slow down, socialize, and research shows you’ll eat healthier food than if you ate alone or on the go.
Food That Help You Ward Off Dementia
As reported by CBS News in 2015, a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows a diet plan they developed — appropriately called the MIND diet — may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent. Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.
Diet appears to be just one of “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” said nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study. Genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education also play a role. But the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors.
- Green Leafy Vegetable
- The MIND diet recommends frequent servings of green leafy vegetables. Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. At least two servings a week can help, and researchers found six or more servings a week provide the greatest brain benefits
- Nuts are a good snack for brain health, according to the MIND diet study. Nuts contain healthy fats, fibre and antioxidants, and other studies have found they can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet recommends eating nuts at least five times a week.
- Berries are the only fruit specifically recommended in the MIND diet. “Blueberries are one of the more potent foods in terms of protecting the brain,” Morris said. She noted that strawberries have also shown benefits in past studies looking at the effect of food on cognitive function. The MIND diet recommends eating berries at least twice a week.
- If beans aren’t a regular part of your diet, they should be. High in fiber and protein, and low in calories and fat, they also help keep your mind sharp as part of the MIND diet. The researchers recommend eating beans three times a week to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s
- The MIND diet study found eating fish at least once a week helps protect brain function. However, there’s no need to go overboard; unlike the Mediterranean diet, which recommends eating fish almost every day, the MIND diet says once a week is enough.
- Poultry is another part of a brain-healthy eating plan, according to the MIND diet. It recommends two or more servings a week.
- Olive Oil
- Olive oil beat out other forms of cooking oil and fats in the MIND diet. The researchers found people who used olive oil as their primary oil at home saw greater protection against cognitive decline.
- Raise a toast to the MIND diet: it recommends a glass of wine every day. Just one, though. Wine rounds out the list of of 10 “brain healthy” food groups that help protect against Alzheimer’s: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine
Can Ginkgo Biloba Prevent Memory Loss and Improve Cognitive Function?
Ginkgo biloba extract, derived from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, is often touted as a memory aid. Based on some latest studies, it appears unlikely that Ginkgo biloba extract can slow or prevent age-related memory problems, or memory loss associated with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Several small, early studies showed modest improvements in cognitive function for older adults with dementia.
However, a number of larger studies haven’t confirmed that Ginkgo biloba extract prevents memory loss or slows the progression of cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. In adults with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment, Ginkgo biloba does not slow cognitive decline. Although some studies have shown slight improvements in cognitive function for people taking Ginkgo biloba, most experts feel that Ginkgo biloba hasn’t lived up to its early promise and don’t recommend its use as a memory aid.
Another publication by Harvard Health Publishing (of Harvard Medical School) listed here also reconfirmed that early trials showed that people who already had dementia had modest cognitive gains after taking ginkgo, although those results were unconvincing. Subsequent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health which included about 3,000 older Americans (the average age was 79) with results published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in November involved repeated measurements of cognitive function had disappointing results that ginkgo biloba did not prevent dementia among these study participants.
Nevertheless, irregardless of scientific studis, many people have personally experienced cognitive improvement after consuming Gingko Biloba, and so it continues to command a wide consumer market as a health supplement.
Your brain is the most important organ which drives your life story, so remember it is never too late to make positive lifestyle and diet changes to protect it.
Here’s a humorous video shared by my friend Amanda about declining brain cognitive powers, just to give a lighter touch to this serious topic. I hope that you are inspired after reading this article to start improving your brain health, and live a long, happy and fruitful life.