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Tuesday, June 05, 2012
SENIORS: Eat right, stimulate thinking to stay sharp
From the Evansville Courier and Press:
Scientists continue to seek mainstream medical treatments for Alzheimer's disease. There is evidence that we may be able to attack dementia by making key changes in our life styles revolving around maintaining good cardiovascular and brain health.
It's unlikely that these changes will help us avoid developing Alzheimer's disease, but they may reduce the symptoms of the disease or delay its onset.
The brain is an incredibly high consumer of nutrients and oxygen. About a fourth of the blood that the heart pumps goes through the brain, which consumes a fifth of the nutrients and oxygen carried by the blood. Maintaining lifelong good brain health is essential to limiting the effects of dementia.
The lifestyle changes that are particularly relevant are aimed at the heart so it will pump nutrients and oxygen to the brain with greater efficiency. Also important are life changes that keep our body's highways (arteries and veins) clear to effectively speed the passage of blood. These include taking measures that control high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Many include watching what we eat. Diets rich in veggies and fruits are associated with good heart health. Eliminate or reduce some of those foods you know are not good for you.
Find a good website associated with a reputable sponsor such as webmd.com or mayoclinic.com where you will find information to help you eliminate the worst offenders in your diet.
You don't have to change your entire diet; doing so may be less successful than changing just one or two key parts of your diet. As a general rule, the less change you make, the more likely you are to stay with it.
Exercise and fitness also are important. If you are not up for a gym-based program, build exercise into your life. If you can walk instead of drive, consider doing so. Stairs provide more exercise than elevators. Walk over to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email.
Forcing the brain to develop more neural passages or pathways is important. The more pathways that are developed, the more passages will remain when we start losing neurons as we grow older.
Stimulate the brain by trying something new. If you like nature but never have been active in this area, volunteer at the zoo or a local nature site. Build new relationships by joining a club interested in butterfly- or bird-watching.
Continue normal activities, but change their focus. Reading is an excellent brain-stimulating activity, but vary the topics that you read. Data is emerging that computer games which are designed to be brain-stimulating can have a positive impact. Word games are good brain stimulators; you can find new versions every day in the newspaper.
Chronic stress can affect brain health. We can control a lot of our stressors. Carrying a grudge is a big source of stress. Let it go.
If getting to work every morning is a regular stressor, try getting up 15 minutes earlier and give yourself a stress-reducing cushion.
We can't eliminate all stressors from our lives. But eliminating what you can by making good life decisions contributes to good brain health.
While we are waiting for the scientific community to continue its work, we can do ours. Not all studies support the contention that making lifestyle changes will lower the onset of dementia symptoms. But even if it turns out that they don't, they contribute to good overall health in so many ways that we have little to lose.
Link to the Evansville Courier and Press here.
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