Aging and Brain Health
Although scientists are working to find the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease and eventually a cure and/or preventive strategy, there is little focus on taking proactive measures to protect our brains. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in August, Dr. Lon Schneider, professor at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, urged a proactive approach, as one-third of dementias can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Here are some of the recommendations:
1. Take care of your health. The brain is connected to the rest of the body! Maintain a healthy weight, get diagnostics on time, adhere to eating nutritious food by making every calorie count, maintain oral health, take medicines as prescribed, and get lots of sleep.
2. Sitting. I covered this topic here in the AgeDoc blog in March of 2015. Studies show that too much sitting is actually dangerous. Not only does it compress vital organs, but it impairs circulation. What is “too much?” Sitting for 8-12 hours is harmful, and the recommended maximum amount daily is about 4-5 hours. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle, exercise regularly, and take frequent walking or standing breaks.
3. Avoid Social Isolation. Recent studies found that social isolation is as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day! Social isolation increases inflammation and brain imaging showed that loneliness “causes a reaction in the same area of the brain as physical pain” (IlluminAge, 2017, p. 2).
4. Sleep. Older adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep. During sleep, the brain logs memories and experiences from the previous day and the brain is cleaned of toxins. Sleep deprivation may be a fall hazard and can lead to accidents. For more information on the importance of sleep, see these articles here in the blog: Sleeping Position and Brain Waste Removal, 10/18/13; Sleep and Obesity Prevention, 8/19/13; Older Adults and Sleep Deprivation, 1/2/16.
5. Air pollution. According to the American Heart Association, people living in geographical regions with poor air quality score lower on thinking and memory assessments. In areas with high pollution, avoid exposure on days when the levels are high. Even if you reside in an area without any pollution, take precautions when in heavy traffic to avoid exhaust from cars by using the “recirculate” function. As I reported here in the blog on 11/5/2010, Environmental Threats to Health Aging, Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world. There, autopsies of children showed plaques and tangles in their brains. I have since learned that in Mexico City, plaques and tangles have been identified in the brains of dogs, adolescents, and young adults as well. While this does not prove cause/effect, it suggests a link to pollution and brain health.
The five listed in this posting were acquired from the September-October 2017 Aging in Stride, a publication from IlluminAge Corporation. For the entire list of the twelve enemies of brain health, please access this informative article: