Alzheimer’s disease is one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. According to the Center for Brain Health, estimates indicate that it will afflict 15 million Americans by mid-century. As the numbers continue to climb, it is estimated that by 2050 it will cost more than $1 trillion to care for these individuals in the absence of disease modifying treatments.
Here are the top ways you can boost your brain health now:
Physical Activity. If you do only one thing to keep your brain young, get moving. Physically active people can significantly reduce dementia risk and tend to maintain better cognitive function and memory recall than inactive people. As we age, our hippocampus shrinks, leading to memory loss. Research suggests that exercise can reverse this process. Even a little bit can help, but you need to commit and do it! Run, power walk, swim, bike, practice yoga, tai chi. Include weight training as well. It increases levels of growth factors in the brain, which nourish and protect nerve cells.
Eat An Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant-Rich Diet. Studies show the benefits of consuming foods rich in brain-healthy nutrients including olive oil and vinegar, nuts, fish, poultry, along with cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), green leafy vegetables, and fruits, including tomatoes. What you don’t eat also matters: less red meat, butter, high-fat dairy products, refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods (artery-clogging trans fats are clearly a no-no). Take a look at The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook by Dr. Marwan Sabbagh for delicious recipes to boost brain health, like Spicy Butternut Squash Puree with Chinese Five-Spice and Honey or Grilled Salmon with Molasses-Lime Glaze
Just Say Om. Meditation and breath work reduce harmful stress hormones, and managing stress is absolutely required for brain health. Chronic stress can impair your memory by flooding the brain with cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Easing tension (while enhacing clarity of mind and memory) through meditation has been shown in research studies to definitively change your brain and rewire it to better handle stress, increasing the density of gray matter in the hippocampus, and shifting you into the more optimistic left pre-frontal cortex of the brain.
Find Your Purpose. No matter your age, define your dharma, your purpose for being here. When we approach each day with our purpose in mind, we sharpen our cognitive function. Energy follows intention! Keep your intention, hopes, and dreams for this moment, the day and ultimately your life in your mind’s eye as you go through the day.
Maintain Those Social Ties. Rich emotional and mental stimulation can protect against dementia.
Keep Learning. Learning spurs the growth of new neural connections and brain cells. Do your crossword or sudoku puzzles, play cards, read, take an art class, and yes, surf the internet! Research shows you’ll trigger brain centers that control decision-making and complex reasoning after only a week of surfing the net. Just keep engaging the mind wherever you can.
Control Risk Factors. Chronic health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and obesity are often associated with dementia. For example, diabetes, is said to double the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. You can slow the tide by following your doctor’s orders related to diet, physical activity, and medications.