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Aging is a natural process that all of us go through. Some people experience what they call as “graceful aging” but in most cases, old age robs people of quality life that we are all entitled for. But how we will turn out during late adulthood depends largely on how we take care of ourselves while we’re still young and full of vigor. The value that we give on our health will transcend even during the late stages of our lives when degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s start to show no mercy.
According to National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) usually starts at the age of 60 and affects our different mental processes such as memory and communication skills. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease but National Institutes of Health has revealed some of the most effective ways to decrease one’s risk of developing mental deterioration later in life. Here are the five pillars for a healthier and more active brain:
If you genuinely desire to decrease your Alzheimer’s risk, then this is not the perfect time to rest all day and become a certified couch potato. This is because according to Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. There are a total of 18 scientific studies which can back up this claim and the logic for this discovery is quite easy to figure out: the more exercise you do, the more blood will flow towards your brain to nourish it and improve your mental functions. At least 30 minutes of combined weight training and aerobic exercise for five times a week is recommended to achieve that goal.
Weight and diet are two interconnected factors that can significantly affect one’s chances of having AD later in life. Through healthy diet, one can reduce weight and decrease Alzheimer’s risk at the same time. According to research studies, older adults who are obese have less brain volume that those people whose BMI falls within acceptable range. In addition to that, a scientific study reported in Reuters revealed a strong connection between the abdominal size of a person during his forties and his mental health come the age of 70 and up. Here’s an excerpt of their study:
A total of 1,049 of them — nearly 16 percent — went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia by the time they reached their 70s. Those in the upper 20 percent in terms of belly size in middle age were almost three times more likely to develop dementia than those in the bottom 20 percent of belly size, the researchers found.
Now, aside from exercise, it is also possible to maintain a normal weight through healthy diet regimen like what they have in the countries that surround a famous European sea. Yes, I’m talking about Mediterranean diet or the famous diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains and nuts. What is impressive about this diet is the fact that it doesn’t just focus on healthy eating alone as it also encourages people to lead an active lifestyle through regular exercises, the reason why Mediterranean diet continues to be the top choice for the elderly. According to the August 12, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Mediterranean has been proven to decrease one’s risk of having Alzheimer’s and other diseases that deteriorates mental abilities.
Just like our bones that get weaker and more fragile with less body movements, our brain also loses its natural sharpness if we don’t take time to stimulate it every once in a while. We have to remember that stimulating activities are like exercises which can make our brain functions sharper and stronger as time goes by. For this reason, finding various activities that will make us think and use our own cognitive functions more is just one way of decreasing our own Alzheimer’s risk. Finding new skills to master like learning how to play a musical instrument or speak a different language can boost our mental agility regardless of our age. Involving ourselves in challenging games like puzzles, crosswords, scrabble and other ‘mind’ games can also help to stimulate our thinking processes.
Chronic sleep deprivation can take its toll not just on our cardiovascular and digestive systems but on our mental health as well. We all need sufficient rest to rejuvenate and let our mind be free from external stressors so once we fail to get the required 8 hours of sleep, it will be more difficult to process any information or retain it to our memory. Focusing on a particular work detail will be more taxing for a sleep-deprived employee, a phenomenon that can affect the general productivity of any company. One’s risk of having Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders is also increased due to lack f sleep so everyone must not forget the value of a good night rest in improving our mental skills.
No man is an island and the more we isolate ourselves from quality social connections, the more risks we have of having mental deterioration later in life. Studies have suggested about the crucial role of social connections in improving our memory and thought processes but lack of time or busy schedules of modern-day citizens continue to be the major stumbling blocks in achieving strong social ties. Regardless if you’re young or old, social life must be taken as a priority to maintain a healthy brain. The advent of social media like Facebook has made social connection quite easier to achieve but it’s really not enough to boost our mental health. Involving ourselves in a worthy social cause, joining in social groups for therapy or to learn new skills and becoming involved in several missions as “volunteer” are just some of the proven ways to develop and maintain social bonds with other people in the community.
The five tips mentioned in this article are just some of the best ways to decrease our Alzheimer’s risk but there are more ways than one to live a healthier life. Degenerative diseases like AD are not curable and usually worsen with age but with the right preventive techniques, achieving a healthier life free from mental dysfunctions will not be impossible anymore.
Five Ways To Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk. Bob DeMarco. www.alzheimersreadingroom.com
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Prevention, How To Reduce Your Risk and Protect Your Brain. www.helpguide.org
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