Dr. Judy Pierson offered some facts and tips on how to battle the trend of cognitive decline at The Delaware Hospice's lunch brunch last week.
According to Dr. Pierson, one in every eight older Americans is now living with Alzheimer's disease. One prediction is that the number of people with Alzheimer's disease will double every 20 years.
Dr. Pierson stated that many experts and studies indicate that dementia can be prevented or at least delayed. In 2010, experts at the National Institute of Health examined and reported on strategies proved to be statistically significant in helping the mind stay sharp:
Physical Activity. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by 30-40%. Volunteers who walked 40 minutes, 3 days a week, actually grew the hippocampus, or part of the brain associated with memory and learning. Exercise results in brains that are more efficient, plastic, and adaptive. Most research suggests a combination of weight training and aerobic activity as the best way to combat age-related problems.
Brain Stimulation through New Experiences. Research shows that those seeking out new experiences, studying new things, or engaging in mentally stimulating activities are up to 50% less likely to develop dementia. Combining intellectual stimulation and social connection may boost the brain even more. Consider volunteering, joining a book club, or checking out a discussion group.
Diet. According to AARP, a heart-friendly Mediterranean style diet of fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, and plant-based oils can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by from 34 to 48%. This diet reduces the risk of stroke and heart-related conditions, may lower inflammation in the body, and is rich in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants neutralize "free radicals" which break down neurons in the brains. Good sources include blueberries, colorful fruits, whole grain cereal, nuts, fish, sweet potatoes, crunchy vegetables, green leafy vegetables, green tea, soy beans, lentils, and split peas. Herbs and spices high in anti-oxidants include black pepper, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, appears to reduce plaques thought to be a key cause of Alzheimer's disease, explaining why people from India have a lower incidence of the disease. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil appear to improve brain functioning.
Find Ways to Relax. Those who experience chronic levels of stress may be three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's. Meditation can effectively manage stress. Research has also shown that simple acts of self-soothing, such as taking deep breaths, talking to a friend, or stepping out for fresh air can stop the cascade of stress hormones and relax mind and body.
Battle Depression. Depression impairs cognition at any age, and appears to predispose people to dementia. Most people respond well to psychotherapy and anti-depressants. Anyone feeling down for more than two weeks should talk to a doctor.
Page 2 of 2 - Sleep. Experts believe that sleep is one of the best ways to improve memory, and 7-9 hours of sleep a night is best.
Set Goals and Live a Purposeful Life. Rush University conducted a study and found that those who approached life with goals and clear intentions were less likely to develop Alzheimer's.
Stay Connected. A rich social life appears to reduce the risk of dementia. In one study, people did better on a memory test after just a 10-minute conversation with another person. Activities involving social and mental activities may be especially beneficial, such as playing cards, joining a book club, playing Ma Jong, talking cultural trips with others, or attending health seminars.
For more information, visit delawarehospice.org.