What we can do to keep our brain healthy.
Without physical health, you may be mobility inconvenienced; but without mental health, your world just disintegrates to nothingness. It’s that scary. And it’s something that is very real for you and me as the world ageing population increases and as lifespan increases. With the advancement of medical technology and healthcare, we may stretch our lifespan but can we also ensure that it’s free of diseases and problems? According to World Health Organisation, the world population that is suffering from dementia counts at 35.6 million. And this number will set to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. A frightening number and a scary thought indeed.
Dementia is a condition to describe the group of illnesses causing impairment to memory, language, and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, best-known brain disorder of dementia. In Alzheimer’s, a person’s brain cells start to deteriorate, resulting in the brain shrinking. With dementia, a person cannot perform simple functions in daily life and need to be taken care of by a caregiver. It is a condition that affects the elderly mostly over 65 years old and the risk increases as the age goes up. Dementia is not a common result of ageing and its causes are not understood although research has shown that physical and mental activity as well as other lifestyle factors can contribute to better brain health and; thus may help to delay the disease from occurring in the latter years. In fact, there is research that shows that what we did as early as our adolescent years might contribute to the risks of dementia later in life. The risks in certain individuals also tend to increase with these factors:
Reports have shown that there is a slight risk of dementia being a genetic risk to younger generations. However, it depends on the cause of the dementia according to reports.
Many would hope to believe that age is only a number; it may be true for a rare few outstanding individuals who despite their age are doing impressive feats like running a marathon for example but the fact is that our body is weakening as time goes by. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease does increase with age especially after 65 and more so after 70 and 80 years old.
Poor cardiovascular health
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity are reported to increase the risks of dementia in some individuals. Lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol drinking have also found to contribute to the risks of getting dementia later in life. All these only suggest that healthy living that encompasses a healthy diet and exercise is crucial to fighting off diseases like dementia.
Many previous research have already demonstrated that good mental and physical health is essential to ward off dementia. We look at some of these efforts:
Work your brain
Most of us love routines; we may take the same route to work every day, walk the same path to the supermarket, rationalise problems the way we always did at work, and cook the dishes we know by heart every other day. Of course not everyone is like that; for those who are, we may seem a bore but sameness is comforting and well safe. But research has shown that sameness may not be that safe for our brain after all. We need to exercise our brain and challenge it in new ways; hence we read that learning a new language or picking up a new skill can help your brain to grow and it’s actually true. The more challenging the activity you are engaged in, the more stimulated and strengthened the brain cells, causing them to grow and expand. Activities like a new language, instrument, or hobbies like sewing and mah-jong can all help to keep your mind active and engaged.
Humans are born to interact; we often find our moods lifted after talking to a close friend or a night out with our girlfriends for example. When we closet ourselves up, we cut off this opportunity to bond with others. Having a pet also helps to alleviate your worries and keeps your energy level up. It’s essential to connect with others; go for outings with family and friends or sign up to volunteer at the charity. That would cause the individual to divert attention from oneself to others instead.
A person who exercises throughout his or her life can ward off many infections and diseases later, according to research. And you may find it to be true for those who exercise regularly tend to be generally healthier experiencing fewer health issues. Although the recommended exercise dosage is 150 minutes of moderate intensive exercise a week, walking to the supermarket and tending to your plants at the back yard also add up to the number.
Feed your brain
What is good for your heart is also good for your brain. If you feed yourself fatty snacks for a long time, your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases and hence dementia also increases. Reduce saturated fats by going for lean meat like fish and chicken and low fat dairy. Have ample servings of vegetables and fruits for vitamins and antioxidants every day and keep alcohol intake to the required minimum – not more than 2 glasses for men and 1 glass for women daily. Get omega 3 fatty acids in your diet as with enough complex vitamin B for your eye and brain health.
The way you see your glass – whether it’s half full or half empty – not only gives away what your personality is, but it may also determines how you fare in terms of your brain health over time. Constantly worrying and feeling negative over things or events may cause depression especially in older folks and hasten dementia more quickly. By learning to let go of things can only one experiences joy that makes one’s life more fulfilling and enduring to come.