New on Alzheimer’s!!
Posted on September 08 2016
“the brain is not this mysterious black box sitting up there disconnected”
Beef Up Your Brain
Anyone who has followed me for any length of time knows that I frequently refer to the study of thousands of identical twins that proves the aging process is controlled by our lifestyle rather than our genes, by a factor of 3 to 1. (Recent further study has shown that genetic predisposition to certain cancers is even less influential, by half that proportion.)
As I was browsing through the August 22 edition of Time Magazine the other day, I was drawn to a story, titled Understanding Alzheimer’s, by Mandy Oaklander, who writes and edits health news for the magazine. In it Ms. Oaklander chronicled the work of neurologist, Majid Fotuhi, who specializes in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Excerpting the article:
Dr. Fotuhi says the brain is “not this mysterious black box sitting up there disconnected. It’s tightly connected to the rest of the body, and you can take care of it the same way you can take care of your teeth.”
Long in the minority among neurologists for thinking that way, new studies have shown that Fotuhi has been right; reasonable lifestyle choices—including exercise and brain training—can protect the brain as we grow older.
Studies now also show that heart health is most important. A significant percentage of dementia cases would be eradicated if hypertension among Americans was properly treated, according to an estimate published in the journal Hypertension.
Dr. Fotuhi says, “The link between the heart and the brain is logical, since the brain is a sea of blood vessels and, because neurons need a lot of oxygen, the brain uses twenty percent of the blood pumped by the heart. Therefore, anything that affects blood flow affects the brain.”
Leading researcher on predictors of dementia, Dr. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, says, “Lifestyle factors are so important, even though they sound sort of soft, and a lot of people therefore think they can’t possibly be that effective. But they’re not expensive, they don’t have side effects, and they’re good for the rest of the body too. So why wouldn’t you make lifestyle changes?”
For the prevention of cognitive decline as we age, here’s what Ms. Oaklander’s reporting concludes everyone should consider:
- Take care of your heart. Reducing the risk of heart disease has the strongest evidence of benefits for the brain
- Regularly exercise. Aerobic exercise has been shown to actually grow the volume of certain brain regions that tend to shrink during aging.
- Keep mentally active. Engaging intellectually with the world through activities like writing (letters, blogs, drafts) and reading has been linked to better cognitive health in old age.
- Social activity. Richer social lives are associated with higher levels of cognition.
- Sleep. Studies have shown a relationship between poor sleep and risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Improving sleep habits appears to reduce these risks.
Let’s see, is there any way I can get brainier? I see my cardiologist regularly, I’m certainly mentally active (books, blogs, paintings and business), I have a really active social life, and I get plenty of sleep. That leaves exercise. I do have a personal treadmill in the garage in a climate controlled cubbyhole, complete with TV. I could increase its use....and that’s what I’ll do.
Do you hear me, Richard? :) I promise!