As we age, losing cognitive ability is a common fear. While staying physically fit is crucial, maintaining mental sharpness and acuity is equally essential. Being cognitively and socially active is a valuable gift, allowing us to fully participate in all aspects of life, even in our elderly years.
Unfortunately, too many of us have witnessed loved ones sharply decline when Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia take over. The person we once knew has vanished and been replaced with someone we no longer recognize or often know how to interact with.
There’s never a better time than now to be informed and enlightened on ways to beat back Alzheimer’s and build a better-functioning brain.
Fortunately, research is now paving the way to providing clues to age-proofing our brains, making them more rebellious against dementia. David A Bennett, director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, and about 100 scientists have been searching for ways to treat and prevent a range of common neurodegenerative disorders.
For almost 30 years, Bennett has led two longitudinal investigations – the Religious Orders Study and the Rush Memory and Aging Project – enrolling over 3,200 dementia-free adults from across the United States ranging in age from mid-50s to their 100s, figuring out why some people stay sharp into old age while others lose their mental faculties as early as their 60’s. In addition, all the volunteers agree to donate their brains after death for the scientists to research.
Scientists have found that it is rare to grow old with a completely healthy brain. Almost every brain they have examined exhibits at least some form of neuron-killing tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the main cause of dementia. But what also has been found is not all of those with these tangles go on to show signs of the disease, begging the question of why some people develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s and others do not.
What has been discovered is that our brain is the most adaptable of all our organs – it can fight back, drawing on its cognitive reserve to stop Alzheimer’s from advancing further with help from us in our day-to-day living. We may not have won the genetic lottery of having few, if any, family members escaping dementia, but ten key lifestyle factors do shape our brain’s health into old age, rivaling Alzheimer’s or dementia from rearing its head.
Here are the ten factors investigators from the two longitudinal studies have identified in building a better brain each one of us can do each day helping reduce our risk of losing cognition and developing Alzheimer’s disease:
- Get a good education, which can secure brain health as we age. Beginning in childhood and throughout our adult lives, learning a second language, taking music or art lessons, or learning a new skill can help avoid emotional and mental neglect.
- Engage in activities that support cognitive and physical health
- Maintain strong social ties with friends and family
- Be adventurous and explore new things – travel, do something you’ve never done before that tests your mental skills.
- Enjoy and be grateful for each day. Every day find something humorous to laugh about
- Spend less time with people who have a disagreeable or depressive personality, especially close family members.
- Be self-disciplined and diligent.
- Find time to engage in meaningful and goal-oriented activities.
- Practice health habits that support heart health – Heart health often reflects brain health.
- Eat a MIND diet with fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish.
Following the ten factors may or may not preserve your brain totally, but it’s better to try out at least these suggestions than to test fate and fall into the hands of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.