It is always encouraging to find that a lifestyle choice you are making is a correct one when it comes to protecting health. My family and I enjoy eating salads, and most recently have become especially fond of organic kale. Then along comes new research from Tufts University that assessed the dietary patterns of 1,000 seniors and found that eating plenty of leafy green vegetables every day could ward off dementia in later life.
The study found those who ate around one serving of leafy greens each day had brains that were the equivalent of 11 years younger than those who never (or rarely) ate the vegetables.
Given all that we know about the benefits of diet and exercise, we should not be surprised that adding a daily serving of green leafy vegetables to your diet is a simple way to foster positive brain health. The important takeaway from these findings is what we are talking about is within your power – and budget – to do to slow cognitive decline that comes with aging, a decline that could lead to dementia.
Another is exercise. Study after study has shown the positive connection between improved health and physical exercise. Exercise is beneficial in the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia. One recent study is the first of its kind to explore how exercise affects brain metabolism. According to the findings, the increase in metabolism generated by exercise resulted in the increased loss of nerve cells that typically occurs in the case of Alzheimer’s disease.
Adequate sleep also generates huge beneficial effects for the brain. When you sleep, your brain essentially cleans itself. The brain uses cerebral spinal fluid to pump away the plaques and tangles that scientists believe cause disease. Much of today’s research is now looking into ways of using sleep to treat Alzheimer’s disease and somehow slow the diseases’ progress.
Globally, approximately 47 million people have dementia. This figure is projected to double by 2030. Many of those with dementia will develop Alzheimer’s disease. While the disease is not completely preventable, eating foods that benefit brain health could be key in holding the disease at bay.
Alzheimer’s disease is nothing short of a new plague. It threatens the world’s population with a global strike rate of one person every four seconds. More than 5 million Americans currently suffer from Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is projected to soon overtake cancer as the second leading cause of death after heart disease.
The X Prize Foundation, a deep-pocketed non-profit organization designed to encourage technological development that could benefit humanity, directed its 2017 summit’s highest honors to a team tackling Alzheimer’s disease. In November, Microsoft founder Bill Gates committed $100 million of his own money to boost research and fund start-ups working on Alzheimer’s research and development.
As author Robert McCrum recently reminded readers in a review in the Guardian, it is memory that gives us personality. It defines our emotional intelligence, family relations and sense of community. It anchors us in space and time. It defines the parameters of existence. What are we without it?
Yet, after half a century of scientific study, the biology of the aging brain remains among the greatest mysteries of neuroscience. Scientists still have a poor understanding of how the brain works. As to what can be said about the current approved medication for Alzheimer’s disease? Pioneered in the 1970s and ’80s, they merely treat the symptoms as opposed to the underlying biology. These medicines are, at best, just a little better than nothing at all.
A certain amount of memory loss is a natural part of aging. Identifying signs that something is occurring beyond normal everyday forgetting can be difficult. Add to this the fact that we are talking about something with no obvious cause and you have one scary situation confronting today’s seniors.
British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli believes that within the next 10 years science will develop, if not a cure, at least much better treatment than what we have now. Other researchers believe we are on the verge of unlocking the mysteries of the human brain. Some associate this with the larger “longevity revolution” we are now undergoing in society. The technology sector is now starting to commit large sums of money in support of this movement.
Those who are optimistic cite the strides made in genetic sequencing and mapping of the brain. Also mentioned is the development of new technologies for imaging the brain. Research is being published about neural stem cells. It suggests that there are populations of cells in the brain that may provide regeneration and give birth to new neurons.
Frustrated by the limitations of neuroscience, some Alzheimer’s experts have begun to argue for an alternative approach to treatment. Select care facilities around the world are now experimenting with what is known as “reminiscence therapy.”
Reminiscence therapy is designed to help patients with dementia discuss past experiences by using prompts such as photographs, music or vintage household items.
Facilities are coming to life around the world equipped with such memory care amenities – from a retro barbershop, to a hallway with walls meant to mimic the exteriors of their old homes, to a room filled with a vintage 1947 Dodge sedan.
Interest in these kinds of memory care centers is on the rise as more seniors face memory-related losses.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.