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Published on: January 19, 2015
by The Health Site:
A new study provided a deeper insight into the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Rick Livesey and his team at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge are working with Alzheimer’s Research UK, using state-of-the-art stem cell technology to develop a better understanding of how the disease starts and then progresses, the Daily Express reported.
Dr Livesey makes a ‘mini brain’ that scientists can use to observe the disease for its entire cycle. Dr Livesey approached the charity to see if there was a way to replicate sporadic Alzheimer’s disease in the lab and he has been given a grant of 2million pounds over five years from the Alborada Trust to see if this is possible, and to use their findings in the development of new drugs.
Can Alzheimer’s be prevented?
Researchers across the world are racing towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But as prevalence rates climb, their focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies. What they’ve discovered is that, it may be possible to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias through a combination of healthful habits.
What tips would you give to help prevent the disease?
The health of your brain, like the health of your body, depends on many factors. While some factors, such as your genes, are out of your control, many powerful lifestyle factors are within your sphere of influence.
Here are the six pillars of a brain-healthy lifestyle:
1. Regular exercise
2. Healthy diet
3. Mental stimulation
4. Quality sleep
5. Stress management
6. An active social life
The more you strengthen each of the six pillars in your daily life, the healthier and hardier your brain will be. When you lead a brain-healthy lifestyle, your brain will stay working stronger, and for longer.
But, you are probably thinking, this advice is easier said than done. Well, here are strategies to help you apply these principles to your life:
Pillar#1: Regular exercise
Tips for getting started and sticking with your exercise plan.
• Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times per week. Try walking, swimming, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up. Even routine activities such as gardening, cleaning, or doing laundry count as exercise.
• Build muscle to pump help your brain. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they help you keep your brain healthy. Combining aerobics and strength training is better than either activity alone. For those over 65, adding 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine may cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half.
• Include balance and coordination exercises. Head injuries from falls are an increasing risk as you grow older, which in turn increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Balance and coordination exercises can help you stay agile and avoid spills. Try yoga, Tai Chi, or exercises using balance discs or balance balls.
• Stick with it for a month. It takes approximately 28 days for a new routine to become habit. Once you’re over this hump, keeping up your exercise routine will feel natural. In the meantime, write realistic goals on a workout calendar and post it on the fridge. Build in frequent rewards, and within no time, the feel-good endorphins from regular exercise will help you forget the remote, and exercise instead.
• Protect your head. Studies suggest that head trauma at any point in life significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This includes repeated hits in sports activities such as football, soccer, and boxing, or one-time injuries from a bicycle, skating, or motorcycle accident. Protect your brain by wearing properly fitting sports helmets, buckling your seatbelt, and trip-proofing your environment. Avoid activities that compete for your attention—like talking on your cell while driving. A moment’s distraction can lead to a brain-injury.
Pillar #2: A healthy diet
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs a nutritious diet to operate at its best. Focus on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Eat to protect glial cells
Researchers believe that glial cells may help remove debris and toxins from the brain that can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming foods such as ginger, green tea, fatty fish, soy products, blueberries, and other dark berries may protect these important cells from damage.
Add supplements to your diet
Folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil are believed to preserve and improve brain health. Studies of vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, coenzyme Q10, and turmeric have yielded less conclusive results, but may also be beneficial in the prevention or delay of Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms.
Give up smoking and drink in moderation
Smoking and heavy drinking are two of the most preventable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Not only does smoking increase the odds for those over 65 by nearly 79 percent, researchers at Miami’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center warn that a combination of these two behaviors reduces the age of Alzheimer’s onset by six to seven years.
When you stop smoking, the brain benefits from improved circulation almost immediately, no matter your age. However, brain changes from alcohol abuse can only be reversed in their early stages.
Pillar #3: Mental stimulation
Those who continue learning new things throughout their life and challenge their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make it a point to stay mentally active. In essence, your brain follows the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.
Activities involving multiple tasks or requiring communication, interaction, and organization offer the greatest protection. Set aside time each day to stimulate your brain. Cross-training with brain-boosting activities will help keep you mentally sharp.
Pillar #4: Quality sleep
Your brain needs regular, restful sleep in order to function at its optimum capacity. Sleep deprivation not only leaves you cranky and tired, but impairs your ability to think, problem-solve, process, store, and recall information. Deep, dreamy sleep is critical for memory formation and retention. If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The vast majority of adults need at least eight hours of sleep per night. Any less, and productivity and creativity suffers.
Pillar #5: Stress management
Stress that is chronic or severe takes a toll on the brain, leading to shrinkage in a key memory area of the brain known as the hippocampus, hampering nerve cell growth, and increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Simple daily tools can minimize its harmful effects, here’s how.
• Breathe. Stress alters your breathing rate and impacts oxygen levels in the brain. Quiet your stress response with deep, abdominal breathing. Restorative breathing is powerful, simple, and free.
• Schedule daily relaxation activities. Keeping stress under control requires regular effort. Make relaxation a priority, whether it’s a walk in the park, playtime with your dog, yoga, or a soothing bath.
• Nourish inner peace. Most scientists acknowledge a strong mind-body connection, and various studies associate spirituality with better brain health. Regular meditation, prayer, reflection, and religious practice may immunize you against the damaging effects of stress.
Pillar #6: Lead an active social life
Human beings are highly social creatures. We don’t thrive in isolation, and neither do our brains. Studies show that the more connected we are, the better we fare on tests of memory and cognition. Staying socially active may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make your social life a priority. Oftentimes, we become more isolated as we get older, but there are many ways to keep your support system strong and develop new friends.
Some people believe that by exercising their brain they can help prevent the condition. Is it true?
Yes it is true. In a groundbreaking study, older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental training not only improved their cognitive functioning in daily activities in the months after the training, but continued to show long-lasting improvements 10 years later. You can keep your brain healthy by doing the following things.
• Learn something new. Study a foreign language, learn sign language, practice a musical instrument, read the newspaper or a good book, or take up a new hobby. The greater the novelty and challenge, the larger the deposit in your brain reserves.
• Practice memorization. Start with something short, progressing to something a little more involved, such as the 50 U.S. state capitals. Create rhymes and patterns to help you remember and strengthen your memory connections.
• Enjoy strategy games, puzzles, and riddles. Brain teasers and strategy games provide a great mental workout and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Do a crossword puzzle, play board games or cards, or work word and number games, such as Scrabble or Sudoku.
• Practice the 5 W’s by keeping a ‘Who, What, Where, When, and Why’ list of your daily experiences. Capturing visual details keeps your neurons firing.
• Follow the road less traveled. Take a new route, eat with your non-dominant hand, rearrange your computer file system. Vary your habits regularly to create new brain pathways.
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