I recently had the opportunity to have lunch with six leading doctors in brain research and medical care. Encompassing all matters pertaining to the “neck up,” these were the best and brightest. All assembled, by one hospital, as part of a new program designed to bring maximum efficiency and understanding to the thing we most fear losing as our generation ages: the vitality of our brains.
Our brain is the primary connection between our past and our present: the fount of our ability to communicate, remember, reason, joke, love, laugh, and cry — in short, to feel…and to understand why we feel what we feel.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease alone increased 123% between 2000 and 2015, numbers that are especially alarming when you consider that about 10,000 people are turning 65 every day.
How can we stave off mental decline as we age? Can decline be reversed? Anticipated?
Nutrition and Exercise
I had expected to hear of the newest medicines, pharmaceuticals, therapies and such to combat dementia and Alzheimer’s. But instead, I heard a medical approach that harkened to the sayings of the ’60s generation: “You are what you eat” and “Move it or lose it.”
Yes, according to these experts on the cutting edge of brain health, two of the most potent weapons in our arsenal to combat or reduce brain disease and dementia are proper nutrition and exercise.
Nutrition that is more plant based, and very low in animal fats, sugars (which we know is a killer), and, unfortunately, alcohol.
Exercise While Learning
Exercise is a bit more nuanced. We all know exercise of any kind that raises our heart rate is beneficial, however the key is exercise that is combined with cognitive learning. Activating our thinking while working out our bodies has been shown in studies to prevent, maintain and, in some instances, reverse mental decline.
- Go for a hike while listening to a book on your phone
- Get on the treadmill while watching a foreign movie and reading the subtitles
- Take a dance class that challenges your brain to figure out the routine
All of the above are forms of exercise combined with cognitive stimulation. From what these very brilliant doctors surmised, it is extremely worthwhile to make these simple changes so as to age as gracefully as possible, with our minds intact.
Reducing Risk of Alzheimer’s
Scientists have determined the gene that is common to Alzheimer’s — Apolipoprotein E (APOE) — and if you choose, you can be tested for the same. If you test positive for this gene, then changing your lifestyle to reflect the above recommendations is of monumental importance. Personally, while I don’t carry a family history of Alzheimer’s, I do want to keep mentally fit. So with an anticipatory eye, I am committing to making the necessary changes to diet and exercise for overall peace of mind (pun intended).
The amazing strides researchers are making in brain disorders, depression, cognitive learning, and all things “neck up,” are fast paced and groundbreaking. Hospitals working together and doctors and scientists sharing research within the medical industries are key to keeping us on the forefront of the new possibilities, cures, and lifestyle changes that will help us maintain mental health throughout our lives.
In the meantime, You are what you eat and Move it or lose it!
Read here for a recipe for Brain-Boosting Soup
Read here for My Fitness Routine Over 60
Read here for Ketogenic Diet and Longevity
Sharon Elkin was owner and CEO of a major advertising agency with headquarters in Atlanta Georgia, working with a wide range of national and international clients. As part of her work she wrote copy as well as contributing articles and stories to several magazines, newspapers and publications. She lives in her Los Angeles home with her husband and their many dogs. Look for more of Sharon’s children’s books in the near future.