Lifestyle Changes For Brain Health
Globally renowned researcher Dr. Laura Baker of the Wake Forest School of Medicine describes the following strategies for reducing Alzheimers risk:
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk for dementias. However, we dont yet know what frequency and level of intensity is required to reduce your risk. If you exercise now, try increasing the intensity of what you do. No age is too old to start.
- Diet: Studies to date suggest that keto and Mediterranean diets may be beneficial to brain health.
- Mental exercise: We have seen mental challenge in animal studies produce a change in brain structure and greater resistance to aging processes at the cellular level. Keeping mentally challenged can mean crosswords, number puzzles, meeting a new person, going to a different park, reading a new bookthere are many ways to challenge your mind.
Several key studies 60461-5″ rel=”nofollow”> FINGER and SPRING MIND studies) have taken place showing positive results on cognitive functioning through these lifestyle changes, and even more studies are underway.
Dont Avoid Statins If Your Doctor Recommends One
While the link between statins and dementia risk is inconclusive, Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital, says that people shouldnt be afraid to take a statin if their clinician determines that they need one.
Some people do hesitate to take statins because theyve heard about others who have had symptoms related to statin use, such as brain fog, muscle pain, and liver problems, she says.
“But such side effects are rare, and the benefits of statins clearly outweigh the risks in people who are appropriate candidates,” she says.
An analysis published July 15, 2021, in The BMJ supports that conclusion. Study authors looked at 62 trials that included more than 120,000 participants and an average follow-up of about four years. While the authors found that statin use was associated with a small increase in symptoms such as muscle pain, liver dysfunction, kidney problems, and eye conditions, the significantly lower risk of heart attack, stroke and other vascular conditions outweighed these risks. Its not the first study to examine the risk-to-benefit ratio in people with cardiovascular risk factors.
“Randomized trials have found that side effects are extremely rare, comparing the statin and placebo groups. I think a lot of the concerns about statins are really more about perception than fact,” says Dr. Manson.
Why Education May Help Prevent Dementia
Education could play an important role in improving cognitive reserve, which is the brains ability to cope with damage that would otherwise lead to dementia, according to Oh.
Research suggests that education helps the brain develop more synapses, which are the junctions between brain cells that relay information, but were not entirely sure, says Oh. More synapses may boost cognitive reserve, which may help prevent dementia.
Another reason could be that people with more education tend to have healthier lifestyles than those with less education. People who are more educated may be more aware that smoking, lack of exercise and not eating well are bad for their health, she says, and they may make healthier choices.
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Physiotherapy Exercises For Dementia
The good news is, physiotherapy is considered an effective treatment option for people with dementia. As weve mentioned, the symptoms of dementia are widespread and they affect not only the sufferer, but their family members, coworkers, and friends.
The first thing we want to think about is dementia prevention. You might not think of seeing a physio as a means of avoiding the onset of dementia, but thinking of your body in a more holistic way might help you understand the approach.
Long story short, whats good for your heart is good for your brain. So, working on cardio fitness, healthier physiological habits, and caring for your body as a whole is a productive way to prevent the onset of dementia and other brain-related issues.
As for working with people who already have dementia, there are some more specific approaches. Dementia physiotherapy focuses on the goal of creating more independence for people living with dementia in two major ways:
- Promoting a physically active lifestyle which helps with both physical and mental health
- Educating carers and family members about home safety ideas, strategies to reduce falls and injuries, and communication techniques to improve everyones quality of life
What Should You Be Reading
So, what should you be reading? The short answer is: Whatever you can get your hands on.
There was a time when remote regions had to rely on librarians traversing the mountains with books stuffed in saddlebags. But thats hardly the case today. Just about everyone can access vast libraries contained in cellphones and tablets.
If youre pressed for time, devote a few minutes daily to a blog on a niche topic. If youre looking for an escape, fantasy or historical fiction can transport you out of your own surroundings and into another world altogether.
If youre on a career fast-track, read nonfiction advice offered by someone whos already arrived. Consider it a mentorship you can pick up and put down when it suits your schedule.
One thing to note: Dont read solely on a device. Flip through print books, too.
Studies have shown repeatedly that people who read print books score higher on comprehension tests and remember more of what they read than people who read the same material in a digital form.
That may be, in part, because people tend to read print more slowly than they read digital content.
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Key Tips For Caregivers And Families To Encourage Reading
- Read alongside people with dementia.
- Choose reading materials wisely: Books with photos, clear, large text, and humor work best.
- When reading, write down notes about the plot for easy review.
- Make sure books and newspapers are accessible in the home.
- Write daily notes for those with dementia in short, clear handwriting.
This year, occupational therapists at Fundació ACE in Barcelona, Spain put these tips to use. The team initiated a group-reading activity at their drop-in centers for people with mild dementia.
At first, our members were not capable of reading a whole book alone. Through this guided activity they have returned to enjoy reading, said Guitart.
Every time members started a new reading session, an occupational therapist reviewed the plot to bring them up to speed and reduce any frustration. Maribel Vera, an occupational therapist at the Fundació ACE Day Care Unit, said this strategy can easily be replicated by family members and caregivers at home.
While reading, it would be useful to write down notes in a notebook on the events that take place in the story, so that each time they pick up the book they can check the notes. This way, they will avoid the feeling of not knowing what they are reading, or losing the plot, said Vera.
Guitart and Vera suggest selecting reading material that is most appropriate for each stage of dementia.
Wednesday January 22 2020
When caring for someone with dementia, you may automatically assume that their mental capacities are too far gone to benefit from physiotherapy. After all, it might seem counterintuitive to work with a consistent plan if someone suffers from memory loss or other cognitive issues.
But the truth is, physiotherapy can improve the mobility of those living with dementia, can slow down their cognitive deterioration, and can give them a better quality of life. Read on for more information on dementia, its symptoms, and how working with a physiotherapist can help.
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Healthy Heart Healthy Brain
On the surface, it seems intuitive that statins would reduce the risk of cognitive problems, because many treatments that help your heart can also help your brain, says Dr. Manson. Conversely, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes are all risk factors for heart disease, as well as for a condition called vascular dementia, in which impaired blood flow to the brain leads to cognitive changes.
“Statins also decrease inflammation, which has been implicated in Alzheimers disease and some other forms of dementia,” says Dr. Manson.
Although it seems to make sense that statins would bring brain benefits, the research doesnt always bear that out.
“While you would expect that statin use would reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia because statins lower cardiovascular risks and the risk of stroke, it hasnt been clearly shown to be the case,” says Dr. Manson. “Its surprising that theres not a clearer reduction seen. If anything, some of these studies have raised concerns about cognitive risks.”
How Does Brain Activity Help
Studies of animals show that keeping the mind active may:
- Reduce the amount of brain cell damage that happens with Alzheimer’s
- Support the growth of new nerve cells
- Prompt nerve cells to send messages to each other
When you keep your brain active with exercises or other tasks, you may help build up a reserve supply of brain cells and links between them. You might even grow new brain cells. This may be one reason scientists have seen a link between Alzheimer’s and lower levels of education. Experts think the extra mental activity from education may protect the brain by strengthening connections between its cells.
Neither education nor brain exercises are a sure way to prevent Alzheimer’s. But they may help delay symptoms and keep the mind working better for longer.
Williams, J. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline, Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments No. 193, April 2010.
NIH News: “Mental Exercise Helps Maintain Some Seniors’ Thinking Skills.”
Wilson, R. Neurology, September 2010.
Meng, X. PLoS One, 2012.
Alzheimer’s Foundation: “Prevention,” “Stay Mentally Active.”
AARP: “Age-Proof Your Brain.”
Maillot, P. , March 2012.
Smith, G., Housen, P., Yaffe, K., Ruff, R., Kennison, R., Mahncke, H., Zelinski, E., A cognitive Training Program based on Principles of Brain Plasticity: Results from the Improvement in memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training Study, Feb. 2009
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Control Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is strongly associated with an increased risk of dementia. High blood pressure can damage tiny blood vessels in the parts of the brain responsible for cognition and memory. The latest American Heart Association guidelines class blood pressure readings of 130/80 mm Hg and above as the start of high blood pressure.
Check your blood pressure at home. A study in the Netherlands found that a large variation in blood pressure readings over a period of years was associated with an increased risk of dementia. Inexpensive monitors that wrap around your upper arm can help you keep track of your blood pressure throughout the day and pick up on any variations. Some devices even send the results to your phone so you can easily track your readings or share them with your doctor.
Large Print Books For Seniors And Other Reading Aids
While there are numerous mental benefits to reading, seniors may face certain obstacles when it comes to indulging in the pastime. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, approximately 15.2% of Americans aged 75 years or older have experienced some kind of vision loss.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options that make reading for seniors still accessible despite these challenges. Many publishers now offer large print books for seniors and those with vision problems. These are typically printed in 16 to 18-point size font . You can check your local library for large print options or shop online for them.
Alternatively, if you dont want to restock your entire bookcase, there are other reading aids for seniors available. These include e-readers: a lightweight electronic alternative to printed books. These allow you to adjust the size of font on the screen to suit your needs. They can also be used to access a variety of books, magazines, and other publications.
However, while these do use e-inks, which try to mimic the appearance of the printed word, many still emit blue light. This can make falling asleep more difficult, just as the TV screen and other electronic devices do. Therefore, you may prefer to purchase a special book magnifying glass and continue to enjoy the books you already own. These are available to purchase online.
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Common Types Of Exercise A Physiotherapist Might Use With A Dementia Patient Include:
- Pool-based therapy where theyll not only exercise but also practice doing multiple tasks at once
- Group exercise classes to improve balance and mobility
- Technology-based prompting systems that deconstruct daily tasks by creating verbal or written prompts
- Virtual reality dancing using systems like the Nintendo Wii to mimic movements and receive auditory and tactile feedback
Based on your unique circumstances, your physio will be able to cater to your needs and figure out the best way to treat your dementia. After a while, these habits will start to form in the deepest part of your brain and even if it doesnt seem like much is happening, exercise and moving your body is helping with your dementia.
Reading In The Late Stages Of Dementia
People in the late stages of Alzheimer’s typically appear less interested in reading, although they may occasionally read a few words out loud. The ability to communicate verbally in the late stages usually declines significantly, so it’s possible that the person could be reading more than he appears to be.
Some people in the middle-to-late stages of Alzheimer’s seem to enjoy paging through a familiar magazine from when they were younger, or from their career. Others may enjoy listening to someone else read out loud, or looking through a book together.
Another comfort for some individuals with dementia is to have a few of their favorite books nearby. For people who love to read, even holding a favorite classic or religious book in their hands may bring comfort and peace.
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Young Onset Vs Early Stage
It’s important to know that term “young onset dementia” does not mean the early stage of dementia. While most people diagnosed with young onset dementia are likely experiencing mild symptoms that indicate they are in the early stage, “young onset” and “early stage” have different meanings. A 57-year-old living with young onset dementia could already be in the late stage, while a 80-year-old just diagnosed with dementia might be in the early stage.
It’s also important to note that young onset dementia encompasses all types of dementia. If a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease â the most common type of dementia âunder the age of 65, then that person can be said to have young onset Alzheimer’s disease. Likewise, if a person is diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia under 65, then that person has young onset frontotemporal dementia.
However, each person living with young onset dementia has their own preferred term to describe their dementia â ask them what they prefer!
Why Is Reading So Important
Reading as an intellectual activity challenges the brain toprocess information without merely relying on our senses, or in other wordsrequiring the absorption of information with less external influence. This isbecause our brains learn a great deal about semantics, syntax, deeper concepts,pragmatism and social behavior when engaged in this type of activity.
A report from the National Center for Education Statisticsnotes that:
Literacy helps individualsold or youngto continue to learn new things, to read for pleasure, to be informed about the world and their communities, to handle everyday tasks and to take care of their own needs. Literacy also is essential in enabling older persons to remain in or rejoin the work force, to contribute to others of all generations through volunteerism, civic participation, and family support.
The results of the National Adult Literacy Survey, which looked at adults age 60 an older, showed that poor prose, document, and quantitative literacy are a significant problem for many in the older adult population.
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Improved Focus And Concentration
In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day.
In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people , keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behaviour causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity.
When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the storythe rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail youre absorbing.
Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work , and youll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office.
Additional information: if you find staying focus hard and re trying to improve your focus, its possible youve been doing it wrong.
Pillar #: Quality Sleep
There are a number of links between poor sleep patterns and the development of Alzheimers and dementia. Some studies have emphasized the importance of quality sleep for flushing out toxins in the brain. Others have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, a sticky protein that can further disrupt the deep sleep necessary for memory formation.
If nightly sleep deprivation is slowing your thinking and or affecting your mood, you may be at greater risk of developing or deteriorating symptoms of Alzheimers disease. To help improve your sleep:
Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brains clock responds to regularity.
Set the mood. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, and ban television and computers from the bedroom .
Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, do some light stretches, listen to relaxing music, or dim the lights. As it becomes habit, your nightly ritual will send a powerful signal to your brain that its time for deep restorative sleep.
Quiet your inner chatter. When stress, anxiety, or worrying keeps you awake, get out of bed. Try reading or relaxing in another room for twenty minutes then hop back in.
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