Healthy Brain, Healthy You

by Ashley Van Spengen

It's June, and you know what that means. Thats right it's ALZHEIMER'S / BRAIN AWARENESS MONTH! I know, I know, thats a mouthful, but it's a very important topic we should talk about and discussed. 

Maybe I'm wanting to talk about it, because it's something that my own family is... well, I don't want to say "dealing with" because, there's nothing you can do to deal with it. It happens, and you do your best, while it breaks your heart seeing your family member give you fake smiles because you can see behind their eyes, they don't know you. They don't remember running through the sprinkler with you on a warm summer day, or playing hide-and-seek and putting a lamp shade on their head to hide. They don't remember throwing you into the sky, the roof or branches outside seem like you can just touch them if you reach out just a bit more, as if you can fly, even just for a moment before they catch you in their arms as you fall. 

 

But you do.

You remember it all. The good times, and the not so good times.

 

And isn't that the most heart breaking thing? 

They don't remember, so you both smile at each other, and share small talk and mixed memories in the time that you have left, as if you're both strangers sharing a coffee together. You smile. You smile at them, because you know they're trying to remember, they're trying to pull on that string that's attached to the branch that will let the memories fall upon them like the leaves, and they'll remember you. Maybe even just briefly. But just like the wind, it's leaves seem to fly away with the breeze. 

A part of you though, is terrified. You're terrified of when winter comes. When there's no more leaves to rain down, and bring those memories with them. Because when there's no more memories, you'll be sitting there with two cups of coffee and an empty chair. The wait for someone, who just can't make it anymore, and you hope that in the end, they knew how much you love them.


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About Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It's also a disorder that affects approximately 24 million individuals as of 2022           
( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405821/ ), and is projected to double by 2050. This isn't something that we can hide, or shudder away until it's starring us in the face, and at this current time, there's no 'cure', but maybe, just maybe there's something that we can do to prevent or delay this possible future. Maybe we can find something, so we one day, all remember that coffee date as friends/family.

Alzheimer's is not a disease or disorder that can 100% prevented either. Less than 1% of Alzheimers is unpreventable through an early-onset type associated with genetic mutations, and with this gene mutation it guarantees that you'll develop Alzheimer's in the future. There are several clinical trials trying to use antibodies to beta-amyloid as a way to prevent and delay the disease, but at this current time of writing, the research and development are still on-going.

Before we fast forward to list of different preventative measures that you can incorporate into your life, I do want to address that Alzheimers and Dementia can be brought on through other diseases. Cardiovascular diseases can be seen within as many as 80% of those with Alzheimer's disease, but this isn't to say if you have high blood pressure, diabetes and/or high cholesterol you'll also get Alzheimer's, they're still researching the connection between the two, researchers just realize there is an overlap between the two, and more research is needed to understand the link between them. 

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/research_progress/prevention )

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Healthy Brain, Healthy You

When you read this list, you'll probably think "Isn't this almost every healthy life list?" and, you're probably right, at least for the most part. Taking care of ourselves can help us deal with many different ailments. Growing evidence shows that adopting a healthy lifestyle can help with so much, and improve our human condition. 

 

Be physically active

Physically activity can pump blood to the brain, nourishing cells with blood and oxygen. Many doctors recommend at least 150 minutes a week, activities could be walking a dog or going for a bicycle ride, swimming or going for a run. If you have reduced mobility, try activities that can help you maintain your balance and prevent falls, such as gentle yoga or tai chi.

"The most convincing evidence is that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer's or slow the progression in people who have symptoms," says Dr. Marshall. "The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week."

( https://www.health.harvard.edu/alzheimers-and-dementia/what-can-you-do-to-avoid-alzheimers-disease

 

Fuel up

Diet is very important to take into account. A healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Most recommend the Mediterranean diet, but following that is the DASH ( Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and MIND ( Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet. They recommend the decrease in processed food, and focus more on including fresh vegetables and fruits; whole grains; olive oil; nuts; legumes; fish; moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy; moderate amounts of red wine; and red meat only sparingly into your diet.

 

Challenge your brain

A study in 2020 from the University of California taught us that continued learning throughout our lives can help prevent the decline of cognitive functions. So learn that language that makes your tongue tingle as you roll your R's. Play a game, not something mindless, but something challenging and strategic. Try something artistic, and let the medium you choose to whisper to you what wants to appear, and watch it appear with each flick of a brush or scratch of graphite. 

Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.

 

Take care of your mental health


Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Manage your stress, and take care of yourself. Stress is a normal thing for every human, past, present and future. But letting it fester and grow can cause changes in your body, both physically and chemically, and can cause damage to yourself in the long-term. 

Get plenty of sleep, ideally 6 to 8 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation can significantly impair your memory, mood and function. 

 

(https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health/10_ways_to_love_your_brain)

 

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Now. it's time to get up from the table, and dump out the coffee thats gone cold. 

Allow yourself to smile, because winter is coming, and hopefully it just means your hibernating this time.


Disclaimer:

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


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