Learn About Steps To Protect Brain HealthSeptember 22, 2021
It is important to protect brain health. Many of us fear developing dementia. You cannot change some risk factors. Hoewever the rest are controllable. These are six steps you can take to prevent dementia.
Dementia Rate Declines
The Framingham Heart Study, a long-term cardiovascular cohort study that focuses on Framingham residents, Massachusetts, is an ongoing, long-term, and ongoing cardiovascular cohort study. It began in 1948 with 5 209 adults. Now, it is on its third generation. The dementia rate has fallen 44 percent in the last 40 years. This is great news but the bad news is the increase in the number of seniors 65 years and older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 52.4 million seniors were estimated in 2018. This figure will rise to 94.7 millions by 2060.
Types of Dementia
There are many forms of dementia. However, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for between 50-75% of all dementia diagnoses. Also, vascular dementia, which accounts for 20-30% of all dementia diagnoses, is the second-most common form of dementia. Along with that, frontotemporal dementia is responsible for between 5-10% and 5% of all dementia. Huntington’s, Creutzfeldt–Jakob, Parkinson’s, and Traumatic brain Injury (TBI) all have a connection to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. However, scientists are still trying to determine what causes it. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and begins with mild memory impairment.
Vascular dementia, also known as vascular cognitive impairment, is caused by small blood vessels becoming blocked or diseased in the brain. Hence, this results in brain cells being deprived of oxygen and glucose. Vascular dementia is also characterized by memory loss, difficulty in problem-solving, decreased focus, slow thinking, and reduced organizational ability. However, age is the most significant risk factor for developing vascular dementia. However, there are other risk factors that can be controlled, such as high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol. What can you do to lower your dementia risk? Here are 6 lifestyle habits that we can control to help us fight dementia prevention.
Step 1: Manage Cholesterol
LDL cholesterol can be reduced by limiting saturated fat intake to 7-10% of daily calories. It is as follows:
- 1,400 calories = 10- to 15% saturated fat
- 1,600 calories = 12- to 18g saturated fat
- 1,800 calories = 15 to 20 grams saturated fat
It takes planning and effort to limit saturated fat (fat that comes from animal protein, such as meat, dairy products, and coconut oil), but it is possible. So to assess saturated fat, it is important to carefully read labels. Calorie King offers a great database that allows you to check the amount of saturated oil in almost any food. One ounce of cheddar cheese has 9.4 grams saturated fat.
LDL cholesterol can be reduced by consuming 7-13 grams of soluble fibre. For breakfast, eat 1/4 cup of oatmeal dry. A serving of beans (1/2-3/4 cups cooked) has 1.5-3 grams of soluble fiber. Look for soluble fiber-rich foods to add to your daily diet.
Supplementation can be as simple as Berberine or Red Yeast Rice dietary supplement.
Also, your doctor may recommend statin medication to lower cholesterol if diet, weight loss and exercise don’t change LDL levels.
Step 2: Manage Blood Pressure
According to the CDC, high blood pressure was a contributing factor in 17.4% of all 2018 deaths. High blood pressure is not the only thing to be afraid of to protect brain health. Although most studies are focused on older adults, high blood pressure can cause damage to brain nerve fibers. This can happen as early as our 40s or 50s.
A study of 2,505 men aged 71-93 showed that men with systolic blood pressures above 140 mm Hg were 77% more likely to develop dementia as compared to men with lower systolic levels (120 mm Hg). A study that examined blood pressure and cognitive function among people aged between 18 and 46, and 47 to 83, found that both high systolic or diastolic pressures are linked with cognitive decline.
So, how does high blood pressure affect dementia prevention? High blood pressure can also have a negative impact on brain health. Get your blood pressure medication and make lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure.
Mayo Clinic examined patients suffering from nerve fiber damage caused by high blood pressure. They found that they had reduced nonverbal function, emotional control and decision-making abilities, as well as their ability to focus. Lifestyle changes can make all the difference.
Lifestyle changes can significantly improve blood pressure. If you’re overweight, lose weight. Manage stress. Exercise. Your diet should include more potassium and magnesium. Reduce sodium and salt.
Although it may seem like salt shakers are the main source of sodium, American’s top sources of sodium are bread and rolls. Cold cuts, cured meats and pizza are all high in sodium. So, as well as pasta, bread, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes and snacks, there are other foods that can be misleadingly high in sodium. You can only find out the sodium content by looking at labels.
The Dietary Approaches for Stopping Hypertension (DASH), is an eating plan that helps lower blood pressure. This diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk, whole grains, legumes, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. This diet reduces saturated and trans fats while increasing potassium and magnesium calcium, fiber, and protein. So, the DASH Diet is based on 2,000 calories.
- 8-10 servings of grains and grain products
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 4 to 5 servings of fruit
- 2-3 portions of low-fat, or fat-free milk
- 2 servings of lean meats, poultry, or fish
- 2-3 portions of oil and fat
- Sweets and sodium are limited
- Each week, 4-5 portions of nuts, seeds, and beans
This great guide is available for free from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Read Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure. You will also find portions for 1,600 and 2,600 calories in the Guide.
Step 3: Nutrition: MIND Diet Mediterranean-DASH-Intervention for Neurodegenerative-Delay
So, to protect brain health Martha Clare Morris, a nutrition epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center and a participant in a National Institute on Aging study, developed the MIND diet. The MIND diet encourages you to eat from 10 brain-healthy food categories and avoid 5 unhealthy food groups.
Ten Brain-Healthy Foods
- Daily green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables (daily)
- Nuts (most days)
- Berries at least twice per week
- Beans (3+ days per week)
- Whole grains (at minimum 3 portions daily)
- Fish (at minimum once per week)
- Poultry (at minimum twice per week)
- Olive oil (as primary fat)
- Wine (daily)
Five Unhealthy Food Groups
- Red meats (<4 servings per week)
- Butter and stick margarine (1 teaspoon per day).
- Cheese (1 portion per week
- Pastries and sweets (5 portions per week).
- Fast food or fried food (1 portion per week).
So, the February 2015 research looked at food intake among 923 seniors in Chicago. Over the course of 4.5 years, 144 people developed Alzheimer’s. Hence, the lower the risk, the longer the MIND diet was followed.
So even those who made modest changes to their diets, who would not have met the criteria for DASH and Mediterranean, had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Also a key strategy for dementia prevention is brain-healthy food.
The MIND diet reduced Alzheimer’s risk by around 35 percent in people who followed it moderately, and by up to 53 percent in those who followed it strictly.
Dementia Prevention Supplements
Cooper Clinic checks vitamin B12 levels for all patients over 60 years old. Seniors also have lower intakes of dairy and stomach acid, which can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are most common in:
- Seniors (60+ years)
- Diabetics on Metformin
- Individuals suffering from malabsorption diseases (Celiac, Crohn’s)
- Heavy Drinkers
- Those on Acid Blocker Meds (Nexium, Prevacid, Pepcid, Zantac, etc.)
- People who have had weight loss surgery
- People with pernicious anemia
- Vegans & Vegetarians
If you have any of these symptoms, it is also possible that you may be suffering from a Vitamin B12 shortage.
- Cognitive difficulty
- Fatigue (extreme)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
- Memory problems
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness/tingling in arms/legs
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Unsteady gait
Vitamin B12’s normal range is between 254-1320 picograms/milliliter (pg/mL), but Cooper Clinic doctors want to see a minimum of 450 mg/mL.
British 65-year-olds with lower vitamin D levels (30 nmol/L), were 2.3 times more likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with higher vitamin D levels (66 nmol/L).
Cooper Complete multivitamins have 400 mg vitamin B12. A standalone liquid vitamin supplement B12 with 1,000 mg vitamin B12 per dropper is also available.
The risk of cognitive decline in older Italian adults with low vitamin D levels (25 nmol/L), was 60 percent higher than those with high vitamin D levels (50 nmol/L). A 30% higher risk of declining decision-making was also found.
Adults over 65 with vitamin D levels less than 10 ng/mL (20 nmol/L), had 4 times higher risk of cognitive impairment than those with vitamin D levels greater that 30 ng/mL (30 nmol/L).
Although symptoms of vitamin D deficiencies can appear vaguely, they may include fatigue, joint or muscle pains, depression, and general fatigue. This also doesn’t protect brain health. Medicare will pay for a simple blood test to determine vitamin D levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the best dietary supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish like salmon, mackerel and barramundi. They also support optimal brain, heart and inflammation health.
Step 4: Dementia Prevention: The Impact of Midlife Fitness and Later-Life Dementia
Researchers at The Cooper Institute found that people who are physically fit in their midlife years have a lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. With an average follow-up time of 24 years, the study tracked 19,458 participants. 1,659 developed dementia. Researchers found a 36% reduction in dementia development among participants who were the most fit compared to those who were the least fit.
Although exercise is not necessary, it is important to do some physical activity. Move! You can walk, jog or swim, you choose. The following is the basic exercise recommendation:
- Cardiovascular/aerobic exercise 150 minutes per week (minutes can be accumulated in chunks as small as 10 minutes at a time)
- Two non-consecutive training days per week for strength training, all major muscle groups
- Flexibility/Strengthening 2-to-3 days per week
It is important to remember that even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference in your health and that it is never too late for you to get active. All movement counts from an activity perspective.
Step 5: Protect Your Hearing
Reduce the volume and also walk away from all noise. You should also wear ear protection. As hearing loss is linked to higher dementia rates. There are many theories about why dementia is linked to diminished hearing. These theories include:
- Cognitive load – Garbled messages demand more brainpower, which can lead to a loss of memory and thinking ability.
- Brain atrophy is a condition where the brain’s part that processes sound faster becomes impaired. This part could also be responsible for other brain functions.
- Social isolation is a reduced engagement with others, and being on the sidelines. Hearing and conversing are more difficult.
Step 6: Sleep
We must pay attention to our sleep in order to prevent dementia and protect brain health. Research has shown that both too little and too much sleep can have a negative impact on your health. You also need the right amount of sleep to protect brain health. Moreover, the National Sleep Foundation offers sleep recommendations.
- 7-9 hours recommended
- 7-8 hours recommended
The amount of sleep required for a healthy lifestyle and individual differences will also vary. These recommendations are for both healthy people and those who do not have a sleep disorder. While it is possible to sleep for longer periods than the recommended range, this is not a common occurrence.
However, people who sleep in excess of the recommended range could be suffering from serious health issues or worsening their well-being.
These steps are intended to help you prevent dementia. Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter The Cooperized if you would like more information about Cooper Aerobics.