Preventing dementia can be enjoyable and fun

Carmen Micsa

Do these five things to keep your brain healthy

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“Fifty million Americans have dementia and other brain illnesses. To gather together the minds that exist and see how we can tackle these ailments together, that is the work that is in front of us: to have a map of the human brain, an understanding of the roadways, and an understanding of the traffic on the roadways.” — Chaka Fattah

Let's face it: getting older comes with the fear of losing our mental ability to live happy and fulfilling lives. But what if we could increase our odds of keeping our brains nimble and sharp into our 80s and 90s?

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his article Five Ways to Prevent Dementia, there are five ways to do so:

1. Exercise is at the top of the list because of the physical and mental benefits, as well as the ability to lower inflammation in our bodies.

"Exercise also helps lower inflammation and that is critical in preventing dementia," Gupta wrote.

Walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, hiking, swimming, running, lifting weights, and doing yoga and Pilates to name just a few ways to stay active will pay huge dividends in the long term, as our bodies have been created to move and not sit for such long periods of time.

Sitting, according to the Mayo clinic in the article, The Importance of Movement is "a fairly new problem in human history. Two hundred years ago, 90% of the world lived in agricultural communities. People sat for three to five hours per day but only to take breaks from working. Modern Americans sit for 13 to 15 hours per day."

2. Staying social is not just good for our happiness index, but it is also great for our brains.

"Social interaction is near the top of the list when it comes to making new brain cells. Connecting with others has been known to be important for a long time. But we now know that it leads to the release of certain hormones like oxytocin, which foster neurogenesis," said Gupta. Neurogenesis is the process through which new neurons are formed in the brain.

Being socially connected is sometimes hard for older people who don't get to see their families as often and live alone, which is why a new study from the University College London found that 60-year-olds who visited with friends almost daily were 12 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who only saw one or two friends every few months.

3. Getting quality sleep is the perfect way to keep our brains healthy and rejuvenated on a daily basis.

"There is a rinse cycle that happens in your brain when you sleep," said Gupta. "You are basically clearing out metabolic waste. That happens when you are awake, but the process is close to 60 percent more efficient when you are asleep. You're clearing out plaque and tangles, and all the things that lead to dementia. You're helping the brain run more smoothly."

And how much sleep do we need exactly to clear the metabolic waste and help our brains run smoothly? We need about seven to eight hours of sleep with the latest research showing that seven hours of sleep seems to be the magical number, so let's improve our moods and our brains with some quality sleep, which is not an impediment to our productivity, it is simply an investment in our mental future.

4. Eat well and healthy is no surprise since we need to fuel our bodies and brains with healthy and nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, wild-caught fish, little sugar, no processed meat, and drink lots of water.

Sanjay says he personally eats very little meat and less overall throughout the day—breakfast "like a king," lunch "like a prince" and dinner "like a pauper."

I personally like to eat a bigger lunch, because I was raised that way in Europe with lunch as the biggest meal of the day and a much smaller dinner. It makes perfect sense since we are the least active in the evening.

5. Trying new things is paramount to brain cognition, such as joining a writing group, learning a new language, or picking up a new hobby.

A large study proved that those who retired at age 65 had a 15% lower risk of developing dementia than those who retired five years earlier.

We also know that people who retire early but choose to stay active in their communities by volunteering and keeping social will also aid their mental cognition.

Consequently, when we consciously make time to exercise, visit with friends, eat healthy meals, try new things, and prioritize sleep, we do our part in keeping our brains sharp, even though there are no guarantees in this life.

And, yet, putting in the work and effort usually pays dividends in the long term, so why not prevent things from happening ahead of time instead of scrambling to make changes after the damage has already occurred?

We can and should be smart about our bodies and minds while enjoying good quality lives into our 80s and beyond.

Disclaimer: The author does not have medical expertise, but she compiled the facts with careful research and studies quoted in this article.

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CEO/Broker of Dynamic Real Estate, Inc., business owner featured in the Forbes magazine for my outstanding service to my clients. Mom, wife, a published author, Medium writer, poet, marathon runner, rapper, and tennis player.

Carmichael, CA
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