5 Ways to Protect Your Brain from Cognitive Decline
The five lifestyle pillars to prevent brain decline.
Alzheimer’s disease is frightening and widespread in the United States and globally. The numbers do not speak to the terrible way it affects families, systematically eroding the lives of those it touches. New research shows that there is hope in keeping this disease at bay for most people.
Long considered untreatable, Alzheimer’s disease presents as a slow and agonizing loss of a loved one. While they may still be there physically, their mind wastes in a way that they no longer recognize the people they love, or the lives they once lived. New information, presented by Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, doctors and co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention at Loma Linda University show that changes in lifestyle can prevent Alzheimer’s for ninety percent of us. The remaining ten percent—those who show a strong genetic predisposition—can still benefit from the program by delaying onset of the disease by ten to fifteen years.
In their new book The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Breakthrough Program to Prevent and Reverse the Symptoms of Cognitive Decline at Every Age, the Sherzai’s offer a program based on five lifestyle pillars that have shown, through their clinical work, a path to hope for the hundreds of thousands of individuals who suffer from the effects of this disease.
While they contend that there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, they offer a way to address lifestyle changes that will bring protective benefits to brain function, and added years of healthy living to those already seeing signs of cognitive decline. They lay out a program that includes lifestyle changes in five main areas:
Nutrition. How we eat is considered “the single greatest tool we have in the fight against Alzheimer’s.” Specifically, processed foods, those high in sugar, and meat, cheese, and butter have shown the most damaging effects to the brain. Healthy choices for the brain include, blueberries, avocado, nuts and omega 3 fatty acids, (especially those derived from algae.)
Exercise. Not Surprisingly, moving your body, and therefore increasing blood flow to brain, ranks high on the list of beneficial activities. Less important than any specific type of exercise is the act of moving the body, and moving it throughout the day. Less sitting and more moving makes for a healthy brain.
Unwind. The most damaging kind of stress is “uncontrolled stress—you don’t own it and you didn’t choose it. You feel like you’re stuck with it; it overwhelms you.” As an antidote to this kind of dangerous stress is meditation, especially the one that you will do. If the thought of meditation makes you stressed, try getting out in nature, spending time with loved ones, or listening to music.
Restore. One of the most important ways sleep helps our brain is by acting as a recovery system from the day—“cleaning, clearing, organizing, and consolidating.” Restorative sleep offers a laundry list of benefits, and the Sherzai’s offer important “sleep hygiene” practices that will be familiar, but may feel more important when seen in this new light.
Optimize. Our brains are designed for complexity. To keep them operating at their best, they must be challenged to complete complex tasks. “The most complex activities—and thus the activities that will create the greatest amount of cognitive reserve—challenge multiple functions and do so to a greater extent.” In addition to learning a new language or a musical instrument, you might try computer programming, performing stand up comedy, or mentoring others in your field. Choosing an activity that also involves a social component creates an additive effect.
We all know that making changes to lifestyle, especially later in life, can be a challenge. One of the gifts of this program is that along with the suggested changes, the Sherzai’s offer proven methods for creating lasting change in your life. These changes, it seems, can save your brain.