Be Proactive about Healthy Aging
I am able to capture a pulse on the nation’s mindset as it relates to Alzheimer’s disease from inquiries the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) receives from the public. It’s interesting to me to see how our hot line heats up when certain surveys or studies come out.
For instance, volume soared in April when the Alzheimer’s Study Group reported to Congress that Alzheimer’s disease is “a pending crisis” and predicted the number of cases will triple to 16 million by mid-century.
So, and this doesn’t come as a surprise, the burning questions on callers’ minds are these: What can I do about it? Do I have any control over Alzheimer’s disease? If my mom had Alzheimer’s disease, will I get it too? Is it my fate no matter what?
The fear and emotional chaos that surrounds this disease is understandable. Right now, there is no way to cure, stop or reverse Alzheimer’s disease. So the question, “What can I do?” takes on enormous weight. The answers aren’t clear-cut.
But I can tell you that while we are still waiting for a definitive end to Alzheimer’s disease, new research is continually emerging about lifestyle choices that may help maintain overall health and reduce risk factors for the development or advance of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
What we do know at this point in time can be found at www.alzprevention.org, AFA’s new Web site that responds to the questions we hear all the time from consumers. It offers a roadmap for successful aging.
The first key to mitigating the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is to be educated—to know what the risk factors are for the brain disorder. While advancing age and genetics are the greatest known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, evolving research emphasizes that some other factors may be controllable. These include high blood pressure, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Next, be proactive. In general, it’s critical to embrace a heart healthy and brain healthy lifestyle at any age. Current thinking is that a comprehensive plan of attack can make a difference.
With that, I offer you the Top 10 rules for successful aging, as found on www.alzprevention.org:
1. Use your brain for your whole life. Your brain is a “use it or lose it” organ.
2. Do not become a couch potato. Obesity, inactivity and poor health are bad for your brain.
3. Exercise until the day you die. People who exercise on a regular basis have better physical and intellectual life.
4. Do not keep a spare tire. Obesity around the beltline in middle life can be bad for your brain in later life.
5. Protect your heart and blood vessels. Your brain needs adequate oxygen and nutrients to stay well.
6. Treat your hypertension as a young person to help keep your memories as an older person. Untreated hypertension damages blood vessels to the brain.
7. Take a standard vitamin on a daily basis. A B-complex vitamin and folic acid are helpful.
8. Treat depression, since this may improve your physical and intellectual health.
9. Avoid gluttony with food and alcohol. Excessive alcohol and elevated cholesterol or triglycerides are bad for the brain.
10. Find a good doctor and follow his or her advice. Smart doctors and wonder drugs are not beneficial when the advice and the medication sit in the medicine cabinet.
So take charge, step up and do something about the things you have control over. There’s enormous power in that.