Healthy Ageing: The Ageing Brain
The baby boomer generation accounts for 30% of the population in Canada and are now between 54 and 72 years old. With a population this large and degenerative cognitive disorders on the rise, it begs the question: why is this happening and what can we do about it? I have watched my parents watch their parents age and I see the worry, time and energy put in to ensure their parents are being taken care of optimally. The explanation often given to them was 'they’re just getting old'.
That is not good enough.
The best time to change the future of health for the baby boomer generation is NOW. Stick around for the next 4 weeks as we talk about age -related changes and what you can do to age happily and healthily. This week's focus is on the healthy ageing brain!
What is Alzheimer's and Dementia? Dementia is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms including memory decline, communication challenges and sometimes personality changes. There is no diagnostic tool for diagnosing dementia, rather it is a constellation of reported symptoms. Under that umbrella, there are various types. Vascular dementia is related to altered blood delivery to the brain; this can include strokes, heart attacks or athero/arteriosclerosis. Alzheimers, the most common form of dementia, does not have a known cause yet. Typically it has only been able to be diagnosed on autopsy to confirm the presence of ‘plaques and tangles’ in the brain. Other causes of dementia include neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s, depression or chronic infections.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): In a 2018 cohort study, it was found that the more TBIs an individual sustained and the more serious those injuries were, the higher the risk of dementia. They did admit to the possibility of other factors being at play (ie. genetics, diet etc.), however this was a 3 million subject study which reduces the risk of these factors affecting the outcome.
Sugar: Current research is calling Dementia Type III Diabetes. Having a diet chronically high in sugar (this includes refined carbohydrates) is highly correlated to cognitive decline. High blood sugar in it’s very nature is inflammatory and this chronic inflammation is link to Alzheimer’s disease.
What YOU Can Do
1. Fish oils: 66% of our brain is fat so it makes sense that to maintain function and integrity, omega-3 essential fatty acids must be consumed. Taking fish oils are an easy way to get a high dose, however foods like nuts, seeds, fish and eggs are other sources.
2. Exercise: It is as simple as walking daily. You don’t need to go to the gym for 2 hours everyday. “ Aerobic exercises such as walking improved the aging brain’s resting functional efficiency in higher-level cognitive networks” (Mind Over Matter, Volume 5, WHBI) 3. Diet: Incorporate foods that reduce inflammation and have anti-oxidant properties such as turmeric, berries and greens.
4. Stay mentally active: This includes brain games like Luminosity provides, learning later in life, and one component that is extremely protective, staying socially engaged. Socially isolated individuals are shown to have twice the cognitive decline as their socially active counterparts. Weekly challenge: Incorporate one of the suggestions listed above for the following week and share it with a parent or loved one to spread the healthy brain love.
Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only; please consult a healthcare practitioner before making changes.
Mind Over Matter, Women's Health Brain Initiative, Volume 5
Nordström, Anna, and Peter Nordström. "Traumatic brain injury and the risk of dementia diagnosis: A nationwide cohort study." PLoS medicine 15.1 (2018): e1002496.
Mendez, Mario F. "What is the relationship of traumatic brain injury to dementia?." Journal of Alzheimer's disease 57.3 (2017): 667-681.
Photo by Ira Selendripity on Unsplash