Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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To address the upcoming Alzheimer’s “epidemic”, let’s approach 2016 with these 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention

alzheimers-disease-prevention.

As you prob­a­bly know, we are in a health care cri­sis. The num­ber of peo­ple with Alzheimer’s dis­ease con­tin­ues to sky-rock­et as peo­ple age and may reach cri­sis pro­por­tions.  A nation­al goal has been set to pre­vent and cure Alzheimer’s by 2020 or no lat­er than 2025, with a lion’s share of this mon­ey going into drug research, which, while ongo­ing, has thus far has been elu­sive.

This focus entire­ly on drugs may be chang­ing how­ev­er, as the recent increase in the US bud­get high­lights brain health edu­ca­tion. The lat­est research into what is now referred to as non-phar­ma or inte­gra­tive med­i­cine, has been so robust that it has got­ten the atten­tion of the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion and many oth­er lead­ing orga­ni­za­tions.

As dis­cussed dur­ing the recent Sharp­Brains Sum­mit, I first noticed a change at The White House Con­fer­ence on Aging, to which I was invit­ed last July, where both Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and The Sur­geon Gen­er­al Vice- Admi­ral Vivek Mur­ty, M.D., stat­ed that a “cul­ture of pre­ven­tion” is vital. More­over, at the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence (AAIC) the very next week in DC, at which I shared my work, non-phar­ma pre­ven­tion research was high­light­ed more so than in the past.

The Finnish Inter­ven­tion­al Geri­atric Study To Pre­vent Cog­ni­tive Dis­abil­i­ty, also known as FINGER, is the largest research project in his­to­ry on Alzheimer’s pre­ven­tion. FINGER has revealed that fol­low­ing a com­plete brain health pro­gram mag­ni­fies the results and enhances cog­ni­tive func­tion in indi­vid­u­als at per­il because of high blood pres­sure, heart dis­ease, dia­betes, and oth­er med­ical risk fac­tors for devel­op­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Beyond that, in a recent edi­tion of the Alzheimer’s Asso­ci­a­tion jour­nal, Alzheimer’s and Demen­tia, the three lead arti­cles were on diet and Alzheimer’s risk reduc­tion. That par­tic­u­lar issue also has an arti­cle about how poor sleep qual­i­ty increas­es Alzheimer’s risk and anoth­er arti­cle about exer­cise and risk reduc­tion.

It’s cru­cial to point out that the most impor­tant fac­tor in pro­tect­ing your brain health as you age is clear­ly to make it a pri­or­i­ty. By wait­ing until prob­lems devel­op, you’re putting your men­tal and phys­i­cal health at risk.  What we know already is that fol­low­ing these 4 Pil­lars of Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion, as pro­mot­ed by the Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foundation’s (ARPF), is crit­i­cal to pre­ven­tion:

  • 1. Diet: As men­tioned above, nutri­tion can influ­ence your brain health and Alzheimer’s risk. The research-proven plan to pre­vent dete­ri­o­ra­tion in brain func­tion is a plant-based, Mediter­ranean or MIND diet. In stud­ies, evi­dence was seen that those who had unhealthy eat­ing habits had approx­i­mate­ly twice as much mem­o­ry loss, while those sub­jects fol­low­ing a MIND Diet were able to .
  • 2. Stress Man­age­ment: Many stud­ies, includ­ing a very recent one from Albert Ein­stein Col­lege of Med­i­cine, and my own paper pub­lished in The Jour­nal of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease in August 2015 enti­tled Stress, Med­i­ta­tion and Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion, sug­gest that chron­ic, untreat­ed stress, begin­ning in child­hood and going through­out the life span, increas­es the risk for mem­o­ry loss. Con­verse­ly, research on yoga and med­i­ta­tion has shown that aspects of brain per­for­mance, such as exec­u­tive func­tion and mem­o­ry improve, cel­lu­lar health is enhanced, and genet­ic expres­sion is bet­ter in yoga and med­i­ta­tion adher­ents. More­over, med­i­ta­tion has been shown to have a pos­i­tive effect on mood and sleep, which as men­tioned above, is a risk fac­tor. The ARPF has cham­pi­oned med­i­ta­tion for Alzheimer’s pre­ven­tion for over two decades and has stud­ies pub­lished in many lead­ing jour­nals on a sim­ple, 12-minute, brain-enhanc­ing, med­i­ta­tion exer­cise called Kir­tan Kriya (KK), which is fast, afford­able, and effec­tive. For more infor­ma­tion on our work and to claim a MP3 of KK, please click here. In my view, an impor­tant activ­i­ty to cre­ate brain health reserve is to per­haps awak­en ear­li­er each morn­ing and use this time to start your day in a pos­i­tive way with yoga, med­i­ta­tion, visu­al­iza­tion, and prayer. I call this prac­tice “Wake Up To Well­ness.”
  • 3. Men­tal and Phys­i­cal Exer­cise: Cog­ni­tive Train­ing has been shown to slow the pro­gres­sion of ear­ly types of mem­o­ry loss, espe­cial­ly when used in com­bi­na­tion with the oth­er aspects of the 4 Pil­lars of Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion. Phys­i­cal exer­cise is clear­ly anoth­er activ­i­ty that must be done on a reg­u­lar basis if you want to main­tain a sharp brain for life. The rec­om­mend­ed pre­scrip­tion is to do both car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise and strength train­ing for a com­bined total of 150 minutes/week. I per­son­al­ly make phys­i­cal exer­cise a high pri­or­i­ty and uti­lize the ser­vices of a per­son­al train­er to keep me on track.
  • 4. Spir­i­tu­al Fit­ness: Spir­i­tu­al Fit­ness is a com­bi­na­tion of Psy­cho­log­i­cal (PWB) and Spir­i­tu­al Well-Being (SWB). Our inves­ti­ga­tions reveal that ele­ments of PWB such as accep­tance, self-mas­tery, inde­pen­dence, sus­tained per­son­al growth, pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships, and hav­ing a sense of pur­pose or mis­sion con­vey pro­tec­tion against cog­ni­tive decline, prob­a­bly by decreas­ing risk fac­tors such as high cho­les­terol, depres­sion, and inflam­ma­tion. The final aspect of PWB, hav­ing a sense of pur­pose, has itself been proven to decrease the devel­op­ment of mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment (MCI), an ear­ly form of mem­o­ry loss, which may progress to Alzheimer’s dis­ease. SWB, the devel­op­ment over time of patience, aware­ness, com­pas­sion, and ser­vice to oth­ers with­out thought of reward for your­self, cre­ates a high lev­el of life sat­is­fac­tion and peace of mind; sore­ly lack­ing in today’s tur­bu­lent times. Spir­i­tu­al Fit­ness has been shown to pro­tect the aging brain and slow cog­ni­tive decline.

The ARPF has been at the fore­front of Alzheimer’s pre­ven­tion for over two decades and has a bold new vision to solve the Alzheimer’s cri­sis:  to make sure every­one on the plan­et knows about these sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-sound 4 Pil­lars of Alzheimer’s Pre­ven­tion.

Have a great 2016 and know that, by fol­low­ing these guide­lines togeth­er, we can solve the upcom­ing Alzheimer’s cri­sis. Please help spread the word.

– Dhar­ma Singh Khal­sa, MD, is the Pres­i­dent of the Alzheimer’s Research and Pre­ven­tion Foun­da­tion (ARPF), a 501c3 non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to pre­vent Alzheimer’s dis­ease by fund­ing research stud­ies and pro­vid­ing edu­ca­tion­al out­reach and mem­o­ry screen­ings. Dr. Dhar­ma is also Clin­i­cal Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Inte­gra­tive Med­i­cine at Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mex­i­co School of Med­i­cine.

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