EARLIER IS BETTER
While there is yet no cure for dementia, medication and therapy can help slow down the progress of dementia in some cases. Faith in Families cannot but stress the importance for a person with early symptoms of dementia to visit a doctor soon enough for a correct diagnosis. But despite the grim outlook of this disease, the right diagnosis, medical treatment and therapy can delay its pro-gress significantly.
Experts on the condition say that if you really want to ward off dementia, you need to start taking care of your brain in your early 30s. Timing is everything. Yet most of us start worrying about dementia after retirement. That may be too little, too late. If you want to live a long, healthy life, then many of us need to start as early as we can. The earlier, the better.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
More and more research is suggesting that lifestyle is also very important to your brain’s health. So, to help ward off dementia, train your brain. Here are some suggestions to adopting a lifestyle that might help you ward off pre-mature onset of dementia in your later years:
- Get enough sleep. Studies have shown a link between interrupted sleep and dementia.
- Learn a new language. Whether it’s a foreign language or sign language, you are working your brain by making it go back and forth between one language and the other. A researcher in England found that being bilingual seems to delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by several years.
- Read and write daily. Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas that process and store information. If you’ve managed to reach this part of our 5-part series, that’s already a good start. And, you can come back often for more when fresh content is published by Faith in Families.
- Also, practice writing with your non-dominant hand several minutes every day however awkward this might start out for you at first. This activity will exercise the opposite side of your brain and fire up those long dormant neurons.
- Learn something new. Take some classes. Attend seminars or training workshops too throughout your lifetime. Any form of constructive learn-ing produces structural and chemical changes in the brain. Education appears to help people live longer. Brain researchers have found that people who constantly learn new skills, acquire more knowledge or partake of higher learning also live longer. If they do exhibit early symptoms of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, it often becomes apparent only in the later stages of their lives.
- Listen to classical music. A growing volume of research suggests that music hardwires the brain, building links between the two hemispheres. Most kinds of music may work, but there’s some research that shows positive effects for classical music, even as researchers don’t fully un-derstand why as yet. Also, listening to music could encourage you to learn a musical instrument. If you’re much older, however, it may (but not in all cases) be harder than it was when you were a child, but you’ll be developing another dormant part of your brain, which is good.
- Learn to meditate and pray. It’s important for your brain that you learn to shut out the stresses of everyday life and prayer appears to help your immune system. People who attend a formal worship service reg-ularly live longer and report happier, healthier, balanced lives.
- Do some traveling. When you travel – whether to a distant spot or even using a different route across town, you’re forcing your brain to navigate a new and complex environment. A study of London taxi drivers found that experienced drivers had larger brains because they have to store lots of information about locations and how to navigate between them. You can also vary your mode of travel by simply walking. It’s good for your health too. Walking as an exercise regimen can reduce the risk of dementia because it helps improve your cardio-vascular system which is important in maintaining blood flow to the brain.
- Modify your diet to include more fish, fruits, nuts and vegetables. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, tuna, ocean trout, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flax seed plus cod liver oil and oils of walnuts and flax seed are all good sources for this type of fatty acids. Likewise, the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables mop up some of the damage caused by free radicals, one of the leading killers of brain cells. Go or walk to your local library. You may find some interesting re-cipe books as well.
- Eat at least one meal a day with family or friends. Research shows you’ll eat healthier food than when eating alone or on the run.
- Play board games with members of your family and friends often as you can. Not only are you exercising your brain but you’re entertaining yourself and socializing too. A good hearty laugh or two with good com-pany around you during play releases endorphins in your body. These organic chemicals produced by your body naturally resemble opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.
- Develop a hobby or two. Hobbies help you develop a robust brain be-cause you’re trying something new and complex. For example, start gardening. You don’t need a big yard or garden either. Researchers in New Zealand have found that, of 1,000 people surveyed, those who gardened regularly were less likely to suffer from dementia. Not only does gardening reduce stress, but gardeners use their brains to plan gardens using visual and spatial reasoning to lay it out.
- Another suggestion would be to take dance lessons. Yes, dancing! In a study of nearly 500 people, dancing was the only regular physical activ-ity associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. People who danced three or four times a week showed 76% less incidence of dementia than those who danced only once a week or not at all.
- Join clubs or help an organisation like Faith in Families as a volunteer for community development and wellbeing. If you start volunteering now, you won’t feel lost and unneeded after you retire.