January 11, 2017

Three Activities to Prevent Alzheimer’s

The wellness focus for the month of January is Alzheimer awareness.

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. The symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time as brain function declines, becoming severe enough to interfere with day-to-day activities.

alzheimer-statIt’s estimated that one in nine people 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s disease is underdiagnosed and underreported, many people with Alzheimer’s may not know that they even have it.

Related Article: 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. There may be things that you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s:

3 – Read books

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City led a 21-year study of senior citizens and published some very interesting findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that people who engaged in regular reading had a 35% reduced risk of dementia.

It’s becoming very common to hear that a healthy diet and physical activity can prevent an assortment of diseases but that shouldn’t discount the importance of participating in cognitive activities. Exercising your mind is clearly as vital as exercising your body.

2 – Crossword Puzzles

That same study also showed that the activity of doing crossword puzzles four days a week helped reduce the risk by 47%. The evidence appears to indicate that brain teasers and other cognitive puzzles develop neuroplasticity and provides an additional protective effect.

The cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to these activities, are remarkably plastic, and they rewire themselves based upon their use.

– Dr. Joseph Coyle
Harvard Medical School psychiatrist

But the most surprising result from the study is:

1 – Dancing

Frequent dancing helped reduce the risk of dementia by 76%! It’s suggested that dancing integrates several brain functions simultaneously – musical, kinesthetic, rational and emotional – and the higher the complexity of the choreography, the more increased the neural connectivity. Dancing also has the added bonus of combining physical activity with complex neural processes.

Even though dancing appears to be a promising preventative measure, it’s important to know that no single treatment can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Exercising your mind and body, eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing stress and staying socially active may all help reduce your risk.

For more posts like these, visit the Physical Wellness page.