Regular ‘Brain Exercise’ May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Can you imagine anything more heartbreaking than looking into your mother’s eyes and realizing that she doesn’t have clue who you are? How terrible it would be to wake up every day with a spouse that you adore who can’t remember your name or anything about your 40-year marriage. Five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s and their families are all too familiar with the above scenarios.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common from of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. The disease typically surfaces after the age of 60 and the symptoms begin slowly. In its early stages, Alzheimer’s affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. They may find that they have trouble remembering things that happened recently or the names of people they have known for years.
As the disease progresses, symptoms become significantly worse. People may not recognize family members or they may have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they become anxious and aggressive or develop a tendency to wander away from home. Eventually they need total care. This causes a tremendous amount of stress for family members who care for them.
Although definitive causes and treatments for Alzheimer’s continue to elude modern medicine, there have been many studies conducted that hold out hope for natural ways of preventing and treating the disease. It is important to remember that the brain is a muscle and it needs exercise like every other muscle in the body. In fact, one recent study revealed that a mentally inactive person in old age is three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than an elderly person who remains mentally active. Stimulating the brain can increase the number of brain cells and the connections between the brain cells. Researchers suggest that elderly people make an effort to engage in challenging activities that exercise the brain. Some of the suggested activities include:
- Learn to play a musical instrument, learn a foreign language or start a new hobby
- Play memory games to improve or train your memory
- Visit museums, attend lectures or performances, take a class
- Read, especially challenging material
- Join a book discussion group
- Write. If not a book or article, write in a diary, write letters or
emails or start your memoirs
- Do crossword puzzles, sudoku, jigsaw puzzles
- Play board games, card games or other strategy games
- Learn a kind of dance that is new to you, which will also give you some
- Debate or discuss topics with people
- Practice using the opposite hand for something you usually do with your
Active involvement with family and a wide network of friends is likely to lower your risk of dementia. Besides stimulating your brain, socializing lessens depression that can result from isolation. Regardless of whether you have many friends or few, it’s also helpful to join a civic group, attend classes, continue working or do volunteer work.
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease there are many alternative therapies than can be used to slow the progression of the disease. Counseling, psychotherapy, music therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture and acupressure have been helpful for many people. Other alternatives include herbal remedies and nutritional supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, coral calcium and omega 3 fatty acids.
Stay active and stay informed. Get out there and flex those cerebral muscles to strengthen your brain and help protect yourself from this progressive and heartbreaking disease.