by Dr. Paul Jaconello
Doctor Jaconello is the Medical Director of the Jaconello Health Centre for Nutritional and Preventive Medicine
STRATEGIES TO REDUCE RISK TO AGE RELATED COGNITIVE DECLINE
Age related cognitive decline is common and the prospect of memory loss strikes fear in many baby boomers. In fact, Dr. Kraly, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia has been quoted as saying, "By 2040, brain disease is going to be the number one killer." (Medical Post, June 14, 2005)
But there are strategies that can be used to possibly prevent or slow down this daunting and unwelcome process. The strategies do not require draconian steps but will need some of your attention, intention and action. What are they?
Regular physical exercise especially a combination of cardiovascular and resistance training increases cerebral blood flow, helps mitigate against loss of muscle mass with aging, improves cardiac function and enhances mood. It is never too late to start but the key is maintenance on a regular basis four to five times a week. Also, it is wise to get a trained professional to create and monitor your progress and ensure that you have no medical conditions that could be exacerbated by such an endeavour. So make sure you get an O.K. from your doctor before embarking on this to be on the safe side.
The saying: "Use it or lose it" not only applies to physical exercise but also to brain function. This organ has to be exercised regularly with reading, studying, writing future plans, doing crossword puzzles and so on.
Brain stimulation increases blood flow and growth of specific brain regions and supports neuronal health and builds brain reserve against dementia.
Reduce and Handle Excess Stress
Exposure to chronic stress impacts adversely on the hippocampus, reducing its size. This portion of the brain overlapping the hypothalamus in the base of the brain is an important structure in maintaining learning, memory and emotional stability. It’s a vital switchboard between the higher centres in the brain and the endocrine system and its damage will cause you as a being to inadequately control the body’s response to stress.
Maintain a diet low in refined carbohydrates, transfatty acids and other toxic foods, especially artificial sweeteners containing aspartame (which in high dosage may be a factor in premature neural death). Eat foods of a lower glycaemic index, which will help you to regulate your blood glucose levels; low blood sugar will reduce untoward stress on neuronal function.
Take Nutritional Supplements that Lower Homocysteine
Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood are associated with an increased risk to dementia. An adequate intake of vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12 will assist in reducing and maintaining normal homocysteine levels. (Also, small doses of lithium have bee shown to increase neuronal density in some research.)
Aggressively Manage any Health Problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and hardening of the arteries, which will accelerate loss of brain tissue and hasten the onset of memory loss.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep deprivation will lead to degeneration in learning, cognitive function and normal mood regulation. Ensure you are not subject to sleep apnea and if you feel this is a problem, take it up with your doctor who can refer you for a seep study.
These are relatively simple steps that you can do to take charge of your neuronal health and reduce your risk to memory loss in your later years. Taking such proactive steps empowers you as a person and gives you control of your state of health in later years.
Paul Jaconello, M.D.
Doctor Jaconello is the Medical Director of the Jaconello Health Centre for Nutritional and Preventive Medicine.
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