Here is Why Doing Everything You Can Now to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Makes Sense
The aging Baby Boomer generation is facing a problem of massive proportions. And they aren’t the only ones who should be concerned.
Based on a 2006 study published in the British Medical Journal, Lancet, cases of Alzheimer’s disease are set to quadruple in the next 30 years or so. This is especially true for more developed countries like the U.S.
Fortunately there are actions you can take right now to reduce the chance of getting Alzheimer’s or at least greatly reduce its effects if you do get it. You’ll get these in a moment.
But first, here are some scary statistics to ponder*:
- Conservative estimates say that one in six women and one in 10 men who live to be at least age 55 will develop Alzheimer’s disease in their remaining lifetime.
- A new case of Alzheimer’s occurs every 68 seconds.
- 14 million (18%) out of the 79 million baby boomers will likely lose their clarity of thought and memory in their lifetime.
- Alzheimer’s increased as a leading cause of death between 2000 and 2005 by 44.7%. During this same time heart disease, strokes and breast and prostate cancer all decreased as leading causes of death.
- The likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65.
- Unless the trend changes, the U.S. will face nearly a half-million new cases of Alzheimer’s in 2010 (that’s only 15 months from the writing of this) and almost a million a year by 2050.
The financial impact of Alzheimer’s for the US will reach $160 billion by 2010 and $189 billion dollars by 2015. (It’s currently $248 billion right now worldwide).
- The emotional toll is even more devastating. Family and friends often face years of hardship and heartbreak in caring for Alzheimer’s patients. These are people they know and love who often don’t even recognize them from day to day.
- Perhaps the most troubling statistic comes from the book, “Preventing Alzheimer’s” by William R. Shankle and Daniel G. Amen. They state that the number of people under age 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is increasing. There are now even people in their 20’s and 30’s coming down with the disease.
So, how do we protect ourselves from this emerging epidemic?
Obviously what we eat and how we supplement our diets both have a huge impact on healthy brain function. But there is more we can do.
Research is ongoing to find these answers. Some of the most cutting-edge research is being done by Yaakov Stern, PhD, at Columbia University.
One interesting finding shows that people with something called “cognitive reserve” (CR) have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Although the technical description of CR is somewhat arcane, it boils down to this: when it comes to protecting your brain, the best approach is “use it or lose it.”
This is good news. Even better is the fact that you can increase your CR at any point in your life. That means starting today you can take steps to decrease your likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.
Enhancing Your Cognitive Reserve
The work of Dr. D.S. Khalsa, M.D., Dr. Stern and other leading experts point to the fact that staying mentally active in novel ways may diminish your Alzheimer’s risk by up to an amazing 70%.
Here are the three things that CR-increasing activities must do to be effective:
- They must engage your attention.
- They must involve more than one of your senses.
- Doing them must break a routine activity in an unexpected way.
Examples of this sort of activity include:
- Learning a new language
- Learning to play an instrument and learning new and challenging pieces along the way
- Visiting a museum and then having a discussion about what you experienced with a friend
Other, simpler techniques work as well. All of these can be done easily on your own:
- Combine two activities you don’t normally do together. An example of this comes from the University of Pennsylvania, where they found that taking a walk while singing a familiar tune “lights up your brain.”
- Do sensory acuity exercises by spending time paying attention to the details of your surroundings. For example, close your eyes and listen, really listen to the sounds around you. See how many of them you can notice at a time. Do likewise with the colors around you.
- Practice yoga, tai chi, qigong or meditation, which are all activities that will challenge you and help you pay more attention to your body and mind.
Do you see the links between all of these? Use it or lose it. Alzheimer’s disease impacts people harder when they’re brains aren’t lively and adaptive. These types of activities strengthen your focus and concentration, increasing your mental resilience and clarity.
And besides, all of these activities are FUN!
All the best to you for your health and happiness,
2008 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures
published by the Alzheimer’s Association