Sep. 18, 2009
Good Brain Health is Important to Remember on World Alzheimer's Day
The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) is recognizing World Alzheimer's Day 2009 on Sept. 21 by offering ways to promote brain health.
"Since millions of baby boomers are entering late adulthood, we expect the number of patients with Alzheimer's disease to increase drastically over the next several decades, says Allan Levey, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at Emory University. "Prevention and early detection are extremely important in the fight against this global disease."
Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia among older adults, affects parts of the brain that control thinking, remembering and making decisions.
Emory's ADRC is a National Institute on Aging funded center focused on clinical trials and research for Alzheimer's disease. The only comprehensive program in Georgia and one of only 32 nationwide, the Emory ADRC is seeking cures through basic laboratory research, bringing new diagnostic methods and treatments into the clinic, and providing patients and their families with state-of-the-art care and access to cutting-edge advances.
Levey, director of the Emory ADRC, offers the following tips for good brain health.
Stay socially active
Remaining socially engaged in activities that stimulate the mind and body can reduce stress levels and help maintain healthy connections among brain cells. Volunteer in community groups, join a bridge club or book club or other social group, and travel to new places and meet new people.
Be physically active
Exercising your body regularly is vital for maintaining good blood flow to the brain and encouraging the growth of new brain cells. Regular physical activity can also greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and in so doing protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Stay mentally active
Your brain needs mental stimulation to allow it to function at its peak. Research shows that keeping the brain active helps increase its vigor and may strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even generate new ones. Enroll in a class, attend lectures and plays, read, write and learn a new language. Memory exercises, crossword puzzles and Sudoku are also good options to keep your brain sharp.
Protect your head
Injury to the head can increase your risk of dementia as you get older. Make sure you wear a helmet when you ride a bike, skate, ski or engage in any activity where you may injure yourself. Never forget to wear your seat belt when you ride in a car.
Eat brain healthy foods
The brain, like the heart, needs the proper balance of nutrients, including protein and sugar, to optimally function. According to current research, certain foods appear to protect brain cells so increase your intake of these protective foods.
- There is growing evidence antioxidants, found in dark vegetables and fruits, may help protect brain cells. Some of the vegetables include: spinach, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries.
- Cold water fish contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids: halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.
- Nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant.
- Make sure you are eating a diet low in fat and cholesterol since high cholesterol may contribute to brain cell damage.
Take care of your overall health
Scientists are finding more clues that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes may increase a person's risk of getting Alzheimer's disease.
Keep your weight in a healthy range, lower your cholesterol if it is high and maintain control of your blood glucose and blood pressure. Also, get adequate sleep at night and take steps to manage stress. Quit smoking, drink in moderation and do not use recreational drugs. These things can increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.
The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.