Dementia Care Site Map
Maintain a Healthy Brain

 

Exercise can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias.

What is good for your heart is good for your brain!

Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or even require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction.

Exercise and your brain

Aerobic exercise improves brain function; walking, bicycling, gardening, tai chi, yoga and other activities for about 30 minutes daily gets the body moving and the heart pumping.

 

Physical activities that also involve mental activity - plotting your route, observing traffic signals, making choices - provide additional value for brain health. And doing these activities with a companion offers the added benefit of social interaction.

 

Healthy diet and your brain

A healthy diet is also important. According to Alzheimer's Australia's Your Brain Matters website, evidence is emerging that a healthy diet that includes antioxidants, unsaturated fats and certain vitamins may help reduce your risk of dementia. These nutrients are known to be important for maintaining healthy brain cells. The research to date is not conclusive, but suggests they may also play a role in reducing dementia risk.

 

Sleep and your brain

Adequate sleep is thought to play a role in maintaining good brain health. According to the Australian Brain Foundation website, poor sleep or sleep loss leads to fatigue, immune suppression, memory, concentration and mood disorders.

 

Sleep appears necessary for our nervous systems to work properly. Too little sleep leaves us drowsy and unable to concentrate the next day. It also leads to impaired memory, physical performance and a reduced ability to carry out day to day activities. If sleep deprivation continues, hallucinations and mood swings may develop. For most adults 7-8 hours sleep a night is sufficient.

 

This video is hosted by author and physician Deepak Chopra, and Harvard Medical School professor Rudy Tanzi, explaining the beneficial effects of sleep, in particular deep sleep.

 

Social activities

Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social stimulation may help to prevent or delay the onset of dementia. Maintain social connections by visiting family and friends, joining a club or volunteering in the community.

 

Mind your Mind is Alzheimer's Australia's dementia risk reduction program. This program states that participating in positive social activities and being connected with your community, family and friends seems to be good for your heart and your brain. Socialising and being connected is associated with a lower risk of dementia.

 

More information is available at Alzheimer's Australia's Your Brain Matters website. So why not try the following:

 

Be social!

Have fun!

Reap the rewards!

 

Protect your head against injury

Protect your head by wearing an approved helmet when engaging in sporting activities such as cycling or skiing.

 

When driving always wear a seatbelt to reduce injuries in an accident. Head injuries which cause unconsciousness, may be a risk factor in developing symptoms of dementia.

 

Use safety features like handrails to prevent falls as falls are one of the major causes of head injuries in older adults. Strategies to avoid falls and prevent injuries include:

* Exercising to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility

* Removing tripping hazards such as rugs or boxes, chair or table legs

* Installing grab rails in your bathrooms

* Ensuring frequently used items are more accessible, and avoiding using chairs or
step ladders to reach things

* Having your medications reviewed by your doctor or pharmacist regularly
(prescription and over-the-counter). This will minimise unnecessary side effects which
could interfere with your balance.

* Checking the lighting in your home, indoors and outdoors so as to improve visibility,
especially around stairways, hallways and entrances.

 

Avoid harmful substances

Excessive alcohol and drug misuse can damage brain cells. There are also risk factors associated with smoking which include vascular disease, stroke and heart disease, all of which have been associated with increased risk of dementia.

 

Tips for remembering things

The following points may assist in jogging your memory:

* Make a list of important things to remember. Here is the trick - don't forget to refer to
the list regularly!

* Place regularly used items, such as your handbag, wallet and keys, in the same place
each time you use them.

* When you meet new people repeat their name in conversation.

* Follow a routine.

* Use name tags or signs where possible.

* Keep a detailed calendar or diary, include who, where and when. The system which you
adopt to help your memory should be individualised and fit with your past habits and
needs.

 

Brain Video Game

Brain training is a popular way of trying to keep the mind sharp into old age but views about its value to everyday life are mixed.

 

However, the researchers at the University of California believe their NeuroRacer game is different as it was designed to improve multi-tasking, a skill known to deteriorate with age.

 

Adam Gazzaley, one of the study's authors and a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco developed the game with assistance from professional video game developers. Gazzaley's lab came up with a custom-designed three dimensional video game called NeuroRacer.

 

To test the game, Gazzaley's team recruited 46 healthy people who ranged in age from 60 to 85 years old.

 

Players use a joystick to navigate a car along a winding road while various signs pop up. Users must push a button when they see one particular sign while ignoring all the others.

 

The game gets more difficult as a player improves but shouldn't become so difficult that it is too frustrating to enjoy.

 

Tests showed that a small amount of practice led to rapid improvements. After just 12 hours of using it on a laptop at home over a month, the pensioners fared better than players who were decades younger.

Adam says "After training, they improved their multi-tasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds."

 

Working memory and attention span also improved, despite the game not aiming to do this, reported the journal Nature.

 

To watch the video of the study please click here.

 

Please note NeuroRacer is not commercially available.

 

(Resources: Mail Online & Nature)