It’s a new year…and that usually means a new list of resolutions. For many, the list may include losing weight, eating healthier, saving money, spending more time with family and friends, quitting smoking or drinking, and learning or doing something new. Perhaps instead of resolutions, we should consider commitments for the new year…commitments to a healthier lifestyle.
You are already familiar with the 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention™, which include diet and supplements, exercise, and stress management. Make a commitment to eat healthier. Just like your body, your brain needs proper nutrition, blood flow, energy, and care to operate effectively. There is growing evidence that links brain health to heart health. Many of the conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes, appear to increase the risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Eating a heart-healthy diet rich in cold-water fish, lean protein, nuts, whole grains, olive oil and healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables can help protect against these conditions. Additionally, antioxidants found in foods and supplements, such as Vitamins A, C and E, help protect against free radicals, which are highly-reactive forms of oxygen that create chemical reactions that damage brain cells. Foods such as broccoli, tomatoes, kale, citrus, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, wheat germ, and seeds, are great sources of antioxidants.
If you want to maintain a healthy body and mind, you must exercise. Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain, releases helpful brain chemicals, such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, and protects brain cells. Make a commitment to exercise for 30 minutes every day. It need not be rigorous and so demanding that you’re not enjoying it. Try walking, dancing, biking or swimming. Include weight training several times a week as well as gentle stretching. In addition to physical exercises, add mental exercises as well. Try stimulating your brain every day by working a crossword puzzle, studying a foreign language, practicing a musical instrument, reading a good book, or taking up a new hobby.
Studies show that the more socially connected we are, the better we fare on tests of memory and cognition. Make a commitment to spend more time with family and friends. Find something that you and your spouse, parents, siblings or friends enjoy doing together…coffee together in the morning, an evening walk, a shared hobby, or taking a class together. Try making a weekly date and consider volunteering some time to a cause you believe in.
The effects of stress on your body are well known, but your brain also suffers. Chronic stress can lead to shrinkage in the hippocampus, a key memory area of the brain, and an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Make a commitment to manage stress. Try incorporating yoga, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, or meditation into your daily routine. Regular meditation may help protect you against the damaging effects of stress. In fact, ARPF research revealed that the first area that decreases in function in Alzheimer’s disease…an area called the posterior cingulate gyrus…is actually activated during the 12-minute Kirtan Kriya meditation, a type of meditation from the Kundalini yoga tradition, which has been practiced for thousands of years. This meditation can help improve memory, energy, mood, and overall well-being. Learn more by visiting www.alzheimersprevention.org.
The more you strengthen each of the four pillars in your daily life, the healthier your brain, body and lifestyle will be. Make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle for 2012.