One of the things we fear most as we age is the deterioration of our minds. The prevailing thought is that there is nothing we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease; that it is just a product of aging.
That is one of the many misconceptions of Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, the author of “Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance.” Fotuhi is also a consultant for the “Beautiful Minds: Finding Your Lifelong Potential” campaign and its “America’s Brain Health Index,” which is a state-by-state measurement of people's brain health.
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There are two different kinds of Alzheimer’s disease, according to Fotuhi. “The first is early onset, which is the pure form of the disease that destroys,” he says. “The other is late onset, which is the combination of six or seven pathologies that affect the brain.”
Fotuhi says that late onset is by far the most prevalent (8 out of 10 cases), and because it is a combination of various brain diseases, drugs that are prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s don’t often work.
“All Alzheimer’s drugs have failed because of mixed pathologies,” he said, “Only 20 percent of people will benefit. It’s a big mistake to wait for the ‘magic drug.’”
So what can we do to stop the onset of Alzheimer’s? Fotuhi has some solutions that he says are “like putting money into a retirement fund.”
“When you’re in your 20s, sleep is very important,” he says. “Lack of sleep leads to high cortisol levels, which leads to increased stress.”
Fotuhi also emphasizes how damaging stress can be to the human brain:“When stress interferes with your daily life, it can destroy brain cells.” He recommends meditation as “a simple but powerful way to reduce stress.”
He also recommends a heart-healthy diet loaded with fruits, vegetables and seafood.
As we get into our 30s and 40s, Fotuhi recommends keeping your brain active.
“Life can get repetitive, so cognitive stimulation is important,” he says. “On average, the cognitive process slows down at age 27. So it’s very important to work on your memory.”
Keep your brain alive
If you’re looking to get a head start on warding off Alzheimer’s disease, a new book can help.
Dr. Lawrence C. Katz, author of ”Keep Your Brain Alive,”says that our nerve cell branches, called dendrites, can thin out over time if not used often enough. Katz suggests practicing "neurobics" — exercises for your brain.
The neurobics detailed in the book include getting dressed with your eyes closed, changing up your daily breakfast or taking a different route to work. Such a disturbance of routine can “wake up” the senses and keep your brain active.