Mental dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease threaten the dignity and quality of life of the elderly. Research studies that point out mind and memory exercises, healthful eating, and other wellness advice that can delay or eliminate the onsets of these conditions are welcome news to millions.
Healthy Mind and Brain
In an AARP article of March&April 2008, Gabrielle deGroot Redford reports studies show exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells (neurons) in the part of the brain that controls memory and learning (the hippocampus). Scientists had previously believed that brain cells were not replaced, explaining memory loss and dementia in old age.
In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Julie Deardorff reports physical exercise enhances the mind by balancing neurotransmitters. According to Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, “Keeping the brain in balance can change your life.” Deardorff reports that exercise helps learning on three levels: Optimizing mind-set to improve alertness and motivation, encouraging nerve cells to bind to one another, causing the brain to be ready for new learning, spurring development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.
Exercise and Learning
Ratey’s research findings are the basis for a Zero Hour physical education program at Naperville Central High School, a program which administrators say has improved the academic work of students.
In Superbrain Yoga, Master Choa Kok Sui describes a yoga technique that simulates acupressure points on the earlobes, activating and exercising the brain.
From the AARP Bulletin of March 2008 comes a report that exercise may slow aging by generating longer telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes. These tend to shorten as people age, but those who exercised had longer telomores than sedentary people, as found in studies at Kings College, London.
Brush and Floss
People who lost all their teeth were found to be three times more likely to have cognitive impairments than those with at least a few teeth.
Drivers and Cell Phones
Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that cell phone use, even hands free, can make a sober driver as dangerous as a drunken driver, as reported by Marie McCullough, Philadelphia Inquirer. Researchers utilizing fmri studies of test subjects’ brains while using cell phones during driving simulation. The test subjects made more driving errors and showed decreased brain activity in the parietal lobe, the area which controls skills involved in driving.
Food Fights Inflammation
Andrew Weil, MD, in a March&April AARP article reports that food choices can relieve pain by relieving inflammation. Weil advises avoiding refined, processed, and manufactured food. He identifies these major inflammation intensifiers: refined soybean oil, an ingredient in many processed foods, and high-fructose corn syrup, a widely used sweetener.
Weil suggests these foods to combat the pain resulting from inflammation: extra-virgin olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum, powdered turmeric, ginger, dark chocolate, white, green, or oolong tea.
Stress Can Kill
Another report in the March 2008 AARP Bulletin indicates that stress can kill. London researchers tracked 10,000 government workers and found that those with high reported levels of stress had a 68 percent higher risk of heart illness.
Belly Fat Research
Barbara Anderson, in McClatchy Newspapers, reports on research at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. Researcher Rachel Whitmer finds that those with big belly fat are more likely to suffer dementia in later life. Chances of dementia were three and a half times greater in the 6,500 people studied if they were both obese and had large bellies.