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Dr. Marc Milstein, a faculty member at the California Health & Longevity Institute, recently spoke on Keeping the Aging Brain Young. Following are 8 key areas he suggests we address to preserve memory and prevent dementia:

1.  Sleep

    • Untreated sleep apnea can lead to memory loss 10 years before the general population, but if treated, the 10-year window can be eliminated.
    •  When we sleep, our brain squeezes out all the toxins built up during the day. If you wake up feeling ‘foggy’, it means too much garbage has been left in the brain.
    • Be careful with sleep aids, including melatonin. The FDA does not regulate melatonin, and it can interfere with other medications as well as with the brain producing its own melatonin.
    • Tip: dim lights from devices an hour before bedtime and try to sleep in true darkness.

2.  Be Socially Engaged and Learn New Things

    • Feelings of isolation or loneliness increase our chances of memory loss.
    • Every time you learn something new, your brain secretes a chemical that breaks up the formation of plaque in the brain and helps get rid of built-up garbage.
    • Tip: learn something outside your field of expertise, like a new sport, language, or instrument.
    • Tip: consider dancing. It’s physical, social, a stress reliever, and challenges your brain to learn new moves.

3.  Keep Inflammation Low

    • There’s a cell in our brain that is responsible for ‘cleaning up the garbage’ but it can get confused and start attacking healthy brain cells. Inflammation is one of the key factors that can confuse these cells.
    • What we eat is very important as it impacts inflammation in our gut, which can lead to damage in our brain.
    • Tip: ask your health care provider about a CRP blood test, which measures inflammation levels in the blood.
    • Tip: don’t skip your dentist appointment. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, has been tied to increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
    • Tip: avoid fructose and high fructose corn syrup, as it significantly adds to inflammation in our gut.
    • Tip: diets high in Vitamin C lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

4.  Manage Stress

    • Not all stress is bad, but never-ending stress can cause the region of our brain that regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory to shrink.
    • Stress, if out of control, can cause inflammation.
    • Tip: 10 minutes daily of time outdoors is proven to help ease our stress hormones.
    • Tip: studies show that when people practice meditation/mindfulness, the brain becomes better at managing stress. Mainstream medicine now shows that meditation can lower both stress and inflammatory markers.

5.  MIND Diet

    • Combines aspects of two very popular diets: the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
    • Studies show following the diet reduces the risk of dementia and the decline in brain health that people often experience as they age.
    • The diet encourages 10 foods: green leafy vegetables, all other vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry, and wine.
    • Tip: following the MIND diet, even moderately, is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

6.  Moderate Exercise/Walking

    • Exercise is a magic pill for brain health.
    • A good goal is 20 minutes most days of the week. This should be the type of exercise where we feel energized and want to do it again the next day.
    • Tip: the two best times to walk are in the morning and after we eat.

7.  Treat Diabetes

    • The single greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, besides age, is untreated diabetes. It raises your risk by 65%.
    • Tip: don’t wait, consult your health care provider.

8.  Take Care of the Heart

    • To have a healthy brain, you must have a healthy heart.
    • High or low blood pressure increases the risk of memory loss.
    • Tip: minding each of the 7 major focus areas above will keep your heart healthy.