Editor’s Note: In the Dec. 2014 issue’s article, “Keep Sharp! Ways to Ward Off Alzheimer’s” on page 32, Dr. John Collins of NeuroCenter Associates in Fort Wayne was quoted along with Dr. Michael Trayford of the Apex Brain Center. We want to clarify that Dr. Collins is not affiliated with the Apex Brain Center nor Dr. Trayford. We regret any potential problems or confusion that this may have caused to Dr. Collins and his patients. We also want to clarify that the article on page 26 entitled, “Women & Epilepsy” was written by Dr. John Collins. We apologize for any confusion this missing byline may have caused.
We laughingly call them “senior moments,” those times when we forget someone’s name or what we came into a room looking for. In the case of Alzheimer’s, these tendencies will only worsen if not prevented. According to Dr. Michael Trayford of Apex Brain Center, “Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a neurodegenerative process that attacks nerve cells in the brain.” The results of this are, he says, are “profound changes in memory, thinking, behavior, (and) motor control…” By 2050, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will double, says Fort Wayne Neurologist, John Collins, due to the maturing of the Baby Boomers and that people are living longer.
What, if anything, can we do to stave off these signs, which tend to show up after the age of 60 in those genetically prone to Alzheimer’s, and increasing in frequency from there? An active brain and an active body can help. Dr. Collins says exercise is the closest thing to a magic pill we have right now. “Exercise has across the board benefits,” he finds, seeing it as a “fountain of youth.”
And exercise doesn’t have to be intense for it to be helpful. Simply walking 20 to 30 minutes a day will keep the mind going. Anything aerobic is beneficial, something that raises the heart rate to 50-80-percent of your resting heart rate. Dr. Trayford states other physical activity requiring “purposeful movement such as dance and Tai Chi has also proven to be quite effective for maintaining and growing brain function.”
Puzzled? Good! Brain games are another route to keeping a clear mind. Dr. Collins recommends the online game, Luminosity, for fun challenges. Or, try crossword puzzles to keep your mind from going stale.
Dr. Collins says to learn something every day. Keeping the brain active and forcing yourself to use it, will keep you on your toes. Dr. Trayford agrees: “Studies have shown that novel activities (i.e. learning something new like a language or musical instrument) at any age provide significant benefit to the aging brain.” He also advocates using the opposite hand for brushing the teeth and writing as ways to rouse the brain.
Create changes in an individual’s environment to see changes in brain activity: “In advanced cases, simple environmental modifications can provide this novel stimulation to the brain.” Try repositioning the furniture or repainting the walls, suggests Dr. Trayford.
However, “…all changes in activity levels and environmental shift should be made with respect to the degree of function the individual exhibits.” Dr. Trayford warns against changing too much in advanced cases when your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s might be too confused.
Staying socially engaged is also key for remaining alert. “Humans are designed to be social animals,” says Dr. Collins. So joining book clubs, going out for coffee and maintaining friendships are not just for fun. If you find you have extra time on your hands, try volunteering, too.
Diet does matter. Atkins disciples, rejoice: Dr. Collins advocates a low carbohydrate diet for promoting brain health. Dr. Trayford suggests a diet “low in processed and refined foods and high in nutrient rich whole foods.”
Says Dr. Trayford, “The key to effectively combating Alzheimer’s is early intervention, and even stacking the odds in your favor prior to symptoms ever occurring.” Through diet and exercise and “effectively managing stress through mediation, prayer and other methods, and always learning new skills and subjects (you) will ensure you have done what you can to build a better brain and resist or minimize the grip of this dreadful disease.”