Despite what the majority believe, genetics aren’t destiny. The American population should know that despite their family history and personal genetics, lifestyle and behavioral changes have the potential to preserve and promote brain health and prevent age-related diseases. This isn’t only the case for Alzheimer’s, but also heart disease, diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
What is SHIELD and How Can it Help Against Alzheimer’s?
Healthy lifestyles can delay Alzheimer’s by years or decades in over 95% of those at risk for the disease. The best-selling author of “Super Genes” and “The Healing Self” gave the following prescription to ward off dementia which he called SHIELD.
S – Sleep
Amyloid plaque develops in the brain to protect the brain cells and when you are awake more plaque is produced. When there is too much plaque in the brain it can interfere with the function of the cell and bind to the nerve cells, causing them harm over time.
While sleeping, development of amyloid plaque decreases, and the brain can produce more fluid to clean up excess plaque. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep every night to ensure that your brain has an opportunity to perform this cleanup process.
- During deep night sleep amyloid production is turned down. Also, less plaque is formed, the brain cleans itself out.
H – Handling Stress
Experts agree that stress reduction is beneficial for the whole body, particularly the brain. Adopting a brief and frequent practice of meditation can help relieve stress.
How to Meditate:
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
I – Interaction with Friends
Isolation can cause extra stress and can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Prioritize social engagement and maintain contact with family and friends. If you are physically separated from loved ones, call and talk to them frequently and search for a network of social support to stay healthy.
- Loneliness causes stress that can lead to chemical changes in the brain that kills nerve cells. Speaking with people involves nerve activity that strengthens the brain.
E – Exercise
Increasing heart rate up is not only helpful in preventing cardiovascular disease, but it can also fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t like doing fitness? Start with aerobic exercise and go at least once a week for a power walk. If you don’t exercise regularly, spend 30-45 minutes working your way up to three days a week. Try finding exercises that excite you, motivating you to go to classes.
- Walking 8,000 – 10,000 steps per day reduces pathology leading to Alzheimer’s and helps grow nerve cells.
L – Learn New Things
Mental exercise, along with physical exercise, is equally important in preventing and slowing down cognitive decline. Studying and learning new skills will create new links to the nerves that maintain optimum brain health. Try to embrace a new hobby, learn a new language or play a new musical instrument.
- Learning something new strengthens the connections between nerve cells called synapses and provides cognitive reserve.
D – Diet
It’s been shown that the Mediterranean diet helps the brain, by eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil and cutting back on intake of red meat. If you have high blood pressure, there are similar advantages to the DASH diet too. Certain research has indicated a link between soda consumption and decreased brain volume and increased brain aging.
- Nothing is better for the brain than the Mediterranean diet. Eat less red meat and more fruits, nuts, and vegetables.
The Victorian Assisted Living and Retirement Community
The Victorian is an assisted living and retirement community that makes living independently, while at the same time feeling safe and secure, a reality. We strive to provide the best quality of life for all residents including those suffering from loneliness and depression.
We offer a comprehensive activity program that includes both physical and social activities to encourage emotional well-being. Our staff is trained to assist those with depression. If you or a loved one are considering assisted living, contact The Victorian today to learn more about our services or tour our community.