by Lisa Feiner
Aging gracefully often means staying as young-looking as possible. Annual doctor visits check the blood, heart, reflexes and medications. Yet, attention is rarely given to our brains unless we experience memory problems. It should go without saying that aging gracefully does not include developing dementia.
Statistics show there is good reason to focus on brain health. The World Health Organization estimates the number of people living with dementia worldwide to be 47 million and projects that number to almost triple by 2050. By age 65, Americans have a 12 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a specific type of dementia, and by age 85, that number increases to almost 50 percent.
The good news is that dementia is not a natural part of aging—it often has specific causes that can be addressed, treated and reversed, sometimes completely. The brain, like all organs, can be monitored and checked over the course of our lives. A variety of diagnostics, from eye exams to inflammation markers in the blood, can be used to identify an underlying issue years before signs of memory loss become apparent.
Dementia often has roots that can be traced back decades earlier—in some cases, to childhood. Because many dementia contributors are known (see SharpAgain.org), lifestyle changes can be mindfully addressed and implemented. Below are just a few examples of changes that can reduce dementia risk.
NUTRITION: Making changes to diet and increasing exercise can turn back the clock and restore the body, as well as the mind. Studies show that a Mediterranean diet, comprised of lean meats and fish, healthy fats such as nuts and olive oils, fresh fruits and vegetables, and little (if any) processed foods, help keep the brain functioning well into old age.
MERCURY: Many cavities have “silver” fillings made of 50 percent mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Large fish like tuna and swordfish also contain mercury. Toxins get stored in our tissues, build up and ultimately cross the blood-brain barrier. Symptoms of mercury toxicity are practically identical to Alzheimer’s disease. Silver mercury fillings can be safely removed only by a specially trained dentist.
BREATHING: A lifetime of poor breathing habits (often exacerbated by environmental toxins and poor nutrition) can lead to sleep apnea, which causes repeated awakenings at night. This interrupted sleep pattern prevents the brain from getting enough oxygen and detoxifying at night. A doctor or dentist that specializes in sleep issues or a sleep center can help.
Environmental toxins, lifestyle choices, technology and stress (among others) affect our health in ways never before imagined. Aging gracefully with our bodies and minds intact means understanding that health happens from the inside out, and over the course of a lifetime. Even people with a family predisposition to dementia can prevent or delay the onset of symptoms. Remember, graceful aging is not only a gift to ourselves, it’s a gift to our loved ones.
Lisa Feiner, MBA, MEd, is a certified health coach and co-founder of the nonprofit Sharp Again Naturally, which educates the public and medical community about causes of memory loss and how to address them. For more information, visit SharpAgain.org, email Lisa.Feiner@SharpAgain.org or call 914-281-1404.