Train your brain? Can Alzheimer’s and dementia be prevented?
There is a lot of concern about the number of people with dementia in Australia today. If you train your brain will it help keep dementia away.
Unfortunately, there are estimated to be over 447 000 Australians living with dementia. Moreover this is expected to rise to nearly 600,000 by 2028 and over a million by 2058. In 2018, dementia was estimated to cost Australia more than $15 billion. Inevitably this cost will only increase. For more statistical information click on this link https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics
Obviously the financial cost is only part of the problem – the emotional cost of seeing a loved relative develop dementia and turn into a different person cannot be over estimated. We have recently seen and heard on TV horrific accounts of how elderly people with dementia in some nursing homes are abused by staff. Can the onset of dementia be prevented? Of course, none of us would like to think it will happen to us.
What can we do – there are encouraging signs
Fortunately there are other things we can do besides waiting for a cure all drug. Recently promising research shows that you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias through simple but effective lifestyle changes. So you can look at your personal risk factors and maximise your chances of lifelong brain health.
Evidently there are several factors which influence brain health or as it says on the guide to preventing Alzheimers there are six pillars
Mens sana in corpore sano
As you would expect exercise and diet are important – as the Romans said “Mens sana in corpore sano” – “A healthy mind in a healthy body”.
Obviously social engagement, quality sleep and stress management are also important. For more on these five pillars read the guide to Alzheimer prevention. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/preventing-alzheimers-disease.htm
Train your brain for Mental Stimulation
We are concentrating on stimulating the brain and
Use it or Lose it
Interestingly, the brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. But just as it is with muscle strength, you have to use it or lose it. Whatever your age, there are many ways you can improve your cognitive skills, prevent memory loss, and protect your “little grey cells”.
How to boost brain power at any age
It is apparent that a good memory depends on the health of the brain. Whether you’re a student studying for a qualification, a working professional interested in doing all you can to stay mentally sharp, or a senior looking to preserve and enhance your grey matter as you age, there’s lots you can do to improve your memory and mental performance
You can teach an old dog new tricks
It is an old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this simply isn’t true. Furthermore the human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and change—even into old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways.
Train your brain with a workout
By the time you’ve reached adulthood, your brain has developed millions of neural pathways. These pathways help you process and recall information quickly, solve problems, and perform daily tasks with a minimum of mental effort. But if you always stick to these well-worn paths, you aren’t giving your brain the stimulation it needs to keep growing and developing.
Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to “use it or lose it.” Additionally the more you work out your brain, the better you’ll be able to process and remember information. The best brain exercises break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways. See our blog on developing mental maths skills – Improve mental agility
What is a good brain-boosting activity
It teaches you something new. No matter how intellectually demanding the activity, if it’s something you’re already good at, it’s not a good brain exercise. The activity needs to be something that’s unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. For this reason to strengthen the brain, you need to keep learning and developing new skills.
It’s challenging. The best brain-boosting activities demand your full and close attention. However it’s not enough that you found the activity challenging at one point. It must still be something that requires mental effort. For example, learning to play a challenging new piece of music counts. Playing a difficult piece you’ve already memorized does not.
It’s a skill you can build on. Look for activities that allow you to start at an easy level and work your way up as your skills improve —always trying to stretch your capabilities. When a previously difficult level starts to feel comfortable, that means it’s time to tackle the next level of performance.
It’s rewarding. Rewards support the brain’s learning process. The more interested and engaged you are in the activity, the more likely you’ll continue doing it and the greater the benefits you’ll experience. So choose activities that, while challenging, are still enjoyable and satisfying.
Think of something new you’ve always wanted to try, like learning how to play the guitar, make pottery, juggle, play chess, speak French, dance the tango, or master your golf swing. Any of these activities can help you improve your memory, so long as they keep you challenged and engaged.
Those who continue learning new things and challenging their brains throughout life are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In essence, you need to “use it or lose it.”
Enjoy strategy games, puzzles, and riddles. Brain teasers and strategy games provide a great mental workout and build your capacity to form and retain cognitive associations. Do a crossword puzzle, play board games, cards, or word and number games such as Scrabble or Sudoku.
My mother lived to 97 and still had “all her marbles’. She kept physically active in her retirement. A ballroom dancer into her late 80’s she was always learning new dances and routines. She even taught other pensioners aerobics! Mum played lawn bowls as well. She did lots of crosswords and liked Sudoku. Every Sunday she went to visit my brother and family and they always did crosswords together. Social interaction and mental stimulation together with a good Sunday lunch!
When I last visited her in England in 2011, I had an IPAD with me and she took to it straight away playing a Sudoku app. As usual she was willing to try something new and challenging.
Apps that stimulate and train your brain
Do not underestimate the power of apps to give your brain a work out.
For a start, there are apps for learning languages, learning how to draw, for doing crosswords and jigsaws.
Letters and Numbers App
Notably our Letters and Numbers App gives the opportunity for “Cross Brain Training” as it involves letter puzzles and number puzzles and combines them. If you practise you will improve. There are different levels to strive for so it meets the criteria we saw above.
- A skill to build on
In conclusion, give it a go! It is available for IPhone, IPad, Android phones and tablete. You can try it for free to see if it is for you.
Below are the links to the app on App Store and Google Play Store.