May 21, 2019
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Manisha Santosh Parulekar, M.D. contributes to topics such as Sleep Disorders, Dementia.
Richard Bullock, M.D. contributes to topics such as Geriatric Medicine.
Tommasina Papa-Rugino, M.D. contributes to topics such as Neurology.
Every 65 seconds, a new person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or senile dementia, with current estimates indicating that 5.8 million Americans over 65 currently live with the disease. By 2050 that number is expected to climb to almost 14 million. Scientists are continually researching this disease, with discoveries about risk factors and prevention measures coming almost daily. While no cure exists, research has uncovered ways to slow its progress, as well as ways to protect yourself from developing it.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and causes confusion and problems with memory and behavior. Although scientific experts are still unsure of the exact cause of this degenerative disease, they believe there is a hereditary factor.
“People with a family history of the disease have a somewhat higher risk of developing it themselves, in particular when the condition has started at a relatively young age in other relatives,” says Manisha Parulekar, M.D., chief of the Division of Geriatrics at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Scientists also believe outside influences, such as environmental factors and lifestyle, contribute to overall risk. Fortunately, many of these factors are within your control, so you can actively take preventative steps to protect yourself.
- Take care of your heart. Heart health equals brain health, with evidence pointing to a strong correlation between the risk factors for heart health and brain health. That’s why it’s critical to maintain a normal blood pressure, blood lipids, blood sugar and weight.
- Get moving. Exercise will positively impact your brain health, so every week aim to engage in about two hours of moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking or jogging, swimming or jumping rope.
- Refrain from smoking. Seek help in quitting if you currently light up.
- Skip the junk food. While specific dietary recommendations have not been established for preventing Alzheimer’s, Mediterranean-style diets, rich in olive oils, fish and nuts, may have power in maintaining cognitive health. In addition, load your diet with foods rich in omega-3s, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseed oil.
- Stick to eight hours every night. Seek treatment for any sleep-related conditions, like insomnia or sleep apnea, that may be preventing you from getting quality shut-eye.
- Prioritize leisure time. Managing stress levels can play a key role in brain health. Especially if you’re feeling the weight of the world, don’t skip your hobbies, meditation and other relaxing activities.
- Care for your mental health. Because there is also a correlation between mental illness and cognitive decline, Dr. Parulekar says to seek professional help for depression or anxiety.
- Keep your social calendar full. “Being involved in a club or volunteering has been shown to ward off dementia to some degree,” says Richard Bullock, M.D., FACP, a Hackensack Meridian Health geriatrician in Edison, New Jersey.
- Protect your head. Research shows that traumatic brain injury has been linked to a greater chance of developing senile dementia. Always wear a seatbelt, put on a helmet when biking or playing contact or extreme sports, and take measures to fall-proof your home.
- Challenge yourself. Do that Sunday crossword puzzle, play that game of chess or keep reading your favorite books. Earn some continuing education hours by taking classes at the local university or community college.
“Staying engaged mentally and with friends and family can keep your brain in top shape, especially in the earlier and middle stages of your life,” says Tommasina Papa Rugino, M.D., a Hackensack Meridian Health neurologist based in Manahawkin, New Jersey.
Manisha Parulekar, M.D., practices in Hackensack. To make an appointment, call 551-996-1140. Richard Bullock, M.D., FACP, practices in Edison. To make an appointment, call 732-486-3700. Tommasina Papa Rugino, M.D., practices in Manahawkin. To make an appointment, call 609-978-8870. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.
All of the physicians mentioned in this article are part of Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group, a network of over 1,000 physicians and advanced providers at more than 300 practice locations throughout New Jersey. Visit HMHMedicalGroup.org for more information.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.