Tuesday, 2 April 2019

AD: What does healthy mean to you?

This is a paid advertisement for Mobility Plus.

With everyone discussing health on TV, social media and in real life, it is hard not to wonder what actually defines us as healthy or unhealthy. We all know that it's not as simple as someone's BMI and level of activity, but we choose to focus on these two factors the most. But health is so much more complex than weight. Smoking, alcohol, drugs, sun exposure, pollution, toxic chemicals in products and food, stress, the amount of sleep we get, mental illness and so much more! It's not black and white and there's always new research taking many factors into consideration. 

Today I wanted to talk about something I have been thinking about a lot lately. As someone who worked in a care home with early-onset dementia & Alzheimer's patients, I have always been very interested in brain health and how we can prevent these diseases with our everyday choices and habits. I also recently watched a few TED talks about this topic and the new research is very interesting. We can actually do small things to prevent or slow down these serious conditions and it's something I am trying to do every day. 

Every 3 minutes someone in the UK develops Dementia. As mentioned in this article, we can develop early-onset Alzheimer’s and dementia at as young as 30! It is estimated that there are 42,325 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with young onset Dementia and I have personally worked with young patients affected by it and it is truly heartbreaking. I am 32 this year and I cannot imagine my life changing so drastically. Women are statistically at a higher chance of developing Dementia (61% of people with Dementia in the UK are female), partly due to the fact that women live longer, which increases the risk. At the age of 65 women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing the disease compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men. New research shows that Alzheimer’s disease can now be spotted through a simple eye test, as US scientists found that the retina was thinner in people with Alzheimer’s and they had lost more small blood vessels at the back of the eye. This means that the disease could be tackled at a much earlier stage. 

So how can we make sure to decrease the odds of getting these conditions? One of surprising factors in Alzheimer's is our sleep quality, as it can affect the risk of developing the disease. Disrupted sleep can be a cause and a symptom (or both) of Dementia, so it's very important to try our best to get a good nights sleep and adequate rest. I know it's easier said than done, but we can make small changes, like reducing screen time and going to bed early for a better chance of a good nights sleep. Our bodies, especially our brain need it to function properly.

Another interesting factor in preventing or slowing down the process of Dementia and Alzheimer's is keeping your brain active - learning a new thing every day is exercise for your brain. This way we can create new neurons and new connections in our brain, which are vital. Do you remember the movie Still Alice? The author of the book Lisa Genova speaks about the importance of learning new things, such as a new language or simply reading a new book. You can watch it on youtube here

Physical exercise is great for everything and yes, you guessed it - it is amazing for your brain too. I watched a TED talk by neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki discussing the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Amazing, right? Definitely give it a watch here

Of course, our diet also plays a big part in preventing Alzheimer's and dementia. I personally eat a fully plant based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, wholegrains and healthy fats. Smoking and alcohol are obviously a huge NO, but that's a given. 

I think the saddest thing which can contribute to developing dementia is the lack of social interactions, conversations and simple human connections, hence why it is so important to make sure to spend time with our family and friends, especially the elderly. 

Luckily, genetics are on my side as there is no history of dementia in my family tree, but it is very important to me to do my best to prevent it, as I have seen the everyday struggles of living with this condition during my time as a carer. 

I hope you found this blog post interesting, as I like discussing important topics like this one on my website. If you would like to donate to any Alzheimer's and Dementia charities, Mobility Plus shared some at the end of this article

Sandra


  
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