Health

Train Your Brain: Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease

Reverse cognitive decline with healthy habits.

Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Out of those millions the majority age from 60 and over and rely on close family members and assisted living caregivers to aid them.

According to ALZ.org, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. Dementia describes the condition.

”Often people are confused about the difference between Dementia and Alzhiemers. A patient can have signs of dementia two to three decades before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It happens slowly over time heavily due to lifestyle choices,” expresses Dr. Daniel Amen.

Amen, founder of Amen Clinics in Reston, Va., has worked with thousands of mental health patients providing psychiatric and brain health care to the greater Washington, D.C. area for 30 years. He is a brain expert and author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.”

The clinic uses brain imaging technology to identify specific brain types, tailoring a targeted treatment plan to enhance their patient’s quality of life.

“Our brain imaging work has made it clear that ‘mental health’ conditions are actually ‘brain health’ issues that steal your mind. These issues often go undetected or are misdiagnosed, and symptoms can be debilitating for years. We use a brain imaging diagnostic tool called SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) to help accurately identify underlying brain issues that can contribute to symptoms. This means you get the right diagnosis and most effective treatment for faster healing,” said Amen.

Researchers say that the workings of the heart and the mind are interconnected with about 80 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s also having some form of heart disease.

” Nobody cares about their brain. Because you can’t see it. The heart, however, you can at least feel. Based on a study of 8,000 patients we did, the brain gets less active as individuals age. Sort of like when your skin starts falls off your face. The exact same process is happening in your brain. It’s all about blood flow; the brain does not have to deteriorate, ” shares Amen.

If you are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease you are more likely to also inherit the behaviors that trigger the disease which leads you to be more at risk.

“My book ‘Rediscovering Dad & Discovering Myself’ provides a path for Alzheimers caregivers to follow so that they know they are not alone. Often caregivers are unsung heroes. I also wanted to highlight the bond between father and son,” said Brandon Burke.

Burke is a native Baltimorean and a graduate of Hampton University, residing in the Washington, D.C. area. He is an active supporter of the local Alzheimer’s Association NCA that provides hope and help to families that are impacted by dementia. Burke’s first battle with Alzhiemer’s started with his grandmother and subsequently when his father was diagnosed in 2015.

”I’m extremely worried about me and other members of my family getting it and it’s difficult because when caring for a loved one, you are longing and hoping they will show some glimmer of what they used to be. It’s like a slow death. I want people to know that they are not alone,” Burke said.

When people think of a ”developing brain” they think of the adolescent but new research is showing that there is a way to grow your brain and reverse some of the self-imposed and environmental damages. .John Assaraf, best selling Author and founder of NeuroGym, introduces the idea of improving your intelligence.

”Your intelligence can be changed. There are 80 million to 100 billion neurons that should be working in your brain at all times. When you go to the gym and exercise your muscles you don’t work on things that are easy for your muscles to do. You do things that your muscles have to struggle with. Then they rebuild themselves and come back stronger. By struggling it is a signal to your body that you need to devote more resources to that part of the body. Stimulate the mind with new ideas,” said Assaraf.

You must ask challenging questions to have a stronger; more able brain. Although your brain isn’t a true “muscle,” its complex cellular structure and grey and white matter do function in a similar way to “training” your body’s muscles. The IQ is not fixed; you can activate your genius parts of your brain and reverse cognitive decline and retain memories for longer periods of time.

With the holidays nearing, know that the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones is to exert your brain. Start adding small steps to your daily routine to be proactive when it comes to mental health.

”You have to make wise decisions over time to decrease your vulnerability to Alzheimers. The best prevention is to decrease illnesses that increase risk, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, sleep apnea and heart disease, ” encourages Amen.

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