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Healthy Brains for All Ages

This guide is based on a talk by Kirk Nyland
of the Ontario Brain Institue that he gave
at the TCV Toronto Club on January 7, 2019.

Aging Brains and Dementia

The term dementia is used when a person has difficulties with thinking, remembering, staying focused, and/or socializing, and the difficulties hinder day-to-day living.

There are a number of diseases that cause dementia. Alzheimer's disease causes about 60% of all cases, but other causes include Pick's disease, vascular damage, and Lewy body disease, as well as others.

Not all people who experience a decline in mental ability have dementia. Everyone will experience a natural gradual decline in mental abilities as they age. It's important to distinguish between natural aging and demetia.

Risks for Dementia

The following are risks that you cannot change:

  • At age 65 you have a 2% chance, and your chances doule rougly every five years.
  • Women are slightly at more risk than men.
  • You can inherit a slightly increased chance of dementia, but you cannot inherit dementia.

What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk

Here are things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia:

  • Sleep: Get enough sleep so that you're well rested. (Go ahead and take that afternoon nap.)
  • Physical activity: Staying active is the #1 thing you can do against dementia.
  • Cognitive exercise: Always be learning new things. Take up a hobby. Do mind puzzles.
  • Cut stress: Try for a balance between stress and relaxation.
  • Get social: Get out and spend time with others face to face. Enjoy shared activities.
  • Eat right: Enjoy a balanced diet. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts. Reduce alcohol and processed foods. Seek out sources of omega 3 and vitamin B12.

Physically Active, Mentally Healthy

If everyone got active to the minimum recommendation, we would eliminate one in seven dementia cases. For healthy adults this is:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate activity such as walking, OR
  • 90 minutes per week of intense activity such fitness classes, OR
  • A combination between these two.

The key is to push up your heart rate for at least ten minutes each time you’re active.

Of course, if you have any condition that slows you down, you should still try to be as active as your condition allows. Talk to your doctor - sometimes a well-chosen program of activities can help you manage chronic conditions.

According to statisical studies, ballroom dancing is the best hobby to take up, as it makes you physically active and offers mental stimulation in a nice social environment.