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July 10, 2007 > Good for the Heart, Good for the Brain

Good for the Heart, Good for the Brain

Seminar Offers Possible Keys to Maintaining Mental Acuity, Preventing Alzheimer's

The human brain is arguably the most complex organ of the human body, directing all of our functions, whether they be physical, such as the ability to propel ourselves forward and stand upright, or mental, including the ability to remember a loved one's face.
The question is: can we take action to preserve the brain's function and longevity just as we can with our hearts? More and more research says we can, according to John Timbs, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works as a family care specialist with the Alzheimer's Association's Northern California and Northern Nevada chapter.
On Tuesday, July 17, Timbs will present a free Health & Wellness seminar at Washington Hospital entitled "Maintain Your Brain," which will shed light on proactive measures that may safeguard the brain's health.
Talking about prevention
"The information I will be presenting primarily represents reliable science regarding what we can all do to prevent Alzheimer's, information that has been reviewed by our medical/scientific advisory counsel," according to Timbs, who notes that information which appears in the mainstream media about Alzheimer's disease (AD) often may not be precisely worded or entirely accurate. "This talk will clarify some misinformation and also give the opportunity for people to ask questions."
The Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association has spurred a generation of advancements in Alzheimer research and care, the organization states. The Alzheimer's Association is the largest private funding source of Alzheimer's disease research.
Its goals - to eliminate Alzheimer's disease by promoting research and support those who are affected by it in their daily life - were recently expanded to include working to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by promoting brain health, the focus of Timbs' talk next Tuesday.
"It used to be that we did not have enough data to talk about prevention, but in fact we have just finished a second national conference on prevention, focusing on useful and reliable information surrounding Alzheimer's prevention," he says.
Alzheimer's, not a 'normal' aging process
There are currently 5.1 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, one of a group of disorders characterized by irreversible deterioration of intellectual faculties, known as dementia. Although Alzheimer's is often mistaken for normal age-related forgetfulness or memory loss, Timbs says it is anything but.
Two of the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, genetic predisposition and aging, Timbs says, we cannot change, but his talk will focus on the positive actions every person can take to potentially minimize their chances of developing the disease. For instance, Timbs says, a person might have a twin that develops Alzheimer's and still not develop the disease.
Appealing to a younger audience
"We will be focusing on how to forestall or avert the development of dementia," Timbs says. "We have some specific things that may be helpful or at least may affirm what people are already trying to incorporate into their daily lives."
The presentation means to single out what people can do in mid- to later-life to minimize the risks for developing Alzheimer's. Timbs says the talk may interest younger people that have a relative suffering from dementia and are wondering about their own risk for the disease, given that the goal of the seminar is to give realistic information about how those without an Alzheimer's diagnosis might avert the disease in the future.
Thanks to increasing research, according to Timbs, certain actions have come to light that may play a role in preventing Alzheimer's or delaying it's onset.
"We have a saying: what's good for your heart is good for your brain," Timbs says, noting that cardiovascular health plays an important role in Alzheimer's risk because it involves blood flow to the brain.
Blood flow is critical to brain health
Simple ways of reducing threats to blood flow to the brain, include managing blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and quitting smoking. Timbs says there also is evidence that moderate exercise can reap great rewards in terms of reducing risk of Alzheimer's, noting that research shows middle-aged individuals who exercise an average of 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, have as much as a 60 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's.
A natural tendency as we become older, Timbs says, is to become increasingly sedentary, which can have a negative effect on our overall health, as well as increase the risk for developing Alzheimer's.
Other ways to "maintain your brain," according to Timbs, can include:
* Avoiding head injury by wearing a seat belt while in the car and a bike helmet while cycling
* Staying active socially by getting involved in a club or religious organization or by meeting regularly with friends
* Eating healthy and including things like omega-3 fatty acids and dark, leafy greens in your diet
* Getting a good night's sleep
* Quitting smoking
* Monitoring your medications with your physician to avoid potential effect of cognitive dulling
* Walking daily

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