You can AGE PROOF YOUR BRAIN

Beat these sur­pris­ing de­men­tia trig­gers and keep your mind fit and fir­ing.

Prevention (Australia) - - Stronger For Longer - BY STEPHANIE OSFIELD

There is now plenty of ev­i­dence that the habits we adopt in our daily life play a ma­jor part in how well we age. For ex­am­ple, we all know that sun ex­po­sure can af­fect the state of our skin, and we’re aware that how much we ex­er­cise plays a ma­jor role in our over­all health. So it is with our brain, says Pro­fes­sor Henry Bro­daty, co-di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Healthy Brain Age­ing at the Univer­sity of NSW. “Your brain is an in­tri­cate and vast net­work con­tain­ing over a bil­lion neu­rons – nerve cells that are con­nected in mul­ti­ple ways. So to boost brain health and pro­tect against de­men­tia it’s im­por­tant to adopt habits that help slow age­ing. These also re­duce risk of vas­cu­lar dam­age, which can cause ar­ter­ies in your brain to start to thicken so that fewer nu­tri­ents get through.”

Here’s how to avoid five trig­gers that can have an im­pact on your ‘think tank’.

TRIG­GER

IN­FLAMED GUMS

Reg­u­lar brush­ing and floss­ing helps pro­tect you from gum dis­ease (you’ve seen the tooth­paste ads) – what they don’t say is that it has also been linked to brain in­flam­ma­tion and Alzheimer’s.

Gin­givi­tis (the mildest form of gum dis­ease) oc­curs when a layer of germs builds up on the teeth along the gum­line, caus­ing ir­ri­ta­tion, bleed­ing and some­times, swelling. This layer can harden into tar­tar, which needs to be re­moved by a den­tist. If not treated, pe­ri­odon­ti­tis can oc­cur, caus­ing re­ced­ing gums and bac­te­ria-filled pock­ets lead­ing to in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals en­ter­ing the blood­stream and mi­grat­ing to the brain, where they can con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of de­men­tia. Age-proof your brain

Give your gums more at­ten­tion: Gum dis­ease af­fects around 23 per cent of Aussies and that fig­ure jumps to 53 per cent in Aus­tralians over the age of 65. “Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use floss and in­ter­den­tal brushes daily to get rid of food trapped be­tween your teeth and gums,” says Dr Peter Chuang, den­tist and mem­ber of the oral health com­mit­tee for the Aus­tralian Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. “Us­ing a tongue scraper daily also helps re­duce bac­te­ria.” Make sure you have your teeth cleaned ev­ery six months by your den­tist or den­tal hy­gien­ist. “If your gums bleed reg­u­larly when you brush or floss, see your den­tist as soon as pos­si­ble,” adds Chuang.

TRIG­GER

CHRONIC SNOR­ING

Is your snor­ing so loud it’s the butt of jokes?

Does it lead you to wake gasp­ing or snort­ing through­out the night? Then you may have sleep ap­noea. Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralasian Sleep As­so­ci­a­tion, less ob­vi­ous signs of sleep ap­noea in­clude morn­ing headaches, day-time sleepi­ness, high blood pres­sure and trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing. Over time this re­peated oxy­gen de­pri­va­tion may cause shrink­age of the brain’s tem­po­ral lobes, caus­ing a de­cline in mem­ory and com­pro­mis­ing your abil­ity to learn new things, re­search from the Univer­sity of Syd­ney shows.

Age-proof your brain

Don’t ig­nore chronic snor­ing: Ask your GP for re­fer­ral to a sleep spe­cial­ist who can con­duct an overnight sleep study. For decades the ‘go-to’ treat­ment for sleep ap­noea has been the CPAP (con­tin­u­ous pos­i­tive air­way pres­sure), a ma­chine that pro­vides steady air pres­sure and oxy­gen via a mask you wear while sleep­ing. Newer treat­ments are be­com­ing avail­able to keep the air­ways open, in­clud­ing a dis­pos­able de­vice placed in the nos­trils and im­plantable nerve stim­u­la­tors. Mean­while, as re­peated snor­ing can dam­age the soft palate of the mouth and in­crease the risk of ap­noea, re­duce trig­gers, such as al­co­hol in­take and weight gain.

TRIG­GER

MUF­FIN TOP

Ex­tra weight around your tummy ramps up your risk of de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia as you age, re­search from Bos­ton Univer­sity shows. “Peo­ple car­ry­ing ex­cess body fat around their ab­domen are also likely to be in­sulin re­sis­tant,” says Ngaire Hob­bins, di­eti­tian and au­thor of the books Eat To Cheat Age­ing and Eat to Cheat De­men­tia. “High in­sulin lev­els are usu­ally a sign of el­e­vated blood sug­ars, which can cause in­flam­ma­tion that dam­ages the tiny blood ves­sels of the brain and may also lead to an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of amy­loid and tau pro­teins, which have both been linked to de­vel­op­ing de­men­tia.” Age-proof your brain

Eat to beat in­flam­ma­tion: “Eat fewer pro­cessed foods– their high lev­els of fats, sugar and salt in­crease in­flam­ma­tion,” Hob­bins says. Also avoid over­cook­ing and char­ring meat and re­move burnt bits be­fore eat­ing. Burn­ing and high heat in­creases in­flam­ma­tory chem­i­cals. “At ev­ery meal aim to eat five or six dif­fer­ent coloured foods – the an­tiox­i­dants help com­bat in­flam­ma­tion, pro­tect cells and pro­mote ef­fi­cient blood­flow through­out the brain,” she says. Think colour­ful fruit and veg such as broc­coli, toma­toes, car­rots, ba­nanas and berries. “They boost lev­els of vi­ta­min A, C and E, which pro­tect mem­ory and cog­ni­tive func­tion,” Hob­bins adds. “They also help main­tain a healthy weight.”

TRIG­GER

HIGH BLOOD PRES­SURE

A stag­ger­ing 68 per cent of Aus­tralians have un­con­trolled or un­man­aged high blood pres­sure, ac­cord­ing to the Heart Foun­da­tion. And while it’s of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the risk of heart at­tack and stroke, re­search shows it may also re­duce blood flow to the brain, lead­ing to mem­ory loss, vas­cu­lar de­men­tia and Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

“Hy­per­ten­sion can lead to changes in the brain sim­i­lar to those caused by a stroke,” Bro­daty says. “It may also dam­age small ar­ter­ies that nour­ish the cells that re­lay in­for­ma­tion in­side the brain.” Age-proof your brain

Eat potas­sium-rich foods: They could be a se­cret weapon against high blood pres­sure, US re­search shows. “Potas­sium plays a ma­jor role in nor­mal­is­ing blood pres­sure and can counter the ef­fects of a high salt in­take,” says di­eti­tian Brooke Long­field. “Foods high in potas­sium in­clude sweet potato and potato, av­o­cado, spinach, ba­nanas and legumes such as lentils and chick­peas.”

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