Lifestyle Changes Can Improve Your Long-Term Brain Health
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world.
Nearly 47 million people worldwide live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This number is projected to increase to 76 million by 2030. In the United States, there are over 5.7 million people living with this neurodegenerative disease today. Shockingly, some estimates show that as many as 14 million people will be in need of full-time care for Alzheimer’s disease in the United States by the year 2050.
No wonder our fear of having to battle Alzheimer’s disease in our elderly years is so prevalent. It is a real issue, in the short term for the rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation and with near-term consequences for Generation X and Millennials, who will be in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s in 2050.
One of the main problems with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is that they do not occur rapidly. Dementia is not like a heart attack that abruptly gives a person a wake-up call. Dementia is degenerative, occurring slowly over time. In that regards, dementia is a bit like weight gain — a few pounds here, a couple of added holiday pounds, a few more gained over time, and suddenly you are 15 pounds heavier.
As I wrote in the previous blog post, lifestyle changes can improve your long-term brain health. Brain health is something that everyone, especially leaders, needs to pay attention to today. Brain health is not something to start thinking about once you retire, or once you hit a certain age level. Remember, it is the trifecta of mid-life curses — high blood pressure, obesity, and physical inactivity — that increases the risk of dementia in later life.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and many other forms of dementia tends to focus on managing the symptoms — such as memory loss, agitation, and disorientation — rather than addressing the root causes. This needs to change now, by focusing on the lifestyle and brain health methods that are most likely to prevent or slow down dementia in all of us. Especially since numerous studies have proven that by keeping your brain active, maintaining cognitive skills, and exercising regularly can help ward off dementia.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is a disease that can be in the brain for as long as 20 years before you are symptomatic. This is another reason for making the necessary lifestyle changes as soon as possible. You are never too young, too fit, too mentally acute, or too smart to put off thinking about the long-term health of your brain.
For more information on this important topic, please see the earlier posts in this series on brain health and its impact on leadership and decision making:
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.” It also received a Distinguished Favorite Award in the 2019 Independent Press Awards leadership category.