By Rick Banas of assisted living provider BMA Management, Ltd.
Super centenarian Jeanne Louise Calment was in her early thirties when German Psychologist Alois Alzheimer first presented information to the scientific world on the clinical symptoms of what has widely become known as Alzheimer’s disease.
Madame Calment was born the year before Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and she lived to be 122 years of age.
What is so remarkable, said Dr. Gary Small in his keynote address at the Life Services Network (LSN) 2012 Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Chicago, is that Calment had the brain of an 80 year-old when she died in 1997. She was alert and showed no signs of dementia.
Dr. Small is a neuroscientist at the UCLA Longevity Center and an expert on Alzheimer’s disease, memory and aging. He is the author of the book “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life.” He was speaking to those of us attending the LSN Conference on the topic “Can We Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?”
Reading stories about Calment, I learned that she rode a bicycle until she was 100. She ate two pounds of chocolate a week until a doctor convinced her to give up sweets – when she was 119. She quit smoking at 117, apparently due to vanity rather than the advice of her doctor.
Researchers attribute her longevity and vitality to her immunity to stress. She professed the belief that you should not worry about things you can’t do anything about. Calment, herself, also cites a diet rich in olive oil and an occasional glass of Port wine.
While scientists have not found a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, “we don’t have to sit back and be passive,” Dr. Small contends. There are things that you can do to potentially delay the onset of symptoms.
Physical exercise was on the top of Dr. Small’s list for protecting your brain. Why? Because anything that gets more blood pumping oxygen into your brain is what is showing the most compelling scientific benefits. Exercise helps brains become larger and more efficient.
Mental stimulation is another way to build brain function, Dr. Small says. Studies, for instance, show that people who speak two languages have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease than those who only speak one. Studies also show that doing tasks that are unfamiliar such as an Internet search stimulates the brain more than tasks that are highly familiar such as reading a book. Once you get efficient at a task, there is less brain activity.
Other tips cited by Dr. Small include…
Nutrition – Eat a healthy diet and manage your weight. Your brain is 70% fat so it makes sense to eat good types of fat. Fish and nuts that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil were cited.
Brain Protective Drinks – Red wine has antioxidants and anti-aging benefits. Alcohol in moderation. Caffeine, which also can help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Treat Hypertension and High Cholesterol.
Speaking of the health benefits of wine, I love what 90-year-old Betty White, host of NBC’s Off Their Rockers, has to say in the video below -
Life Services Network (LSN) is a statewide association that has represented the leading providers of older adult services in Illinois, including senior living, assisted living and supportive living communities, for more than 75 years.