As we live longer, dementia is likely to become a global epidemic. Globally, over 46 million people suffer from dementia. That number will increase to more than 130 million by 2050, and it will become a trillion dollar disease by 2018. It will by then be one of the world’s biggest public health and social care challenges.
This is a theme with enduring (unfortunate) “power” that is highly supportive for the wellness industry. Tentative evidence shows that engaging in wellness activities may play a significant role in reducing the risks for age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Many epidemiological studies strongly suggest that mild exercise, and walking in particular, protect our brains from cognitive impairment. They do so by increasing both (1) the number of small vessels that supply blood to the brain, and (2) the number of connections between nerve cells. Although the science remains at an early stage, increasingly, researchers are convinced that physical exercise can delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease in people with mild cognitive impairment.
In a similar vein, healthy eating will also play a critical role. Numerous studies conclude that a diet rich in vegetables (in particular leafy ones from the cruciferous family like broccoli) is correlated with a reduced rate of cognitive decline. In addition, new research suggests that a particular omega-3 fatty acid (called DHA and found in certain fish like salmon and herring) reduces the abnormal protein deposits in the brain (beta-amyloid plaques) that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. By contrast, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (like white sugar) seem to have exactly the opposite effect.
For those readers interested, a lot of details are provided on the website of the US National Institute on Aging.