A great deal of research has focused on food as a method to fortify both body and mind against Alzheimer’s disease. Currently in favor is eating salmon three times a week along with adhering to a Mediterranean Diet. In addition, exercising daily is reported to build new neurons in the brain, enhance synaptic connections, improve blood flow to the brain and stabilize glucose levels. Now research has come to the forefront highlighting mood. Upon observing people from midlife to late-in-life, large studies claim that there is an important correlation between depression and Alzheimer’s. Moreover, those people who have a purpose in life seem to be protected from getting Alzheimer’s.
The American Medical Association claims that depression which surfaces in midlife to late-in-life can be a predictor of Alzheimer’s. The question which comes up for me: Is depression one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s or is depression a possible trigger?
In a different study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center the role of purpose seemed to be protective of older brains which already showed an accumulation of plaques and tangles. “Our study showed that people who reported greater purpose in life exhibited better cognition than those with less pose in life even as plaques and tangles accumulated in their brains,” said Patricia A. Boyle, PhD. These findings show how involvement in meaningful activities can improve thinking abilities and provide better cognitive health.
The take home message from these two separate studies:
- Do not surrender to depression. Find a safety net when you feel like you are falling into depression. This includes exercising to lift your spirits; socializing with friends; watching a movie to elevate your mood - either a comedy or the hero overcoming an obstacle or grief. Look for novelty to cheer you up.
- Find your purpose and passion. Begin with a hobby where you lose track of time and space. Immerse yourself in creativity. Write your memoirs. Trace your family tree and record the family saga. Volunteer or participate in a cause.
- Begin each day as a student eager to learn new things and percolate new ideas.
- Don’t allow yourself to be trivialized, marginalized, objectified or rendered invisible. Make yourself heard, insert yourself in conversations and attend parties, lectures and communal events.
- Cultivate a humorous eye for the absurdities in life. Use humor as a coping device as opposed to dwelling on what’s wrong.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show