Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting some 5.4 million Americans, according to Alzheimer’s Association. Lower your risk with this 5-step plan from Dr. Mehmet Oz and neurologist Dr. Majid Fotuhi (via www.doctoroz.com):
- Take a DHA supplement. Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that makes up much of your brain tissue. This supplement will reduce inflammation, fight the plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer’s, and increases blood flow to your brain. Research has shown that taking 600mg of DHA supplement daily for six months can help your brain to function as if it were three years younger.
- Switch things up. Adding variety to your daily mental routine cross-trains different muscles in your brain to prevent memory impairment. Try putting your watch on your opposite wrist, using your opposite hand while brushing your teeth, doing your hair, eating or writing.
- Practice the 7-7-7 stress-busting breath. Stress leads to chronically high levels of the hormone cortisol, which is like poison for your hippocampus – the part of brain responsible for memory. High cortisol levels kill brain cells and cause atrophy of the brain. To get stress under control, Drs. Oz and Fotuhi recommend trying this technique three times per day: close the door, remove your shoes and socks, and lower the lights. Breathe in for 7 seconds; hold for another 7; then exhale for a final 7 seconds. Repeat the technique seven times to help “reset” your brain and get your cortisol levels under control. Studies show that mindful relaxation techniques can help increase in the size of your hippocampus in as little as 8 weeks.
- Use your memory. Your brain can quickly memorize a list of 20-30 items, if you form silly associations with each one. If you need to remember the word “chef,” for example, picture a chef from head to toe, working away in his kitchen, and imagine what his voice sounds like. Creating a mental image for each word helps you to remember them more easily, and also has a positive effect on your hippocampus, helping to defend against Alzheimer’s. Try it with a shopping or to-do list.
- Do push-ups. Dr. Fotuhi believes good old-fashioned push-ups are key in strengthening your “brain muscles” and preventing Alzheimer’s. Start on the floor, with your hands set at about a shoulder-width distance. Extend your legs, with your feet shoulder-width apart or wider for more stability. Keep your body in one straight line from your head to your heels. Engage your core and keep your gaze forward, then slowly lower until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, keeping your arms in tight against your body. Then, push yourself back up. Push-up newbie? You can keep your knees bent on the floor and do modified push-ups. Either way, 7 push-ups or more per day will stimulate blood flow to your brain and generate new brain cells, which are the most effective weapon in fighting cognitive disease.