As a parent, it’s important to encourage healthy brain development in your child from infancy onward, and to take steps to keep your own brain and body sharp. Part of the benefit is that doing so can help guard against Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. More than five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s or another of the great many kinds of dementia, and two-thirds of them are women.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a woman’s “estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s at age 65 is 1 in 6, compared with nearly 1 in 11 for a man. It’s as real a concern as breast cancer is to women’s health, the association notes, point out that women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.”
Although we often associate the risk of getting Alzheimer’s with getting older, maintaining a healthy brain should be a lifelong pursuit. By instilling the need for and making good choices, we not only support our own brain growth but also instill in our children some habits that can last a lifetime.
Here are some brain-boosting activities for you and your child that you can start doing today:
Limit TV watching. Experts generally don’t even recommend extensive use of educational videos for babies.
As a parent, you need playtime, too, in the form of socializing, which the Alzheimer’s Assn. recommends. You might consider joining a parents group or going out on the town for an adult’s night.
Be sure to incorporate activities that are intellectually stimulating, such as doing crossword puzzles or attending a play or reading.
The Best Start Resource Centre, a Canadian program funded by the Government of Ontario, offers some cute, informative videos that show some brain development activities for babies.
2. Eat Healthfully.
People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Assn. Cooking healthful, well-balanced meals while limiting saturated fats helps to protect you. Good nutrition helps promote healthy brain development in babies.
The Best Start Resource Centre in Canada also suggests having your children help you in the kitchen so that they develop a good connection with healthy, homemade foods. For example, let your children prepare lettuce leaves for a salad, or peel bananas for a morning smoothie or cereal.
Maintaining a healthy weight may also reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Eating healthy foods and exercising will help you do that. Allowing children to stop eating when they’re full helps them to learn to listen to their body, and is a skill that can continue as they grow older.
The Alzheimer’s Assn. suggests specific foods that may help to protect brain cells, including dark-skinned fruits and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, beets, raisins and strawberries, along with cold-water fish (including salmon and tuna) and certain kinds of nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts).
The Alzheimer’s Assn. says that exercising helps to maintain a healthy weight and is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain in order to form new brain cells. In addition, exercising reduces the chance of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which are all risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s.
Generally, the best exercise is one that you and your family enjoy. So walk, garden, dance or do whatever else you want to get physical, as long as it’s safe for you and approved by your doctor.
Although no one action can prevent Alzheimer’s, you can certainly eat healthfully and stay active to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease, based on your lifestyle. Maintain, as well, a healthy atmosphere for you and your family.
For more information about Alzheimer’s Disease, including risk factors, research for a cure, and recognizing warning signs, visit the Alzheimer’s Assn. website here.