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Good for the Brain: 17 insights from Preventing Dementia Mooc

What is good for the brain? 17 quick lessons from the Preventing Dementia Mooc. Aerobics, strength training and even alcohol!

Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

I blogged last week on the 9 Things I learnt from the Preventing Dementia Mooc where I took on the first module. Today’s post is on the second module which essentially covers what’s good for the brain.

The second module goes abit more indepth into the various prevention measures such as exercise, health foods, smoking etc.

These have been reported and discussed as being good for the brain. They are further validated in the Preventing Dementia Mooc.

After completing the module, the message that I got was one that seems to debunk the benefits of some of these health foods.

The lessons that discusses a particular health food like Coconut Oil or Gingko Biloba conclude with, “There is no conclusive evidence that it would prevent/slow down the progression of dementia.” I understand that it may take a longer time for research to produce comprehensive data.

And, it’s probably important for the professors to advise people against going crazy and swallowing Coconut oil or Gingko by the bottle.

But, Coconut oil has worked incredibly well for my grandma.

What’s good for the brain? And, what’s not?

  1. Type two diabetes is associated with a two fold increase in risk for dementia.
  2. Annually 31% of people with Type 1 Diabetes have low blood sugar episodes. Any more than 4 episodes in a year can be associated with a very high risk of cognitive impairment (slowing of the brain).
  3. Insulin resistance (an effect of Type 1 Diabetes) might be involved in the development of beta-amalyoid plaques( a cause of dementia).
  4. Effects of Type 2 diabetes on the brain can be a result of various causes – vascular disease and neuro degeneration.
  5. It is not clear whether everyone with Type 2 diabetes will get dementia.
  6. There is more evidence to show that physical activity has a positive impact on frontal lobe functions such as processing speed as compared to functions like memory. Findings are more varied in the latter.
  7. The type of activity must be vigorous enough to have increased heart beat and intense breathing to have positive effects on cognitive health.
  8. The combination of aerobic and strength training is the best for cognitive health.
  9. It is unclear if low impact exercise such as balancing, relaxation or yoga help cognitive function.
  10. Physical activity with cognitive tasks like dancing or taichi which requires you to remember steps may have additional benefits
  11. It is never too late to start exercising and see benefits even in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
  12. Smoking in older adults increase the risk of dementia by 70%.
  13. In a study on people who went through a smoking cessation programme, they found that people who gave up smoking have less cognitive decline.
  14. People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who don’t drink any alcohol at all.
  15. Excessive drinking over many years, and regular episodes of binge drinking, are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. It’s all about moderation.
  16. Gingko Biloba – Gingko may have anti inflamatory properties and increase blood flow to the brain. But, there is no consistent data that it will help persons with dementia.
  17. Midlife hypertension and midlife obesity is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers’ disease.

These are lessons from the May 2018 Preventing Dementia MOOC by Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre. Did you do the MOOC? Let me know.

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