This week I received email newsletters from two trusted sources, Alzheimer’s Weekly and the Alzheimer’s Association, about a Swedish/Finnish study. The crux of the study was a marriage, so to speak, between dementia and committed relationships. I perked up when the researchers concluded that widows (like me!) were three times as likely to develop dementia as married women. I read new studies the same way I read a horoscope—I pick out the parts I like and bah-humbug the rest.
The researchers say that social involvement will help offset the dementia risk of living alone. That’s good news for me since I am by nature a social being. I have been an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer and advocate for the past fourteen years. I’m an officer in a local business women’s group. Talk about an active club! We move from one project to the next, and have monthly meetings, weekly friendship luncheons, and several great conferences each year. Last, but certainly not least, I’m president of the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. Oh, and did I mention I work full-time as office manager at a rural electric cooperative? So, I think I have “social” covered.
When the Alzheimer’s Association first unveiled their Maintain Your Brain program, I had mixed emotions. My friend, Diane and I were delegates at an assembly meeting in Chicago when we first heard about the program. Diane’s husband had recently died from early onset dementia, and she was concerned that people would begin to think that dementia was brought on by unhealthy habits. I had to agree with her.
Yes, we all want to do things to keep our minds healthy, but what about people like Jim? He read, played the guitar, knew the lyrics to hundreds of songs, and he was only forty-nine years old. He certainly was not at risk for dementia.
After I learned more about the program, I liked the common sense idea behind the science. Maintain Your Brain can be condensed into a few basic categories: stay mentally, socially, and physically active, and while you’re at it, eat brain healthy food. How to develop these simple, but effective, brain healthy habits can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association website at http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_brain_health_maintain_your_brain.asp.
Heart and brain health are connected in many ways. So think with your heart, but before you sign up for e-harmony.com consider other factors that can reduce your risk of dementia. A good rule to keep in mind is that if it’s good for your heart it’s good for your brain.