Think of it as gymnastics for the brain — a new frontier for physical fitness.
Just as Canadians have embraced the idea of keeping their hearts fit with daily workouts at the gym, brain experts are now urging us to keep our brains active to avoid dementia.
Dr. William Reichman is CEO of Toronto’s Baycrest Centre and a world-renowned expert on geriatric mental health and dementia.
Brain health, he said, is an area of science that’s exploding.
“Having an intact brain and an intact mind is very important to we boomers because we like to be in control,” he said in a recent interview.
“We can accept that with physical frailty, we may ultimately be dependent upon other people to have some of our physical needs met, but we certainly don’t want other people to be making decisions for us if at all possible,” he said.
Reichman estimates about 5% of people over the age of 65 have dementia and said for every five years of age, the percentage doubles.
By the time we reach 80 years of age, 30%-40% of people suffer from dementia.
With the massive tidal wave of aging baby boomers heading into the high-risk age group for dementia, brain health takes on a greater urgency.
“If we can delay onset of disease by five years, then the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will be reduced by 50%. This is largely a disorder of aging, so people will die of something else,” Reichman points out.
“If we can delay onset by 10 years, then that will essentially eradicate the disease,” he said.
While you can’t vaccinate against Alzheimer’s, you can make lifestyle changes that keep your brain active.
Contrary to the commonly-held belief years ago that brain cells could not regenerate, there is new evidence that adults can increase their brain function.