Mind Your Brain

June 18, 2019

We all know about the importance of maintaining a healthy body and heart, but do we ever think about protecting our brain? Dr. Asad Ismail, medical director of the Clark Memorial Health behavioral health unit, says our lifestyle and age affect our brain health for better or worse.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, he says, and the risk of being diagnosed increases as we age. “If you are 65, then the chances are only 1 percent. When you are 75, it increases to 6 percent; at 85, it increases to 30 percent; and when you are 95, it increases to 50 percent. So that tells you age is a contributory factor,” Dr. Ismail says. Researchers also believe tau protein and amyloid plaque are deposited into brain cells over time, which spurs the development of dementia.

Although the disease has many complexities, Dr. Ismail says there are things people can do to reduce their risk of getting Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia — even if they have a family history of the disease. The solution is simple: exercise and eat a healthy diet that includes vegetables and fewer fatty foods. “Drinks lots of water and keep your blood pressure good,” he says.

Dr. Ismail also suggests that people challenge their brains through using problem-solving skills. “Do more puzzles. If you need to do a simple math calculation, do it on your own. Don’t use a calculator. If you are driving or walking, take a different route. Read more, color, paint, listen to music. All of these things will have a positive effect on your brain and keep it healthy.”

Dr. Asad Ismail is also a diplomat for American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry, a diplomat for the American Board of Addiction Medicine, clinical assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, and medical director at Wellstone Hospital.