By Dr. Zack Rushing
We’ll get to the meat and potatoes of this first then I’ll tell the story behind this article and why I wanted to share it with as many people as I could.
A study was done over the course of 21 years to find out what were the best things people could do to reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. 21 years!!! It takes an incredible amount of effort and focus for me to sit down and finish a book but somehow these people had enough OCD tendencies to focus on one study for over two decades!
The study included senior citizens, 75 and older, and was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, it was funded by the National Institute on Aging, and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In other words, it’s good stuff.
The study wanted to see if any activity (physical or mental) benefited the brain long-term and potentially prevented the onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here were the 3 major things the study found to help you have a better brain:
1. Dancing Frequently – far and away the best possible thing you can do for your brain. Those who danced frequently had a 76% reduced risk of dementia compared to those that didn’t. Again, that’s seventy six percent! Why dancing? If you dance in a structured class or style of dance (ballroom, salsa, etc.) your brain is engaged while also moving, known as “dual tasking”. Random movements while dancing at weddings (you know you make me want to “Shout!”) doesn’t appear to have the same positive effect.
2. Crossword Puzzles at least four days a week – doing this gives you a 47% reduced risk of dementia. It stimulates the brain and not only causes you to think critically but you’ll likely also learn something new if you don’t know an answer. Heck, you may even build your already fantastic vocabulary.
3. Reading- 35% reduced risk of dementia, learning new things creates new connections in the brain. Reading stimulates pathways in the brain because you are engaging it. The more pathways you stimulate and create, the more chances that you will stay sharp.
The brain is just like anything else, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
The one surprising thing that wasn’t in the study was exercise (outside of dancing). I have seen research for the past few years that indicated exercise beyond basic walking was good for brain activity. I’m not so sure that I’m ready to discount exercise’s brain benefits entirely just yet, but, I need to keep an eye on information that continues to explore the topic in the future.
I want to thank Dr. Adam Harcourt of Imagine X Neurology in Santa Barbara for bringing this article to my attention. I went to chiropractic college with Dr. Harcourt and am lucky to count him as a friend and colleague. He was extremely interested in the neurology behind chiropractic and even completed an extensive program after graduation to dive deep into the subject. He is doing some great work with patients and it is always fun to visit him and see what he is up to. Who knows, one day I might even dive down that same rabbit hole.
With this info my goal is going to be taking a run on the mental treadmill 30 minutes a night and read before going to bed. I may even warm up to the idea of taking a dance class and become a champion salsa dancer by 2022.