To my Patients and Friends,
For this installment, I’ve chosen to step outside the COVID-19 box just a bit… I think we could all use a break. I hope you find this helpful (and perhaps refreshing).
Can dementia be prevented?
An international commission of experts recently revised its list of 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia in a major update published in the journal The Lancet. According to the experts, 40% of dementia cases could be delayed or prevented if these key risk factors were to be reduced or eliminated. Recommended public health strategies include:
- Providing elementary education for all children
- Preventing diabetes and obesity
- Preventing initiation of cigarette smoking and encouraging smoking cessation
- Reducing air pollution
- Reducing second-hand smoke exposure
- Preventing hearing loss and encouraging hearing aid use in those who are hearing-impaired
- Preventing head injuries
- Keeping systolic blood pressure (the top number) at or below 130 mm Hg in midlife
- Encouraging an active lifestyle
- Limiting alcohol intake to less than 21 servings per week (although U.S guidelines are more stringent and suggest a maximum of 7 servings per week)
On a related note, a recent study found that those who tend to drink alcohol until they pass out are twice as likely to develop subsequent dementia, regardless of the amount of alcohol they ingest.
And another study recently published in JAMA Open Network found that those who get either too few (4 or fewer) or too many (10 or more) hours of sleep per night are at increased risk for developing dementia.
Sound sleep is critical to good health, and as we all know, it’s kind of hard to come by these days. Practice good sleep hygiene, breathe (see below), and for a deeper dive into the science of solid sleep, check out this fascinating podcast (which I’ve shared in the past), in which renowned sleep expert Matthew Walker, PhD. gives a detailed rundown.
Keeping it simple
Many of you may recall that, back in the pre-COVID days, I’d frequently write about holistic approaches to wellness. Well, I’m still here. And I wish to re-emphasize the importance of healthy breathing techniques as a means of maintaining our general wellness, particularly in times of stress. There’s not enough room here nor time in the day to review all of the sound medical evidence supporting the health benefits of proper breathing. This article nicely reviews some basic breathing concepts which I would encourage you all to keep in mind, and which are summarized here:
- In general, many experts recommend breathing in deeply through the nose and then blowing out gently through the mouth, with a exhale that’s about twice as long as the inhale.
- Exhaling through pursed lips can further help to slow down breathing in order to manage feelings of breathlessness and facilitate physical activity, particularly in those with conditions such as COPD (or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
- Taking deep breaths using your diaphragm, perhaps while holding your hand against your belly so that you can feel it rise and fall, can help to maximize your lung function, as well as to help with relaxation.
- Square breathing is a method that I practice regularly. Simply breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale through your mouth for a count of four, and then pause for a count of four. Repeat this several times. It really helps, and you need it.
A nod to the elephant in the room
For the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s not a more evidence-driven and unbiased authority than Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Here’s a quick interview that sifts through the noise and nicely summarizes what’s been happening and what we can expect over the coming months. Please take a moment to listen.
That’s all for now… Shanah Tovah, enjoy the leaves and please remember to get your flu shots!
I’ll see you soon.
Larry Leibowitz, MD