COLUMBUS, Ohio — The median age of the U.S. population is on the rise, expected to grow from 38 to 42 years old by 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As people live longer, the need for geriatric care grows.
10TV talked with doctors at the OhioHealth Gerlach Center for Senior Health about the importance of keeping the mind healthy earlier in life in order to remain healthy as we age.
“A lot of times we’re seeing people that already have dementia and we’re like, ‘How can we slow it down?’ And really what we’re learning is, is that the intervention needs to take place sooner,” according to Dr. Meredith Mucha, a geriatrician with OhioHealth. “It needs to take place in our 40’s and our 50’s because those abnormal proteins that are developing, we see much, much before there are any clinical signs.”
The intervention, Dr. Mucha said, should be wholistic, including several factors:
“There’s a lot more research available that tells us that our diet is extremely important because, you know, particularly with dementia, aging brains, we have proteins that are abnormal that are building up and we know this is due to oxidative stress so there are diets that we can consume that are lower in inflammation; they fight inflammation, they fight oxidative stress,” Dr. Mucha said. “There’s your leafy greens, your nuts, your berries, all those things are very important.”
“Sleep does not get enough attention," Dr. Mucha said. “We see a lot of people that have very fragmented sleep, very unrestful sleep. They’ve got things like obstructive sleep apnea and they don’t use their c-pap machine. That’s accumulative and that will cause oxidative stress to your brain, in addition to a host of other problems.“
“I think exercise is by far an important part of the wholistic approach. You know, you see people with high blood pressure, you see people with diabetes,” Dr. Mucha said. “All these things can contribute to a decline in brain health and, certainly, exercise has an effect on those.”
“The literature is very clear that the organisms that can grow in our teeth and our mouth can definitely be transmitted to other parts of our body, like the brain, so that is something that we need; to get people to the dentist and to have good oral health,” Dr. Mucha said.
“Not only does it help your emotional health because there’s a lot of social isolation in the elderly as they get older, but the conversation itself causes the brain to have to put new connections together,” Dr. Mucha said.