Thursday, June 18, 2009


Regular working with intermittent relaxation is known to be the best medicine to live well and live long. Conversely working less and relaxing more is a sure recipe for disaster. Both mind and body of a human being require regular activity to keep them in trim condition. Right food, active life and peaceful environment are prerequisites for a healthy life. Active life is a part and parcel of any one engaged in regular profession or working till the age of sixty in a country like India. Since 'retirement' is inevitable after a certain age world over, many are confronted by the reality that post-retirement can pose big challenges to keep themselves 'active'. This is where the problem arises and absence of any definitive plan to continue working mentally and physically can lead to depression and frustration.

Changes in various health parameters as one ages, calls for changes in diet, eating practice and physical activity. It is well known that the taste buds and olfactory senses tend to become less sharper and the preparation of foods for aged people requires recipes some what different in composition, especially with regard to the levels of salt, sugar, acids, aroma, texture and some nutrients. This is not to mean that old age is an unavoidable catastrophe man has to live with requiring tremendous adjustments and changes. As the aging is a relatively slow process, one has adequate time to prepare to meet the changing needs and still live happily.

One of the most debilitating and frustrating afflictions faced by old age population beyond 65 years is dementia leading eventually to the dreaded Alzheimer's disease(AD). Dementia is due to progressive decline in cognitive faculties caused by damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging process. It is manifested by loss of intellectual faculties including memory which interferes with social and occupational functioning. Changes in the vascular structure which control flow of blood into the brain brings about disruption of normal brain cell functions. Abnormal amounts of protein plaques and tangles within the brain affect brain regions responsible for learning and memory.

Regular eating of foods rich in vitamin B complex like salmon, beef, egg, peanuts, broccoli, asparagus, red pepper, spinach and lettuce can reduce the risk of dementia. Consumption of fish regularly cuts down the risk by 85% and taking 1 gm of fish oil supplement is associated with a 50% reduction in dementia. Similarly increased intake of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamins C and E, cysteine, glutathione, lipoic acid, anthocyanins and co-enzyme Q is also recommended for preempting development of dementia. Role of vitamin B12 in controlling dementia is still under a cloud though its deficiency causes demyelation in spinal chord and brain and white matter lesions.

One of the most remarkable observations during the last few years of studies on dementia has brought out the compelling fact that continuing to keep one active in old age helps to keep the brain sharp enough to delay the onset of this disease. Since dementia is associated with mass loss of cells in the brain, building up the connections between cells can be improved by being active through out life. According to the concept of 'cognitive reserve' one can build one's defense against dementia by increasing such a reserve through education, mental stimulation, physical activity and social interactions. Larger reserves of neurons and synapses, built up through out the life will enable one to offset the losses caused by on set of AD and such persons can tolerate progressive brain pathology without demonstrating clinical cognitive symptoms.

Globally over 30 million people are estimated to be affected by dementia and AD while in India there are 3 million people suffering from this disease. Probably the hectic living pace that is necessary to sustain life in the country keeps every one on their toes providing plenty of physical and mental exercise that must be keeping this disease at bay. But with the productivity of average Indian sliding down due to the new economic prosperity generated by the winds of change sweeping the country, it is inevitable that 'hard working' population starts declining and those 'working hardly' increasing day by day. This is a right recipe for dramatic increase of dementia and AD in the coming years. Working hard is not known to kill any one and on the contrary it can increase longevity and improve quality of life in the long run. 'Workaholics' may like this news!


1 comment:

John said...

This is a good post. Fish oil vitamins are very good for the body. You must be careful to see that the dosages are within the limits. An overdose can prove very costly. If taken rationally, fish oil vitamins are very good for the eyes and the health in general.