It takes more than just doing puzzles to avoid getting Alzheimer’s one day. Because research shows that just as people who are overweight, have an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle expose themselves to higher risks of cardiovascular disease, bad health habits have a negative impact on brain health too.


60-90% of Alzheimer sufferers also develop cerebral blood vessel conditions. 50% of Alzheimer cases are thought to be related to damage to the capillaries, the small branching blood vessels that represent the smallest of the body’s blood vessels.

We found about the risk factors to a healthy brain and protecting the brain’s reserve capacity from the Rector of Yeditepe University, Prof. Dr. Canan Aykut Bingöl.



A stroke is the medical incident that older people fear most. It is well known that strokes can be related to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking and immobility. A widespread but much less well known condition is known as ‘silent strokes’. So what are these ‘silent strokes’? Professor Bingöl defines them as stealthy, silent brain damage that occurs throughout a person’s life as a result of risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Another little known fact is that silent strokes constitute one of the leading factors triggering Alzheimer’s. Explaining that patients suffering from vascular risk factors that cause silent strokes often come to her complaining of absentmindedness, Professor Bingöl goes on to say “Patients who have undergone brain damage over many years as a result of tiny silent strokes also have a higher risk of dementia. Therefore we need to define people’s risk factors and measure their severity to provide lifelong treatment appropriate treatments that will protect the brain.”


The ‘Brain Health Protection Program’ launched for the first time in Turkey by Yeditepe University Hospital aims to raise awareness of these issues in society and to treat people who suffer from conditions that affect the health of their brain.

Patients admitted to the center provide a detailed medical history in line with the lifestyles set out by the World Health Organization; a mass of information from smoking to exercise and general habits is obtained
in this way. Then, as Professor Bingöl describes, various body measurements are recorded. “There is a direct relationship between the risk of contracting Alzheimer’s and body mass index (BMI). Therefore body measurements are significant for us.”


Professor Bingöl goes on to underline that the APOE gene has been typed because everyone has it but certain sub types represent a cerebrovascular disease risk factor, including an increased risk of Alzheimer’s: “The close genetically based relationship and link between heart and brain disease and Alzheimer’s disease opens the way to preventive action to protect a person’s brain.” For these reasons, evaluation of a family history of dementia, Alzheimer’s or strokes is required to determine dementia risk.


Professor Bingöl details the importance and objectives of the Brain Health Protection Program in these words. “In this age of mass communication everyone has learned about health measures like
keeping their blood pressure down, controlling their weight, and taking exercise, but it can be hard to really get people to grasp and pursue the benefits even small changes can make. For example, if you don’t walk just half an hour a day your risk of having a heart attack goes up! Everyone understands this but it’s hard to grasp the connection when someone says if you don’t walk half an hour a day your brain structures will shrink and you’ll have memory problems when you get to 75. So the main objective of our program is to explain to people the direct links between things that don’t at first sight appear to be connected.” People with a family history of dementia, Alzheimer’s or strokes should undergo a medical check-up and tests.


The human brain is the last organ to develop. While all our organs have a certain capacity from birth, the brain continues to develop and make fresh connections until the age of 25, when it plateaus and then begins to go into functional and physical reverse during ones 30’s and 40’s. Even the healthiest individuals will have lost 20% of their cerebral volume by the time they reach 70.

The remaining healthy brain tissue is called ‘reserve capacity’. Current medical methods cannot prevent this 20% loss. Therefore the remaining 80% reserve capacity needs to be well organized. Professor Bingöl explains that specialists in the field have developed the concept of ‘super ageing’ in which the aim is to reach centenarian longevity, which people should prepare for by safeguarding their existing brain capacity after the age of 70. This is facilitated by productive use of the brain between the ages of 25 and 70.Professor Bingöl lists the internationally recognized criteria for what is required to protect reserve capacity as follows.


You don’t need to go to the gym to achieve this. Driving less, using muscle power instead of all those electric gadgets all the time, and most importantly walking for at least an hour a day can be sufficient. These kinds of changes help to activate unused muscles as well as firing up the brain that organizes it all. This leads to the formation of new electrical connections, and increases cognitive capacity. As the most glucose consuming organ in a unit of time in the human body, the brain benefits hugely from physical exercise.


A day spent monotonously using existing or stale knowledge represents a functionless day for the brain. So you need to try to learn something new every day. Clinical research shows that the age people suffer from dementia goes up in line with increases in their intellectual level and years of education and learning.


Stress does not always mean sadness and depression. Stress can be caused by ‘racing with time’, or when a person is over-occupied with social media. You should define what is causing stress in your life and try to remove it from your life.


Brain shrinkage is significantly speeded up by lack of good sleep. Moreover, the brain produces millions of toxic items every day. Sleep cleanses these and numerous studies have shown that sleep reducesthe Amyloid Betaprotein in the brain responsible for Alzheimer’s. Medication-induced sleep doesn’t count! Because this kind of sleep can actually obstruct the benefits the brain should get from a natural night’s sleep.


What’s good for the heart is good for the brain! A Mediterranean diet protects vascular structures and helps to prevent hardening of the arteries.


A person’s susceptibility to depression increases with age. One of the reasons for this together with a decline in the brain’s energy can be an individual’s personal experiences as they get older. Depression in old age needs
to be taken especially seriously. It is important not to think a person has just grown silent with age, but to encourage older people to maintain an active life. When required, anti- depressant treatment should be considered, though not for prolonged periods.


Most people’s hearing capacity declines with age. This condition is often left untreated or ignored. It is easy for a person to slip into a ‘silent world’ that can lay the foundations for depression. Hearing check-ups are important for people as they get older.


Menopause related increases in thyroid hormones and reduced estrogen levels increase a woman’s susceptibility to Alzheimer’s in later life. For this reason post-menopause hormone replacement therapy may be considered, under a specialist’s guidance and administration.


Recent research has revealed that certain medications can play a role in the emergence of dementia and Alzheimer’s, in particular stomach acid reducing proton pump inhibitors and antihistaminic headache pills. If no problems or side effects develop in the first few months, it might be necessary to take these medications for a prolonged period, so it is important to establish that they are not laying the ground for other conditions. Some medications can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia by having a deactivating effect on the brain.

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