How Meetings Can Help Reduce Alzheimer's

Being an individual who embraces continuing education and further learning—I am continuously fascinated by the human brain. The cognitive ability of the brain to gather and retain knowledge is powerful, as is the cognitive decline of the brain as seen in patients who have Alzheimer's or dementia. The balance between the strength of the brain and the fragility of the brain is potent.

Recently I read an article which reflected on a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing a decline in dementia rates from 1994 to 2011 in both the U.S. and Europe. Furthermore, an analysis in 2011 in the journal Lancet Neurology determined that up to half of all Alzheimer's disease cases in U.S. could possibly be prevented by modifying a few risk factors.

So what does this have to do with planning meetings?

If we start to look at the events and meetings we plan from a holistic approach we can see a greater positive impact on our attendees' health. Not just will we meet the strategic objectives of the event—but we will do so by purposely designing environments which we help our attendees' brains stay healthy.

Through more purposeful health-focused food and beverage planning and through such projects as Delos Living's STAY WELL® Meetings we have begun to see incorporations of plans and programs which work to meet the healthful needs of attendees. And, we can continue to build upon these.

There are five key strategies recommended, based on studies conducted, to possibly help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and increase the cognitive ability of the brain—all of which can be incorporated into your meetings.

#1 - Do aerobic exercise regularly. Studies have proven physical activity is the number one way to delay dementia.

  • In your meetings - Add a daily morning exercise program. Implement a 5k run/walk.

#2 - Follow a Mediterranean diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and olive oil; and low in meat and saturated fats not only boosts your heart health, but is also being proven as a way to help your brain age gracefully.

  • In your meetings - Work with your venue on incorporating more healthy meal options with fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Incorporate new ideas for snack breaks with nuts, raisins and whole grains. Remove the processed sugar (cookies) and offer natural sugar options (fresh fruit).

#3 - Foster new connections in the brain. My favorite. Lifelong learning accumulates in your brain (kind of like money in the bank). Each time you actively engage your mind—whether through education sessions or other cognitive actions, such as reading, you're building up your cognitive savings bank.

  • In your meetings - Create opportunities for attendees to engage in further learning. Create brain challenges as teambuilding competitions where learning can occur through problem solving or by putting puzzles or mechanisms together.

#4 - Meditate. Meditation helps hone your mental focus and create a capacity to guard against mental distractions.

  • In your meetings - Create meditative spaces. Provide a late afternoon meditation break for attendees.

#5 - Maintain social ties. Social interactions benefit the human brain.

  • In your meetings - Ensure time for attendees to engage and interact with each other on a social level, in a relaxed atmosphere.

By implementing some or all of these strategies into your next meeting or event, you will have the opportunity to engage your attendees and help increase their brain capacity—how smart is that!?

Posted by Larissa J. Schultz, CMP, MHA

Larissa is a writer, author, and professional speaker in the hospitality industry. She is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College teaching in the Hospitality and Tourism program.

Follow Larissa on Twitter: @LarissaJSchultz
Visit Larissa's Website: www.ljsmeetingstrategies.com/

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