When was the last time you dug into your brain trying to remember your friends’ phone numbers? Well, the more relevant question now seems to be, does your friend use Whatsapp? WeChat? Insta-story? or……
Technology has drastically transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other. The speed at which space and time are being warped is so rapid that it is wearing us down very quickly at the same time. ‘With hectic urban lifestyles in a booming Asian economy, young professionals are more prone to the harmful effects of brain aging than ever before,’ said Dr Shawn Watson, founder and CEO of Senescence Life Sciences.
As a leading neuroscientist, Dr Shawn helps people who are struggling with brain aging effects. He has been very kind to share some tips with us to maintain a healthy brain, and a very touching story about a personal encounter with Alzheimer’s disease.
Shawn, share with us your real life working experience?
S: Currently, I am the founder and chief executive officer of Senescence Life Sciences. I have a BSc in Biological Sciences and PhD in Neurophysiology from the University of Calgary in Canada, where I was born and raised.
I have six peer-reviewed publications in top-tier scientific journals focusing on age-related cognitive decline. I reside in Singapore where I host regular talks with communities, organizations and healthcare professionals about brain health and aging.
Outside of Senescence Life Sciences, I serve as the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Committee Chair at the Canada ASEAN Business Council (CABC), where I provide support, education and commercial opportunities for Canadian companies entering Southeast Asia.
What inspires you to be in this industry?
S: I have always been interested in neuroscience since I was young. The complexity of the brain and its functions fascinated me.
I was pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at University of Calgary, Canada, when at the same time, unfortunately, my grandparents were diagnosed with dementia. The debilitating effects of brain aging immensely influenced my research. This motivated me to devote my research to finding a treatment to cognitive aging so that future generations can look forward to growing older without the fear of losing their cognitive functions.
Have you encountered such problems among any of your family/friends/loved ones? If yes, how did you prevail over the situation?
S: The emotional struggle that comes with neurodegenerative diseases affects not only the patient but also caregivers, family and friends. Often in the beginning, those suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s are acutely aware that something is wrong with their memory. With no cure or treatment available it is easy for everyone involved to feel hopeless.
Having gone through this with my grandparents, I am extremely compassionate for others who know someone or have a family member affected by dementia. Today, as disease awareness and diagnostics improve, it is increasingly difficult to find someone who hasn’t been affected. I believe the best thing we can do is to have hope. Building a community and support system for patients, caregivers and families is something we can contribute to today, while investing in research efforts that seek to develop preventative methods and treatment strategies for tomorrow.
Young people of the modern era seem to suffer from premature memory loss or shortage, what are the reasons behind it?
S: In the fast-paced world we live in, our hectic lifestyles mean we constantly multi-task, experience rising stress levels, face long working hours and inadequate or irregular sleep. Furthermore, as we get busier, we have lesser time to pick healthier meals or may even skip meals altogether.
All these factors make us prone to the harmful effects of brain aging or cognitive decline. These factors can result in low productivity and accelerate natural brain aging, leading to decreased mental performance, focus, agility and memory.
What’s your most encouraging advice in keeping our memory sharp at any age?
S: Currently, the best thing for your aging brain – like many other aspects of life – is a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Many people will commit to exercise, specific diets and taking certain supplements to improve various aspects of their health, but forget about their brain. The brain needs just as much attention as the heart, lungs, bones and muscles.
Here’s a list of tips that we can do to stay sharp and focused as we cope with the mental struggles of our hectic lifestyles:
- Exercise regularly – Many studies and research conducted from all around the world have shown exercise to be one of the most effective treatments to ward off brain aging. Exercising has a holistic benefit on both our body and mind and can keep illnesses at bay as well as improve mental performance.
- Choose the right supplements – If you are looking to do more, we just launched EDGE, our supplement that is designed with some of the world’s leading neuroscientists to optimize mental performance for those aged 30 to 55 years old.
- Don’t ignore stress – Studies have shown that chronic stress is linked to premature brain aging. As such, always ensure you de-stress regularly after challenging tasks. Some ways to destress include watching a film, exercising, spending time with your family and loved ones or engaging in your favorite hobby.
- Constantly engage in social activities – Constantly socialize with your friends and family – some examples of other brain stimulating activities includes group exercise activities, learning a new language or sport, or picking up a new skill like painting!
- Cooking a balanced diet for you and your family – A diet that contains unhealthy fats and sugars can cause a decrease in brain function. Always remember to make sure you keep a balanced diet which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals, and water to improve brain health.
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