6 Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Dementia Risk including Alzheimer’s
Your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia increases as you grow older, and these diseases are not as rare as you think. In fact, they are quite common. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and dementia affects approximately 47.5 million people all over the world. With these grim statistics, is there any sort of light at the end of the tunnel? The good news is that research has shown that making a few lifestyle changes can help reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here are some ways you can help reduce your dementia risk:
- Keep Yourself Physically Fit
Whether it is strength training or exercises that build up your endurance, you need to get moving and keep yourself physically healthy and active. Various studies have shown that exercise can actually slow the deterioration of an aging brain and lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. When you exercise regularly, you are less likely to experience a decline in your mental function, helping you to keep your thinking and reasoning skills lazer sharp. In addition, a little heart pumping exercise increases the flow of protective chemicals to your brain, fighting back against the natural decline in brain connections as you age.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Medical Health
Decline in cognitive functioning has been linked to a number of medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, high cholesterol, head injury, and smoking. For example, heavy smokers are157 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-smokers, and the increased insulin due to diabetescan cause harm via inflammation and subsequent damage to brain cells. Pay attention to your medical health and keep these conditions under control with proper treatment as recommended by your doctor. Quick tip: Although it’s tempting, don’t skip your annual check-up!
3. Eat Healthy
Following a wholesome and nutritious diet is key to improving your physical and mental health. As you grow old, numerous environmental and lifestyle factors can be damaging to your brain. This stress results in oxidation, which is a process that harms your brain cells. The best way to undo the harm caused by oxidation is to eat foods that have a higher concentration of antioxidants in them. Consume more fish, limit your red meat intake, and eat lots of fruits and vegetables to lower your risk of cognitive disease.
4. Enjoy an Active Social Life
Staying in touch with your loved ones and having engaging conversations with your friends can boost your mental health and ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. While researchers aren’t certain why social interactionhas such a positive effect, the relationship is clear. In a study of 2,249 women, those with bigger social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia. In addition, those who were in daily contact with friends and family cut their risk in half. Learn to treasure your relationships; as we get older it is so easy to let a day without keeping in touch with a friend turn to months or even years. Find a friend group and stick with it. On the plus side, you will all benefit, and who doesn’t love having someone they can depend on?
5. Engage in Mentally Stimulating Activities
Both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect your mental faculties, so it is very important to keep them sharp and active. Take up a new course, learn a new skill, or solve puzzles; perform any exercise or activity that works on improving your mental skills. Just like your muscles can atrophy without use, so can your cognitive functions. Decrease your dementia risk by engaging in mental exercises daily.
6. Take Some R&R
Poor sleep has been linked to the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque, which in turn has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Proper sleep is just as important as diet and mental stimulation, so incorporate methods to help you get the best sleep possible whether that is taking a warm bath before bed, using lotion in your favorite scent, or purchasing a sound motion to lull you to sleep with the sounds of the ocean or rain. Learning how to manage your stress can also help prevent the decline of cognitive function. Explore your options to find something you enjoy such as breathing, journaling, or gardening.
These lifestyle changes are pretty easy to incorporate into your daily life. Other than keeping your body healthy and lifting your mood, these choices may also help in reducing your dementia risk and Alzheimer’s. The years may be passing, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand idly by. Get out there and start moving, talking, relaxing, and playing – your brain will thank you later.