Alzheimer’s & Dementia Prevention
For some time now, we’ve heard that there’s not much we can do to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We have been told to just hope for the best as we get older and wait for a cure. However, reality is much more encouraging.
The latest research shows us that lifestyle factors play an important role in protecting your brain as you get older. You may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through diet, exercise, as well as staying mentally and socially active. By living a more brain-healthy lifestyle, you can even prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease entirely and slow down the deterioration of the aging process.
Researchers around the globe are working towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But as incidents of these conditions climb, the focus of the research has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies.
Building a More Brain-Healthy Lifestyle
Your brain health, your body health, is due to a variety of factors. Although some factors, like your genes, are out of your control, many powerful lifestyle factors are within your grasp.
The six most important factors for good brain health:
· Regular exercise
· A healthy diet
· Regular mental stimulation
· Good sleep
· Lowering stress
· An active social life
The more you strengthen each of these factors in your life, the healthier and hardier your brain will be.
According to research from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise will reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. If you have been inactive for some time, beginning to exercise again may be intimidating. However, you don’t need to take up jogging or go to a gym. Start with small ways to add more movement into your normal day. Park at the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs, carry your own groceries, or even walk around the block or pace while talking on your cell phone.
A Healthy Diet
Your brain needs a good diet to operate at its best, just like the rest of your body does. Work on eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. One good option is a Mediterranean diet, which is loaded with fish, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and lots of fresh produce. Enjoy the occasional glass of red wine and square of nice dark chocolate. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. You can get plenty of omega-3 fats from cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines.
Regular Mental Stimulation
Those who continue through their lives to learn new things and challenge their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is critical to stay mentally active. Practice your memorization skills. Start with something easy, progressing to something more challenging, like the 50 U.S. state capitals. It also helps to create rhymes and patterns to strengthen your memory’s mental connections.
Brain teasers, strategy games, puzzles, and riddles provide a great mental workout and helps your mental muscles to retain cognitive associations. Do a crossword puzzle, play board games or cards, or work word and number games, such as Scrabble or Sudoku.
Your brain depends on quality, restful sleep to function at its best. A lack of sleep not only leaves you tired, but also impairs your ability to think, reason, problem-solve. It also makes it more difficult to process, store, and recall information. Deep, quality sleep is critical to form and keep memories. If poor sleep is slowing your thinking, you could be at greater risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Establish a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms. Your brain’s clock responds to regularity.
Chronic or severe stress can really impact the brain, even causing shrinkage in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, where your memories are stored. Stress can hamper growth of nerve cells, and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
An Active Social Life
People are very social creatures. We don’t do well in isolation, and neither does our brain. Research shows that the more connected we are to people, the better we do on memory and cognition tests. Staying socially active may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so make your social life a priority.
These are steps you should take to keep your brain healthy. It’s never too early to start boosting your brain power, so start today!
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