Improve brain power. Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting a few key lifestyle habits. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the national day of love, The Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips to help reduce risk of cognitive impairment.
- Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
- Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
- Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
- Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.
- Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
- Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
- Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
- Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
“Our brain health, no matter what our age, can be maintained or potentially improved through our lifestyle habits,” says Melanie Adams, Director of Education and Outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. “Research shows that applying healthy behaviors to our everyday lives, such as staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity and eating a heart-healthy diet, can potentially spare us from cognitive decline. It’s never too early, or too late, to make positive changes for your health.”
In addition to reducing your risk of cognitive decline, these tips may also reduce your risk of dementia. Although some cognitive decline is expected with age, it is not yet known how this may directly relate to dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is one of the nation’s largest public health crises. Alzheimer’s is an irreversible neurological disease that impairs cognition, orientation and functional capacity, and it is the only cause of death among the top 10 life-threatening conditions in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
About the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter:
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s research, care and support. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter serves 68 counties in Illinois. Since 1980, the Chapter has provided reliable information and care consultation; created supportive services for families; increased funding for dementia research; and influenced public policy changes.
This article was submitted by the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.