New research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that people may be able to reduce their chances of cognitive decline with lifestyle changes. Of course, the risk of some cognitive problems is due to genetic factors, but there is also evidence that various lifestyle factors can help keep your brain healthy. Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Association that may reduce your risk of cognitive decline:
1. Exercise Regularly. Exercising raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Consider joining a gym, jogging in your neighborhood, or increasing movement by routine activities like gardening, cleaning, and laundry. Also try parking your car further away in the parking lot while running errands.
2. Keep Your Mind Active. Education helps reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Stimulate your mind with activities such as puzzles, word games, memory training, reading, or learning something new.
3. Eat Healthy Foods. Eating a healthy diet that is lower in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables can help reduce cognitive decline. Consider following a Mediterranean diet for meals that are full of whole grains, fresh produce, fish, and nuts.
4. Stay Social. Being socially engaged may help your brain health. Studies have shown that the more social we are, the better we perform on memory and cognition tests. Ways to keep an active social life are through volunteering, joining a club or social group, reaching out to neighbors, and getting out in the community.
5. Manage Stress Levels. Severe or chronic stress has a negative effect on the brain, and simple tools can minimize these harmful effects. Try doing breathing exercises, prioritizing relaxation, meditating, or practicing yoga to mitigate the damaging effects of stress.
6. Quality Sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impair your ability to think, problem-solve, and process, store and recall information. Try getting 8 hours of sleep per night by establishing a regular sleeping schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime ritual, and minimizing light and noise before bedtime.
Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire