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Posted: Friday, June 3, 2016

10 ways to love your brain


You can reduce your risk of declining memory and thinking skills by making some key changes in your lifestyle.

Alzheimer’s is one of a group of conditions that causes cognitive decline, especially in older people. More than 5 million Americans today are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and developing dementia is one of the greatest fears many people have as they grow older.

But as we move into June, which is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, it’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal aging, and that there are things you can do to help protect your brain.

That is the conclusion of a new research summary published in the June issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Healthy behaviors known to stave off cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes also may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. These include staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a heart-healthy diet that benefits your body and brain.

Here are 10 things you can do to live a healthier life and help reduce the risk of cognitive decline

  1. 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.
  2. 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, online or at your community.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 might follow.
  5. Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when riding a bike and take steps to prevent falls.
  6. 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.
  7. Catch some zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 afterschool program. Or just share activities with friends and family.
  10.  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.

Alzheimer’s experts suggest starting slowly and making one or two lifestyle changes at first. Then you can build on them. The process may be challenging, but it can also be enjoyable if you choose activities and foods that you enjoy!

Here’s to brain health!


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