Like the rest of your body, your lifestyle influences the health of your brain. Maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle may lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. It could contribute to the prevention of symptoms, slow down the progression or even reverse the process of dementia-related deterioration.
Aerobic exercise (e.g. walking 30 minutes a day, five times per week) can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent.
- Brain scans at the start and end of a year-long study of 120 older adults showed that: 60 of the 120 who had started a program of moderate aerobic exercise had increased the volume of their brains. The 60 who did not exercise lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume.
- Regular exercise reduces stress, boosts mood, improves memory and increases energy.
- Include balance and coordination exercises to stay agile and avoid falls (yoga, Tai Chi).
Mental exercise keeps your brain active. The brain loves learning new things, so switching out your brain exercises helps. For example, if you like to do crossword puzzles, switch to a different type of puzzle such as Sudoku, learn a new language, or play a new instrument.
Active Social Life
Social activity, whether dining out at restaurants, attending sporting events, playing bingo, doing volunteer work or other activities, contributes to keeping your brain healthy. Seniors with a constricted social life are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and more rapid decline of overall cognitive function.
- A 12-year study of the social lives of about 1,100 adults over the age of 80 revealed those with busy social lives were half as likely to develop dementia, compared with those with minimal social activities (James et al, 2011).
Chronic and severe stress can lead to shrinkage of the hippocampus (memory area of the brain), hamper nerve cell growth, and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. So when you find yourself “stressed,” follow one or more of these simple techniques to manage and/or minimize harmful effects.
- Deep abdominal breathing will alter your breathing rate and enhance oxygen level.
- Take some time for yourself every day and do something you enjoy (reading, taking a walk or a soothing bath).
- Find your inner peace through prayer or meditation. A strong mind-body connection has been linked with better brain health.
- Train yourself to have positive thoughts. For tips go to Manage Stress with Positive Thinking.
The brain needs healthy and nutritious food to operate at its best.
- A diet high in anti-oxidants, low in trans and saturated fats, and rich in omega-3 fats will help reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of brain fuel.
- Regular consumption of green tea has also been linked with memory enhancement and mental alertness.
- For tips on how to plan healthy meals, read Eating Healthy as You Age: How to be a Smart Shopper.
Combining the many aspects of a brain healthy lifestyle will not only help you reduce stress, enhance your nutrition, and keep you socially engaged – it will assure you are doing all you can do to help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and/or reduce dementia symptoms. So whether you like to take a vigorous walk with friends or a long soak in a hot tub while reading a good book and sipping a glass of red wine (antioxidants), remember to live brain healthy!