Alzheimer’s disease, along with other forms of dementia, is expected to affect more and more of us and our loved ones as our elderly population continues to increase in number. While some deterioration of memory or cognition is not unexpected with age, ongoing research into cognitive decline is providing evidence that certain lifestyle changes can significantly contribute to improved cognitive health and reduced risk of decline and dementia. With no treatments currently available to effectively reverse dementia, prevention plays a critical role in maintaining cognitive health.
Researchers have identified the top lifestyle factors that can help support good cognitive health:
- Physical fitness. Behaviors that are generally considered unhealthy can have a significant impact on cognitive health, including smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and being sedentary. Quitting smoking, engaging in regular exercise, minding your heart health and eating a low-fat balanced diet high in vegetables can all contribute to reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
- Mental stimulation. Keeping your mind engaged in challenging or creative activities can help your brain stay healthy and active. The challenge of formal learning, such as taking a local or online class, can be particularly beneficial. You could also undertake a creative endeavor, solve puzzles or play strategic games to stay mentally engaged.
- Proper rest. Insufficient or interrupted sleep due to insomnia, stress or sleep apnea may also contribute to memory impairment and cognitive problems. Try to allow yourself proper and complete rest or seek medical support to help manage stress or insomnia.
- Social engagement. Participating in social or community activities is also believed to promote good brain health. Feeling a part of a community and engaging in meaningful activities can help reduce risk of depressive symptoms, anxiety and other mental health issues that may contribute to cognitive decline. If you have activities and causes you enjoy or support, find ways to share this interest with others.
It is important to take an active role in supporting your own mental and physical health. Incorporating these few healthy lifestyle choices can help ensure a happier and healthier mind and body for many years to come.