Spring Into Action
With These 10 Ways to Love Your Brain
Research is still evolving, but evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits that promote brain health. When possible, it is recommended that we combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends 10 Ways to Love Your Brain:
Break a sweat. Physical activity is a valuable part of any overall body wellness plan and is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. If it’s safe for you, engage in cardiovascular exercise to elevate your heart rate. This will increase the blood flow to your brain and body, providing additional nourishment while reducing potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Take a class at a local college or online, learn a new language or begin a new hobby like playing a musical instrument.
Butt out. Quitting smoking can reduce risk of cognitive decline compared to those who have not smoked.
Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke negatively impact your cognitive health. Heart healthy = brain healthy.
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.
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. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests the Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets to 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. Consider avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and removing phones and computers from the bedroom to help prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Take care of your mental health. Try to manage your stress level and seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns.
Buddy up. Stay socially engaged and find ways to be part of your local community. Join a community club, volunteer at a local animal shelter or become an advocate for a non-profit, like the Alzheimer’s Association. Most importantly, pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Selecting activities you enjoy will increase the likelihood that you will continue to engage in them over time.
Stump yourself. Activate your mind — build a piece of furniture, do something artistic, play a card game or do a jigsaw puzzle. To keep your mind active, it is important to participate in activities that expose your mind to new topics.
The above suggestions may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but if you or someone you know is experiencing memory problems, consider reviewing the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s at alz.org/10signs. This list explains a typical age-related behavior and an explanation of behavior that carries concern. If you notice any of the warning signs, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or with the doctor for your loved one. Talking about memory problems is hard, but the Alzheimer’s Association has many free resources to guide you including a 24/7 Helpline, 800.272.3900, and online tools at alz.org.