Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a group of conditions that impairs brain function, ultimately compromising the ability to think rationally and clearly. Though dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than five million Americans and ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Alzheimer’s is progressive and irreversible, with the disease slowly affecting memory and cognition. Though there is still to be known regarding the underlying causes of memory loss and diseases that affect the brain, you can diminish and avoid dementia risk by supporting and improving your brain health through beneficial lifestyle choices and opportunities.
How to Prevent Dementia and Memory Loss
Participate in Regular Screenings and Tests
Screening for Alzheimer’s disease can start early, as genetics and family histories are linked to advancing memory loss. With early detection, physicians and geneticists can initiate a treatment immediately in hopes to dull the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, researchers are able to translate such information into usable and objective data that may lead to curing evidence and treatment recommendations.
Eat Brain Foods
While genetics and family histories are unmodifiable, diet and other lifestyle choices can give individuals a greater sense of control to improve brain health. From avocados to whole grains, the keys to eating for better brain health mostly relate to a well-balanced, heart-healthy diet. Moreover, the American Stroke Association suggests a heart-healthy diet can lower stroke risk and improve overall health and identifies “brain foods” as fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats. A nutritious diet can also reduce the risks of diabetes and heart disease, subsequently protecting against stroke, a significant risk factor of dementia.
Brew Up Some Coffee
Sipping on those morning cups of joe may not only be fueling the day, but improving your brain and lessening the risks of related conditions. Brewing research implies coffee pours out lifelong benefits, including enhancing memory, focus, and mood, along with reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and depression.
Manage Health Conditions
Uncontrolled hypertension, obesity, diabetes, Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and depression have all been linked to compromised brain health, prompting the need to manage concurrent health conditions to lessen potential impacts on the brain. Unmanaged health conditions are considerably tied to atherosclerosis, which may cause narrowing of the arteries of the brain and inhibit sufficient blood flow. The repercussions may bargain cognitive processes and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Annual and ongoing health screenings can assist medical professionals in producing an individualized plan to meet personal needs.
Though nutrition experts encourage obtaining nutrients from food sources, supplementing a balanced diet can safeguard against nutritional deficiencies and memory loss. In fact, deficiencies in magnesium, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and other nutrients may influence memory loss and heighten dementia risk. A healthcare professional can help determine if or which supplements are right for you.
Living an inactive life may be affecting more than your waistline and physical health, as a sedentary lifestyle can extend to overall brain function. Exercise can stave off dementia by increasing blood flow to the brain, along with fostering a healthy weight to lessen the risk of chronic diseases associated with Alzheimer’s risk.
Train the Brain
In addition to working out the anatomical body itself, train the brain! Stimulating the mind can lessen the risk of dementia by sharpening memory, speeding up information processing, and improving reasoning and cognition. Though brain exercises vary greatly based on personal preferences, the main focus is to keep the brain challenged and active. Various brain activities include learning how to play an instrument, playing board and card games, working on crossword puzzles, creating crafts, cooking in the kitchen, and organizing the closet.
While exercise and activity is viable to improve brain function, so is rest. Sleep essentially acts as a “reset” button on a nightly basis and without sufficient cycles, you may not only experience short-term feelings of tiredness, but eventually long-term consequences on memory and cognitive function. A study published in the Current Opinion in Psychiatry also indicates poor sleep is a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Without meaningful social connections and engagements, feelings of loneliness have shown to increase the likelihood of cognitive decline, depression, and may even be deadlier than obesity. Whether nurturing current connections or pursuing new opportunities, mitigate such risks by building and maintaining social networks throughout the lifespan.
Stop Substance Abuse
It goes without saying substance abuse can lead to negative health effects, including of the brain. Abusing alcohol, cigarettes, or any other type of harmful and illicit substances increases the risk of memory loss by manipulating brain chemicals and diminishing oxygen supply to the brain.
Though a certain level of stress is good for the body, chronic physical and mental stress may be compromising brain health. Stress can affect the immune system, which is known for a playing role in dementia development, while ongoing cortisol release has been linked to memory problems. And not to mention, high stress may increase the risk of poor coping mechanisms linked to dementia such as smoking and other substance abuse. That being said, managing stress can improve brain health by lessening the risk of depression and other mental disorders. Practice healthy stress management techniques such as performing yoga and meditation, taking your dog for a walk, and listening to favorite music.
Protect Your Brain
Head traumas and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have shown to increase the risk of memory loss and potentially Alzheimer’s disease, stressing the importance of protecting the head and supporting the spinal system. While accidents do happen and are oftentimes unpreventable and unpredictable, there are ways to protect the brain and reduce their threat. Individuals are encouraged to be proactive by wearing a helmet, seatbelt, life vest, or any type of recommended harness and self-protecting gear