The classic conundrum of aging is no secret. As we mature, many body parts begin to lose the acuity of youth. One of the body’s most vital organs — the brain — is not immune. While some memory loss is inherent to aging, there are definitive strategies that can boost brain health despite age’s natural decline.
While diseases such as Parkinson’s and stroke can cause memory loss, the majority of dementia cases are diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s, a common type of dementia that interferes with memory, thinking and behavior, often develops slowly and worsens with time. The world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research — The Alzheimer’s Association — estimates that 5.3 million Americans of all ages currently have Alzheimer’s.
While no cure exists at present, research has uncovered promising ways to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, says Jan Olson, fitness and living well manager at Paradise Valley Estates, a northern California continuing care retirement community. “People can implement lifestyle factors that help maintain memory and brain health,” says Jan. “The concept of neuroplasticity — meaning we can regenerate brain cells — is key to boosting your brain and memory,” she adds.
Some risk factors including age and family history can’t be changed. But emerging evidence suggests your actions can decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other memory impairment diseases.
Better Brain Health in Four Steps
1. Be physically fit.
Raise your heart rate for at least 30 minutes, several times a week, to reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems and to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Exercise such as sports, cycling or walking can improve both physical and mental health.
2. Control blood pressure, weight and diabetes.
Studies have linked elevated blood sugar and diabetes to a higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. Excess sugar can damage the body’s blood vessels and brain, and that can lead to development of dementia or a worsening of memory loss problems.
3. Maintain a social life and exercise intellect.
Exercising your brain’s circuitry contributes to better mental health. Mental exercises and thoughtful discussion help keep brains active, as do crossword puzzles and technical card games.
4. Eat and drink wisely.
Reduce tobacco and alcohol intake, and enjoy a diet low in red meat and high in fruit, vegetables and healthy fats. Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is vital to health and wellness.
Make a Choice to Lower Your Risk
It’s important to note that the same lifestyle choices that support better brain health are known to lower your risk for other severe health problems like heart disease and diabetes. While there’s no known way to prevent Alzheimer’s, research is promising and some measurable strides have been realized in simply making healthier lifestyle choices. You can lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, today.