Dementia is a thief, robbing far too many older adults of the joy of their sunset years. It also creates burdens and heartbreak for caregivers, who must watch beloved family members struggle to remember who they are.
Prevention is paramount. However, many people don’t know what to do to preserve their brain health as they age. What are some activities to engage in and what should you avoid? Here are six brain health tips to prevent dementia.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to nurture. It keeps your blood flowing, bathing your neurons in life-giving nutrients and oxygen. Although physical activity benefits you by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation, only one has proven dementia prevention perks.
What is it? Dance. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the effect of various physical and mental activities on preventing dementia. The study spanned 21 years, examining those 75 and older. The results:
What makes this movement so beneficial? Researchers believe the magic occurs because of neuroplasticity. Physical activity bathes your brain in what it needs, creating an optimal environment for positive change. Challenging yourself to follow the steps simultaneously encourages new neuronal connections.
Your body replaces cells all the time, including those in your brain. To create healthy new neurons, you need the right combination of nutrients to nourish them.
What are some of the best brain foods to consume? You can make your life easier by +remembering the following three rules.
These minerals play crucial roles in nurturing a healthy brain. They encourage healthy levels of neurotransmitters to improve mood and cognitive functioning. Deficiencies can cause issues like depression — some people with this disorder made a rapid recovery from supplementation alone.
Where can you find them in foods? Nuts are your best bet unless you have an allergy. They’re plant-based and full of healthy oils to complement these minerals. For example, a single Brazil nut contains your complete RDA of selenium.
You can also find these minerals in meat and seafood. What can you do if you follow a vegan diet and have a nut allergy? Spinach, quinoa and avocado help, although you may wish to consider supplementation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the good type of fats that your heart needs. They also show various neuroprotective effects, a fancy way of saying they keep your brain healthy.
What foods should you eat more of? Fatty fish and shellfish are your best options. However, you can also find these substances in some nuts and flax and chia seeds if you follow a vegan lifestyle.
The third key set of nutrients to nourish your brain and prevent dementia are antioxidants. These vitamins and phytonutrients are crucial in facilitating numerous bodily functions, and you find them in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Your farmers market is your best bet for affordable and organic produce. It’s richer in nutrients because it comes from nearby — meaning it has less time to lose vital nutrients.
Fortunately, Mother Nature included a handy color code to help you get the variety you need. Various plant hues correspond to different nutrient profiles, so strive to eat a rainbow, pairing at least three colors at every meal.
Remember how reading and crossword puzzles have a beneficial effect on your brain health? You can’t dance all the time — spend your quieter downtime engaged in activities that light up your mind. Puzzles like Sudoku and strategy games also keep your cognitive skills sharp.
What’s another way to train your brain while mastering a crucial skill? Why not learn a second language? Research indicates that bilingual people reduce their chances of developing early dementia symptoms, and there’s a world of fun apps out there to help you dust off that high school French.
Inflammation plays a role in nearly every chronic disease, including dementia. The activities above help minimize it, but you can do more by avoiding habits that spur it.
The work once again starts with your diet. Please keep foods high in unhealthy fats, white, all-purpose flour and ultra-processed meals laden with sugar, salt and additives to a minimum if you can’t bring yourself to give them up completely. All these substances increase inflammation and can do a number on your intestinal microbiome — and those beneficial bacteria send messages to your brain.
Furthermore, please avoid smoking and alcohol. While an occasional drink won’t hurt you, the trouble is that few people stop with only one. Tobacco is a nightmare, causing plaque to form in your arteries, robbing your brain and heart of blood and oxygen. A recent review of 37 research studies showed that smokers are 30% more likely to develop dementia and run a 40% higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
Loneliness is dangerous for older adults, increasing the chances of all-cause mortality. It also increases your dementia risk by 50%, so maintain a busy social calendar.
What can you do if you don’t have much of a circle? Are there old friends and relatives who might welcome a chance to reconnect? If not, why not get more involved in the community? Many areas now have community garden projects where you can connect with others while nourishing yourself and your family. Many local libraries offer free courses in computers and other subjects that give you a chance to mix and mingle while honing those brain cells.
You might be among many Americans who neglect dental care because of the high cost. While that’s understandable, please consider seeking a facility that offers sliding-scale fees and at least get an annual cleaning.
Why? Scientists have associated the bacteria responsible for gum disease with Alzheimer’s. This stuff thrives on plaque, the sticky coating your teeth accumulate over time, especially around the gumline where it can readily enter the bloodstream. Fortunately, treating gum disease early can slow progression — so get those pearlies professionally polished.
Dementia robs too much joy from people’s sunset years. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your brain.
Follow the above brain health tips for preventing dementia. You’ll enjoy more out of life now — and later.