What does it look like to age gracefully in mind and body? There are multi-million dollar industries dedicated to helping people look youthful on the outside, but few are focused on maintaining brain health as they advance in years. The latter is critically important to maintaining quality of life.
For instance, you might have heard about dementia. Dementia is not a specific disease but is instead a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions. This deficiency interferes with everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mainly affects older adults, it’s not a part of normal aging. In other words, it doesn’t have to be your fate. Per the experts, there are actions you can take to reduce or avoid cognitive decline. The best part? Many of these tips won’t cost you much or require a lot of time.
Here’s a look at a few FAQs and answers:
Which risk factors are considered adaptable, and which are out of our control?
In a small percentage of cases, when dementia affects a person at a younger age (before 65) and is prevalent in the family, the risk factor is genetic. For most people, dementia is considered sporadic and has multiple modifiable risk factors, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or social isolation.
When should we start making efforts to address modifiable risk factors? Is delaying onset something to strive for?
You’re never too young to think about making lifestyle changes to support brain health. For instance, staying active, eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a rich social life, getting enough rest, following a meditation practice and keeping depression in check can reduce the risk of dementia. These habits are generally what healthcare professionals recommend to help you look and feel your best.
We could dedicate a whole blog about the importance of sleep and its impact on cognitive function. Inadequate sleep is linked to slower thinking and risk of dementia. That said opt for 7-9 hours of sleep. Pay attention to sleep hygiene and take steps to ensure you’re prioritizing sleep even if it means setting healthy boundaries regarding your personal or professional life.
Sleep and diet go hand in glove. Nutrition experts recommend avoiding five foods that have been shown to be toxic to the brain. These include red meats, fried or fast foods, pastries or sweets, butter and cheese. On the note of diet, you might consider taking supplements if your diet lacks certain nutrients.
What’s the relationship between dementia and stress?
Stress is a part of everyday life in the modern world, but when it persists, it can cause internal changes and chemical imbalances detrimental to your brain and the body.
Keeping stress levels in check can improve your brain health and reduce your risk of dementia. In turn, when you’re mindful of your risk of depression and high blood pressure you can also help to curb the risk of early onset dementia. Speaking of toxins, alcohol and drugs can also weaken cognitive ability. Frequent and excessive use can damage memory circuits and accelerate the decline in mental aging.
How can I challenge my brain to keep it youthful?
Binging on Netflix might be fun for a bit but it’s not a recipe for brain health. The same goes for doom scrolling. There are several ways to stimulate your brain and keep it young simultaneously. For instance, hobbies can help boost your mind, slowing down or preventing memory loss. The same can be said of brain games like crosswords and jigsaw puzzles. Engaging in cultural activities like concerts, art shows and lectures can keep the neurons firing. Last, make a point to cross-train your brain. We all have things we’re naturally good at, cognitively. However, by trying new things, we can open up neural pathways. So don’t be afraid to learn a new language or take a software coding class to keep the brain guessing.
What other considerations should I keep in mind to help protect my brain?
Falls can be life-threatening in more ways than one. The consequences can be a head injury, broken bones or other trauma that triggers gradual or sudden loss of function. That’s why it’s important to implement exercises that help with balance and strength. Also, be mindful of your choice of recreational activities. If you bike or ski, wear a helmet and encourage others to do the same.
It’s possible to make meaningful changes that can help prevent or slow down memory loss. We believe that promoting the health of the mind and body requires a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances. If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers, that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003to make an appointment. Your brain will thank you!