Can a Healthy Lifestyle Help Reduce Dementia Later in Life?

Did you know that a large percentage of Americans believe that dementia is a normal part of aging? That’s false, say a growing number of new studies. Mounting research proves that anyone can take action today to help protect their brain from cognitive decline or at least delay the onset for years.

Amazingly, recent studies have found that 1 in 3 cases of Alzheimer’s disease is preventable with lifestyle changes. A healthy heart, an active mind, solid relationships, and plenty of sleep will go a long way toward keeping your mind sharp.

Get Moving.

The scientific world agrees that aerobic exercise helps ensure brain health. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of highintensity aerobic activity a week for everyone over 65.

Even a 25-minute daily walk can lower your risk of dementia by as much as 35 percent. Exercise helps clear the brain of amyloid protein fragments, which accumulate in the brains of those with dementia.

Richard Isaacson, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine, agrees. “There’s no drug available that lowers amyloid,” he says. The only thing we know that can do it is exercise.”

Embrace Learning, Change, and Challenges

Take a class, start a hobby, listen to an online lecture — any continued education keeps the brain healthy. Intellectual challenge and memorizing create new neural pathways, making our brains sharper and more resilient.

Consider learning a second language? This recent study of bilingual individuals should make a strong case for signing up. In 2020, a study co-authored by John Grundy, assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University, showed that those who can speak two languages use more brain regions, resulting in more robust cognitive reserves and a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Learning anything new makes your mind nimbler and more flexible because your brain creates new connections. Start small by trying a new recipe or driving a new route to a familiar place. Or go big with an adventure that’s out of your comfort zone. Your brain will benefit, and so will your mood.

Protect Your Heart with a Mediterranean diet

The same risk factors for heart disease—obesity, smoking, and uncontrolled high blood pressure—are risk factors for dementia. In Chicago, a team at Rush University Medical Center created the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) to keep dementia symptoms at bay.

Participants eliminated most saturated and trans fats for the MIND diet study and followed a diet high in berries, vegetables (especially leafy greens), fish, and whole grains.

The team found that participants who remained on the MIND diet over five years lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s by 35 to 53 percent, with those who remained on the diet the longest gaining the most significant benefit.

Protect your head

Head injuries increase the likelihood of cognitive decline, so be vigilant about wearing helmets, using seatbelts, and fall-proofing the house.

Sleep well

New 2020 studies on sleep suggest another way to possibly cleanse the brain of amyloid wastes: a good night’s sleep. “There is something about this deep sleep that is helping protect you,” says Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the study, the team studied two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease: beta-amyloid and tau, and found that participants who spent more time in the deep sleep phase had reduced levels of both.

Cultivate Your Social Connections

After going through a period of enforced lockdown, we all know how critical social engagement is for our mental health. And a close social circle is good for our brains as well. Staying connected to our communities, families, and friends helps prevent depression and mental health problems, which in turn can harm cognitive health.

By |2022-02-08T15:19:52-06:00February 8th, 2022|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments