Receiving a dementia diagnosis is something that nobody wants to go through. While that alone can feel daunting, that doesn’t mean that avoiding a diagnosis is completely out of your control.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you may be able to reduce your risk for brain function loss and the development of dementia symptoms by adopting several healthy lifestyle choices. In addition to improving cognitive function, these strategies can also prevent health issues like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Here are 10 healthy lifestyle strategies to reduce your risk for developing dementia symptoms later on in life.
- Let your brain rest: An interesting study found that your brain “cleans” during periods of rest, clearing itself of beta-amyloid proteins that contribute to the plaque that is often found in brains of people with dementia. People who get less sleep deprive themselves of this cleaning process.
- Feed your brain: Your brain needs good fuel to be able to function, so it’s imperative to eat healthy foods that support your brain. A diet full of processed foods and added sugars can increase the risk of dementia symptoms due to increased inflammation in the brain.
- Take your brain for a walk: Getting up and moving your body is a great way to keep your entire body strong and healthy. There has been plenty of research out there that shows that regular exercise is not only great for your brain but also improves other conditions linked to dementia symptoms such as depression, blood pressure and diabetes.
- Limit your alcohol: American Addiction Centers reports that drinking alcohol can increase dementia risk, with one study finding that people who drank five or more bottles of beer in one sitting were three times as likely to develop dementia symptoms by the age of 65.
- Let your brain breathe: The American Alzheimer’s Association has found a strong link between dementia symptoms and smoking. This could possibly be because smoking causes damage to the heart, blood vessels and even swelling in the brain that leads to dementia symptoms.
- Keep your brain flexible: Neuroplasticity is a big word that simply means the brain’s continued ability to learn and grow. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that a flexible brain can slow dementia symptoms because increased connections allow the brain to adapt.
- Give your brain a strong heart: Our brains and hearts are deeply connected, and a healthy heart supports an overall healthy body. In fact, as high as 60-80 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have heart disease. Evidence has also shown that controlling high blood pressure over time can be a key to better brain health.
- Let your brain hear: The Hearing Loss Association of America reported a possible link between hearing loss and dementia symptoms, with a six-year study finding that those with loss of hearing were 20 percent more likely to experience cognitive decline. This could be due to regularly straining to hear, which takes up a lot of brain function.
- Give your brain strong relationships: Your brain thrives when you are connecting and spending time with the ones you love, and your relationships are vital to the health of your brain. Many studies have found that positive connections can foster health, including deeper sleep and decreased blood pressure.
- Keep your brain safe: Serious brain injuries have been linked to an increased chance of developing dementia symptoms, including Alzheimer’s disease. A single traumatic head injury has the potential to cause a decline in brain function, especially if consciousness is lost.
Until we find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia symptoms, we can take great care of our bodies and enjoy all of the benefits that come with a healthy mind and body along the way. Researchers are continually discovering new risk factors, which gives us more control over our health and new opportunities for prevention.