Your brain is a complex and amazing machine that not only operates your body but also houses the memories and personalities that make you who you are. Unlike lungs, kidneys and other parts of our bodies, we only have one brain, and it’s important that we take care of it.
A natural part of aging is a deterioration in memory and thinking called cognitive decline. As we get older, cognitive decline occurs in small amounts that many of us jokingly refer to as “senior moments.” While annoying, these moments are relatively uncommon and do not hinder our daily living activities.
Cognitive decline that becomes serious enough to disrupt our lives and cause problems with memory loss, thinking and behavior can be labeled with the general term “dementia.” There are many causes and types of dementia, but the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease, with no cure or effective treatment yet, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to improve your brain’s health.
Century Park Associates, with our affiliate Life Care Centers of America, is a national team for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association is leading the worldwide effort to find a treatment for Alzheimer’s, delay its onset and prevent it from developing. They have identified 10 lifestyle suggestions that can help you reduce your risk of cognitive decline and help you maintain or possibly improve your overall health.
Here are 10 ways to love your brain:
- Break a sweat – Studies have found that physical activity raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your brain, which can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
- Hit the books – Formal education at any age will help keep your brain active and healthy. Consider taking a class at a local college or community center, or find an online course in a topic that is interesting to you.
- Butt out – Smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Kick the habit, and your risks may return to the same as someone who has not smoked.
- Follow your heart – Take care of your heart to take care of your brain. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes also negatively affect your cognitive health.
- Heads up – Brain injuries can increase your risk of cognitive decline. Stay safe by wearing seat belts, helmets and other measures to protect your head when involved in activities that might result in falling, crashing or otherwise being hurt.
- Fuel up right – Eating a healthy and balanced diet is a common-sense step that can help your entire body stay strong. Diets low in fat and higher in fruits and vegetables may contribute to lowering your risk of cognitive decline.
- Catch some zzzs – Lack of sleep can lead to problems thinking clearly and remembering. Get plenty of rest and see your physician about conditions like sleep apnea or recurring insomnia.
- Take care of your mental health – Depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns have been linked to cognitive decline in some studies. Manage stress properly and seek medical treatment for mental health concerns.
- Stump yourself – Keep your mind challenged and active. Consider building furniture, creating art, working on a puzzle or playing games that make you think strategically, and you may experience short- and long-term benefits for your brain.
- Buddy up – Social activities, playing with animals and hanging out with friends may support your brain’s health. Stay socially engaged with the people and community around you.
If you would like more information about the Alzheimer’s Association or its 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, visit the website alz.org or call the association at (800) 272-3900.