Why better brain health should be your focus in 2024

By Pamela J. Myers, MAOM, BSN, RN

        Evidence suggests that everyday actions can reduce risk for cognitive decline and dementia. That is why the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter is urging residents of our local communities to focus on the “10 Healthy Habits for Your Brain.”
        In Ohio, there are 220,000 people living with Alzheimer’s. Without any change, that number could double by 2050. Yet science shows that as many as 40% of dementia cases worldwide may be attributable to modifiable risk factors. Let’s learn more about the 10 Healthy Habits that could have the greatest impact in lowering dementia risk:
        • Going smoke-free. Quit smoking to lower your risk of cognitive decline to the level of non-smokers.
        • Protecting your head. Brain injuries are linked to dementia, so wear helmets and seatbelts, and protect yourself during sports. 
        • Staying in school, keep learning. Formal education reduces risk for dementia. Commit to lifelong learning and encourage youth to stay in school.
        • Managing diabetes. Diabetes increases risk, so work with your doctor to prevent or control diabetes.
        • Control your blood pressure. Medications can help lower high blood pressure. And healthy habits like eating right and physical activity can help, too. Work with a healthcare provider to control your blood pressure.
        • Get moving. Engage in regular physical activity. This includes activities that raise your heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain and body. Find ways to build more movement into your day – whatever works for you.
        • Eat right. Eating healthier foods can help reduce your risk of cognitive decline. This includes more vegetables and leaner meats/proteins, along with foods that are less processed and lower in fat. Choose healthier meals and snacks that you enjoy and are available to you.
        • Maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your healthcare provider about the weight that is healthy for you. Other healthy habits on this list – eating right, physical activity and sleep – can help with maintaining a healthy weight.
        • Sleep well. Good quality sleep is important for brain health. Stay off screens before bed and make your sleep space as comfortable as possible. Do all you can to minimize disruptions. If you have any sleep-related problems, such as sleep apnea, talk to a health care provider.
        • Challenge your mind. Be curious. Put your brain to work and do something that is new or hard for you. Learn a new skill. Try something artistic. Challenging your mind may have short- and long-term benefits for your brain.
        It is never too early or too late to start these healthy habits for your brain. For more information, reach out to the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at 419-537-1999.
        Pamela J. Myers is a program manager at the Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter. Visit alz.org/nwohio or call 800-272-3900 for more information about Alzheimer’s Association programs and services.


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