10 ways to love your brain – reduce your risk of cognitive decline

Press Staff Writer

        It’s never too late or too early to start thinking about your brain’s health – making healthy choices at any age is beneficial.
        However, you can reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory or cognition that is, to some extent, expected with age. Normal cognitive decline is different from dementia in that it is not severe enough to interfere with daily life.
        “There is a large body of research going on in the field of dementia right now focusing on how we take care of ourselves,” says Pam Myers, program director for the Northwest Ohio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk by making key lifestyle changes, including participating in regular physical activity and maintaining good heart health.”
        Based on this research, the Alzheimer’s Association offers “10 Ways to Love Your Brain,” a collection of tips that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
        Break a sweat: Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
        Hit the books: Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online.
        Butt out: Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
        Follow your heart: Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
        Heads up: Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
        Fuel up right: Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.
        Catch some ZZZs: Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
        Take care of your mental health: Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
        Stump yourself: Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain.
        Buddy up: Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community - if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an afterschool program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
        “Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging, but age is the greatest risk factor for developing the disease” says Myers. “One out of every ten Americans age 65+ are living with Alzheimer’s and we know that one in three seniors die from Alzheimer’s disease, so the time is now to live a healthy lifestyle to improve/maintain good brain health”.
        To support persons living with dementia and their caregivers, the Alzheimer’s Association provides free care and support services throughout Northwest Ohio. These services include information and referral service; one-on-one or family care consultations to develop care plans; a wide variety of community education programs; support groups/social activity groups for caregivers and person living with dementia in early stage, and a 24-hour Helpline.
        Due to COVID-19, currently these services are being provided virtually. The association also has several volunteer opportunities for people who are interested in joining in the mission and fighting this disease.
        For more information, call 419-537-1999 or email pjmyers@alz.org.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
        The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Call 1-800-272-3900 or visit alz.org for more details.


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