We take care of our bodies now so they will stay strong and healthy well into the future, but what about our minds? It turns out there are actually a number of things we can do today to help prevent cognitive decline and lower our risk of things like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Be MINDful of What We Eat
A recent study of 1,000 people found that a hybrid Mediterranean and DASH diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by 53% for strict adherents and 35% for those who were more moderate. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND diet, focuses on eating leafy green vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and even includes a daily glass of wine. The diet recommends against red meat, butter, cheese, baked goods, and fast food.
Keeping active by working out our bodies and our brains is another way to help prevent cognitive decline. One study found an increased importance of physical activity at midlife in keeping our brains healthy as we age. Another study found that mentally stimulating activities such as reading, crossword puzzles, and chess also play a part in prevention. You don’t have to run marathons or sign up for chess tournaments-leisure activities and hobbies you enjoy are enough to see future benefits.
We know stress can impact our day, but it can also effect our long-term health. This study found a link between chronic stress and cognitive decline later in life. We can’t prevent stress, but do have many tools to deal with it. Exercise, self care, therapy, meditation, yoga, and the right supplements can all help keep stress levels in check. If chronic stress is a problem, talk to your natural healthcare provider to find the best solutions for you.
Nearly one third of Americans don’t get the recommend seven hours of sleep each night, which can do more than just make us reach for an extra cup of coffee. A review of observational studies found that poor sleep is a contributing factor in Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. Prioritizing shuteye isn’t always easy, but it has a huge impact on our health.
According to the World Health Organization, smoking is responsible for 14% of the instances of Alzheimer’s worldwide. The American Cancer Society notes there are five key factors for quitting with success:
1. Make the decision to quit
2. Pick a day to quit
3. Make a plan
4. Deal with withdrawal, and
5. Stay tobacco-free.
Be a Social Butterfly
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, socialization is important in protecting cognitive health. To get the most brain benefits, however, they recommend combining physical, mental, and social activities together. They cite a “study of 800 men and women aged 75 and older, those who were more physically active, more mentally active or more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia. And those who combined these activities did even better.”
A new study shows that hearing loss is closely linked with dementia, so we need to protect our hearing. We can practice aural health by limiting earbud time to an hour a day and keeping the volume at no more than 60%, as well as wearing earplugs at concerts and in loud workspaces, and by keeping cotton swabs away from our ears.
By implementing just a few of these tips, we can give our future selves a much better shot at staying strong and mentally healthy.