Across the globe, nearly 37 million live with dementia today. That number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. With such a large number of people afflicted, many assume that a deteriorating brain is a normal part of aging, assuming memory problems are all just a part of getting older. “Having a senior moment,” is a normal part of day-to-day conversation, but what may seem normal, really isn’t.
Research focusing on the healthiest elderly people have found only minimal cognitive decline even into their ninth decade.
With Alzheimer’s disease in my family history, losing brain function is a great concern to me. Who wants to live for a long time if your mind isn’t all there to enjoy it? This is just one of the reasons I believe it’s essential to take as many steps as possible to lessen the risk of brain aging diseases. The sooner one starts being proactive by taking charge of their health, the better the chances for delaying or decreasing the chances of losing brain function.
You probably already know that smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do to your body, but did you know that it can also harm your mind? A study from the University College London found that smokers experience cognitive decline at a 38 percent faster rate than those who don’t.
Regular physical activity doesn’t just benefit your waistline, a study from Cardiff University in Wales found that regular exercise is the most important thing one can do to decrease the risk or delay the onset of dementia. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a workout fanatic. Exercising for 30 minutes per session, five times a week is optimal, but any type of physical activity is beneficial, including doing things like parking further away from your destination and walking those few extra steps.
Keep on learning
Anything that you can do anything to challenge your brain as long as it engages your attention, involves at least one of the senses, and breaks you out of your normal routine can help keep your mind sharp and reduce the risk of developing dementia or other brain aging diseases.
Taking up a new sport provides a double whammy effect by challenging the brain and incorporating physical activity. Learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument are also great ways to keep the brain functioning at its best.
Games aren’t just for kids
It’s important to keep the mind active and engaged in order for it to function properly. If you thought video games were just for kids, think again. A study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, found that playing video games for an hour a day can boost brain health and performance.
Solving a puzzle, playing Scrabble, or just about anything that requires you to use your brain can also help.
Eating right is essential for overall health, including a healthy mind. Consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, foods that contain healthy fats like nuts and seeds, wild-caught salmon and coconut oil is important for brain health. According to research from the Rush University Medical Center in Wales, those who eat fish at least once a week have a 60 percent lower risk of brain disease as compared to those who rarely or never eat fish.
K.C. Dermody has been an avid runner, hiker, and yoga enthusiast for over twenty years, and as a trained yoga instructor she taught a variety of students from senior citizens to competitive athletes. She enjoys combining her passion for sports, emotional and physical well-being with her love of writing.