How can you protect yourself against dementia?
While common risk factors for Alzheimer’s are out of our control – including family history, gender, genetics, and the aging process – new research is uncovering other healthy behaviors that can effectively protect the brain.
Here are 5 lifestyle behaviors and habits that can effectively decrease your odds for developing dementia.
- Reading – Consistent mental stimulation is key to warding off Alzheimer’s disease. New research shows elderly people who regularly read books, write letters or play mentally challenging games such as chess are 2.5 times less likely to develop dementia. The effects are even more pronounced when these habits are instilled from childhood. Older adults who continued to engage in frequent mental activity in later have 32 percent lower mental decline than those with average activity, whereas, those infrequent engagers mental abilities decline 48 percent faster. By keeping the brain active, you help preserve essential “gray matter”, which contributes to healthy brain function and memory.
- Coffee – There’s new reason to go ahead and feed your caffeine habit. Numerous studies have documented the benefits of coffee for brain health. Drinking 3 cups of coffee per day can lower risk for dementia and stave off Alzheimer’s Disease for 2-4 years longer. Remember: moderation is key. Drinking more than 3 cups a day can make it difficult to sleep, and restful slumbering is essential for brain health.
- Hot chocolate – Indulge! New research shows cocoa, found in hot chocolate boosts blood flow to the brain and improves memory. Elderly subjects who drank two daily cups of hot cocoa for 30 days showed marked improvement on memory and recall tests.
- Late retirement – Those who delay retirement have been shown to have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists suggest working in to older age keeps the brain stimulated, active, and challenged – all mechanisms, which prevent mental decline. Even a few years can make a difference: Someone who retires at age 65 has a 15% lower chances of developing dementia as compared to someone who retires at age 60.
- Meditation – Say “om”! Meditation improves blood flow to the brain and helps maintain memory function. Mindful practice can also help buffer against the effects of isolation and loneliness for seniors – two factors that contribute to dementia.
What do each of these behaviors have in common? Take a close look and you’ll see each stimulates the brain in ways that bolster neural connections, shielding seniors from memory loss and disease.
What daily practices do you suggest for brain health? How do you keep your mind fit and in shape?
Written by Melody Wilding