Think about your morning routine. You wake up, greet your spouse or family, drink your coffee, brush your teeth and go about your day. For most people, that’s a simple and easy start to the day.
Imagine getting up to start your routine and not being able to remember your family members or how to make your coffee. That is what millions of Americans face every single day as they live out their lives with dementia.
As of last year, more than five million American seniors are diagnosed and living with some form of dementia. Many of these individuals either live with family or require in home care, which can cost thousands.
While there are no techniques that have been proven to prevent dementia 100% of the time, there are plenty of things you can start doing today to help reduce your risk of developing dementia in the future.
Eat Right and Exercise
Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a consistent exercise plan is a great way to stay healthy into your golden years. Recent studies have found that exercising can reduce your risk of developing dementia by up to 50%. Strength training in particular is vital because in addition to stimulating muscle growth and increasing your metabolism, it stimulates the brain, which encourages the brain to keep the existing pathways in good shape or to create new ones where necessary.
Diet is also an essential piece of the dementia prevention puzzle. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables to take advantage of all the natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, is also showing promise as a way to decrease the risk of developing dementia later in life.
Keep up With Your Social Life
Most of us have a pretty active social life, but did you know that maintaining those social connections could help to prevent dementia later in life?
A 6 year long study published in 2013 found that individuals who maintained an active social life were less likely to develop dementia later in life. Activities that are classified as social included trying new things, reading the news and having an overall active approach to life itself, in addition to maintaining friendships.
Some studies have even suggested that social media can have an active role in preventing dementia by encouraging people to keep in touch with each other and providing an intellectually stimulating environment that doesn’t require a lot of travel.
Manage Your Stress
We all try to manage our stress as best we can, but sometimes life gets the better of us. Unfortunately, new studies show that experiencing high levels of stress in middle age can actually damage the brain, leading to dementia later in life. This is due to the fact that the part of the brain that handles fear and anxiety overlaps with areas of the brain that are most commonly affected by Alzheimer’s.
Each person deals with stress in his or her own way, but techniques like meditation, mindfulness training, exercise and even cognitive behavioral therapy under the care of a therapist are all options to help reduce stress levels.
A study published by the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) of Portland has found that too little sleep can cause dementia later in life. This is due to the fact that the brain is able to “reset itself” during sleep, clearing out some of the toxins that are often associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. If you can’t sleep, your brain can’t get rid of those toxins and they can potentially build up.
The team at OHSU is working on a study to better determine the link between a lack of sleep and developing dementia later in life.
Exercise Your Brain
Even if you’re not lifting weights with your cerebral cortex, your brain needs exercise just as much as the rest of your body does. In the words of “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin, “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.”
Mental stimulation is a major key to reducing your risk of developing dementia later in life. Some studies have even linked low levels of education with a higher chance of developing dementia.
Keeping your mind stimulated is as easy as reading your favorite books, working on puzzles, trying a new hobby or going back to school. Make it a goal to learn something new or try something new every single day.
Dementia is something we don’t yet fully understand, but by taking a few simple steps to take care of your mind and body during your life, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing dementia in your golden years.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I’ve accepted that I will never stop eating peanut butter out of the jar.
What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I have learned to appreciate my alone time and utilize it to the best of my ability so I actually enjoy it and don’t spend it scrubbing my toilets.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
I’m proud that my husband and I just celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary and have been together for nearly 10 years. My goal is to celebrate 100 more wedding anniversaries with him.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I really need to manage my temper. Yoga by itself isn’t enough — ha.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my hands! Because they do so much of my work throughout the day — typing, cooking, carrying my toddler around. I love my hands for that. J