Alzheimer's Disease isn't inevitable. Many experts now believe you can prevent or delay dementia — even if you have a genetic predisposition. Reducing Alzheimer's risk factors like obesity, diabetes, smoking and low physical activity by just 25% percent could prevent up to half a million cases of the disease in the United States.
Regular exercise can keep your brain young, reducing your need for memory care.
Here are 10 new ways you can boost your brain health now.
1) Get moving
"If you do only one thing to keep your brain young, exercise," says Art Kramer, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois. Higher exercise levels can reduce dementia risk by 30 to 40% compared with low activity levels, and physically active people tend to maintain better cognition and memory than inactive people. "They also have substantially lower rates of different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease," Kramer says.
2) Pump some iron
Older women who participated in a yearlong weight-training program at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver did 13% better on tests of cognitive function than a group of women who did balance and toning exercises.
3) Learn new skills
Learning spurs the growth of new brain cells. "When you challenge the brain, you increase the number of brain cells and the number of connections between those cells. But it's not enough to do the things you routinely do "says Keith L. Black, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
4) Reduce Stress
Chronic stress floods your brain with cortisol, which leads to impaired memory. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which involves focusing one's attention on sensations, feelings and state of mind, has been shown to reduce harmful stress hormones.
5) Eat like a Greek
A heart-friendly Mediterranean diet, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and beans, reduced Alzheimer's risk by 34 to 48% in studies conducted by Columbia University.
These fats may be equally important for maintaining a healthy brain and memory care.
6) Spice it up
Your brain enjoys spices as much as your taste buds do. Herbs and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, parsley, ginger and vanilla are high in antioxidants, which may help build brainpower. Scientists are particularly intrigued by curcumin. Indians have lower incidence of Alzheimer's, and one theory is it's the curcumin.
7) Find your purpose
Discovering your mission in life can help you stay sharp. Participants who approached life with clear intentions and goals at the start of the study were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease over the following seven years.
8) Get a social life
Having multiple social networks helps lower dementia risk and your need for memory care. A rich social life may protect against dementia by providing emotional and mental stimulation. Other studies yield similar conclusions: Subjects in a University of Michigan study did better on tests of short-term memory after just 10 minutes of conversation with another person.
9) Reduce your risks
Chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension are often associated with dementia. Diabetes, for example, roughly doubles the risk for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Controlling these risk factors can slow the tide.
10) Check vitamin deficiencies
Older adults don't always get all the nutrients they need from foods, because of declines in digestive acids or because their medications interfere with absorption. That vitamin deficit — particularly vitamin B12 — can also affect brain vitality.