Alzheimers is a fatal disease of the brain that
causes problems with memory, thinking and
behavior. It is the most common cause of
dementia, a general term for the loss of memory
and other abilities serious enough to interfere
with daily life.
While Alzheimer's is not normal aging, age is
the greatest known risk factor for developing
the disease. However, many experts believe the
majority of Alzheimer's cases occur as a result of complex interactions among genes and
Medications are available to temporarily improve
cognitive function and quality of life, but there is no known way to prevent, cure or even slow the disease - yet. The Alzheimer's Association is leading the worldwide effort to find a treatment for Alzheimer's, delay its onset and prevent it from developing.
Cognitive decline is a deterioration in memory
or cognition that is, to some extent, expected
with age. Normal cognitive decline is different
from dementia in that it is not severe enough to
interfere with daily life.
Research is still evolving, but evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk by making key lifestyle changes, including participating in regular physical activity and maintaining good heart health. Based on this research, the Alzheimer's Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, a collection of tips that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
It's never too late or too early to start thinking about your brain's health - making healthy choices at any age is beneficial. The Alzheimer's Association has identified the following lifestyle habits as ways to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and maintain or potentially improve your overall health.
BREAK A SWEAT
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that
elevates your heart rate and increases
blood flow to the brain and body. Several
studies have found an association
between physical activity and reduced
risk of cognitive decline.
HIT THE BOOKS
Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and
dementia. For example, take a class at a
local college, community center or online.
Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of
cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can
reduce that risk to levels comparable to
those who have not smoked.
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke -
obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes -
negatively impact your cognitive health. Take
care of your heart, and your brain just
Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
FUEL UP RIGHT
Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches
to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to
CATCH SOME ZZZ'S
Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like
insomnia or sleep apnea may result in
problems with memory and thinking.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Some studies link a history of depression
with increased risk of cognitive decline,
so seek medical treatment if you have
symptoms of depression, anxiety or
other mental health concerns. Also, try
to manage stress.
Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do
something artistic. Play games, such as
bridge, that make you think strategically.
Challenging your mind may have short
and long-term benefits for your brain.
Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community - if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after-school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
For more information about Alzheimer's and for local resources, visit alz.org or call the 24-hour Helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
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