Aging can be scary, especially when it comes to the onset of dementia. More than 50 million people worldwide have the condition, and as that figure continues to grow, the prospect of developing dementia is hitting closer to home for more people.
No one ever wants to see their memory deteriorate or experience any of the other symptoms that come with dementia, like difficulty completing everyday tasks or changes in mood. But what if there were steps you could take now to help bolster your brain health and reduce your risk of developing dementia and other brain illnesses later in life?
Here are the main methods that give you more control over your future brain health:
Stay Physically Active
The next time you’re thinking of skipping your workout, find a bit of motivation in keeping your future memory intact. Research shows that physical activity isn’t just good for your body, it’s probably good for your brain too ― even if it’s something as simple as a 20-minute walk each day.
Exercise plays a role brain health for a number of reasons. Besides stroke prevention and supporting the health of your heart and blood vessels, it’s believed that exercise may increase the birth of new neurons and synaptic connections in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is important because it’s your brain’s central area for learning and memory and one of the first parts of the brain to be damaged in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Keep Your Brain Busy
Just as an idle body is rarely good for your overall health, neither is an idle mind. Instead, you want to keep your brain busy and active as you age. The main way you can accomplish this is by maintaining social connections and engaging in intellectual activities, both of which help “form new connections in relevant areas of the brain where the Alzheimer’s disease process is eroding these connections,” Albers said.
Staying social can take many forms, whether it’s regularly meeting a friend for coffee, heading out to a party or hosting a group of people you’re close with. The important thing here is to keep your relationships strong, as growing evidence shows social isolation to be a risk factor for dementia.
Eat A Healthy Diet
This should come as no surprise, but it’s worth underscoring over and over again. Research shows that eating right is good for every aspect of your health, including your brain. Your best bet here is a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet, which contains foods like fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and other types of healthy fats, and cutting back on meat and dairy.
Another reason the Mediterranean diet may be beneficial is that it’s a way to control midlife hypertension ― and research shows that blood-pressure management among people with hypertension may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and aging.