Strategies to Reduce Cognitive Decline
While some amount of forgetfulness, memory loss, and trouble thinking is normal with aging, what isn’t normal is suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Less than 15% of the population aged 71 or older suffers from a degenerative dementia disorder, meaning that it’s certainly not guaranteed that you’ll get it as you get older.
After an exhaustive study done by the World Health Organization, they were able to identify seven key areas associated with slowing down or preventing memory and thinking tasks. With these areas identified, it’s possible to use strategies to counteract each of these areas, helping to keep our brains and mental clarity limber and focused for years to come.
Physical activity: While it’s no secret or great revelation that moving our bodies around with physical labor or exercise can keep us physically healthy, our joints flexible and our muscles strong, it is perhaps a surprise to know that exercise can keep us lucid and sharp. According to the WHO, aerobic training had the most positive effect on reducing the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s. All physical activity counts, be it an exercise class, walking around the block, riding a bike, or going for a swim. Focus on trying to get 150 minutes of low impact exercise each week, or 75 minutes of more intense, higher heart rate activity.
Smoking: While the negative health effects of smoking are well documented, one you might not be aware of is the effect on our brains. Smokers are 80% more likely to develop dementia compared to non-smokers with otherwise similar health profiles. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to preserve your mental acuity.
A brain healthy diet: The same kind of diet that builds a healthy body also builds a healthy brain. According to the WHO, the Mediterranean diet, high in fish, vegetables, and healthy oils, can lower the chance of cognitive decline and dementia. Be careful with processed foods, refined sugars, bad fats, and salt.
Drinking: While low-to-moderate alcohol consumption, defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks for men, can possibly contribute to a healthy brain, too much drinking is linked with all sorts of mental issues, such as memory loss. By stopping excessive drinking, according to the WHO, you lower your risk of issues with your brain health.
Brain training: While exercise for your body does also help your mind, did you know that you can specifically train your brain? In a decade-long study, it was found that cognitive training regimens could reduce the chances of developing dementia or cognitive decline by as much as thirty percent! By staying mentally active with games and other mentally challenging tasks, you can keep yourself sharp.
Social connections: Social isolation and too much time alone is connected to a higher risk of dementia. As with other diseases, a more active social life lowers the risk of developing negative health outcomes.
Healthy weight: While you might just think weight is a factor in diabetes and heart disease, the fact is that the WHO found losing weight can enhance certain cognitive functions.