Answers provided by Katrice Sisson, Alzheimer’s Association
Q: What are some ways to reduce my risk of cognitive decline?
Research is still evolving, but evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making key lifestyle changes. 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. When possible, combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body:
Hundreds of people in purple with a common mission. That is what you can expect at a Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising event. The walks , held in more than 600 communities nationwide, raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This photo was taken at a recent walk in the area. Contributed photo
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Butt out: Evidence shows that smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
4. 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 might follow.
5. Heads up: Brain injury can raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seatbelt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
6. 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 risk reduction.
7. Catch some ZZZs: Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
8. 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.
9. Stump yourself: 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.
10. Buddy up: 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.
Want to check off #1 and #10? Grab a friend or family member and join the St. Cloud Walk to End Alzheimer’s! Registration is free: alz.org/walk or call 320-257-0699.