Good Brain Health May Prevent Alzheimer's and Dementia
Call it a brain fitness program. Here are ideas for keeping your brain healthy and reducing your risk of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias.
Maintaining A Healthy Brain Goes A Long Way to Preventing Alzheimer's and Dementia
When people think about staying fit, they generally think from the neck down. But the health of your brain plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing - even sleeping.
The good news is that we now know there's a lot you can do to help keep your brain healthier as you age. These steps might also reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
Simple lifestyle modifications also would have an enormous impact on our nation's public health and the cost of healthcare. If you make brain-healthy lifestyle changes and take action by getting involved, we could realize a future without Alzheimer's disease.
Make brain-healthy life choices
Like other parts of your body, your brain may lose some agility as you get older. It can deteriorate even more if you don't take care of it. Science is unlocking many of the mysteries of the brain, but we don't have all the answers yet. You can do everything "right" and still not prevent Alzheimer's disease. What's offered here is the best and most up-to-date information available so that you can make your own decisions about your health.
Mental Activity Helps You Stay Sharp
Mental decline as you age appears to be largely due to altered connections among brain cells. But research has found that keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections. You could even generate new brain cells.
Low levels of education have been found to be related to a higher risk of Alzheimer's later in life. This may be due to a lower level of life-long mental stimulation. Put another way, higher levels of education appear to be somewhat protective against Alzheimer's, possibly because brain cells and their connections are stronger. Well-educated individuals can still get Alzheimer's, but symptoms may appear later because of this protective effect.
You don't have to turn your life upside down or make extreme changes to achieve many of these benefits. Start with something small, like a daily walk. After a while, add another small change
Keep your brain active every day:
- Stay curious and involved — commit to lifelong learning
- Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles
- Attend lectures and plays
- Enroll in courses at your local adult education center, community college or other community groups
- Play games
- Try memory exercises
Social Activity Is Good For Your Brain
Research shows that people who are regularly engaged in social interaction maintain their brain vitality. But again, the combination of physical and mental activity with social engagement — and a brain-healthy diet — is more effective than any of these factors alone.
A recent study reported that leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia. In the study of 800 men and women aged 75 and older, those who were more physically active, more mentally active or more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia. And those who combined these activities did even better.
Other research found that sports, cultural activities, emotional support and close personal relationships together appear to have a protective effect against dementia.
So stay socially engaged in activities that stimulate the mind and body:
- Stay active in the workplace
- Volunteer in community groups and causes
- Join bridge clubs, square dancing clubs or other social groups
- Larson, Christine, Keeping Your Brain Fit, US News and World Report, January 31, 2008.
- Alzheimer's Association - Austin, TX., 10 Ways to Maintain Your Brain, Spring 2005 Newsletter.
- Alzheimer's Association
Last Updated: 17 January 2019
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD