People make choices every day that affect whether or not they will develop dementia in the years to come—and how fast it progresses if it does show up.
Dementia is a progressive disease that can eventually cause deterioration of brain function—such as your ability to form thoughts and recall memories. It can also dramatically alter your normal brain chemistry.
In some cases, it’s specific or genetic dispositions. In other cases, dementia can develop as a result of existing ailments.
The good news is that simple things, such as maintaining a network of friends or getting outdoors more, can help to prevent dementia from happening in the first place.
Here are some everyday helpful habits you can integrate into your life that can help reduce your risk.
Monitor Your Weight
Obesity is a global epidemic, not only in the West but also in many of the world’s developing countries as well, according to the National Library of Medicine. Therefore, it’s wise to maintain a healthy weight—especially as we enter into the midlife periods of our lives.
According to a recent Science Daily release, the number of global dementia cases is expected to triple by the year 2050, and part of that is due to having a high body mass index. In other words, being overweight.
Maintaining a healthy weight—particularly as we age—can help to protect our brains. These bodyweight factors dovetail into the next healthy habit—nutrition.
Everyone’s goal should be to control their weight, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. All of these factors can play crucial roles in protecting our brains and reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Therefore, food intake (nutrition) is of utmost importance, since, as the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.”
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest food plans you can follow. In multiple studies, it has been shown to be one of the diets lowest in unhealthy fats and highest in vitamin and mineral content, but also one of the easiest to incorporate into our lives.
The Mediterranean diet consists of foods such as lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and fish.
Maintain a Social Life
Group activities, or even one-on-one get-togethers, can be great for promoting brain health—simply by being around other people. In contrast, being isolated can lead to depression and can often become a problem with older adults as their cognitive abilities decline over the years.
Aside from motivating each other to exercise, friends and positive social contact can boost your brain health. Simply being around other like-minded people acts as a tonic. Isolation, similar to depression, often becomes a problem as older adults begin feeling the effects of loved ones passing away and cognitive decline. Depression appears to be a precursor to dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that social isolation (loneliness) is associated with about a 50 percent increased risk of dementia.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and form (or join) a social network of friends, even if it’s initially through a video chat app.
When people are in close proximity to strangers while out in public, they have a natural propensity to be quiet and keep to themselves. But according to psychologist Gillian Sandstrom, reaching out and talking to strangers can strengthen our mental health and enrich our lives.
Whether sitting next to folks on trains, buses, or planes—or walking through parks or stores, many of us overestimate the difficulty (or danger) of connecting with strangers and underestimate the payoffs in doing so. Engaging in conversations—even if it’s small talk—can greatly enhance our temperaments and brighten our moods, among many other benefits. All of those factors can help to reduce the chances of developing dementia.
You can find some great ways to strike up conversations with strangers online or in magazines.
Read, Read, Read
Intellectual activities, particularly reading, have been associated with a significantly lower risk of dementia, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
This boon was found to be independent of other health issues and lifestyle factors (such as nutrition, exercise, drugs, alcohol, and smoking), demographics, and socioeconomic status. Reading on a regular basis can also greatly boost your cognitive engagement and even prolong your life, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Protect Your Head
Let’s start off with the good news first: The average person’s brain can usually recover from common forms of head trauma, such as light concussions and jarring movements such as whiplash. However, if these relatively minor incidences occur too often or accumulate over time (as experienced by some military personnel and contact athletes), chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a degenerative brain disease—can develop, which is associated with dementia.
Even if you don’t look as “cool” wearing a helmet while you’re riding your bike, motorcycle, scooter, or skateboard, this habit can save you many headaches and possibly dementia.
Engage in Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, otherwise known as “yogic sleep,” is a dynamic visualization exercise that’s relatively simple to learn and implement. People who practice yoga nidra have reported feeling less stressed, depressed, and anxious. Other benefits include feeling more rested and left with a renewed sense of wholeness.
Grow Your Own Garden
No matter what country you’re from, most of us agree that previous generations had certain things figured out. Before the convenience of microwaves, fast food, and the like, not only were they more in tune with the natural world, but they also enjoyed an enhanced sense of self-sufficiency.
Part of that self-reliance involved growing their own gardens, which provided many dividends beyond nutritious, chemical-free food. The physical process of tilling soil, pulling weeds, planting seeds, and hoisting containers of freshly harvested produce is great for people’s cardiovascular systems and balance. This activity also promotes the development of stronger muscles.
Meanwhile, simply being out in nature and observing the various forms of flora and fauna, can calm the mind and reduce stress. Growing your own garden is like stepping back in time to a healthier and simpler lifestyle.