Ways to Maintain Your Brain

When people think about staying fit, they generally think from the neck down. But the health of your brain, just like the health of your heart, plays a critical role in almost everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, working, and playing—even sleeping.

The good news is we now know there's a lot you can do to help keep your brain healthy as you age. A few simple lifestyle changes can help keep you fit mentally and physically for years to come, and might also reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Senior Woman Taking A Walk, Holding Hands

Growing evidence supports the benefits of healthy-aging strategies, and researchers are devoting increasing attention to healthy aging and its relationship to dementia. These best practices are also showing positive impacts on delaying the onset as well as the progression of Alzheimer's and related dementias.

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—"use it or lose 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 about brain health so you can make your own decisions about your overall health.

Stay physically active. Physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain as well as to encourage the growth of new brain cells. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias. Do something every day to reduce your risk.

Older man eating a salad.

Adopt a brain-healthy diet. Research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. There is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells. Remember that what is good for your heart is also good for your head.

Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells. Keeping your brain active and engaged increases its vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections. Read, write, play games, take piano or banjo lessons, do crossword puzzles, learn a new language.

Remain socially active. Social activity not only makes physical and mental activity more enjoyable, it can reduce stress levels, which helps maintain healthy connections among brain cells. Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia. Be social, converse, volunteer, join a club or take a class.

Gospel Singer Leading a Choir in a Church Service

Protecting brain health and preventing cognitive decline are an important focus of the worldwide Alzheimer's disease research effort of the Alzheimer's Association. Learn more about the latest discoveries in the prevention section of the Alzheimer's Research Center.

Contributor Michael Bower is education coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association, Western & Central Washington Chapter. The Association's mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. For more information, visit alzwa.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

 

Spring 2014 Events

Navigation: Pathways to Help and Hope—Early Stage Memory Loss Forum
Saturday, March 8, 2014, 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
North Seattle Community College
Designed for and limited to people who have mild memory loss due to Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias (NOT open to professionals). Pre-registration required.

Snohomish County Alzheimer's Family Caregiver Conference
Friday, March 21, 2014, 9:30 a.m.–2:45 p.m.
Unity in Lynnwood
Designed to provide tools and encouragement for people caring for loved ones with dementia. Pre-register by March 14.

Discovery 2014: Alzheimer's Regional Conference
Friday, May 16, 2014, 8:30 a.m.–3:45 p.m.
Washington State Convention Center
Designed to provide evidence-based education for professionals (continuing education credits available). Family caregivers also welcome to attend. Pre-registration required.

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